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~ By Courtesy of Others ~

The Song of the Nuthatches
(A new translation of the end of the Eddic Fafnismal)

Sigurd took Fafnir’s heart and roasted it on a spit.  When he thought it was done and the juices were dripping, he poked it with a finger to test it.  He burned his finger and stuck it into his mouth.  But when Fafnir’s heart’s-blood touched his tongue, he understood the speech of birds.  He overheard some nuthatches twittering in the bushes.  
One nuthatch said:

 “Blood soaked,          there Sigurd sits;
Fafnir’s heart               with fire he roasts.
Wiser the ring-breaker were, I think,
The shining life-sinew   himself to eat.”

 A second spoke:

“There Regin lies,      and lays a plan
To trick the youth      that trusts in him.
Wrathful words         he wraps in guile,
This smith of the vile, to avenge his kin.”

A third spoke:

“Cut off the head    of the hoary wretch,
And hie him off to Hel.
Then all the gold     get for himself,
The hoard that Fafnir had.”

The first spoke:

“Wise were he     if heed he took
To sound advice  we sisters give:
Do right by self,   make ravens glad.
See the ears,       suspect the wolf.”

The second spoke:

“Less wise to me     the warrior seems,
Than battle-leader   ought to be,
If brother share not  brother’s fate,
When he has been    the bane of one.”

The third spoke:

“A fool is he          if he should spare
The foeman of the folk.
There Regin lies,   and wrong intends,
and he, unguarded from guile.”

“The frost-cold jotun   free of his head,
And wrest from him the rings.
The fortune then          that Fafnir had,
One hand alone will hold.”

Sigurd spoke:

“Regin’s fate         so fair is not,
That he will be my bane.
These brothers I   mean both to slay,
And send them hence to Hel.

Sigurd cut off Regin’s head, then ate Fafnir’s heart and drank his blood and Fafnir’s.
Then Sigurd heard the words of the nuthatch:

“Gather, Sigurd,   the golden rings;
Unkingly it is        to cower in fear.
A maid I know,    and none more fair,
Decked in gold,    though get her you may.

“Green is the track     to Giuki’s hall,
And fate the way        to the wanderer shows.
That king, indeed,      one daughter has,
Whose hand, Sigurd,  your gold may buy.”

Another spoke:

“There stands a hall    on Hindarfiall
That all around           is ringed with fire
That wise men made  once long ago
From golden light,      the glow of streams.

“A valkyrie sleeps     on the summit there;
about her, bright,       the bane of trees.
A sleep-thorn, Ygg    has struck in her,
Because she felled     his favored one.

“There will you find     the maiden helmed,
Who came from war   on Vingskornir.
Sigdrifa may                from dream be roused,
Skiolding, never           if Norns deny.”

Sigurd followed Fafnir’s track to his lair and found it open.  The door and doorposts were iron, and all the posts inside the house which was partly underground.  There Sigurd found much gold.  He filled two chests and took the helm of terror, a gold mail shirt, the sword Hrotti, and many other priceless things.  He loaded them on Grani, but the horse would not move until he had climbed onto his back as well.

© Jack Hart

Meadhall: Asatru Jack´s site, including the medieval rune poems and modern rune poems by various authors.

Notes: As in the original, both Old Meter (Fornyrdhislag) and Song Meter (Ljodhahattr) are used, interspersed with prose.

Images: 13th century woodcarvings from the portal of the stave church in Hylestad (which was pulled down; portals now in Oslo museum). 

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