June 24, 2022

#08-216: Siegfried and the Dragon

"I will kill thee, for in truth thou art an ugly monster"

Note: Few culture heroes have made an impression like that of Siegfried in the Nordic tales. Here he slays a dragon and receives a very special gift.

Get Ready: If you could understand the language of just one kind of animal, what would it be?

Many tales are told of Siegfried (also called Sigurd) in the old Norse books called the Nibelungenlied, the Volsunga Saga, and the Poetic Edda.

Our story begins with two kings named Sigmund and Lyngvi vying for the hand of Hjordis, daughter of King Eylimi. Hjordis chooses Sigmund despite his advanced age, angering Lyngvi. He attacks Sigmund's land, and kills him, but Hjordis is already pregnant, and escapes to live with a Viking band under King Alf.

At Alf's court, Hjordis gives birth to Siegfried, who is fostered by Regin, son of the sorcerer Hreithmar. When Siegfried is a young man, Regin suggests to him that, since the youth no longer has his father's wealth, Regin can help him acquire some.

There is a dragon named Fafnir who was once a man--in fact, Hreithmar's oldest son and thus Regin's brother--who has a hoard of gold. (Learn more about Fafnir and Regin in Lesson #08-334.) What Regin does not tell Siegfried is that this gold has been cursed by a dwarf named Andvari: it will cause the death of anyone who owns it.

Before approaching the dragon, Siegfried insists on avenging his father. Leading an army of Alf's men, he attacks Lyngvi and takes his kingdom.

Then it's time to slay the dragon. Rather than fight him face to face, Regin suggests, Siegfried should dig a hole in the ground between the dragon's lair and the pond where he drinks every day. As Siegfried digs, a bearded old man in a wide-brimmed hat--the god Odin in disguise--suggests he dig additional holes to drain away the dragon's poisonous blood.

The plan works. As Fafnir crawls over Siegfried, the man thrusts his sword under the dragon's shoulder. But before the dragon dies, he warns Siegfried that the treasure is cursed, and he should leave it. Siegfried ignores this advice, to his eventual detriment.

As Siegfried is preparing to cook and eat the dragon's heart, he burns his finger and touches it to his mouth. Tasting the dragon's blood, he suddenly understands the language of the animals, including some nearby birds. Eavesdropping, he learns from them that Regin plans to kill him for the gold (which after all had belonged to his brother). Instead, Siegfried beheads Regin, and races off with the gold to further adventures.


Practice: Match the term to its definition below:

  1. avenging
  2. beheads
  3. detriment
  4. eavesdropping
  5. eventual
  6. fostered
  7. hoard
  8. lair
  9. sorcerer
  10. vying

  1. cuts the head off of
  2. secretly listening in
  3. competing
  4. raised by someone not one's parent
  5. the home of a beast (or evil person)
  6. a magician
  7. getting revenge for
  8. harm; loss
  9. ultimate; in the end
  10. a large amount of treasure

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for June 24, 2022

1 comment:

  1. Answers to the Practice: 1. g; 2. a; 3. h; 4. b; 5. i; 6. d; 7. j; 8. e; 9. f; 10. c