A Story From: Norway
Read Time: ["20+mins"]
For Ages: 8 to 10yrs., 12 to 14yrs.
An epic trilogy tale from Iceland.
If You Like This Story You Will Love:
Based on The Story of Siegfried by James Baldwin, published by Charles Scribner's Sons, New York, 1882. The above version was retold by Elaine L. Lindy. ©2007. All rights reserved.
Siegfried, also called Sigurd, was a legendary hero of Norse mythology. The above retelling by Elaine Lindy is based on a version James Baldwin published in 1913, and Baldwin's rendering, in turn, was based on several medieval sources. One, the Völsunga Saga, is a 13th century Icelandic prose rendition of the origin and decline of the Volsung clan (including the stories of Siegfried and Brynhild). Scholars believe the Völsunga Saga was based on real events in Central Europe in the 5th and 6th centuries. Another original source is Nibelungenlied, a Middle High German epic poem.
Several details of note:
- In the Völsunga Saga, when Siegfried kills Fafnir (depicted as a dragon), he bathes in the dragon's blood and this forms a protective shield. However a leaf sticks against his shoulder and that area remains vulnerable. Later, Siegfried dies by a blow to this spot, a plot device harkening to the ancient story of Achilles.
- In the story of awakening the sleeping Brynhild, unlike the "happily ever after" ending in the classic fairytale Sleeping Beauty, Siegfried doesn't marry Brynhild. Though he gives her the (accursed) ring as a token of betrothal, he is driven by wanderlust and leaves Isenland and Brynhild behind. Venturing to Burgundy, he befriends its king, King Gunther. When Gunther hears that a faraway queen named Brynhild, in search of her lost betrothed, is calling for a contest and the victor will win her hand, he insists on going. Siegfried, aided by the invisibility cloak he had snatched from the dwarf Alberich, helps Gunther to prevail. Knowing Gunther is a lesser man, Brynhild suspects a trick but cannot prove it and must marry him. Meanwhile, Siegfried, after drinking a potion of memory loss served to him by King Gunther's mother, falls in love with Gunther's sister, the lovely Gudrun, and the two of them marry. Later, the two queens, Brynhild and Gudrun, quarrel when Gudrun taunts Brynhild for having secured the better husband. Thus Brynhild discovers it was Siegfried, not King Gunther, who had been responsible for Gunther's winning the contest and that she had been tricked after all. Furious that her "life was wrecked," she plots revenge and convinces her husband, King Gunther, that Siegfried is plotting to kill him. Gunther (or in some versions, Gunther's brother Hagen) kills Siegfried by a blow to the vulnerable spot in his back. Brynhild throws herself upon the funeral fire. Gudrun avenges her husband's death in a gruesome manner and later marries a secession of other kings, following their murders, etc., including one who was believed to be Atilla the Hun.
- The trials caused by the cursed ring may have been the inspiration for J. R. R. Tolkien's "One Ring" in the latter's fantasy book, The Lord of the Rings.