Fáfnismál – The Ballad of Fáfnir

A fifth spake:

36. “Less wise must be | the tree of battle
Than to me would seem | the leader of men,
If forth he lets | one brother fare,
When he of the other | the slayer is.”

A sixth spake:

37. “Most foolish he seems | if he shall spare
His foe, the bane of the folk,
There Regin lies, | who hath wronged him so,
Yet falsehood knows he not.”

A seventh spake:

38. “Let the head from the frost-cold | giant be hewed,
And let him of rings be robbed;
Then all the wealth | which Fafnir’s was
Shall belong to thee alone.”

Sigurth spake:

39. “Not so rich a fate | shall Regin have
As the tale of my death to tell;
For soon the brothers | both shall die,
And hence to hell shall go.”

Sigurth hewed off Regin’s head, and then he ate Fafnir’s heart, and drank the blood of both Regin and Fafnir. Then Sigurth heard what the nut-hatch said:

40. “Bind, Sigurth, the golden | rings together, Not kingly is it | aught to fear; I know a maid, | there is none so fair, Rich in gold, | if thou mightest get her.

36. Tree of battle: warrior.

37. Here, as in stanza 34, some editions turn the speech from the third person into the second.

38. Giant: Regin was certainly not a frost-giant, and the whole stanza looks like some copyist’s blundering reproduction of stanza 34.

35. Wolf, etc.: the phrase is nearly equivalent to “there must be fire where there is smoke.” The proverb appears else where in Old Norse. 40. Neither the manuscript nor any of the editions suggest the existence of more than one bird in stanzas 40-44. it seems to me, however, that there are not only two birds, but two distinct stories. Stanzas 40-41 apply solely to Guthrun, and suggest that Sigurth will go straight to Gunnar’s hall. Stanzas 42-44, on the other hand, apply solely to Brynhild, and indicate that Sigurth will find her before he visits the Gjukungs. The confusion which existed between these two versions of the story, and which involved a fundamental difference in the final working out of Brynhild’s revenge, is commented on in the note on Gripisspo, 13. In the present passage it is possible that two birds are speaking, each reflecting one version of the story; it seems even more likely that one speech or the other (40-41 or 42-44) reflects the original form of the narrative, the other having been added, either later or from another poem. In the Volsungasaga the whole passage is condensed into a few words by one bird: “Wiser were it if he should then ride up on Hindarfjoll, where Brynhild sleeps, and there would he get much wisdom.” The Guthrun-bird does not appear at all.

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