I decided to dive down this Wikipedia rabbit hole after coming across a mythological character that I have heard several times in the past week but know nothing about. Let’s see where it takes us!

Starting point:

We’ve been reading Beowulf in one of my other classes, and I read an article that mentioned that J.R.R. Tolkien said there were only two true dragons in mythology: the dragon of Beowulf and Fafnir. I had never heard of Fafnir before. Later, I was watching the Crash Course Dragons video, and heard Fafnir mentioned again. As a lover of dragons, I knew I had to look it up.

Fafnir

Fafnir is a character from Norse mythology. He is one of the three sons of the dwarf Hreidmar. When some Aesir (Norse gods) kill Otr, one of the sons, the dwarf family demands they pay his weight in gold. However, they make the mistake of sending Loki to gather it, and Loki brings back cursed gold. Because of the curse, Fafnir becomes uncontrollably greedy. He kills his father, steals the gold, and runs away to hoard the gold. Because of this, he turns into a greedy, poison-breathing dragon. 

Andvaranaut

This is a legendary ring that Loki gives to the dwarves with the cursed gold. It has also been cursed and said to bring death and misery to whoever owns it. It is what causes Fafnir to turn into a dragon. Obviously enough, Andvaranaut inspired the One Ring in Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, just like Beowulf’s dragon inspired Smaug in The Hobbit.

Sigurd

Sigurd is a hero from Germanic mythology. He kills Fafnir, takes Andvaranaut, the ring, and gives it to his wife. With the ring in their possession, misfortune finds them, and an evil queen makes Sigurd forget his wife so he will marry her daughter. Angry, Sigurd’s original wife kills him for cheating. This is only one version of the story because there are several different manuscripts, documents, and sources for Sigurd’s story from Germanic areas, Sweden, Scandinavia, and even Iceland. Sigurd is also known as Siegfried.

Runestone

These are large rocks found all over Scandinavia that were erected by the Vikings and other Germanic groups. They were often used to memorialize dead men. They have inscriptions that tell who erected the stone, for whom, and how they died. Some of them also have images or patterns on them that depict either crosses or scenes from Norse mythology. Sigurd is a common hero featured on the stones.

Image 1: Sigurd examining his newly forged sword by Johannes Gehrts. Source – Wikipedia

Image 2: A runestone in Lingsburg. Source – Wikipedia

Image 3: Fafner guarding his hoard. An illustration from Wagner’s Siegfried opera. Source – Wikipedia

Image 4: A runestone depicting Odin being eaten by Fenrir, the wolf of the apocalypse. Source – Wikipedia.