Large Pictures 3    Chapter 11.3

The following pictures show scenes from the intricate wood carvings from the doorway of the Hylestad
Stave Church
in Norway.
The carvings are now in the University of Oslo Museum for Cultural History.
The church was estimated to have been built in the late 12th to the early 13th century and was
demolished in the 17th century. Some of the intricate wood carvings from the church doorway were
saved and incorporated into other buildings. The carvings show several scenes from the legend
of Sigurd Fåvnesbane. There are seven scenes from the Sigurd legend carved on the two door panels,
with three scenes on the first panel and four scenes on the second panel
Siegfried, Hylestad door
Hylestad Stave Church door
Link to text Source: Photographed in the museum, May, 2019
Let's look at the scenes from the left to the right and from bottom to top. The "tale" given
goes back to legend of Sigurd Fåvnesbane.
What you see (often according to Wikipedia) is:
Left bottom:
The first scene shows Sigurd (who wears a helmet) and Regin (who has a beard) at the forge. We have
Sigurd = Siegfried and Regin = Mime or Weiland.
Sigurd, described as one of the best swordsmen, was urged by Regin to seek Fafnir the dragon's
treasure. Regin then forged a sword with Sigurd at his side, providing assistance by keeping the fire
going and providing water to cool the blade when needed.
When the sword was completed they named it Gram.
Left middle:
Sigurd is holding the sword.
Sigurd tested the blade on a shield with Fafnir's image cutting through the shield and the
horn of the anvil.
Left top:
Sigurd slays Fafnir the dragon with Gram. After forging the sword, Sigurd and Regin travel to
Gnita-Heath in order to find Fafnir the dragon and take his treasure.
There they dig a pit in the path used by Fafnir," and Sigure crawled into it. When Fafnir came to the
water pit Sigurd emerged and thrust his sword into Fafnir from below, killing him.
Right bottom:
Sigurd roasts the heart of the dragon and sucks his blood from his thumb while Regin appears
to sleep.
Sigurd touched the heart to see if it was cooked, but the boiling blood ran down his hand,
scalding him. When he drank of the dragon's blood by sucking his thumb, he was able to hear
the speech of birds. From the birds, which are depicted in the fifth scene just above, he heard of Regin's
plot to kill Sigurd.
Right middle:
Sigurd kills Regin. Sigurd, warned by the birds of Regin's plot to betray him and encouraged by their
assertions that great wealth, knowledge, and power would be his if he killed Regin preemptively and
took possession of Fafnir's treasure, kills Regin.
Below we see Grani, Sigurd's horse, carrying the treasure from Fafni. Grani stands carrying a chest
containing Fafnir's expansive treasure and two birds are depicted below Grani perched in the branches
of a tree. These birds likely belong to the group whose speech Sigurd understood. This scene combines
elements of the legend that took place before and after the slaying of Regin.
After killing Regin, Sigurd mounts Grani, and rides to Fafnir's lair, where he finds an enormous store
of gold from which he takes many precious things including the helm of terror and the sword Hrotti
specifically. Sigurd loads large chests with the treasure onto Grani, despite expecting that it would
be too large a load even for a pair of horses.
Right top:
The last panel shows Sigurd's brother-in-law, Gunnnar, in a snake pit playing the harp with his feet in
an attempt to pacify the snakes.
Fafnir's treasure is cursed. In his dying breaths, Fafnir warns Sigurd
that his gold "will be the death of all that possess it." Sigurd, is unfazed by this and mentions the
mortality of all men. After Sigurd's death at the hands of his three brothers-in-law, Gunnar, Hogni, and Guttorm,
Fafnir's treasure is hidden by Gunnar, sunk to the bottom of the Rhine. Gudrun remarries, to Atli
(Atilla the Hun), who is fascinated by the treasure and seeks to own it. Gunnar refuses to tell Atli its location,
insisting, "Rather shall the Rhine rule over the gold than the Huns wear it on their arms." Atli orders Gunnar
to be placed into a serpent pit, with his hands bound behind his back. Gudrun sends her brother a harp,
and Gunnar is able to play "so exceedingly well" with his toes that he lulls the snakes to sleep,
"except for one large and hideous adder" who kills Gunnar in a single strike.
The picture below shows three "Migration Period Swords with Almandine Garnet Guard" offered at an auction in Jan. 2021.
Migration period swords; garnet hilt
Link to text Source: Auction catalogue

With frame With frame as PDF

go to Migration Period Swords and Fancy Hilts & Pommels

go to Serpent in the Sword

© H. Föll (Iron, Steel and Swords script)