In Norse* myth and legend, the warrior Sigurd was a member of the royal family of Denmark and a descendant of the god Odin*. He was raised by a blacksmith named Regin, who made him a special sword from pieces of a sword owned by Sigurd's father.
Sigurd used his sword to kill the dragon Fafnir and so acquire its golden treasure. When Sigurd roasted and ate the beast's heart, he was able to understand the language of the birds around him. They warned him that Regin was going to betray him, so Sigurd beheaded the blacksmith. Sigurd took the treasure and put a ring on his finger. He was unaware that the ring bore a curse, which brought misfortune to its wearer.
After slaying Fafnir, Sigurd came upon a castle where he awakened the warrior maiden Brunhilde, whom Odin had cast into a deep sleep. Sigurd gave his ring to Brunhilde and promised to return to marry her. But during his journey Sigurd was given a magic drink that made him forget Brunhilde, and he married the princess Gudrun instead.
In German legends, Sigurd is called Siegfried; Gudrun is called Kriemhild; and Gunnar is called Gunther.
Gudrun's brother Gunnar tried to win Brunhilde for himself, but Gunnar was unable to cross the wall of flames surrounding Brunhilde's castle. Sigurd, having forgotten Brunhilde completely, assumed Gunnar's shape and courted Brunhilde in his place. Believing that Sigurd had abandoned her, Brunhilde agreed to marry Gunnar, whom she did not love. When Brunhilde discovered that she had been tricked, she was both angry with Sigurd and heartbroken at the loss of his love. She had him slain and killed herself. The story of Sigurd and Brunhilde is central to Richard Wagner's series of operas known as Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung).
* See Names and Places at the end of this volume for further information .