Siegfried with the Horny Skin

Annie Klingensmith June 26, 2022
Nordic
Intermediate
3 min read
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In a great forest lived a blacksmith. With him lived a boy called Siegfried. 

No one knew who Siegfried’s father and mother were. One day when the smith was returning from a journey, he found a baby lying on a bed of leaves under a tree. 

The baby smiled and reached out his little hands, and the smith carried him home. And very pleasant and bright the little boy made the lonely hut for many years, and the smith loved him as his own son. 

One day when Siegfried was grown to be a man he went into the forest to hunt. There he found a dragon’s trail and followed it until he lost himself in the wood. 

As he wandered about, trying to find his way home, he met a dwarf who rode a coal-black horse and wore a glittering crown. 

The dwarf told Siegfried that he was near the home of the dragon. 

The dragon, he said, had carried away the beautiful Princess Kriemhild and held her captive. 

Siegfried forced the dwarf to go with him to show the way. As they came to the entrance to the dragon’s realm, they saw a giant, whose duty it was to guard the gateway. 

Siegfried fought with the giant and overcame him and forced him to show the way to the castle. There the giant sprang upon him and wounded him. But Siegfried threw the giant over a steep rock and killed him.

Then he entered the castle and found Kriemhild weeping. But the maiden dried her tears when she saw Siegfried’s broad shoulders and brave face. Then she gave him a sword which the dragon kept hidden. This was the only sword in the world that the monster feared. 

Just as they were ready to go, a roar was heard. The mountain trembled, and the dragon appeared breathing out fire and smoke. 

Siegfried seized the sword and sprang at the monster. The dragon breathed out fire until the rocks were red hot. 

After a long fight the dragon’s horny skin grew soft with the heat and the blows from the sword, and Siegfried hewed him to pieces. 

Dipping his finger into the melted skin, Siegfried found that it grew horny and hard like the dragon. 

Then he bathed himself in the melted skin so that no sword might cut him. But a leaf fell  between his shoulders, and one spot was left where a sword might enter. 

Within the mountain lived the dwarf Siegfried had met. With him lived his two brothers. 

While Siegfried was fighting with the dragon, the dwarfs carried out their gold. They feared that the whole mountain would be melted. 

Siegfried seized the treasure because he thought it had belonged to the dragon. This gold was called the Nibelung Hoard because it had belonged to old King Nibelung, the father of the three dwarfs. 

Siegfried took Kriemhild bach to her father’s kingdom. There he was welcomed by the king. Kriemhild was given to him as his wife.

For many years he remained there, and he became the greatest hero in the kingdom. The king’s three sons became jealous of him, but they could not kill him. because no sword could pierce his skin. 

Kreimhild alone knew of the spot between his shoulders. She told the secret to Hagen, her brother’s vassal, because she thought he was Siegfried’s friend and begged him to shield her husband in battle. 

Hagen told her to embroider a little cross on Siegfried’s clothing over the spot, that he might better know how to protect him. 

Then Hagen hurried to the three brothers with the tale. One of them ordered a great hunt and invited Siegfried. 

When the hunt was over they all sat upon the ground to rest. Siegfried called for water. Hagen said no water had been brought, but he knew where there was a spring. 

Then Siegfried asked to be directed to the spring. Hagen said, “I have heard that you are the swiftest runner in the land.” Siegfried replied, “Let us all run a race to the spring.” 

The others laid aside their heavy armor. Siegfried kept his on, but he reached the spring first. 

As he stooped to drink Hagen drove a spear through the little cross. Siegfried sprang up, and seizing his shield beat Hagen almost to death. Then Siegfried fell dead himself. 

Kriemhild cared nothing for the gold after Siegfried’s death. To prevent her from giving it to the poor, Hagen hid it in the Rhine, and no man ever saw it again.

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