The Origin of Fafnir the Dragon
The story of Fafnir is the story of how craving after material wealth destroys those who indulge in it. In this story the Dragon, and the Dragon’s treasure, came to symbolize the power of Greed. Now the moral is out of the way, just sit back and enjoy a good tale out of Teutonic mythology.
Dwarves loved gold and riches, and Hreiðmarr and his three sons; Ótr, Fafnir and Regin were no exception. Fafnir was the strongest and most belligerent of the three brothers and the duty of guarding his father’s house, including with its store of gold and gems, fell into his strong arms. Ótr, meanwhile, roamed the land during the day in the guise of an otter. Unfortunately Ótr came across Odin (All-Father of the Æsir), Hœnir (who helped Odin create mankind), and Loki, the unpredictable, and often mischievous, Jötunn who were travelling through the domain of Hreiðmarr the Dwarf King. Loki threw a rock which killed the otter and all three skinned the animal and kept the pelt. That evening the Gods came to the castle of Hreiðmarr and, during the meal, brought the skin of his son Ótr out while Loki boasted of his hunting skills. Hreiðmarr was livid, and ordered his remaining two sons to seize Odin and Hœnir to be held as ransom while Loki was to bring back a ransom to atone for the death of Ótr.
Loki left the castle with the otter’s skin and the task of filling it with gold and covering the outside with red gold and went immediately to see the sea-goddess Ran. Loki borrowed Ran’s net, which she used to capture hapless mariners, and went to visit the dwarf Andvari. Andvari (‘careful one’) lived under a waterfall and could turn into a fish at will. Using the net of Ran Loki was able to catch Andvari in the form of a pike and demand his treasure as the price of his freedom. Andvari had amassed his large hoard of gold using the power of his magical ring Andvarinaut, and Loki made sure that the ring was also part of the deal. Andvari, however, was also gifted in magic and cursed the treasure so that whoever saw it would covet it, and further cursed the ring Andvarinaut so that it would bring about the death of any mortal who owned it. Loki presented the treasure to Hreiðmarr, who fell under the spell of the Ottergild (Otter’s Gold) and forgot all about his dead son. As soon as the ransom was accepted Loki, Odin and Hœnir left the castle without a moment’s delay.
No sooner than the Gods had left than Regin and Fafnir demanded a share of the treasure and, when Hreiðmarr refused to share it, joined together to kill their father. After this odious patricide the two sons still fought among themselves until Fafnir, the stronger of the two, drove Regin away and took the treasure, and the ring, for himself. As the ring’s curse worked on Fafnir he became more irritable and even more greedy, eventually moving the treasure into a cave on Glittering Heath to keep the gold safe. Little by little greed and malice grew in Fafnir, turning him into a fierce Dragon. Once he had fully turned into a Dragon Fafnir breathed poison onto the heath around him so that nobody would brave the wasteland to get near his treasure. Fafnir grew so terrible and mighty that all the populace around lived in fear of his rages.
Just because he was driven away by Fafnir, Regin did not in any way give up on trying to get the treasure and the ring back. He plotted and schemed for many years until he came up with a plan to obtain his revenge.
But that is a story to be told later …