Literature and Mythology

Things to Know about Sigurd’s Gram Sword from Norse Mythology

Sigurd wielding Gram as depicted on Sigurd Stones, the year 1030

What is the Gram Sword?

In Norse Mythology, the Gram sword is wielded by Sigurd, the legendary hero of Germanic Mythology. It is a sword used to kill a dragon called Fafnir.

On the other hand, the sword was also seen in other legends likethe Thidrekssaga, where Hildebrand wielded the sword. Depending on the story, the sword Gram may have different names. Some of these names were ‘Balmung,’ from The Nibelungenlied (The Song of the Nibelungs), and ‘Nothung,’ from Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).

What Does the Sword Gram Look Like?

The sword Gram was primarily mentioned in the Volsunga Saga (Saga of the Volsungs), a 13th-century poetic rendition of the origin and decline of the Volsung clan. In the saga, there is no clear description of what the sword Gram looks like. However, some described it as being decorated with gold and gleaming bright. In addition to its vague description, the sword may or may not have a dragon symbol on it.

The Origin of the Gram Sword

The sword Gram in a tree called Barnstokkr

Before the Gram sword was wielded by Sigmund (Sigurd’s father), it was primarily owned by men in the Volsung line. During the wedding feast ofSigny, Sigmund’s sister, Sigmund, had received the sword from a strange man. Unbeknownst to him, the strange man was Odin, a god in Germanic mythology.

During the feast, Odin, disguised as the strange man, thrust the sword in a tree called Barnstokkr. He then shouted that whoever pulled the sword from the tree’s trunk shall receive the sword as a gift from him. As soon as the strange man leaves the feast, every man had made an attempt to pull the mysterious sword from the tree trunk. However, they all failed, except for Sigmund, who draws the sword with ease.

Sigmund saw a fine sword, which King Siggeir coveted. Because of that, Siggeir offered Sigmund gold, three times the weight of the sword. Sigmund then refused, which made King Siggeir angry. The King secretly thought of a plan to steal the sword, eventually killing Sigmund’s father and capturing him and his brothers.

The sword Gram disappeared in the story for a while. Eventually, Signysecretly gives it back to his brother, Sigmund, when he and Sinfjotliwereburied alive. After that, Sigmund avenged his family and used the sword in several battles until Odin broke it in the fight against King Lyngvi. Subsequently, Sigmund’s wife, Hjordis, took the two halves of the Gram sword and kept it for their son, Sigurd.

Sigurd and the Gram Sword

Sigurd wielding the Gram sword by Johannes Gehrts

After a period of time, in keeping with the tradition, a dwarven smith named Regin, came and taught Sigurd about sports, runes, and languages. He also told Sigurd about a dragon called Fafnir, as well as the treasure that the dragon was guarding. Regin then asked Sigurd to kill the dragon, and Sigurd agreed on one condition. Sigurd asked the dwarf to forge him a mighty sword that is capable of slaying the dragon.

The dwarven smith confidently created a sword and presented it to Sigurd, but he broke the sword to his dismay. The same goes for Regin’ssecond attempt, although the second was superior to the first. On the dwarf’s third attempt, Sigurd presented Regin the two halves of his father’s Gram sword. When the sword was done, Sigurd then tests the sword’s strength and the sword’s sharpness. Using the mighty sword that he now wielded, Sigurdavenged his father, Sigmund, and killed King Lyngvi.

Out of all the battles that Sigurd had accomplished, he was the most well-known when he killed the dragon Fafnir. With a single and a powerful thrust on the dragon’s left shoulder, Sigurd eventually killed Fafnir.

Subsequently, when Sigurd died because of Brynhild, the sword Gram was used as the sign of honor and was placed between Sigurd and Brynhild on the funeralpyre. After the death of its wielder, there was no known mention of the sword in the manuscripts.

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