HEROES OF THE OLDEN TIME.
A STORY OF THE GOLDEN AGE. Illustrated by Howard
Pyle. i2mo ....... ......... $z.o
THE STORY OF SIEGFRIED. Illustrated by Howard Pyle.
I2mo ....... .......... 1.50
THE STORY OF ROLAND. Illustrated by Reginald B. Birch.
2no .......... ....... .5Sk
The Set, 3 vols., in a box, $4.00.
THE FORGING OF BALMUNG.
HEROES OF THE OLDEN TIME
STORY OF SIEGFRIED
Illustrated by Howard 7yle
COPYRIGHT, 1882, 1888,
BY CHARLES SCRIBNER'S SONS.
TO MY CHILDREN,
WINFRED, LOUIS, AND NELLIE,
SAET TEY Eook
IS AFFECTIONATELY INSCRIBED.
THE FORE WORD.
WHEN the world was in its childhood, men looked
upon the works of Nature with a strange kind of awe.
They fancied that every thing upon the earth, in the
air, or in the water, had a life like their own, and that
every sight which they saw, and every sound which
they heard, was caused by some intelligent being. All
men were poets, so far as their ideas and their modes
of expression were concerned, although it is not likely
that any of them wrote poetry. This was true in
regard to the Saxon in his chilly northern home, as
well as to the Greek in the sunny southland. But,
while the balmy air and clear sky of the south tended
to refine men's thoughts and language, the rugged
scenery and bleak storms of the north made them
uncouth, bold, and energetic. Yet both the cultured
Greek and the rude Saxon looked upon Nature with
vi The Fore Word.
much the same eyes, and there was a strange resem-
blance in their manner of thinking and speaking.
They saw, that, in all the phenomena which took place
around them, there was a certain system or regularity,
as if these were controlled by some law or by some
superior being; and they sought, in their simple poet-
ical way, to account for these appearances. They had
not yet learned to measure the distances of the stars,
nor to calculate the motions of the earth. The chan-
ging of the seasons was a mystery which they scarcely
sought to penetrate. But they spoke of these occur-
rences in a variety of ways, and invented many charm-
ing stories with reference to them, not so much with
a view towards accounting for the mystery, as towards
giving expression to their childlike but picturesque
Thus, in the south, when reference was made to the
coming of winter and to the dreariness and discomforts
of that season of the year, men did not know nor care
to explain it all, as our teachers now do at school; but
they sometimes told how Hades had stolen Persephone
(the summer) from her mother Demetre (the earth),
and had carried her, in a chariot drawn by four coal-
black steeds, to the gloomy land of shadows; and how,
The Fore Word.
in sorrow for her absence, the Earth clothed herself in
mourning, and no leaves grew upon the trees, nor flow-
ers in the gardens, and the very birds ceased singing,
because Persephone was no more. But they added,
that in a few months the fair maiden would return for
a time to her sorrowing mother, and that then the
flowers would bloom, and the trees would bear fruit,
and the harvest-fields would again be full of golden
In the north a different story was told, but the
meaning was the same. Sometimes men told how
Odin (the All-Father) had become angry with Brunhild
(the maid of spring), and had wounded her with the
thorn of sleep, and how all the castle in which she
slept was wrapped in deathlike slumber until Sigurd
or Siegfried (the sunbeam) rode through flaming fire,
and awakened her with a kiss. Sometimes men told
how Loki (heat) had betrayed Balder (the sunlight),
and had induced blind old Hoder (the winter months)
to slay him, and how all things, living and inanimate,
joined in weeping for the bright god, until Hela (death)
should permit him to revisit the earth for a time.
So, too, when the sun arose, and drove away the
darkness and the hidden terrors of the night, our an-
The Fore Word.
cestors thought of the story of a noble young hero
slaying a hideous dragon, or taking possession of the
golden treasures of Mist Land. And when the spring-
time came, and the earth renewed its youth, and the
fields and woods were decked in beauty, and there was
music everywhere, they loved to tell of Idun (the
spring) and her youth-giving apples, and of her wise
husband Bragi (Nature's musician). When storm-clouds
loomed up from the horizon and darkened the sky,
and thunder rolled overhead, and lightning flashed on
every hand, they talked about the mighty Thor riding
over the clouds in his goat-drawn chariot, and battling
with the giants of the air. When the mountain-mead-
ows were green with long grass, and the corn was
yellow for the sickles of the reapers, they spoke of Sif,
the golden-haired wife of Thor, the queen of the pas-
tures and the fields. When the seasons were mild, and
the harvests were plentiful, and peace and gladness
prevailed, they blessed Frey, the giver of good gifts to
To them the blue sky-dome which everywhere hung
over them like an arched roof was but the protecting
mantle which the All-Father had suspended above the
earth. The rainbow was the shimmering bridge which
The Fore Word. ix
stretches from earth to heaven. The sun and the moon
were the children of a giant, whom two wolves chased
forever around the earth.- The stars were sparks from
the fire-land of the south, set in the heavens by the
gods. Night was a giantess, dark and swarthy, who
rode in a car drawn by a steed the foam from whose
bits sometimes covered the earth with dew. And Day
was the son of Night; and the steed which he rode
lighted all the sky and the earth with the beams which
glistened from his mane.
It was thus that men in the earlier ages of the
world looked upon and spoke of the workings of
Nature; and it was in this manner that many myths, or
poetical fables, were formed. By and by, as the world
grew older, and mankind became less poetical and more
practical, the first or mythical meaning of these stories
was forgotten, and they were regarded no longer as
mere poetical fancies, but as historical facts. Perhaps
some real hero had indeed performed daring deeds, and
had made the world around him happier and better. It
was easy to liken him to Sigurd, or to some other myth-
ical slayer of giants; and soon the deeds of both were
ascribed to but one. And thus many myth-stories
The Fore Word.
probably contain some historical facts blended with
the mass of poetical fancies which mainly compose
them; but, in such cases, it is generally impossible
to distinguish what is fact from what is mere fancy.
All nations have had their myth-stories ; but, to my
mind, the purest and grandest are those which we have
received from our northern ancestors. They are par-
ticularly interesting to us ; because they are what our
fathers once believed, and because they are ours by
right of inheritance. And, when we are able to make
them still more our own by removing the blemishes
which rude and barbarous ages have added to some of
them, we shall discover in them many things that are
beautiful and true, and well calculated to make us
wiser and better.
It is not known when or by whom these myth-stories
were first put into writing, nor when they assumed the
shape in which we now have them. But it is said, that,
about the year IIoo, an Icelandic scholar called Sae-
mund the Wise collected a number of songs and poems
into a book which is now known as the "Elder Edda;"
and that, about a century later, Snorre Sturleson,
another Icelander, wrote a prose-work of a similar
character, which is called the "Younger Edda." And
The Fore Word. xi
it is to these two books that we owe the preservation
of almost all that is now known of the myths and the
strange religion of our Saxon and Norman forefathers.
But, besides these, there are a number of semi-mytho-
logical stories of great interest and beauty, -stories
partly mythical, and partly founded upon remote and
forgotten historical facts. One of the oldest and finest
of these is the story of Sigurd, the son of Sigmund.
There are many versions of this story, differing from
each other according to the time in which they were
written and the character of the people among whom
they were received. We find the first mention of
Sigurd and his strange daring deeds in the song of
Fafnir, in the "Elder Edda." Then, in the "Younger
Edda," the story is repeated in the myth of the Niflungs
and the Gjukungs. It is told again in the "Volsunga
Saga" of Iceland. It is repeated and re-repeated in
various forms and different languages, and finally ap-
pears in the "Nibelungen Lied," a grand old German
poem, which may well be compared with the Iliad of
the Greeks. In this last version, Sigurd is called Sieg-
fried; and the story is colored and modified by the
introduction of many notions peculiar to the middle
ages, and unknown to our Pagan fathers of the north.
xii The Fore Word.
In our own time this myth has been woven into a vari-
ety of forms. William Morris has embodied it in his
noble poem of "Sigurd the Volsung;" Richard Wag-
ner, the famous German composer, has constructed
from it his inimitable drama, the "Nibelungen Ring;"
W. Jordan, another German writer, has given it to the
world in his "Sigfrid's Saga;" and Emanuel Geibel
has derived from it the materials for his "Tragedy of
And now I, too, come with the STORY OF SIEGFRIED,
still another version of the time-honored legend. The
story as I shall tell it you is not in all respects a
literal rendering of the ancient myth; but I have taken
the liberty to change and recast such portions of it as
I have deemed advisable. Sometimes I have drawn
materials from one version of the story, sometimes
from another, and sometimes largely from my own
imagination alone. Nor shall I be accused of impro-
priety in thus reshaping a narrative, which, although
hallowed by an antiquity of a thousand years and more,
has already appeared in so many different forms, and
been clothed in so many different garbs; for, however
much I may have allowed my fancy or my judgment
to retouch and remodel the immaterial portions of the
The Fore Word. xiii
legend, the essential parts of this immortal myth re-
main the same. And, if I succeed in leading you to
a clearer understanding and a wiser appreciation of the
thoughts and feelings of our old northern ancestors, I
shall have accomplished the object for which I have
written this Story of Siegfried.
THE FORE WORD v
I. MIMER, THE MASTER I
II. GREYFELL 19
III. THE CURSE OF GOLD 35
IV. FAFNIR, THE DRAGON 55
V. IN EGIR'S KINGDOM 68
VI. BRUNHILD 87
VII. IN NIBELUNGEN LAND 96
VIII. SIEGFRIED'S WELCOME HOME o09
IX. THE JOURNEY TO EURGUNDY-LAND 115
X. KRIEMHILD'S DREAM .122
XI. How THE SPRING-TIME CAME 125
XII. THE WAR WITH THE NORTH-KINGS 137
XIII. THE STORY OF BALDER .. 152
XIV. How GUNTHER OUTWITTED BRUNHILD 167
XV. IN NIBELUNGEN LAND AGAIN. . 183
XVI. How BRUNHILD WAS WELCOMED HOME 205
XVII. How SIEGFRIED LIVED IN NIBELUNGEN LAND 226
XVIII. How THE MISCHIEF BEGAN TO BREW 248
XIX. How THEY HUNTED IN THE ODENWALD 269
XX. HOW THE HOARD WAS BROUGHT TO BURGUNDY. 283
THE AFTER WORD 291
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.
Engraved by Frank French, J. Davis, E. Clement, and John A'arst,
FROM DRAWINGS BY HOWARD PYLE.
THE FORGING OF BALMUNG.
TIE DEATH OF 1AFNIR .
THE AWAKENING OF BRUNHILD.
THE TRIAL OF STRENGTH
THE QUARREL OF THE QUEENS
TIE DEATH OF SIEGFRIED
THE STORY OF SIEGFRIED.
AD VENTURE I.
MIMER, THE MASTER.
AT Santen, in the Lowlands, there once lived a young
prince named Siegfried. His father, Siegmund, was
king of the rich country through which the lazy Rhine
winds its way just before reaching the great North Sea;
and he was known, both far and near, for his good deeds
and his prudent thrift. And Siegfried's mother, the
gentle Sigelind, was loved by all for her goodness of
heart and her kindly charity to the poor. Neither king
nor queen left aught undone that might make the
young prince happy, or fit him for life's usefulness.
Wise men were brought from far-off lands to be his
teachers; and every day something was added to his
store of knowledge or his stock of happiness. And
very skilful did he become in warlike games and in
manly feats of strength. No other youth could throw
the spear with so great force, or shoot the arrow with
surer aim. No other youth could run more swiftly, or
ride with more becoming ease. His gentle mother took
delight in adding to the beauty of his matchless form
by clothing him in costly garments decked with the
2 The Story of Siegfried.
rarest jewels. The old, the young, the rich, the poor,
the high, the low, all praised the fearless Siegfried,
and all vied in friendly strife to win his favor. One
would have thought that the life of the young prince
could never be aught but a holiday, and that the
birds would sing, and the flowers would bloom, and
the sun would shine forever for his sake.
But the business of man's life is not mere pastime;
and none knew this truth better than the wise old king,
"All work is noble," said he to Siegfried; "and he
who yearns to win fame must not shun toil. Even
princes should know how to earn a livelihood by the
labor of their hands."
And so, while Siegfried was still a young lad, his
father sent him to live with a smith called Mimer,
whose smithy was among the hills not far from the
great forest. For in those early times the work of
the smith was looked upon as the most worthy of all
trades, a trade which the gods themselves were not
ashamed to follow. And this smith Mimer was a won-
derful master, the wisest and most cunning that the
world had ever seen. Men said that he was akin to
the dwarf-folk who had ruled the earth in the early
days, and who were learned in every lore, and skilled
in every craft; and they said that he was so exceeding
old that no one could remember the day when he came
to dwell in the land of Siegmund's fathers. And some
said, too, that he was the keeper of a wonderful well,
Mimer, the Master.
or flowing spring, the waters of which imparted wis-
dom and far-seeing knowledge to all who drank of
To Mimer's school, then, where he would be taught
to work skilfully and to think wisely, Siegfried was
sent, to be in all respects like the other pupils there.
A coarse blue blouse, and heavy leggings, and a leath-
ern apron, took the place of the costly clothing which
he had worn in his father's dwelling. His feet were
incased in awkward wooden shoes, and his head was
covered with a wolf-skin cap. The dainty bed, with
its downy pillows, wherein every night his mother had
been wont, with gentle care, to see him safely covered,
was given up for a rude heap of straw in a corner of
the smithy. And the rich food to which he had been
used gave place to the coarsest and humblest fare.
But the lad did not complain. The days which he
passed in the smithy were mirthful and happy; and
the sound of his hammer rang cheerfully, and the
sparks from his forge flew briskly, from morning till
And a wonderful smith he became. No one could
do more work than he, and none wrought with greater
skill. The heaviest chains and the strongest bolts, for
prison or for treasure-house, were but as toys in his
stout hands, so easily and quickly did he beat them
into shape. And he was alike cunning in work of the
most delicate and brittle kind. Ornaments of gold and
silver, studded with the rarest jewels, were fashioned
4 The Story of Siegfried.
into beautiful forms by his deft fingers. And among
all of Mimer's apprentices none learned the master's
lore so readily, nor gained the master's favor more.'
One morning the master, Mimer, came to the smithy
with a troubled look upon his face. It was clear that
something had gone amiss; and what it was the ap-
prentices soon learned from the smith himself. Never,
until lately, had any one questioned Mimer's right to be
called the foremost smith in all the world; but now
a rival had come forward. An unknown upstart-one
Amilias, in Burgundy-land -had made a suit of armor,
which, he boasted, no stroke of sword could dint, and
no blow of spear could scratch; and he had sent a
challenge to all other smiths, both in the Rhine coun-
try and elsewhere, to equal that piece of workmanship,
or else acknowledge themselves his underlings and vas-
sals. For many days had Mimer himself toiled, alone
and vainly, trying to forge a sword whose edge the
boasted armor of Amilias could not foil; and now, in
despair, he came to ask the help of his pupils and
"Who among you is skilful enough to forge such a
.word ? he asked.
One -after another, the pupils shook their heads.
And Veliant, the foreman of the apprentices, said, "I
have heard much about that wonderful armor, and its
extreme hardness, and I doubt if any skill can make a
sword with edge so sharp and true as to cut into it.
The best that can be done is to try to make another
I See Note I at the end of this volume.
Mimer, the Master.
war-coat whose temper shall equal that of Amilias's
Then the lad Siegfried quickly said, "I will make
such a sword as you want, -a blade that no war-coat
can foil. Give me but leave to try "
The other pupils laughed in scorn, but Mimer checked
them. "You hear how this boy can talk: we will see
what he can do. He is the king's son, and we know
that he has uncommon talent. He shall make the
sword; but if, upon trial, it fail, I will make him rue
Then Siegfried went to his task. And for seven days
and seven nights the sparks never stopped flying from
his forge; and the ringing of his anvil, and the hissing
of the hot metal as he tempered it, were heard contin-
uously. On the eighth day the sword was fashioned,
and Siegfried brought it to Mimer.
The smith felt the razor-edge of the bright weapon,
and said, "This seems, indeed, a fair fire-edge. Let us
make a trial of its keenness."
Then a thread of wool as -light as thistle-down was
thrown upon water, and, as it floated there, Mimer
struck it with the sword. The glittering blade cleft
the slender thread in twain, and the pieces floated
undisturbed upon the surface of the liquid.
"Well done !" cried the delighted smith. "Never
have I seen a keener edge. If its temper is as true as
its sharpness would lead us to believe, it will indeed
serve me well."
6 The Story of Siegfried.
But Siegfried took the sword again, and broke it into
many pieces; and for three days he welded it in a white-
hot fire, and tempered it with milk and oatmeal. Then,
in sight of Mimer and the sneering apprentices, he cast
a light ball of fine-spun wool upon the flowing water of
the brook; and it was caught in the swift eddies of the
stream, and whirled about until it met the bared blade
of the sword, which was held in Mimer's hands. And
it was parted as easily and clean as the rippling water,
and not the smallest thread was moved out of its place.
Then back to the smithy Siegfried went again; and
his forge glowed with a brighter fire, and his hammer
rang upon the anvil with a cheerier sound, than ever
before. But he suffered none to come near, and no
one ever knew what witchery he used. But some
of his fellow-pupils afterwards told how, in the dusky
twilight, they had seen a one-eyed man, long-bearded,
and clad in a cloud-gray kirtle, and wearing a sky-blue
hood, talking with Siegfried at the smithy door. And
they said that the stranger's face was at once pleasant
and fearful to look upon, and that his one eye shone in
the gloaming like the evening star, and that, when he
had placed in Siegfried's hands bright shards, like pieces
of a broken sword, he faded suddenly frorr their sight,
and was seen no more.
For seven weeks the lad wrought day and night at
his forge; and then, pale and haggard, but with a
pleased smile upon his face, he stood before Mimer,
with the gleaming sword in his hands. "It is finished,"
Mimer, the Master. 7
he said. "Behold the glittering terror the blade
Balmung. Let us try its edge, and prove its temper
once again, that so we may know whether you can
place your trust in it."
And Mimer looked long at the ruddy hilts of the
weapon, and at the mystic runes that were scored upon
its sides, and at the keen edge, which gleamed like a ray
of sunlight in the gathering gloom of the evening. But
no word came from his lips, and his eyes were dim and
dazed; and he seemed as one lost in thoughts of days
long past and gone.
Siegfried raised the blade high over his head; and
the gleaming edge flashed hither and thither, like the
lightning's play when Thor rides over the storm-clouds.
Then suddenly it fell upon the master's anvil, and the
great block of iron was cleft in two; but the bright
blade was no whit dulled by the stroke, and the line of
light which marked the edge was brighter than before.
Then to the flowing brook they went; and a great
pack of wool, the fleeces of ten sheep, was brought, and
thrown upon the swirling water. As the stream bore
the bundle downwards, Mimer held the sword in its
way. And the whole was divided as easily and as
clean as the woollen ball or the slender woollen thread
had been cleft before.
"Now, indeed," cried Mimer, "I no longer fear to
meet that upstart, Amilias. If his war-coat can with-
stand the stroke of such a sword as Balmung, then I
shall not be ashamed to be his underling. But, if this
8 The Story of Siegfried.
good blade is what it seems to be, it will not fail me;
and I, Mimer the Old, shall still be called the wisest
and greatest of smiths."
And he sent word at once to Amilias, in Burgundy-
land, to meet him on a day, and settle forever the ques-
tion as to which of the two should be the master, and
which the underling. And heralds proclaimed it in every
town and dwelling. When the time which had been
set drew near, Mimer, bearing the sword Balmung, and
followed by all his pupils and apprentices, wended his
way towards the place of meeting. Through the forest
they went, and then along the banks of the sluggish
river, for many a league, to the height of land which
marked the line between King Siegmund's country and
the country of the Burgundians. It was in this place,
midway between the shops of Mimer and Amilias, that
the great trial of metal and of skill was to be made.
And here were already gathered great numbers of peo-
ple from the Lowlands and from Burgundy, anxiously
waiting for the coming of the champions. On the one
side were the wise old Siegmund and his gentle queen,
and their train of knights and courtiers and fair ladies.
On the other side were the three Burgundian kings,
Gunther, Gernot, and Giselher, and a mighty retinue of
warriors, led by grim old Hagen, the uncle of the kings,
and the wariest chief in all Rhineland.
When every thing was in readiness for the contest,
Amilias, clad in his boasted war-coat, went up to the
top of the hill, and sat upon a great rock, and waited
Mimer, the Master. 9
for Mimer's coming. As he sat there, he looked, to the
people below, like some great castle-tower; for he was
Almost a giant in size, and his coat of mail, so skilfully
wrought, was so huge that twenty men of common mould
might have found shelter, or hidden themselves, within
it. As the smith Mimer, so dwarfish in stature, toiled
up the steep hillside, Amilias smiled to see him; for he
felt no fear of the slender, gleaming blade that was to
try the metal of his war-coat. And already a shout
of expectant triumph went up from the throats of the
Burgundian hosts, so sure were they of their champion's
But Mimer's friends waited in breathless silence, hop-
ing, and yet fearing. Only King Siegmund whispered
to his queen, and said, "Knowledge is stronger than
brute force. The smallest dwarf who has drunk from
the well of the Knowing One may safely meet the
stoutest giant in battle."
When Mimer reached the top of the hill, Amilias
folded his huge arms, and smiled again; for he felt
that this contest was mere play for him, and that
Mimer was already as good as beaten, and his thrall.
The smith paused a moment to take breath, and as
he stood by the side of his foe he looked to those
Lelow like a mere black speck close beside a steel-gray
"Are you ready ?" asked the smith.
"Ready," answered Amilias. Strike! "
Mimer raised the beaming blade in the air, and for a
to The Story of Siegfried.
moment the lightning seemed to play around his head.
The muscles on his short, brawny arms, stood out like
great ropes; and then Balmung, descending, cleft the
air from right to left. The waiting lookers-on in the
plain below thought to hear the noise of clashing steel;
but they listened in vain, for no sound came to their
ears, save a sharp hiss like that which red-hot iron gives
when plunged into a tank of cold water. The huge
Amilias sat unmoved, with his arms still folded upon his
breast; but the smile had faded from his face.
"How do you feel now ?" asked Mimer in a half-
"Rather strangely, as if cold iron had touched me,"
faintly answered the upstart.
"Shake thyself !" cried Mimer.
Amilias did so, and, lo he fell in two halves; for the
sword had cut sheer through the vaunted war-coat, and
cleft in twain the great body incased within. Down
tumbled the giant head and the still folded arms, and
they rolled with thundering noise to the foot of the hill,
and fell with a fearful splash into the deep waters of
the river; and there, fathoms down, they may even
now be seen, when the water is clear, lying like great
gray rocks among the sand and gravel below. The rest
of the body, with the armor which incased it, still sat
upright in its place; and to this day travellers sailing
down the river are shown on moonlit evenings the
luckless armor of Amilias on the high hill-top. In the
dim, uncertain light, one easily fancies it to be the ivy
covered ruins of some old castle of feudal times.
Mimer, the Mauter. n1
The master, Mimer, sheathed his sword, and walked
slowly down the hillside to the plain, where his friends
welcomed him with glad cheers and shouts of joy.
But the Burgundians, baffled, and feeling vexed, turned
silently homeward, nor cast a single look back to the
scene of their disappointment and their ill-fated cham-
And Siegfried went again with the master and his
fellows to the smoky smithy, to his roaring bellows and
ringing anvil, and to his coarse fare, and rude, hard bed,
and to a life of labor. And while all men praised Mimer
and his knowing skill, and the fiery edge of the sun-
beam blade, no one knew that it was the boy Siegfried
who had wrought that piece of workmanship.
But after a while it was whispered around that not
Mimer, but one of his pupils, had forged the sword.
And, when the master was asked what truth there was
in this story, his eyes twinkled, and the corners of his
mouth twitched strangely, and he made no answer.
But Veliant, the foreman of the smithy, and the great-
est of boasters said, "It was I who forged the fire-edge
of the blade Balmung." AT d, although none denied
the truth of what he said, but few who knew what sort
of a man he was believed his story. And this is the
reason, my children, that, in the ancient songs an&
stories which tell of this wondrous sword, it is said by
most that Mimer, and by a few that Veliant, forged its
blade. But I prefer to believe that it was made by
Siegfried, the hero who afterwards wielded it in so
The Story of Siegfried.
many adventures., Be this as it may, however, blind
hate and jealousy were from this time uppermost in
the coarse and selfish mind of Veliant; and he sought
how he might drive the lad away from the smithy in
disgrace. "This boy has done what no one else could
do," said he. "He may yet do greater deeds, and set
himself up as the master smith of the world, and then
we shall all have to humble ourselves before him as his
underlings and thralls."
And he nursed this thought, and brooded over the
hatred which he felt towards the blameless boy; but he
did not dare to harm him, for fear of their master, Mimer.
And Siegfried busied himself at his forge, where the
sparks flew as briskly and as merrily as ever before,
and his bellows roared from early morning till late at
evening. Nor did the foreman's unkindness trouble
him for a moment, for he knew that the master's heart
was warm towards him.
Oftentimes, when the day's work was done, Siegfried
sat with Mimer by the glowing light of the furnace-fire,
and listened to the sweet tales which the master told
of the deeds of the early days, when the world was
young, and the dwarf-folk and the giants had a name
and a place upon earth. And one night, as they thus
sat, the master talked of Odin the All-Father, and of
the gods who dwell with him in Asgard, and of the
puny men-folk whom they protect and befriend, until
his words grew full of bitterness, and his soul of a fierce
longing for something he dared not name. And the
I See Note 3 at the end of this volume.
Mimer, the Master. 13
lad's heart was stirred with a strange uneasiness, and hj
"Tell me, I pray, dear master, something about my
own kin, my father's fathers, those mighty kings, who,
I have heard said, were the bravest and best of men."
Then the smith seemed pleased again. And his eyes
grew brighter, and lost their far-away look; and a smile
played among the wrinkles of his swarthy face, as he
told a tale of old King Volsung and of the deeds of the
"Long years ago, before the evil days had dawned,
King Volsung ruled over all the land which lies between
the sea and the country of the Goths. The days were
golden; and the good Frey dropped peace and plenty
everywhere, and men went in and out and feared no
wrong. King Volsung had a dwelling in the midst
of fertile fields and fruitful gardens. Fairer than any
dream was that dwelling. The roof was thatched with
gold, and red turrets and towers rose above. The great
feast-hall was long and high, and its walls were hung
with sun-bright shields; and the door-nails were of sil-
ver. In the middle of the hall stood the pride of the
Volsungs, -a tree whose blossoms filled the air with
fragrance, and whose green branches, thrusting them-
selves through the ceiling, covered the roof with fair
foliage. It was Odin's tree, and King Volsung had
planted it there with his own ha ads.
"On a day in winter King Volsung held a great
feast in his hall in honor of Siggeir, the King of the
The Story of Siegfried.
Goths, who was his guest. And the fires blazed bright
in the broad chimneys, and music and mirth went round.
But in the midst of the merry-making the guests were
startled by a sudden peal of thunder, which seemed to
come from the cloudless sky, and which made the shields
upon the walls rattle and ring. In wonder they looked
around. A strange man stood in the doorway, and
laughed, but said not a word. And they noticed that
he wore no shoes upon his feet, but that a cloud-gray
cloak was thrown over his shoulders, and a blue hood
was drawn down over his head. His face was half-
hidden by a heavy beard; and he had but one eye,
which twinkled and glowed like a burning coal. And
all the guests sat moveless in their seats, so awed were
they in the presence of him who stood at the door; for
they knew that he was none other than Odin the All-
Father, the king of gods and men. He spoke not
a word, but straight into the hall he strode, and he
paused not until he stood beneath the blossoming
branches of the tree. Then, forth from beneath his
cloud-gray cloak, he drew a gleaming sword, and struck
the blade deep into the wood, -so deep that nothing
but the hilt was left in sight. And, turning to the
awe-struck guests, he said, 'A blade of mighty worth
have I hidden in this tree. Never have the earth-folk
wrought better steel, nor has any man ever wielded a
more trusty sword. Whoever there is among you brave
enough and strong enough to draw it forth from the
wood, he shall have it as a gift from Odin.' Then
Mimer, the Master. 15
slowly to the door he strode again, and no one saw
him any more.
"And after he had gone, the Volsungs and their
guests sat a long time silent, fearing to stir, lest the
vision should prove a dream. But at last the old king
arose, and cried, 'Come, guests and kinsmen, and set
your hands to the ruddy hilt! Odin,~ gift stays, waiting
for its fated owner. Let us see which one of you is
the favored of the All-Father.' First Siggeir, the King
of the Goths, and his earls, the Volsungs' guests,
tried their hands. But the blade stuck fast; and the
stoutest man among them failed to move it. Then
King Volsung, laughing, seized the hilt, and drew with
all his strength; but the sword held still in the wood
of Odin's tree. And one by one the nine sons of Vol-
sung tugged and strained in vain; and each was greeted
with shouts and laughter, as, ashamed and beaten, he
wended to his seat again. Then, at last, Sigmund,
the youngest son, stood up, and laid his hand upon the
ruddy hilt, scarce thinking to try what all had failed to
do. When, lo! the blade came out of the tree as if
therein it had all along lain loose. And Sigmund raised
it high over his head, and shook it, and the bright flame
that leaped from its edge lit up the hall like the light-
ning's gleaming; and the Volsungs and their guests
rent the air with cheers and shouts of gladness. For
no one among all the men of the mid-world was
more worthy of Odin's gift than young Sigmund the
16 7he Story of Siegfried.
But the rest of Mimer's story would be too long to
tell you now; for he and his young apprentice sat for
hours by the dying coals, and talked of Siegfried's kin-
folk, -the Volsung kings of old. And he told how
Siggeir, the Goth king, was wedded to Signy the fair,
the only daughter of Volsung, and the pride of the old
king's heart; and how he carried her with him to his
home in the land of the Goths; and how he coveted
Sigmund's sword, and plotted to gain it by guile; and
how, through pretence of friendship, he invited the Vol-
sung kings to visit him in Gothland, as the guests of
himself and Signy; and how he betrayed and slew them,
save Sigmund alone, who escaped, and for long years
lived an outlaw in the land of his treacherous foe. And
then he told how Sigmund afterwards came back to his
own country of the Volsungs; and how his people wel-
comed him, and he became a mighty king, such as the
world had never known before; and how, when he had
grown old, and full of years and honors, he went out
with his earls and fighting-men to battle against the
hosts of King Lyngi the Mighty; and how, in the midst
of the fight, when his sword had hewn down numbers of
the foe, and the end of the strife and victory seemed
near, an old man, one eyed and bearded, and wearing a
cloud-gray cloak, stood up before him in the din, and his
sword was broken in pieces, and he fell dead on the
heap of the slain.' And, when Mimer had finished his
tale, his dark face seemed to grow darker, and his twin-
See Note 4 at the end of this volume.
Mimer, the Master. 17
kling eyes grew brighter, as he cried out in a tone of
despair and hopeless yearning, -
Oh, past are those days of old and the worthy deeds
of the brave And these are the days of the home-
stayers, --of the wise, but feeble-hearted. Yet the
Norns have spoken; and it must be that another hero
shall arise of the Volsung blood, and he shall restore
the name and the fame of his kin of the early days.
And he shall be my bane; and in him shall the race of
heroes have an end." x
Siegfried's heart was strangely stirred within him as
he hearkened to this story of ancient times and to the
fateful words of the master, and for a long time he sat
in silent thought; and neither he nor Mimer moved, or
spoke again, until the darkness of the night had begun
to fade, and the gray light of morning to steal into the
smithy. Then, as if moved by a sudden impulse, he
turned to the master, and said, -
"You speak of the Norns, dear master, and of their
foretelling; but your words are vague, and their mean-
ing very broad. When shall that hero come ? and who
shall he be? and what deeds shall be his doing?"
"Alas answered Mimer, "I know not, save that he
shall be of the Volsung race, and that my fate is linked
"And why do you not know?" returned Siegfried.
"Are you not that old Mimer, in whom it is said the
garnered wisdom of the world is stored? Is there
I See Note 7 at the end of this volume.
The Story of Siegfried.
not truth in the old story that even Odin pawned one
of his eyes for a single draught from your fountain
of knowledge? And is the possessor of so much wis-
dom unable to look into the future with clearness and
"Alas answered Mimer again, and his words came
hard and slow, "I am not that Mimer, of whom old
stories tell, who gave wisdom to the All-Father in ex-
change for an eye. He is one of the giants, and he
still watches his fountain in far-off Jotunheim.! I claim
kinship with the dwarfs, and am sometimes known as
an elf, sometimes as a wood-sprite. Men have called
me Mimer because of my wisdom and skill, and the
learning which I impart to my pupils. Could I but
drink from the fountain of the real Mimer, then the
wisdom of the world would in truth be mine, and the
secrets of the future would be no longer hidden. But I
must wait, as I have long waited, for the day and the
deed and the doom that the Norns have foretold."
And the old strange look of longing came again into
his eyes, and the wrinkles on his swarthy face seemed
to deepen with agony, as he arose, and left the smithy.
And Siegfried sat alone before the smouldering fire, and
pondered upon what he had heard.
i See Note 2 at the end of Ihis volume.
MANY were the pleasant days that Siegfried spent in
Mimer's smoky smithy; and if he ever thought of his
father's stately dwelling, or of the life of ease which he
might have enjoyed within its halls, he never by word or
deed showed signs of discontent. For Mimer taught
him all the secrets of his craft and all the lore of the
wise men. To beat hot iron, to shape the fire-edged
sword, to smithy war-coats, to fashion the slender brace-
let of gold and jewels, -all this he had already learned.
But there were many other things to know, and these
the wise master showed him. He told him how to carve
the mystic runes which speak to the knowing ones with
silent, unseen tongues; he told him of the men of other
lands, and taught him their strange speech; he showed
him how to touch the harp-strings, and bring forth
bewitching music: and the heart of Siegfried waxed
very wise, while his body grew wondrous strong. And
the master loved his pupil dearly.
But the twelve apprentices grew more jealous day by
day, and when Mimer was away they taunted Siegfried
20 The Story of Siegfried.
with cruel jests, and sought by harsh threats to drive
him from the smithy; but the lad only smiled, and
made the old shop ring again with the music from his
anvil. On a day when Mimer had gone on a journey,
Veliant, the foreman, so far forgot himself as to strike
the boy. For a moment Siegfried gazed at him with
withering scorn; then he swung his hammer high in
air, and brought it swiftly down, not upon the head of
Veliant, who was trembling with expectant fear, but
upon the foreman's anvil. The great block of iron was
shivered by the blow, and flew into a thousand pieces..
Then, turning again towards the thoroughly frightened
foreman, Siegfried said, while angry lightning-flashes
darted from his eyes,-
"What if I were to strike you thus ?"
Veliant sank upon the ground, and begged for mercy.
"You are safe," said Siegfried, walking away. "I
would scorn to harm a being like you!"
The apprentices were struck dumb with amazement
and fear; and when Siegfried had returned to his anvil
they one by one dropped their hammers, and stole away
from the smithy. In a secret place not far from the
shop, they met together, to plot some means by which
they might rid themselves of him whom they both hated
The next morning Veliant came to Siegfried's forge,
with a sham smile upon his face. The boy knew
that cowardice and base deceit lurked, ill concealed,
beneath that smile; yet, as he was wont to do, he
welcomed the foreman kindly.
"Siegfried," said Veliant, "let us be friends again.
I am sorry that I was so foolish and so rash yesterday,
and I promise that I will never again be so rude and
unmanly as to become angry at you. Let us be friends,
good Siegfried! Give me your hand, I pray you, and
with it your forgiveness."
Siegfried grasped the rough palm of the young smith
with such a gripe, that the smile vanished from Veliant's
face, and his muscles writhed with pain.
"I give you my hand, certainly," said the boy, "and
I will give you my forgiveness when I know that you
are worthy of it."
As soon as Veliant's aching hand allowed him speech,
he said, -
"Siegfried, you know that we have but little charcoal
left for our forges, and our master will soon return from
his journey. It will never do for him to find us idle,
and the fires cold. Some one must go to-day to the
forest-pits, and bring home a fresh supply of charcoal.
How would you like the errand? It is but a pleasant
day's journey to the pits; and a ride into the green-
wood this fine summer day would certainly be more
agreeable than staying in the smoky shop."
"I should like the drive very much," answered Sieg-
fried; "but I have never been to the coal-pits, and I
might lose my way in the forest."
"No danger of that," said Veliant. "Follow the
road that goes straight into the heart of the forest,
and you cannot miss your way. It will lead you to the
The Story of Siegfried.
house of Regin, the master, the greatest charcoal-man
in all Rhineland. He will be right glad to see you for
Mimer's sake, and you may lodge with him for the
night. In the morning he will fill your cart with the
choicest charcoal, and you can drive home at your leis-
ure; and, when our master comes again, he will find
our forges flaming, and our bellows roaring, and our
anvils ringing, as of yore."
Siegfried, after some further parley, agreed to under-
take the errand, although he felt that Veliant, in urging
him to do so, wished to work him some harm. He har-
nessed the donkey to the smith's best cart, and drove
merrily away along the road which led towards the
forest.' The day was bright and clear; and as Sieg-
fried rode through the flowery meadows, or betwixt the
fields of corn, a thousand sights and sounds met him,
and made him glad. Now and then he would stop to
watch the reapers in the fields, or to listen to the song
of some heaven-soaring lark lost to sight in the blue
sea overhead. Once he met a company of gayly dressed
youths and maidens, carrying sheaves of golden grain,
-for it was now the harvest-time, -and singing in
praise of Frey, the giver of peace and plenty.
"Whither away, young prince ?" they merrily asked.
"To Regin, the coal-burner, in the deep greenwood,"
"Then may the good Frey have thee in keeping!"
they cried. "It is a long and lonesome journey." And
each one blessed him as they passed.
I See Note 5 at the end of this volume.
It was nearly noon when he drove into the forest,
and left the blooming meadows and the warm sunshine
behind him. And now he urged the donkey forwards
with speed; for he knew that he had lost much precious
time, and that many miles still lay between him and
Regin's charcoal-pits. And there was nothing here
amid the thick shadows of the wood to make him wish
to linger; for the ground was damp, and the air was
chilly, and every thing was silent as the grave. And
not a living creature did Siegfried see, save now and
then a gray wolf slinking across the road, or a doleful owl
sitting low down in some tree-top, and blinking at him
in the dull but garish light. Evening at last drew on,
and the shadows in the wood grew deeper; and still no
sign of charcoal-burner, nor of other human being, was
seen. Night came, and thick darkness settled around;
and all the demons of the forest came forth, and clam-
ored and chattered, and shrieked and howled. But
Siegfried was not afraid. The bats and vampires came
out of their hiding-places, and flapped their clammy
wings in his face; and he thought that he saw ogres and
many fearful creatures peeping out from behind every
tree and shrub. But, when he looked upwards through
the overhanging tree-tops, he saw the star-decked roof
of heaven, the blue mantle which the All-Father has
hung as a shelter over the world; and he went bravely
onwards, never doubting but that Odin has many good
things in store for those who are willing to trust him.
And by and by the great round moon arose in the
24 The Story of Siegfried.
east, and the fearful sounds that had made the forest
hideous began to die away; and Siegfried saw, far down
the path, a red light feebly gleaming. And he was
glad, for he knew that it must come from the charcoal-
burners' pits. Soon he came out upon a broad, cleared
space; and the charcoal-burners' fires blazed bright
before him; and some workmen, swarthy and soot-
begrimed, came forwards to meet him.
Who are you ?" they asked; and why do you come
through the forest at this late hour ?"
"I am Siegfried," answered the boy; "and I come
from Mimer's smithy. I seek Regin, the king of char-
coal-burners; for I must have coal for my master's
"Come with me," said one of the men: "I will lead
you to Regin."
Siegfried alighted from his cart, and followed the
man to a low-roofed hut not far from the burning pits.
As they drew near, they heard the sound of a harp, and
strange, wild music within; and Siegfried's heart was
stirred with wonder as he listened. The man knocked
softly at the door, and the music ceased.
"Who comes to break into Regin's rest at such a
time as this ?" said a rough voice within.
"A youth who calls himself Siegfried," answered the
man. "He says that he comes from Mimer's smithy,
and he would see you, my master."
"Let him come in," said the voice.
Siegfried passed through the low door, and into the
room beyond; and so strange was the sight that met him
that he stood for a while in awe, for never in so lowly
a dwelling had treasures so rich been seen. Jewels
sparkled from the ceiling; rare tapestry covered the
walls; and on the floor were heaps of ruddy gold and
silver, still unfashioned. And in the midst of all this
wealth stood Regin, the king of the forest, the great-
est of charcoal-men. And a strange old man he was,
wrinkled and gray and beardless; but out of his eyes
sharp glances gleamed of a light that was not human,
and his heavy brow and broad forehead betokened wis-
dom and shrewd cunning. And he welcomed Siegfried
kindly for Mimer's sake, and set before him a rich repast
of venison, and wild honey, and fresh white bread, and
luscious grapes. And, when the meal was finished, the
boy would have told his errand, but Regin stopped him.
"Say nothing of your business to-night," said he;
"for the hour is already late, and you are weary. Better
lie down, and rest until the morrow; and then we will
talk of the matter which has brought you hither."
And Siegfried was shown to a couch of the fragrant
leaves of the myrtle and hemlock, overspread with soft
white linen, such as is made in the far-off Emerald Isle;
and he was lulled to sleep by sweet strains of music
from Regin's harp, music which told of the days when
the gods were young on the earth. And as he slept
he dreamed. He dreamed that he stood upon the crag
of a high mountain, and that the eagles flew screaming
around him, and the everlasting snows lay at his feet,
26 The Story of Siegfried.
and the world in all its beauty was stretched out like a
map below him; and he longed to go forth to partake
of its abundance, and to make for himself a name among
men. Then came the Norns, who spin the thread, and
weave the woof, of every man's life; and they held in
their hands the web of his own destiny. And Urd, the
Past, sat on the tops of the eastern mountains, where
the sun begins to rise at dawn; while Verdanda, the
Present, stood in the western sea, where sky and water
meet. And they stretched the web between them, and
its ends were hidden in the far-away mists. Then with
all their might the two Norns span the purple and golden
threads, and wove the fatal woof. But as it began to
grow in beauty and in strength, and to shadow the earth
with its gladness and its glory, Skuld, the pitiless Norn
of the Future, seized it with rude fingers, and tore it
into shreds, and cast it down at the feet of Hela, the
white queen of the dead.' And the eagles shrieked,
and the mountain shook, and the crag toppled, and
The next morning, at earliest break of day, the
youth sought Regin, and made known his errand.
"I have come for charcoal for my master Mimer's
forges. My cart stands ready outside; and I pray you
to have it filled at once, for the way is long, and I must
be back betimes."
Then a strange smile stole over Regin's wrinkled
face, and he said, -
I See Note 6 at the end of this volume.
"Does Siegfried the prince come on such a lowly
errand? Does he come to me through the forest, driv-
ing a donkey, and riding in a sooty coal-cart ? I have
known the day when his kin were the mightiest kings
of earth, and they fared through every land the noblest
men of men-folk."
The taunting word, the jeering tones, made Sieg-
fried's anger rise. The blood boiled in his veins; but
he checked his tongue, and mildly answered, -
"It is true that I am a prince, and my father is the
wisest of kings; and it is for this reason that I come
thus to you. Mimer is my master, and my father early
taught me that even princes must obey their masters'
Then Regin laughed, and asked, How long art thou
to be Mimer's thrall ? Does no work wait for thee but
at his smoky forge ?"
"When Mimer gives me leave, and Odin calls me,"
answered the lad, "then I, too, will go faring over the
world, like my kin of the earlier days, to carve me a
name and great glory, and a place with the noble of
Regin said not a word; but he took his harp, and
smote the strings, and a sad, wild music filled the room.
And he sang of the gods and the dwarf-folk, and of the
deeds that had been in the time long past and gone.
And a strange mist swam before Siegfried's eyes; and
so bewitching were the strains that fell upon his ears,
and filled his soul, that he forgot about his errand, and
28 The Story of Siegfried.
his master Mimer, and his father Siegmund, and his
lowland home, and thought only of the heart-gladdening
sounds. By and by the music ended, the spell was
lifted, and Siegfried turned his eyes towards the musi-
cian. A wonderful change had taken place. The little
old man still stood before him with the harp in his
hand; but his wrinkled face was hidden by a heavy
beard, and his thin gray locks were covered with a long
black wig, and he seemed taller and stouter than before.
As Siegfried started with surprise, his host held out his
hand, and said, -
"You need not be alarmed, my boy. It is time for
you to know that Regin and Mimer are the same per-
son, or rather that Mimer is Regin disguised.' The
day has come for you to go your way into the world.
and Mimer gives you leave."
Siegfried was so amazed he could not say a word.
He took the master's hand, and gazed long into his
deep, bright eyes. Then the two sat down together,
and Mimer, or Regin as we shall now call him, told the
prince many tales of the days that had been, and of his
bold, wise forefathers. And the lad's heart swelled
within him; and he longed to be like them, to dare
and do and suffer, and gloriously win at last. And he
turned to Regin and said, -
"Tell me, wisest of masters, what I shall do to win
fame, and to make myself worthy to rule the fair land
which my fathers held."
See Note 8 at the end of this volume.
"Go forth in your own strength, and with Odin's
help," answered Regin, "go forth to right the wrong,
to help the weak, to punish evil, and come not back to
your father's kingdom until the world shall know your
"But whither shall I go ?" asked Siegfried.
"I will tell you," answered Regin. "Put on these
garments, which better befit a prince than those soot-
begrimed clothes you have worn so long. Gird about
you this sword, the good Balmung, and go northward.
When you come to the waste lands which border upon
the sea, you will find the ancient Gripir, the last of the
kin of the giants. Ask of him a war-steed, and Odin
will tell you the rest."
So, when the sun had risen high above the trees,
Siegfried bade Regin good-by, and went forth like a
man, to take whatsoever fortune should betide. He
went through the great forest, and across the bleak
moorland beyond, and over the huge black mountains
that stretched themselves across his way, and came to
a pleasant country all dotted with white farmhouses,
and yellow with waving corn. But he tarried not here,
though many kind words were spoken to him, and all
besought him to stay. Right onwards he went, until
he reached the waste land which borders the sound-
ing sea. And there high mountains stood, with snow-
crowned crags beetling over the waves; and a great
river, all foaming with the summer floods, went rolling
through the valley. And in the deep dales between
30 The Story of Siegfried.
the mountains were rich meadows, green with grass,
and speckled with thousands of flowers of every hue,
where herds of cattle and deer, and noble elks, and
untamed horses, fed in undisturbed peace. And Sieg-
fried, when he saw, knew that these were the pastures
of Gripir the ancient.
High up among the gray mountain-peaks stood Gripir's
dwelling, a mighty house, made of huge bowlders
brought by giant hands from the far north-land. And
the wild eagles built their nests around it, and the
mountain vultures screamed about its doors. But Sieg-
fried was not afraid. He climbed the steep pathway
which the feet of men had never touched before, and,
without pausing, walked straightway into the high-built
hall. The room was so dark that at first he could see
nothing save the white walls, and the glass-green pillars
which upheld the roof. But the light grew stronger
soon; and Siegfried saw, beneath a heavy canopy of
stone, the ancient Gripir, seated in a chair made from
the sea-horse's teeth.' And the son of the giants held in
his hand an ivory staff; and a purple mantle was thrown
over his shoulders, and his white beard fell in sweeping
waves almost to the sea-green floor. Very wise he
seemed, and he gazed at Siegfried with a kindly smile.
"Hail, Siegfried !" he cried. "Hail, prince with
the gleaming eye I know thee, and I know the woof
that the Norns have woven for thee. Welcome to my
lonely mountain home Come and sit by my side in the
I See Note 9 at the end of this volume.
high-seat where man has never sat, and I will tell thee
of things that have been, and of things that are yet
Then Siegfried fearlessly went and sat by the side of
the ancient wise one. And long hours they talked
together, strong youth and hoariest age; and each
was glad that in the other he had found some source of
hope and comfort. And they talked of the great mid-
world, and of the starry dome above it, and of the seas
which gird it, and of the men who live upon it. All
night long they talked, and in the morning Siegfried
arose to go.
"Thou hast not told me of thy errand," said Gripir;
"but I know what it is. Come first with me, and see
this great mid-world for thyself."
Then Gripir, leaning on his staff, led the way out of
the great hall, and up to the top of the highest moun-
tain-crag. And the wild eagles circled in the clear,
cold air above them; and far below them the white
waves dashed against the mountain's feet; and the
frosty winds swept around them unchecked, bringing
to their ears the lone lamenting of the north giants,
moaning for the days that had been and for the glories
that were past. Then Siegfried looked to the north,
and he saw the dark mountain-wall of Norway trending
away in solemn grandeur towards the frozen sea, but
broken here and there by sheltering fjords, and pleasant,
sunny dales. He looked to the east, and saw a great
forest stretching away and away until it faded to sight
The Story oj Siegfried.
in the blue distance. He looked to the south, and saw
a pleasant land, with farms and vineyards, and towns
and strong-built castles; ai d through it wound the
River Rhine, like a great white serpent, reaching from
the snowcapped Alps to the northern sea. And he
saw his father's little kingdom of the Netherlands lying
like a green speck on the shore of the ocean. Then he
looked to the west, and nothing met his sight but a
wilderness of rolling, restless waters, save, in the far
distance, a green island half hidden by sullen mists
and clouds. And Siegfried sighed, and said, -
"The world is so wide, and the life of man so short!"
"The world is all before thee," answered Gripir.
"Take what the Norns have allotted thee. Choose
from my pastures a battle-steed, and ride forth to win
for thyself a name and fame among the sons of men."
Then Siegfried ran down the steep side of the moun-
tain to the grassy dell where the horses were feeding.
But the beasts were all so fair and strong, that he knew
not which to choose. While he paused, uncertain what
to do, a strange man stood before him. Tall and hand-
some was the nan, with one bright eye, and a face
beaming like the dawn in summer; and upon his head
he wore a sky-blue hood bespangled with golden stars,
and over his shoulder was thrown a cloak of ashen gray.
"Would you choose a horse, S'r Siegfried?" asked
"Indeed I would," answered he. "But it is hard to
make a choice among so many."
"There is one in the meadow," said the man, "far
better than all the rest. They say that he came from
Odin's pastures on the green hill-slopes of Asgard, and
that none but the noblest shall ride him."
"Which is he ?" asked Siegfried.
"Drive the herd into the river," was the answer,
"and then see if you can pick him out."
And Siegfried and the stranger drove the horses
down the sloping bank, and into the rolling stream; but
the flood was too strong for them. Some soon turned
back to the shore; while others, struggling madly, were
swept away, and carried out to the sea. Only one
swam safely over. He shook the dripping water from
his mane, tossed his head in the air, and then plunged
again into the stream. Right bravely he stemmed the
torrent the second time. He clambered up the shelving
bank, and stood by Siegfried's side.
"What need to tell you that this is the horse?" said
the stranger. "Take him: he is yours. He is Grey-
fell, the shining hope that Odin sends to his chosen
And then Siegfried noticed that the horse's mane
glimmered and flashed like a thousand rays from the
sun, and that his coat was as white and clear as the
fresh-fallen snow on the mountains. He turned t.:
speak to the stranger, but he was nowhere to be seen
and Siegfried bethought him how he had talked wit)
Odin unawares. Then he mounted the noble Greyfell
and rode with a light heart across the flowery meadows.
34 The Story of Siegfried.
"Whither ridest thou ?" cried Gripir the ancient,
from his doorway among the crags.
"I ride into the wide world," said Siegfried; "but
I know not whither. I would right the wrong, and
help the weak, and make myself a name on the earth,
as did my kinsmen of yore. Tell me, I pray you,
where I shall go; for you are wise, and you know the
things which have been, and those which shall befall."
"Ride back to Regin, the master of masters," an-
swered Gripir. "He will tell thee of a wrong to be
And the ancient son of the giants withdrew into his
lonely abode; and Siegfried, on the shining Greyfell,
rode swiftly away towards the south.
The Curse of Gold. 35
AD VENTURE III.
THE CURSE OF GOLD.
FORTH then rode Siegfried, upon the beaming Grey-
fell, out into the broad mid-world. And the sun shone
bright above him, and the air was soft and pure, and
the earth seemed very lovely, and life a gladsome thing.
And his heart was big within him as he thought of
the days to come, of the deeds of love and daring, of the
righting of many wrongs, of the people's praise, and
the glory of a life well lived. And he wended his way
back again toward the south and the fair lands of the
Rhine. He left the barren moorlands behind him, and
the pleasant farms and villages of the fruitful country-
side, and after many days came once more to Regin's
woodland dwelling. For he said to himself, "My old
master is very wise; and he knows of the deeds that
were done when yet the world was young, and my kin
were the mightiest of men. I will go to him, and learn
what grievous evil it is that he has so often vaguely
Regin, when he saw the lad and the beaming Grey-
fell standing like a vision of light at his door, welcomed
The Story of Siegfried.
them most gladly, and led Siegfried into the inner
room, where they sat down together amid the gold, and
the gem-stones, and the fine-wrought treasures there.
"Truly," said the master, "the days of my long
waiting are drawing to a close, and at last the deed
shall be done."
And the old look of longing came again into his
eyes, and his pinched face seemed darker and more
wrinkled than before, and his thin lips trembled with
emotion as he spoke.
"What is that deed of which you speak?" asked
"It is the righting of a grievous wrong," answered
Regin, "and the winning of treasures untold. Lo,
many years have I waited for the coming of this day;
and now my heart tells me that the hero so long hoped
for is here, and the wisdom and the wealth of the world
shall be mine."
"But what is the wrong to be righted ?" asked Sieg-
fried. And what is this treasure that you speak of as
your own ?"
"Alas!" answered Regin, "the treasure is indeed
mine; and yet wrongfully has it been withheld from me.
But listen a while to a tale of the early days, and thou
shalt know what the treasure is, and what is the wrong
to be righted."
He took his harp and swept the strings, and played
.a soft, low melody which told of the dim past, and of
blighted hopes, and of a nameless, never-satisfied
The Curse of Gold.
yearning for that which might have been. And then
he told Siegfried this story:-
When the earth was still very young, and men were
feeble and few, and the Dwarfs were many and strong,
the Asa-folk were wont oft-times to leave their halls in
heaven-towering Asgard in order to visit the new-formed
mid-world, and to see what the short-lived sons of men
were doing. Sometimes they-came in their own god-
like splendor and might; sometimes they came disguised
as feeble men-folk, with all man's weaknesses and all his
passions. Sometimes Odin, as a beggar, wandered from
one country to another, craving charity; sometimes, as
a warrior clad in coat of mail, he rode forth to battle
for the cause of right; or as a minstrel he sang from
door to door, and played sweet music in the halls of the
great; or as a huntsman he dashed through brakes and
fens, and into dark forests, and climbed steep mountains
in search of game; or as a sailor he embarked upon
the sea, and sought new scenes in unknown lands. And
many times did men-folk entertain him unawares.
Once on a time he came to the mid-world in com-
pany with Hoenir and Loki; and the three wandered
through many lands and in many climes, each giving
gifts wherever they went. Odin gave knowledge and
strength, and taught men how to read the mystic runes;
Hoenir gave gladness and good cheer, and lightened
many hearts with the glow of his comforting presence;
38 The Story of Siegfried.
but Loki had nought to give but cunning deceit and
base thoughts, and he left behind him bitter strife and
many aching breasts. At last, growing tired of the
fellowship of men, the three Asas sought the solitude
of the forest, and as huntsmen wandered long among
the hills and over the wooded heights of Hunaland.
Late one afternoon they came to a mountain-stream at
a place where it poured over a ledge of rocks, and fell
in clouds of spray into a rocky gorge below. As they
stood, and with pleased eyes gazed upon the waterfall,
they saw near the bank an otter lazily making ready
to eat a salmon which he had caught. And Loki, ever
bent on doing mischief, hurled a stone at the harmless
beast, and killed it. And he boasted loudly that he had
done a worthy deed. And he took both the otter, and
the fish which it had caught, and carried them with him
as trophies of the day's success.
Just at nightfall the three huntsmen came to a lone
farmhouse in the valley, and asked for food, and for
shelter during the night.
"Shelter you shall have," said the farmer, whose
name was Hreidmar, "for the rising clouds foretell a
storm. But food I have none to give you. Surely
huntsmen of skill should not want for food; since the
forest teems with game, and the streams are full of
Then Loki threw upon the ground the otter and the
fish, and said, "We have sought in both forest and
stream, and we have taken from them at one blow both
The Curse of Gold.
flesh and fish. Give us but the shelter you promise,
and we will not trouble you for food."
The farmer gazed with horror upon the lifeless body
of the otter, and cried out, "This creature which you
mistook for an otter, and which you have robbed and
killed, is my son Oddar, who for mere pastime had
taken the form of the furry beast. You are but thieves
Then he called loudly for help: and his two sons
Fafnir and Regin, sturdy and valiant kin of the dwarf-
folk, rushed in, and seized upon the huntsmen, and
bound them hand and foot; for the three Asas, having
taken upon themselves the forms of men, had no more
than human strength, and were unable to withstand
Then Odin and his fellows bemoaned their ill fate.
And Loki said, "Wherefore did we foolishly take upon
ourselves the likenesses of puny men? Had I my own
power once more, I would never part with it in exchange
for man's weaknesses."
And Hoenir sighed, and said, "Now, indeed, will
darkness win: and the frosty breath of the Reimthursen
giants will blast the fair handiwork of the sunlight and
the heat; for the givers of life and light and warmth
are helpless prisoners in the hands of these cunning
and unforgiving jailers."
"Surely," said Odin, "not even the highest are free
from obedience to heaven's behests and the laws of
right. I, whom men call the Preserver of Life, have
The Story of Siegfried.
demeaned myself by being found in evil company; and,
although I have done no other wrong, I suffer rightly
for the doings of this mischief-maker with whom I have
stooped to have fellowship. For all are known, not so
much by what they are as by what they seem to be,
and they bear the bad name which their comrades bear.
Now I am fallen from my high estate. Eternal right
is higher than I. And in the last Twilight of the gods
I must needs meet the dread Fenris-wolf, and in the
end the world will be made new again, and the shining
Balder will rule in sunlight majesty forever."
Then the Asas asked Hreidmar, their jailer, what
ransom they should pay for their freedom; and he, not
knowing who they were, said, "I must first know what
ransom you are able to give."
"We will give any thing you may ask," hastily an-
Hreidmar then called his sons, and bade them strip
the skin from the otter's body. When this was done,
they brought the furry hide and spread it upon the
ground; and Hreidmar said, "Bring shining gold and
precious stones enough to cover every part of this otter-
skin. When you have paid so much ransom, you shall
have your freedom."
"That we will do," answered Odin. "But one of us
must have leave to go and fetch it: the other two will
stay fast bound until the morning dawns. If, by that
time, the gold is not here, you may do with us as you
The Curse of Gold. 41
Hreidmar and the two young men agreed to Odin's
offer; and, lots being cast, it fell to Loki to go and
fetch the treasure. When he had been loosed from the
cords which bound him, Loki donned his magic shoes,
which had carried him over land and sea from the far.
thest bounds of the mid-world, and hastened away upon
his errand. And he sped with the swiftness of light,
over the hills and the wooded slopes, and the deep dark
valleys, and the fields and forests and sleeping hamlets,
until he came to the place where dwelt the swarthy
elves and the cunning dwarf Andvari. There the River
Rhine, no larger than a meadow-brook, breaks forth
from beneath a mountain of ice, which the Frost
giants and blind old Hoder, the Winter-king, had built
long years before; for they had vainly hoped that they
right imprison the river at its fountain-head. But the
baby-brook had eaten its way beneath the frozen mass,
and had sprung out from its prison, and gone on, leap-
ing and smiling, and kissing the sunlight, in its ever-
widening course towards Burgundy and the sea.
Loki came to this place, because he knew that here
was the home of the elves who had laid up the greatest
hoard of treasures ever known in the mid-world. He
scanned with careful eyes the mountain-side, and the
deep, rocky caverns, and the dark gorge through which
the little river rushed; but in the dim moonlight not a
living being could he see, save a lazy salmon swimming
in the quieter eddies of the stream. Any one but Loki
would have lost all hope of finding treasure there, at
42 The Story of Siegfried.
least before the dawn of day; but his wits were quick,
and his eyes were very sharp.
"One salmon has brought us into this trouble, and
another shall help us out of it! he cried.
Then, swift as thought, he sprang again into the air;
and the magic shoes carried him with greater speed
than before down the Rhine valley, and through Bur-
gundy-land, and the low meadows, until he came to the
shores of the great North Sea. He sought the halls
of old 2Egir, the Ocean-king; but he wist not which way
to go, whether across the North Sea towards Isen-
land, or whether along the narrow channel between
Britain-land and the main. While he paused, uncertain
where to turn, he saw the pale-haired daughters of old
jEgir, the white-veiled Waves, playing in the moonlight
near the shore. Of them he asked the way to AEgir's
"Seven days' journey westward," said they, "beyond
the green Isle of Erin, is our father's hall. Seven days'
journey northward, on the bleak Norwegian shore, is our
And they stopped not once in their play, but rippled
and danced on the shelving beach, or dashed with force
against the shore.
"Where is your mother Ran, the Queen of the
Ocean?" asked Loki."
And they answered, -
The Curse of Gold. 43
'In the deep sea-caves
By the sounding shore,
In the dashing waves
When the wild storms roar,
In her cold green bowers
In the northern fiords,
She lurks and she glowers,
She grasps and she hoards,
And she spreads her strong net for her prey."
Loki waited to hear no more; but he sprang into
the air, and the magic shoes carried him onwards over
the water in search of the Ocean-queen. He had not
gone far when his sharp eyes espied her, lurking near a
rocky shore against which the breakers dashed with
frightful fury. Half hidden in the deep dark water,
she lay waiting and watching; and she spread her cun-
ning net upon the waves, and reached out with her long
greedy fingers to seize whatever booty might come near
When the wary queen saw Loki, she hastily drew in
her net, and tried to hide herself in the shadows of an
overhanging rock. But Loki called her by name, and
Sister Ran, fear not! I am your friend Loki,
whom once you served as a guest in AEgir's gold-lit
Then the Ocean-queen came out into the bright
moonlight, and welcomed Loki to her domain, and
asked, "Why does Loki thus wander so far from As-
gard, and over the trackless waters?"
44 The Story of Siegfried.
And Loki answered, "I have heard of the net which
you spread upon the waves, and from which no creature
once caught in its meshes can ever escape. I have
found a salmon where the Rhine-spring gushes from
beneath the mountains, and a very cunning salmon he
is, for no common skill can catch him. Come, I pray,
with your wondrous net, and cast it into the stream
where he lies. Do but take the wary fish for me, and
you shall have more gold than you have taken in a year
from the wrecks of stranded vessels."
"I dare not go," cried Ran. "A bound is set, be-
yond which I may not venture. If all the gold of earth
were offered me, I could not go."
"Then lend me your net," entreated Loki. "Lend
me your net, and I will bring it back to-morrow filled
"Much I would like your gold," answered Ran;
"but I cannot lend my net. Should I do so, I might
lose the richest prize that has ever come into my hus-
band's kingdom. For three days, now, a gold-rigged
ship, bearing a princely crew with rich armor and
abundant wealth, has been sailing carelessly over these
seas. To-morrow I shall send my daughters and the
bewitching mermaids to decoy the vessel among the
rocks. And into my net the ship, and the brave war-
riors, and all their armor and gold, shall fall. A rich
prize it will be. No: I cannot part with my net, e 7ex
(or a single hour."
But Loki knew the power of flattering words.
The Curse of Gold. 45
"Beautiful queen," said he, "there is no one on earth.
nor even in Asgard, who can equal you in wisdom and
foresight. Yet I promise you, that, if you will but lend
me your net until the morning dawns, the ship and the
crew of which you speak shall be yours, and all their
golden treasures shall deck your azure halls in the deep
Then Ran carefully folded the net, and gave it to
"Remember your promise," was all that she said.
"An Asa never forgets," he answered.
And he turned his face again towards Rhineland; and
the magic shoes bore him aloft, and carried him in a
moment back to the ice-mountain and the gorge and the
infant river, which he had so lately left. The salmon
still rested in his place, and had not moved during Loki's
Loki unfolded the net, and cast it into the stream.
The cunning fish tried hard to avoid being caught
in its meshes; but, dart which way he would, he met
the skilfully woven cords, and these drew themselves
around him, and held him fast. Then Loki pulled the
net up out of the water, and gr-sped the helpless fish
in his right hand. But, lo! as he held the struggling
creature high in the air, it was no longer a fish, but the
cunning dwarf Andvari.
"Thou King of the Elves," cried Loki, "thy cun.
ning has not saved thee. Tell me, on thy life, where
thy hidden treasures lie!"
46 The Story of Siegfried.
The wise dwarf knew who it was that thus held him
as in a vise; and he answered frankly, for it was his only
hope of escape, "Turn over the stone upon which you
stand. Beneath it you will find the treasure you seek."
Then Loki put his shoulder to the rock, and pushed
with all his might. But it seemed as firm as the moun-
tain, and would not be moved.
"Help us, thou cunning dwarf," he cried,-" help
us, and thou shalt have thy life!"
The dwarf put his shoulder to the rock, and it turned
over as if by magic, and underneath was disclosed a
wondrous chamber, whose walls shone brighter than the
sun, and on whose floor lay treasures of gold and glit-
tering gem-stones such as no man had ever seen. And
Loki, in great haste, seized upon the hoard, and placed
it in the magic net which he had borrowed from the
Ocean-queen. Then he came out of the chamber; and
Andvari again put his shoulder to the rock which lay at
the entrance, and it swung back noiselessly to its place.
"What is that upon thy finger ?" suddenly cried Loki.
"Wouldst keep back a part of the treasure? Give me
the ring thou hast! "
But the dwarf shook his head, and made answer, "I
have given thee all the riches that the elves of the
mountain have gathered since the world began. This
ring I cannot give thee, for without its help we shall
never be able to gather more treasures together."
And Loki grew angry at these words of the dwarf;
and he seized the ring, and tore it by force from And.
The Curse of Gold.
vari's fingers. It was a wondrous little piece of mechan-
ism shaped like a serpent, coiled, with its tail in its
mouth; and its scaly sides glittered with many a tiny
diamond, and its ruby eyes shone with an evil light.
When the dwarf knew that Loki really meant to rob
him of the ring, he cursed it and all who should ever
possess it, saying, -
"May the ill-gotten treasure that you have seized to-
night be your bane, and the bane of all to whom it may
come, whether by fair means or by foul! And the ring
which you have torn from my hand, may it entail upon
the one who wears it sorrow and untold ills, the loss of
friends, and a violent death! The Norns have spoken,
and thus it must be."
Loki was pleased with these words, and with the
dark curses which the dwarf pronounced upon the
gold; for he loved wrong-doing for wrong-doing's sake,
and he knew that no curses could ever make his own
life more cheerless than it always had been. So he
thanked Andvari for his curses and his treasures; and,
throwing the magic net upon his shoulder, he sprang
again into the air, and was carried swiftly back to
Hunaland; and, just before the dawn appeared in the
east, he alighted at the door of the farmhouse where
Odin and Hoenir still lay bound with thongs, and
guarded by Fafnir and Regin.
Then the farmer, Hreidmar, brought the otter's skin,
and spread it upon the ground; and, lo! it grew, and
spread out on all sides, until it covered an acre of
48 The Story of Siegfried.
ground. And he cried out, "Fulfil now your promise !
Cover every hair of this hide with gold or with pre-
cious stones. If you fail to do this, then your lives, by
your own agreement, are forfeited, and we shall do with
you as we list."
Odin took the magic net from Loki's shoulder; and,
opening it, he poured the treasures of the mountain.
elves upon the otter-skin. And Loki and Hoenir spread
the yellow pieces carefully and evenly over every part
of the furry hide. But, after every piece had been laid
in its place, Hreidmar saw near the otter's mouth a
single hair uncovered; and he declared, that unless this
hair, too, were covered, the bargain would be unfulfilled,
and the treasures and lives of his prisoners would be
forfeited. And the Asas looked at each other in dis-
may; for not another piece of gold, and not another
precious stone, could they find in the net, although they
searched with the greatest care. At last Odin took
from his bosom the ring which Loki had stolen from
the dwarf; for he had been so highly pleased with its
form and workmanship, that he had hidden it, hoping
that it would not be needed to complete the payment
of the ransom. And they laid the ring upon the un-
covered hair. And now no portion of the otter's skin
could be seen. And Fafnir and Regin, the ransom
being paid, loosed the shackles of Odin and Hoenir,
and bade the three huntsmen go on their way.
Odin and Hoenir at once shook off their human
disguises, and, taking their own forms again, hastened
The Curse of Gold.
with all speed back to Asgard. But Loki tarried a
little while, and said to Hreidmar and his sons, -
"By your greediness and falsehood you have won for
yourselves the Curse of the Earth, which lies before
you. It shall be your bane. It shall be the bane of
every one who holds it. It shall kindle strife between
father and son, between brother and brother. It shall
make you mean, selfish, beastly. It shall transform
you into monsters. The noblest king among men-folk
shall feel its curse. Such is gold, and such it shall
ever be to its worshippers. And the ring which you
have gotten shall impart to its possessor its own na-
ture. Grasping, snaky, cold, unfeeling, shall he live;
and death through treachery shall be his doom."
Then he turned away, delighted that he had thus left
the curse of Andvari with Hreidmar and his sons, and
hastened northward toward the sea; for he wished to
redeem the promise that he had made to the Ocean-
queen, to bring back her magic net, and to decoy the
richly laden ship into her clutches.
No sooner were the strange huntsmen well out of
sight than Fafnir and Regin began to ask their father
to di ide the glittering hoard with them.
"By our strength and through our advice," said they,
"this great store has come into your hands. Let us
place it in three equal heaps, and then let each take his
share and go his way."
At this the farmer waxed very angry; and he loudly
declared that he would keep all the treasure for himself,
50 The Story of Siegfried.
and that his sons should not have any portion of it
whatever. So Fafnir and Regin, nursing their disap-
pointment, went to the fields to watch their sheep; but
their father sat down to guard his new-gotten treasure.
And he took in his hand the glittering serpent-ring,
and gazed into its cold ruby eyes: and, as he gazed, all
his thoughts were fixed upon his gold; and there was
no room in his heart for love toward his fellows, nor for
deeds of kindness, nor for the worship of the All-Father.
And behold, as he continued to look at the snaky ring,
a dreadful change came over him. The warm red
blood, which until that time had leaped through his
veins, and given him life and strength and human feel-
ings, became purple and cold and sluggish; and selfish-
ness, like serpent-poison, took hold of his heart. Then,
as he kept on gazing at the hoard which lay before him,
he began to lose his human shape; his body lengthened
into many scaly folds, and he coiled himself around his
loved treasures,-the very likeness of the ring upon
which he had looked so long.
When the day drew near its close, Fafnir came back
from the fields with his herd of sheep, and thought to
find his father guarding the treasure, as he had left him
in the morning; but instead he saw a glittering
snake, fast asleep, encircling the hoard like a huge
scaly ring of gold. His first thought was that the
monster had devoured his father ; and, hastily drawing
his sword, with one blow he severed thd serpent's head
from its body. And, while yet the creature writhed in
The Curse of Gold. 51
the death-agony, he gathered up the hoard, and fled
with it beyond the hills of Hunaland, until on the
seventh day he came to a barren heath far from the
homes of men. There he placed the treasures in one
glittering heap; and he clothed himself in a wondrous
mail-coat of gold that was found among them, and he
put on the Helmet of Dread, which had once been the
terror of the mid-world, and the like of which no man
had ever seen; and then he gazed with greedy eyes
upon the fateful ring, until he, too, was changed into a
cold and slimy reptile, -a monster dragon. And he
coiled himself about the hoard; and, with his restless
eyes forever open, he gloated day after day upon his
loved gold, and watched with ceaseless care that no one
should come near to despoil him of it. This was ages
and ages ago; and still he wallows among his treasures
on the Glittering Heath, and guards as of yore the
garnered wealth of Andvari.'
When I, Regin, the younger brother, came back in
the late evening to my father's dwelling, I saw that the
treasure had been carried away; and, when I beheld
the dead serpent lying in its place, I knew that a part of
Andvari's curse had been fulfilled. And a strange feat
came over me; and I left every thing behind me, and
fled from that dwelling, never more to ret urn. Then I
came to the land of the Volsungs, where your father's
fathers dwelt, the noblest king-folk that the world
has ever seen. But a longing for the gold and the
1 See Note 1o at end of this volume.
52 The Story of Siegfried.
treasure, a hungry yearning that would never be
satisfied, filled my soul. Then for a time I sought to
forget this craving. I spent my days in the getting of
knowledge and in teaching men-folk the ancient lore of
my kin, the Dwarfs. I taught them how to plant and
to sow, and to reap the yellow grain. I showed them
where the precious metals of the earth lie hidden, and
how to smelt iron from its ores, how to shape the
ploughshare and the spade, the spear and the battle-
axe. I taught them how to tame the wild horses of
the meadows, and how to train the yoke-beasts to the
plough; how to build lordly dwellings and mighty
strongholds, and how to sail in ships across old JEgir's
watery kingdom. But they gave me no thanks for
what I had done; and as the years went by they
forgot who had been their teacher, and they said that it
was Frey who had given them this knowledge and skill.
And I taught the young maidens how to spin and
weave, and to handle the needle deftly, -to make rich
garments, and to work in tapestry and embroidery.
But they, too, forgot me, and said that it was Freyja
who had taught them. Then I showed men how to
read the mystic runes aright, and how to make the
sweet beverage of poetry, that charms all hearts, and
enlightens the world. But they say now that they had
these gifts from Odin. I taught them how to fashion
the tales of old into rich melodious songs, and with
music and sweet-mouthed eloquence to move the minds
of their fellow-men. But they say that Bragi taught
The Curse of Gold. 53
them this; and they remember me only as Regin, the
elfin schoolmaster, or at best as Mimer, the master
of smiths. At length my heart grew bitter because
of the neglect and ingratitude of men; and the old
longing for Andvari's hoard came back to me, and I
forgot much of my cunning and lore. But I lived on
and on, and generations of short-lived men arose
and passed, and still the hoard was not mine; for I
was weak, and no man was strong enough to help
Then I sought wisdom of the Norns, the weird women
who weave the woof of every creature's fate.'
"How long," asked I, "must I hope and wait in
weary expectation of that day when the wealth of the
world and the garnered wisdom of the ages shall be
And the witches answered, "When a prince of the
Volsung race shall come who shall excel thee in the
smithying craft, and to whom the All-Father shall give
the Shining Hope as a helper, then the days of thy
weary watching shall cease."
"How long," asked I, "shall I live to enjoy this
wealth and this wisdom, and to walk as a god among
men ? Shall I be long-lived as the Asa-folk, and dwell
on the earth until the last Twilight comes ?"
"It is written," answered Skuld, "that a beardless
youth shall see thy death. But go thou now, and bide
I See Notes 6 and 7 at the end of this volume.
54 The Story of Siegfried.
Here Regin ended his story, and both he and Sieg-
fried sat for a long time silent and thoughtful.
"I know what you wish," said Siegfried at last.
"You think that I am the prince of whom the weird
sisters spoke; and you would have me slay the dragon
Fafnir, and win for you the hoard of Andvari."
"It is even so," answered Regin.
"But the hoard is accursed," said the lad.
"Let the curse be upon me," was the answer. "Is
not the wisdom of the ages mine ? And think you that
I cannot escape the curse? Is there aught that can
prevail against him who has all knowledge and the
wealth of the world at his call ?"
"Nothing but the word of the Norns and the will of
the All-Father," answered Siegfried.
"But will you help me?" asked Regin, almost wild
with earnestness. "Will you help me to win that
which is rightfully mine, and to rid the world of a hor-
ribie evil ?"
"Why is the hoard of Andvari more thine than
"He is a monster, and he keeps the treasure but to
gloat upon its glittering richness. I will use it to make
myself a name upon the earth. I will not hoard it
away. But I am weak, and he is strong and terrible.
Will you help me ?"
"To-morrow," said Siegfried, "be ready to go with
me to the Glittering Heath. The treasure shall be
thine, and also the curse."
"And also the curse," echoed Regin.
Fafnir, the Dragon. 55
FAFNIR, THE DRAGON.
REGIN took up his harp, and his fingers smote the
strings; and the music which came forth sounded like
the wail of the winter's wind through the dead tree-
tops of the forest. And the song which he sang was
full of grief and wild hopeless yearning for the things
which were not to be. When he had ceased, Siegfried
"That was indeed a sorrowful song for one to sing
who sees his hopes so nearly realized. Why are you so
sad ? Is it because you fear the curse which you have
taken upon yourself ? or is it because you know not
what you will do with so vast a treasure, and its posses-
sion begins already to trouble you ?"
"Oh, many are the things I will do with that treas-
ure !" answered Regin; and his eyes flashed wildly,
and his face grew red and pale. "I will turn winter
into summer; I will make the desert-places glad; I will
bring back the golden age; I will make myself a god:
for mine shall be the wisdom, and the gathered wealth
of the world. And yet I fear" -
56 The Story of Siegfried.
"What do you fear ?"
"The ring, the ring-it is accursed! The Norns,
too, have spoken, and my doom is known. I cannot
"The Norns have woven the woof of every man's
life," answered Siegfried. "To-morrow we fare to the
Glittering Heath, and the end shall be as the Norns
And so, early the next morning, Siegfried mounted
Greyfell, and rode out towards the desert-land that lay
beyond the forest and the barren mountain-range; and
Regin, his eyes flashing with desire, and his feet never
tiring, trudged by his side. For seven days they
wended their way through the thick greenwood, sleeping
at night on the bare ground beneath the trees, while the
wolves and other wild beasts of the forest filled the air
with their hideous howlings. But no evil creature dared
come near them, for fear of the shining beams of light
which fell from Greyfell's gleaming mane. On the eighth
day they came to the open country and to the hills,
where the land was covered with black bowlders and
broken by yawning chasms. And no living thing was
seen there, not even an insect, nor a blade of grass;
and the silence of the grave was over all. And the
earth was dry and parched, and the sun hung above
them like a painted shield in a blue-black sky, and there
was neither shade nor water anywhere. But Siegfried
rode onwards in the way which Regin pointed out, and
faltered not, although he grew faint with thirst and
Fafnir, the Dragon. 57
with the overpowering heat. Towards the evening
of the next day they came to a dark mountain-wall
which stretched far out on either hand, and rose high
above them, so steep that it seemed to close up the way,
and to forbid them going farther.
"This is the wall!" cried Regin. "Beyond this
mountain is the Glittering Heath, and the goal of all
And the little old man ran forwards, and scaled the
rough side of the mountain, and reached its summit,
while Siegfried and Greyfell were yet toiling among the
rocks at its foot. Slowly and painfully they climbed
the steep ascent, sometimes following a narrow path
which wound along the edge of a precipice, some-
times leaping from rock to rock, or over some deep
gorge, and sometimes picking their way among the
crags and cliffs. The sun at last went down, and
one by one the stars came out; and the moon
was rising, round and red, when Siegfried stood by
Regin's side, and gazed from the mountain-top down
upon the Glittering Heath which lay beyond. And -a
strange, weird scene it was that met his sight. At the
foot of the mountain was a river, white and cold and
still; and beyond it was a smooth and barren plain,
lying silent and lonely in the pale moonlight. But in
the distance was seen a circle of flickering flames, ever
changing,-now growing brighter, now fading away,
and now shining with a dull, cold light, like the glim-
mer of the glow-worm or the fox-fire. And as Siegfried
58 The Story of Siegfried.
gazed upon the scene, he saw the dim outline of some
hideous monster moving hither and thither, and seem-
ing all the more terrible in the uncertain light.
"It is he !" whispered Regin, and his lips were ashy
pale, and his knees trembled beneath him. It is
Fafnir, and he wears the Helmet of Terror! Shall we
not go back to the smithy by the great forest, and to
the life of ease and safety that may be ours there ? Or
will you rather dare to go forwards, and meet the
Terror in its abode ?"
"None but cowards give up an undertaking once
begun," answered Siegfried. "Go back to Rhineland
yourself, if you are afraid; but you must go alone.
You have brought me thus far to meet the dragon of
the heath, to win the hoard of the swarthy elves, and
to rid the world of a terrible evil. Before the setting
of another sun, the deed which you have urged me to
do will be done."
Then he dashed down the eastern slope of the moun-
tain, leaving Greyfell and the trembling Regin behind
him. Soon he stood on the banks of the white river,
which lay between the mountain and the heath; but
the stream was deep and sluggish, and the channel was
very wide. He paused a moment, wondering how he
should cross; and the air seemed heavy with deadly
vapors, and the water was thick and cold. While he
thus stood in thought, a boat came silently out of the
mists, and drew near; and the boatman stood up and
called to him, and said, -
Fafnir, the Dragon. 59
"What man are you who dares come into this land
of loneliness and fear ?"
"I am Siegfried," answered the lad; "and I have
come to slay Fafnir, the Terror."
"Sit in my boat," said the boatman, "and I will
carry you across the river."
And Siegfried sat by the boatman's side; and with-
out the use of an oar, and without a breath of air to
drive it forwards, the little vessel turned, and moved
silently towards the farther shore.
"In what way will you fight the dragon ?" asked the
"With my trusty sword Balmung I shall slay him,"
"But he wears the Helmet of Terror, and he breathes
deathly poisons, and his eyes dart forth lightning, and
no man can withstand his strength," said the boatman.
"I will find some way by which to overcome him."
"Then be wise, and listen to me," said the boatman.
"As you go up from the river you will find a road, worn
deep and smooth, starting from the water's edge, and
winding over the moor. It is the trail of Fafnir, down
which he comes at dawn of every day to slake his thirst
at the river. Do you dig a pit in this roadway, a
pit narrow and deep,-and hide yourself within it. In
the morning, when Fafnir passes over it, let him feel
the edge of Balmung."
As the man ceased speaking, the boat touched the
shore, and Siegfried leaped out. He looked back to
60 The Story of Siegfried.
thank his unknown friend, but neither boat nor boat-
man was to be seen. Only a thin white mist rose
slowly from the cold surface of the stream, and floated
upwards and away towards the mountain-tops. Then
the lad remembered that the strange boatman had worn
a blue hood bespangled with golden stars, and that a
gray kirtle was thrown over his shoulders, and that his
one eye glistened and sparkled with a light that was
more than human. And he knew that he had again
talked with Odin. Then, with a braver heart than be-
fore, he went forwards, along the river-bank, until he
came to Fafnir's trail, -a deep, wide furrow in the
earth, beginning at the river's bank, and winding far
away over the heath, until it was lost to sight in the
darkness. The bottom of the trail was soft and slimy,
and its sides had been worn smooth by Fafnir's frequent
travel through it.
In this road, at a point not far from the river, Sieg-
fried, with his trusty sword Balmung, scooped out a
deep and narrow pit, as Odin had directed. And
when the gray dawn began to appear in the east he hid
himself within this trench, and waited for the coming
of the monster. He had not long to wait; for no
sooner had the sky begun to redden in the light of the
coming sun than the dragon was heard bestirring him-
self. Siegfried peeped warily from his hiding-place,
and saw him coming far down the road, hurrying with
all speed, that he might quench his thirst at the slug-
gish river, and hasten back to his gold; and the sound
Fafnir, the Dragon. 61
which he made was like the trampling of many feet and
the jingling of many chains. With bloodshot eyes, and
gaping mouth, and flaming nostrils, the hideous creature
came rushing onwards. His sharp, curved claws dug
deep into the soft earth; and his bat-like wings, half
trailing on the ground, half flapping in the air, made a
sound like that which is heard when Thor rides in his
goat-drawn chariot over the dark thunder-clouds. It
was a terrible moment for Siegfried, but still he was
not afraid. He crouched low down in his hiding-place,
and the bare blade of the trusty Balmung glittered in
the morning light. On came the hastening feet and
the flapping wings : the red gleam from the monster's
flaming nostrils lighted up the trench where Siegfried
lay. He heard a roaring and a rushing like the sound
of a whirlwind in the forest; then a black, inky mass
rolled above him, and all was dark. Now was Sieg-
fried's opportunity. The bright edge of Balmung
gleamed in the darkness one moment, and then it
smote the heart of Fafnir as he passed. Some men
say that Odin sat in the pit with Siegfried, and
strengthened his arm and directed his sword, or else
he could not thus have slain the Terror. But, be this
as it may, the victory was soon won. The monster
stopped short, while but half of his long body had
glided over the pit; for sudden death had overtaken
him. His horrid head fell lifeless upon the ground;
his cold wings flapped once, and then lay, quivering
and helpless, spread out on either side; and streams
62 The Story of Siegfried.
of thick black blood flowed from his heart, through
the wound beneath, and filled the trench in which Sieg-
fried was hidden, and ran like a mountain-torrent down
the road towards the river. Siegfried was covered from
head to foot with the slimy liquid, and, had he not
quickly leaped from his hiding-place, he would have
been drowned in the swift-rushing stream.'
The bright sun rose in the east, and gilded the
mountain-tops, and fell upon the still waters of the river,
and lighted up the treeless plains around. The south
wind played gently against Siegfried's cheeks and
in his long hair, as he stood gazing on his fallen
foe. And the sound of singing birds, and rippling
waters, and gay insects, -such as had not broken
the silence of the Glittering Heath for ages, came
to his ears. The Terror was dead, and Nature had
awakened from her sleep of dread. And as the lad
leaned upon his sword, and thought of the deed he
had done, behold! the shining Greyfell, with the beam-
ing, hopeful mane, having crossed the now bright river,
stood by his side. And Regin, his face grown won-
drous cold, came trudging over the meadows; and
his heart was full of guile. Then the mountain vultures
came wheeling downwards to look upon the dead dragon;
and with them were two ravens, black as midnight.
And when Siegfried saw these ravens he knew them to
be Odin's birds, Hugin, thought, and Munin, memory.
And they alighted on the ground near by; and the lad
I See Note Ix at the end of this volume.
THE DEATH OF FAFNIR.
Fafuiz', the Drag-on.
listened to hear what they would say. Then Hugin
flapped his wings, and said, -
"The deed is done. Why tarries the hero?"
And Munin said, -
"The world is wide. Fame waits for the hero."
And Hugin answered, -
"What if he win the Hoard of the Elves ? That is
not honor. Let him seek fame by nobler deeds."
Then Munin flew past his ear, and whispered, -
"Beware of Regin, the master! His heart is
poisoned. He would be thy bane."
And the two birds flew away to carry the news to
Odin in the happy halls of Gladsheim.
When Regin drew near to look upon the dragon,
Siegfried kindly accosted him: but he seemed not to
hear; and a snaky glitter lurked in his eyes, and his
mouth was set and dry, and he seemed as one walking
in a dream.
"It is mine now," he murmured: "it is all mine,
now, -the Hoard of the swarthy elf-folk, the garnered
wisdom of ages. The strength of the world is mine.
I will keep, I will save, I will heap up; and none shall
have part or parcel of the treasure which is mine
Then his eyes fell upon Siegfried; and his cheeks
grew dark with wrath, and he cried out, -
"Why are you here in my way? I am the lord of
the Glittering Heath: I am the master of the Hoard
I am the master, and you are my thrall."
64 The Story of Siegfried.
Siegfried wondered at the change which had taken
place in his old master; but he only smiled at his
strange words, and made no answer.
"You have slain my brother Regin cried; and his
face grew fearfully black, and his mouth foamed with
"It was my deed and yours," calmly answered Sieg-
fried. "I have rid the world of a Terror: I have righted
a grievous wrong."
"You have slain my brother," said Regin; "and a
murderer's ransom you shall pay!"
"Take the Hoard for your ransom, and let us each
wend his way," said the lad.
"The Hoard is mine by rights," answered Regin still
more wrathfully. "I am the master, and you are my
thrall. Why stand you in my way? "
Then, blinded with madness, he rushed at Siegfried
as if to strike him down; but his foot slipped in a
puddle of gore, and he pitched headlong against the
sharp edge of Balmung. So sudden was this move-
ment, and so unlocked for, that the sword was twitched
out of Siegfried's hand, and fell with a dull splash into
the blood-filled pit before him; while Regin, slain by
his own rashness, sank dead upon the ground. Full of
horror, Siegfried turned away, and mounted Greyfell.,
"This is a place of blood," said he, "and the way to
glory leads not through it. Let the Hoard still lie on
the Glittering Heath: I will go my way from hence;
and the world shall know me for better deeds than this."
See Note x2 at the end of this volume.
Fafmr, the Dragon. 65
And he turned his back on the fearful scene, and rode
away; and so swiftly did Greyfell carry him over the
desert land and the mountain waste, that, when night
came, they stood on the shore of the great North Sea,
and the white waves broke at their feet. And the
lad sat for a long time silent upon the warm white sand
of the beach, and Greyfell waited at his side. And he
watched the stars as they came out one by one, and the
moon, as it rose round and pale, and moved like a queen
across the sky. And the night wore away, and the
stars grew pale, and the moon sank to rest in the wil-
derness of waters. And at day-dawn Siegfried looked
towards the west, and midway between sky and sea he
thought he saw dark mountain-tops hanging above a
land of mists that seemed to float upon the edge of the
While he looked, a white ship, with sails all set, came
speeding over the waters towards him. It came nearer
and nearer, and the sailors rested upon their oars as it
glided into the quiet harbor. A minstrel, with long
white beard floating in the wind, sat at the prow; and
the sweet music from his harp was wafted like incense
to the shore. The vessel touched the sands : its white
sails were reefed as if by magic, and the crew leaped
out upon the beach.
Hail, Siegfried the Golden !" cried the harper
"Whither do you fare this summer day?"
"I have come from a land of horror and dread,"
answered the lad; "and I would fain fare to a brighter."
66 The Story of Siegfried.
Then go with me to awaken the earth from its slum-
ber, and to robe the fields in their garbs of beauty,"
said the harper. And he touched the strings of his
harp, and strains of the softest music arose in the still
morning air. And Siegfried stood entranced, for never
before had he heard such music.
"Tell me who you are he cried, when the sounds
died away. "Tell me who you are, and I will go to the
ends of the earth with you."
"I am Bragi," answered the harper, smiling. And
Siegfried noticed then that the ship was laden with
flowers of every hue, and that thousands of singing
birds circled around and above it, filling the air with
the sound of their glad twitterings.
Now, Bragi was the sweetest musician in all the
world. It was said by some that his home was with
the song-birds, and that he had learned his skill from
them. But this was only part of the truth: for wher-
ever there was loveliness or beauty, or things noble and
pure, there was Bragi; and his wondrous power in
music and song was but the outward sign of a blame-
less soul. When he touched the strings of his golden
harp, all Nature was charmed with the sweet harmony:
the savage beasts of the wood crept near to listen; the
birds paused in their flight; the waves of the sea were
becalmed, and the winds were hushed; the leaping
waterfall was still, and the rushing torrent tarried in
its bed; the elves forgot their hidden treasures, and
joined in silent dance around him; and the str6m-karls
Fafnir, the Dragon.
and the musicians of the wood vainly tried to imitate
him. And he was as fair of speech as he was skilful in
song. His words were so persuasive that he had been
known to call the fishes from the sea, to move great
lifeless rocks, and, what is harder, the hearts of kings.
He understood the voice of the birds, and the whisper-
ing of the breeze, the murmur of the waves, and the
roar of the waterfalls. He knew the length and breadth
of the earth, and the secrets of the sea, and the lan-
guage of the stars. And every day he talked with
Odin the All-Father, and with the wise and good in the
sunlit halls of Gladsheim. And once every year he
went to the North-lands, and woke the earth from its
long winter's sleep,' and scattered music and smiles
and beauty everywhere.'
Right gladly did Siegfried agree to sail with Bragi
over the sea; for he wot that the bright Asa-god
would be a very different guide from the cunning, evil-
eyed Regin. So he went on board with Bragi, and the
gleaming Greyfell followed them, and the sailors sat at
their oars. And Bragi stood in the prow, and touched
the strings of his harp. And, as the music arose, the
white sails leaped up the masts, and a warm south
breeze began to blow; and the little vessel, wafted by
sweet sounds and the incense of spring, sped gladly
away over the sea.
I See Note 13 at the end of this volume.
68 The Story of Siegfried.
AD VENTURE V.
IN EGIR'S KINGDOM.
THE vessel in which Siegfried sailed was soon far
out at sea; for the balmy south wind, and the songs
of the birds, and the music from Bragi's harp, all urged
it cheerily on. And Siegfried sat at the helm, and
guided it in its course. By and by they lost all sight
of land, and the sailors wist not where they were; but
they knew that Bragi, the Wise, would bring them
safely into some haven whenever it should so please
him, and they felt no fear. And the fishes leaped up
out of the water as the white ship sped by on woven
wings; and the monsters of the deep paused, and listened
to the sweet music which floated down from above.
After a time the vessel began to meet great ice-moun-
tains in the sea,-mountains which the Reifriesen, and
old Hoder, the King of the winter months, had sent
drifting down from the frozen land of the north. But
these melted at the sound of Bragi's music and at
the sight of Siegfried's radiant armor. And the cold
breath of the Frost-giants, which had driven them in
their course, turned, and became the ally of the south
In IiEgir's Kingdom. 69
At length they came in sight of a dark shore, which
stretched on either hand, north and south, as far as the
eye could reach; and as they drew nearer they saw a
line of huge mountains, rising, as it were, out of the
water, and stretching their gray heads far above the
clouds. And the overhanging cliffs seemed to look
down, half in anger, half in pity, upon the little white-
winged vessel which had dared thus to sail through
these unknown waters. But the surface of the sea
was smooth as glass; and the gentle breeze drove the
ship slowly forwards through the calm water, and along
the rock-bound coast, and within the dark shadows of
the mountain-peaks. Long ago the Frost-giants had
piled great heaps of snow upon these peaks, and built
huge fortresses of ice between, and sought, indeed, to
clasp in their cold embrace the whole of the Norwegian
land. But the breezes of the South-land that came
with Bragi's ship now played among the rocky steeps,
and swept over the frozen slopes above, and melted the
snow and ice; and thousands of rivulets of half-frozen
water ran down the mountain-sides, and tumbled into
rocky gorges, or plunged into the sea. And the grass
began to grow on the sunny slopes, and the flowers
peeped up through the half-melted snow, and the music
of spring was heard on every side. Now and then the
little vessel passed by deep, dark inlets enclosed be-
tween high mountain-walls, and reaching many leagues
far into land. But the sailors steered clear of these
shadowy fjords; for they said that Ran, the dread
70 The Story of Siegfried.
Ocean-queen, lived there, and spread her nets in the
deep green waters to entangle unwary seafaring men.
And the sound of Bragi's harp awakened all sleeping
things; and it was carried from rock to rock, and from
mountain-height to valley, and was borne on the breeze
far up the fjords, and all over the land.
One day, as they were sailing through these quiet
waters, beneath the overhanging cliffs, Bragi tuned his
harp, and sang a song of sea. And then he told Sieg-
fried a story of AEgir and his gold-lit hall.
Old A/gir was the Ocean-king. At most times he
was rude and rough, and his manners were uncouth
and boisterous. But when Balder, the Shining One,
smiled kindly upon him from above, or when Bragi
played his harp by the seashore, or sailed his ship on
the waters, the heart of the bluff old king was touched
with a kindly feeling, and he tried hard to curb his
ungentle passions, and to cease his blustering ways.
He was one of the old race of giants; and men believe
that he would have been a very good and quiet giant,
had it not been for the evil ways of his wife, the
crafty Queen Ran. For, however kind at heart the
king might be, his good intentions were almost always
thwarted by the queen. Ran could never be trusted;
and no one, unless it were Loki, the Mischief-maker,
could ever say any thing in her praise. She was
always lurking among hidden rocks, or in the deep sea,
or along the shores of silent fjords, and reaching out
with her long lean fingers, seeking to clutch in her
In AEgir's Kingdom. 71
greedy grasp whatever prey might unwarily come near
her. And many richly-laden vessels, and many brave
seamen and daring warriors, had she dragged down to
her blue-hung chamber in old AEgir's hall.
And this is the story that Bragi told of
THE FEAST IN EGIR'S HALL.
It happened long ago, when the good folk at Glad-
sheim were wont to visit the mid-world oftener than
now. On a day in early autumn Queen Ran, with her
older daughters, Raging Sea, Breaker, Billow, Surge,
and Surf, -went out to search for plunder. But old
IEgir staid at home, and with him his younger daugh-
ters, -fair Purple-hair, gentle Diver, dancing Ripple,
and smiling Sky-clear. And as they played around
him, and kissed his old storm-beaten cheeks, the heart
of the king was softened into gentleness, and he began
to think kindly of the green earth which bordered his
kingdom, and of the brave men who lived there; but
most of all did he think of the great and good Asa-folk,
who dwell in Asgard, and overlook the affairs of the
world. Then he called his servants, Funfeng and
Elder, and bade them prepare a feast in his gold-lit
hall. And he sent fleet messengers to invite the Asa-
folk to come and partake of the good cheer. And his
four young daughters played upon the beach, and
smiled and danced in the beaming sunlight. And the
hearts of many seafaring men were gladdened that
day, as they spread their sails to the wind; for they
72 The Story of Siegfried.
saw before them a pleasant voyage, and the happy
issue of many an undertaking.
Long before the day had begun to wane, the Asa-
folk arrived in a body at /Egir's hall; for they were
glad to answer the bidding of the Ocean-king. Odin
came, riding Sleipner, his eight-footed steed; Thor
rode in his iron chariot drawn by goats; Frey came
with Gullinburste, his golden-bristled boar. There, too,
was the war-like Tyr, and blind Hoder, and the silent
Vidar, and the sage Forsete, and the hearkening Heim-
dal, and Niord, the Ruler of the Winds, and Bragi,
with his harp; and lastly came many elves, the thralls
of the Asa-folk, and Loki, the cunning Mischief-maker.
In his rude but hearty way old Egir welcomed them;
and they went down into his amber hall, and rested
themselves upon the sea-green couches that had been
spread for them. And a thousand fair mermaids stood
around them, and breathed sweet melodies through
sea-shells of rainbow hue, while the gentle white-veiled
daughters of the Ocean-king danced to the bewitching
Hours passed by, and the sun began to slope towards
the west, and the waiting guests grew hungry and ill
at ease; and then they began to wonder why the feast
was so long in getting ready. At last the host himself
became impatient; and he sent out in haste for his ser-
vants, Funfeng and Elder. Trembling with fear, they
came and stood before him.
"Master," said they, "we know that you are angry
In AEgir's Kingdom.
because the feast is not yet made ready; but we beg
that your anger may not fall upon us. The truth is, that
some thief has stolen your brewing-kettle, and we have
no ale for your guests."
Then old .Egir's brow grew dark, and his breath
came quick and fast; and, had not Niord held the winds
tightly clutched in his hand, there would have been a
great uproar in the hall. Even as it was, the mermaids
fled away in great fright, and the white-veiled Waves
stopped dancing, and a strange silence fell upon all the
"Some enemy has done this !" cried AEgir, as soon
as he could speak. "Some enemy has taken away my
brewing-kettle; and, unless we can find it, I fear our
feast will be but a dry one."
Then Thor said, -
If any one knows where this kettle is, let him speak,
and I will bring it back; and I promise you you shall
not wait long for the feast."
But not one in all this company knew aught about the
missing kettle. At last Tyr stood up and said, -
"If we cannot find the same vessel that our host has
lost, mayhap we may find another as good. I know a
dogwise giant who lives east of the Rivers Elivagar, and
who has a strong kettle, fully a mile deep, and large
enough to brew ale for all the world."
"That is the very kettle we want!" cried Thor.
"Think you that we can get it ? "
"If we are cunning enough, we may," answered Tyr.
'But old Hymer will never give it up willingly."
74 The Story of Siegfried.
"Is it Hymer of whom you speak?" asked Thor.
"Then I know him well; and, willingly or not willingly,
he must let us have his kettle. For what is a feast
without the gladsome ale?"
Then Thor and Tyr set out on their journey towards
the land of Elivagar; and they travelled many a league
northwards, across snowy mountains and barren plains,
until they came to the shores of the frozen sea. And
there the sun rises and sets but once a year, and even
in summer the sea is full of ice. On the lonely beach,
stood Hymer's dwelling, a dark and gloomy abode.
Tyr knocked at the door; and it was opened by Hymer's
wife, a strangely handsome woman, who bade them
come in. Inside the hall they saw Hymer's old mother,
sitting in the chimney-corner, and crooning over the
smouldering fire. She was a horribly ugly old giantess,
with nine hundred heads; but every head was blind and
deaf and toothless. Ah, me! what a wretched old age
that must have been!
Is your husband at home ?" asked Thor, speaking
to the pretty woman who had opened the door.
"He is not," was the answer. "He is catching fish
in the warm waters of the sheltered bay; or, mayhap,
he is tending his cows in the open sea, just around the
For the great icebergs that float down from the
frozen sea are called old Hymer's cows.
"We have come a very long journey," said Tyr.
"Will you not give two tired strangers food and lodging
until they shall have rested themselves ?"
In AEgir's Kingdom. 75
The woman seemed in nowise loath to do this; and
she set before the two Asa-folk a plentiful meal of the
best that she had in the house. When they had eaten,
she told them that it would be far safer for them to
hide themselves under the great kettles in the hall;
for, she said, her husband would soon be home, and he
might not be kind to them. So Thor and Tyr hid
themselves, and listened for Hymer's coming. After a
time, the great hall-door opened, and they heard the
heavy steps of the giant.
"Welcome home !" cried the woman, as Hymer shook
the frost from his hair and beard, and stamped the snow
from his feet. "I am so glad that you have come for
there are two strangers in the hall, and they have asked
for you. One of them I know is Thor, the foe of the
giants, and the friend of man. The other is the one-
armed god of war, the brave Tyr. What can be their
errand at Hymer's hall ?"
"Where are they?" roared Hymer, stamping so
furiously, that even his deaf old mother seemed to hear,
and lifted up her heads.
"They are under the kettles, at the gable-end of the
hall," answered the woman.
Hymer cast a wrathful glance towards the place.
Fhe post at the end of the hall was shivered in pieces
by his very look; the beam that upheld the floor of the
loft was broken, and all the kettles tumbled down with
a fearful crash. Thor and Tyr crept out from among
the rubbish, and stood before old Hymer. The giant
The Story of Sie fried.
was not well pleased at the sight of such guests come
thus unbidden to his hall. But he knew that his rude
strength would count as nothing if matched with their
skill and weapons: hence he deemed it wise to treat
the two Asas as his friends, and to meet them with
cunning and strategy.
"Welcome to my hall!" he cried. "Fear no hurt
from Hymer, for he was never known to harm a guest."
And Thor and Tyr were given the warmest seats at
the fireside. And the giant ordered his thralls to kill the
fatted oxen, and to make ready a great feast in honor of
his guests. And, while the meal was being got ready,
he sat by Thor's side, and asked him many questions
about what was going on in the great South-land.
And Thor answered him pleasantly, meeting guile with
guile. When the feast was in readiness, all sat down
at the table, which groaned beneath its weight of meat
and drink; for Hymer's thralls had killed three fat
oxen, and baked them whole for this meal, and they
had filled three huge bowls with ale from his great
brewing-kettle. Hymer ate and drank very fast, and
wished to make his guests fear him, because he could
eat so much. But Thor was not to be taken aback in
this way; for he at once ate two of the oxen, and
quaffed a huge bowl of ale which the giant had set
aside for himself. The giant saw that he was outdone,
and he arose from the table, saying, -
"Not all my cows would serve to feed two guests so
hungry as these. We shall be obliged to live on fish
In AEgir's Kingdom. 77
He strode out of the hall without another word, and
began getting his boat ready for a sail. But Thor
"It is a fine day for fishing," said Thor gayly,
"How I should like to go out with you "
"Such little fellows as you would better stay at
home," growled Hymer.
"But let me go with you," persisted Thor. "I can
certainly row the boat while you fish."
I have no need of help from such a stunted pygmy,"
muttered the giant. "You could not be of the least
use to me: you would only be in my way. Still, if
you are bent on doing so, you may go, and you shall
take all the risks. If I go as far as I do sometimes,
and stay as long as I often do, you may make up your
mind never to see the dry land again; for you will cer-
tainly catch your death of cold, and be food for the
fishes-if, indeed, they would deign to eat such a
These taunting words made Thor so angry, that he
grasped his hammer, and was sorely tempted to crush
the giant's skull. But he checked himself, and coolly
"I pray you not to trouble yourself on my account.
I have set my head on going with you, and go I will.
Tell me where I can find something that I can use for
bait, and I will be ready in a trice."
"I have no bait for you," roughly a-swered Hyme-
"You must look for it yourself."
78 The Story of Siegfried.
Half a dozen oxen, the very finest and fattest of
Hymer's herd, were grazing on the short grass which
grew on the sunnier slopes of the hillside; for not all of
the giant's cattle had yet taken to the water. When
Thor saw these great beasts, he ran quickly towards
them, and seizing the largest one, which Hymer called
the Heaven-breaker, he twisted off his head as easily as
he would that of a small fowl, and ran back with it to
the boat. Hymer looked at him in anger and amaze-
ment, but said nothing; and the two pushed the boat
off from the shore. The little vessel sped through the
water more swiftly than it had ever done before, for
Thor plied the oars.
In a moment the long, low beach was out of sight;
and Hymer, who had never travelled so fast, began to
"Stop !" he cried. "Here is the place to fish : I have
often caught great store of flat-fish here. Let us out
with our lines "
"No, no!" answered Thor; and he kept on plying
the oars. "We are not yet far enough from shore.
The best fish are still many leagues out."
And the boat skimmed onwards through the waters,
and the white spray dashed over the prow; and Hymer,
now very much frightened, sat still, and looked at his
strange fellow-fisherman, but said not a word. On and
on they went; and the shore behind them first grew
dim, and then sank out of sight; and the high moun-
tain-tops began to fade away in the sky, and then were