Medieval Icelandic Sagas

The Saga of the Volsungs

13th century, Old Norse, from much older oral tradition.

'Sigurd should eat the dragon's heart himself,' chirps a bird, 'and then he will be the wisest man on Earth.'

Sigurd, Sigmund’s son, cuts the heart from the serpent Fafnir while Regin drinks its blood. It is the blood of the dragon of whom Regin once said: His size is no different from that of other grass snakes and more is made of it than it deserves. The serpent has proved to be much more formidable than this, however, although Sigurd has managed to kill it by digging for himself a trench and piercing the dragon from beneath as it passed overhead.

‘Go and roast the heart,’ calls Regin, ‘so that I can eat it.’

Sigurd roasts the dragon’s heart over the open fire, and as the juice begins to sizzle and hiss, Sigurd puts his thumb into his mouth when it is splashed and can immediately understand the language of the birds that are cheeping all around him.

‘That’s Sigurd,’ one of the birds is saying. ‘He should eat the dragon's heart himself and be the wisest man on Earth.’

‘Regin intends to betray him and kill him,’ replies another.

‘Sigurd should kill him first then,’ says a third.

Story fragment recounted from: Byock, Jesse L, 1990, reprinted 1999. The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer. Translated from Old Norse with an introduction. Penguin Books Limited. 19. Regin Drinks Fafnir's Blood and 20. Sigurd Eats the Serpent's Heart, pp 65–6.

See for yourself

Icelandic saga – Wikipedia

Legendary sagas – Wikipedia

Völsunga Saga – Wikipedia

Fafnir – Wikipedia

Sigurd – Wikipedia

Völsunga Saga – Text obtained from the Online Medieval and Classical Library. Code and format by Northvegr.

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Dutch woodcut of a winged dragon, 1590