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Basic Information

In the Volsunga Saga, Fafnir is the name of a dwarf, son of a dwarvish king, strong of arm and fearless in spirit. He and his brother, Regin, killed their father to gain a treasure in cursed gold which the king had acquired. Fafnir took all the gold for himself and, brooding on it, became transformed into a dragon. He was later slain by Regin's foster-son, Sigurd; who eats the dragon's heart and gains the ability to understand the speech of birds.

Richard Wagner changed the character a bit in his operatic reworking of the Volsunga Saga, Der Ring des Niebelungen. In Wagner's version, Fafner is a giant, and he and his brother, Fasolt, are hired by Wotan to build Valhalla, the mansion of the gods. To pay for the construction, Wotan is forced to give the giants the treasure he stole from the dwarf Alberich, including the magic ring the dwarf had forged out of the Rhinegold. Fafner kills Fasolt to gain the ring for himself and crawls off into a hole by himself with his gold and, as in the earlier version, turns into a dragon.

Many years later, the hero Siegfried slays Fafner. He accidentally tastes some of the dragon's blood which got on his hand, and this gives him the power to speak with birds. A bird tells him about the magic ring and the treachery of his adopted father Mime, who wants the ring for himself.

In either version of the story, cursed gold is more trouble than it's worth.

See Also: Germanic Mythology


Game and Story Use

  • The idea that greed and cursed gold can turn a person into a dragon is one that C.S. Lewis used in The Voyage of the Dawn Treader. If he can steal from the Volsunga Saga, then you can too.
  • Usually dragon's blood is considered to be highly toxic. Having it bestow magical abilities, like the power to understand the speech of birds, is an interesting variant.
  • In a game where myths are true but a fair amount of syncretism prevails instead of just one official version of each myth (like the Scion RPG, for example) much fun could be had with casting Fafnir as a dwarf in some scenes, a giant in others, and a dragon in yet other scenes. It could be that he has controlled shapeshifting, or that he just transforms as a consequence of his actions or the needs of the story. Perhaps a curse is involved.
  • You could have fun combining the traits of 2 or 3 of those species to create a new race of intelligent beings for your fantasy genre game. Fire-breathing dwarves, or dragons or giants with the beards and body proportions of dwarves.
    • Imagine a world where dwarves are a relatively common race, but if they give in to their greedy impulses and amass too much treasure, they frequently metamorphose into dragons. Your world might have a hundred thousand dwarves in it, and one volatile market or overly-prosperous year might risk rendering them into 100,000 fire-breathing time-bombs.
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