Fafnir is, in the Sigurd myth of Norse mythology, the son of Hreidmar and the brother of Regin and Ótr, originally a relatively powerful dwarf, who, after seizing his father's cursed treasure, takes on the form of a snake-like dragon to protect it. He is finally put to death at the instigation of his own brother Regin, by the hero Sigurd.
Fafnir in The Eddas and the Völsunga saga
In the Eddic poem Reginsmál and the Völsunga saga, Regin explains to his adopted son, Sigurd, the story of the dragon's gold Fáfnir. This episode is also summarized in the Skáldskaparmál part of Snorri's Edda.
The gods Odin, Loki and Hœnir arrive at a waterfall and Loki kills an otter. They then stay with Hreidmar, who recognizes in the animal his own son Ótr, who liked to fish in the form of an otter. With the help of his sons Fáfnir and Regin, he takes the three gods prisoner. He demands as compensation for the death of his son, a quantity of gold that would fill and cover completely the skin of the otter.
Loki is sent to recover this treasure, and he seizes the fortune of the dwarf Andvari, including a ring that the latter would have wanted to keep. The dwarf then curses his treasure so that he would give death to anyone who would possess it. The gods give this gold to Hreidmar, and Loki repeats Andvari's curse to him. Fáfnir and Regin ask their father for a share of the treasure.
As he does not want to give it to them, they kill him. Fáfnir then refuses half the gold to his brother, and, threatening him, forces him to flee. As for him, he goes to Gnitaheid where he takes the appearance of a snake and lies down on his gold to guard it.
Regin establishes himself as a master blacksmith for a Danish king, and is in charge of raising Sigurd. He engages him several times to seize the gold of Fáfnir. To do this, he forges the sword Gram for him. The murder of Fáfnir is detailed in the Eddic poem Fáfnismál, the Völsunga saga and soon in the Skáldskaparmál.
Following Regin's advice, Sigurd digs a pit where he could hide, on the path that Fáfnir used to take to go to a watering place. The Völsunga saga specifies that an old man appears, who is none other than the god Odin, who advises Sigurd to dig other pits that will allow to recover the blood of the monster.
Once this is done, the snake comes with a racket and spitting fire, and when it crawls over the pit, the hero pierces it with his sword. Hence Sigurd's nickname, Fáfnisbani, "murderer of Fáfnir". Before dying, Fáfnir reveals several secrets to Sigurd - for example, what the Norns are -, repeats the curse that attaches to gold and warns Sigurd against Regin.
Regin then asks Sigurd to cook the monster's heart for him. While cooking, Sigurd puts his finger to his mouth and tastes some of Fáfnir's blood. From then on, he understands the language of birds and learns that Regin intends to get rid of him to take the gold. So Sigurd beheads Regin, eats Fáfnir's heart and drinks their blood. He then goes to Fáfnir's lair and takes his treasure.
Fafnir's gold is then taken by Gunnar and Högni after Sigurd's murder.
Fafnir's Other traditions of the Sigurd Myth
The cycle of Sigurd, otherwise known as Siegfried, is the subject of several traditions that sometimes differ significantly. In the Nibelungen Song, Siegfried's fight with an unnamed dragon is only mentioned when the Burgundian vassal Hagen recounts the hero's exploits. Siegfried does not get the gold from the dragon, but from the Nibelungen people he had previously defeated.
The killing of the dragon remains essential to the story because by bathing in the blood of the monster, Siegfried becomes invulnerable except for a precise spot on his back which was not soaked because a leaf had been placed there. It is by this weak point that Siegfried will find death.
In the Saga of Theodoric of Verona, Sigurd is raised by the blacksmith Mime, and the dragon, who is also Mime's brother, is called Regen (from Regin). Mime wants to get rid of Sigurd and sends him to burn coal in the woods, where the dragon lies, so that the dragon will kill him. But it is Sigurd who kills Regen.
While cooking his meat, the hero licks a bloody finger and understands the language of the birds, which tell him that Mime had sent him to the dragon to be killed. Sigurd wants to clean his hand from the dragon's blood but it is as if it has become hard as horn, so he covers his body with it and it becomes invulnerable, except for a place on his back where a leaf had landed.
He takes the dragon's head to Mime who, terrified of Sigurd's revenge, gives him a suit of armor and the best Gram sword. Sigurd kills the blacksmith anyway.
Similar themes of fighting with dragons, and invulnerability gained by the melted horns of unnamed monsters can be found in the Song of Seyfried with the Hornskin.
Fafnir In ancient art
Sigurd and the blacksmith Regin; Sigurd killing the serpent Fáfnir (right) and then Regin (left).
Portal of the medieval standing wooden church of Hylestad, Setesdal, Norway. (The church is destroyed)
Fafnir In modern culture
- Fáfnir appears, under the name of Fafner, in Richard Wagner's Ring of the Nibelung: he is a giant in The Rhine Gold who will be transformed into a dragon in Siegfried thanks to the helmet that the dwarf Mime has forged. He symbolizes greed and will not hesitate to kill his brother Fasolt (who is rather in love with beauty and arts) in the first episode of the Tetralogy to seize the Nibelungen ring, forged by the dwarf Alberich in the Rhine Gold. He will be killed by Siegfried in the third episode with the help of the divine sword Notung that Siegfried has just reforged. Fáfnir also appears in the song of the band Amon Amarth, under the name of Fafner's gold in their album Berserker.
Literature and comics
- In Tolkien's Children of Húrin, the death of Glaurung the dragon, killed by Túrin, would be an allusion to the death of Fafnir by Sigurd (Turin waits for Glaurung to pass over a crevice so that he can pierce his belly like Sigurd hiding in a crevice to pierce Fafnir). Glaurung lying on Nargothrond's gold would remind Fafnir who lies on his father's gold.
- In Fire and Blood, Melvin Burgess takes up the myth of Sigurd in large part. We find Odin, Sigurd, the dragon Fafnir as well as the way to kill the latter with a sword, the watering hole, the pits. The betrayal of Regin is also present.
- Fafnir is the name of the dragon that terrorizes the Smurfs in Le Pays maudit (1961), a comic strip by Peyo from the Johan and Pirlouit series.
- He also appears as Fafner in the comic series Siegfried (2007-2011) and Le Crépuscule des Dieux (2007-2010).
- The album Le Trésor de Fiskary, from the Bob et Bobette series, is a reference to the Sigurd cycle, where Lambique plays the hero and kills the dragon Guérekler.
- In Sergei Lukianenko's Day Watch volume, Fafnir is represented as The Dragon of Twilight, a Dark Other of great power, killed by Siegfried, in this story a Bright Other. A sect called The Brothers of Regin seeks to resurrect him.
- In the Tara Duncan series by Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian, Fafnir is a warrior dwarf with two long red braids and a strong character.
- In The Odyssey of the Dawn Treader, the hero Eustace is transformed into a dragon because of a cursed ring, like Fafnir.
- He also appears in the manga Fate/Apocrypha where he is also killed by Siegfried.
Movies and television
- In the Japanese anime series Dead Aggressor (Sōkyū no Fafner), the "Fafner", represented by several models of fighting robots with a human biological interface, is the ultimate effective defensive recourse allowing the survivors of humanity to protect their children from the threat of the Mirs, entities from the void who in order to understand humanity have no choice but to assimilate human bodies to appropriate their knowledge. To do this, they use material incarnations called "Festums".
- In the animated series The Knights of the Zodiac, based on the universe of Masami Kurumada's manga, the character of Siegfried de Dubhe, one of Odin's divine warriors, wears the armor of Fáfnir. Claiming to be the descendant of the hero who defeated the dragon, he has the same weakness as his ancestor, namely a precise place on his back where the dragon's blood did not flow when his ancestor bathed in it (note that the Asgard chapter was specially designed by lla TOEI animation to allow Masami Kurumada to gain time on the progress of the Poseidon chapter before adapting it into an Animated version, this chapter is therefore a filler).
- In the High School DxD anime series based on the novel by Ichiei Ishibumi, Azazel uses his artificial Balance Breaker and becomes Fafnir the fallen dragon during the fight against Katarea Leviathan.
- In the anime series Miss Kobayashi's Dragon Maid, Fafnir is a cursed dragon in his human form. He is depicted as a distinguished human with a black suit and square glasses. He longs for the destruction of the human world until he befriends a human.
- In the Beyblade Burst series, Fafnir is the spinning top of Free de la Hoya, a friend of Valt Aoi. In the series, he is presented as a mix between a dragon and a 6-eyed eagle.
- In the anime series Little Witch Academia, Fafnir is a dragon with an anthropomorphic body. He appears in episode 5 of the series.
- Fafnir is referenced in many video games. He appears as a dragon in Final Fantasy XI and Final Fantasy XII, at the end of chapter 11 of Magicka, in Age Of Mythology, Tales of Symphonia. He also appears in the 2017 game Hand of the Gods and in the zombie mode of Call of Duty: Black Ops III where here it is a shield made of dragon scales called "Shield of Fafnir" but also a reference to Siegfried with a glove bearing his name. He is also shown chained in his dragon form in God of War (2018). He is also playable in the MOBA Smite.