The Lay of Regin: Reginsmál

There is some doubt as to whether this was the original “shape” of the lay, but there has at least been speculation that the original version was made some time before the year 1000. Anyway, credit goes to whom credit is due, and if the second statement above is true then that person may well have been dead for approximately 1000 years because that person is not me. On a related subject, the wording you are soon to see (not including the notes in italics I added) is one of the reasons why I usually summarize these things for people instead of transcribing them.

Before we begin, allow me to explain about the “^^^” symbols. The original spacing does not show up when I put spaces at the beginning of the line, so I have added these symbols to force certain lines further to the right for accuracy. Is that bull-headed of me? Perhaps. But having more accurate spacing makes it worth it.


Sigurth went to Hjálprek’s stud and chose for himself a horse, which later bore the name of Grani. At that time had come to Hjálprek’s court Regin, the son of Hreithmar. He was more skilled in crafts than any other man. He was a dwarf in size, wise and cruel, and a wizard. Regin fostered up Sigurth, taught him, and loved him greatly. He told Sigurth about his own forbears and of how, once upon a time, Óthin and Hœnir and Loki had come to the waterfall of Andvari. In that waterfall there were many fish. A dwarf named Andvari dwelled in it in the shape of a pike and got food for himself there. “Otr was the name of our brother,” said Regin, “and he often came to the waterfall in the shape of an otter. He had caught a salmon and was eating it with half-closed eyes. Then Loki threw a stone at him and killed him. The gods thought they had made a lucky catch and flayed the otter. That same evening they came to Hreithmar for night quarters and showed him their bag. Then we bound them and laid on them as a ransom to stuff the otterskin, and also to cover it on the outside, with red gold. Then they sent Loki to fetch the gold. He went to Rán and borrowed her net. Then he fared to the waterfall of Andvari and cast the net for the pike, and it leapt into the net.”


Then said Loki:

“What fish is this     in the flood that swims

^^^and cannot keep him from harm?

To Hel’s dark hall     art headed now,

^^^but thou fetch me the fire-of-the-flood.”


Andvari said:

“I am Andvari hight,     is Óin my father,

^^^in many a flood have I fared;

in days of yore     was I doomed by norns

^^^in swirling waters to swim.”


Loki said:

“Tell me, Andvari,     if on earth thou wilt,

^^^dwarf, live a longer life:

what is the doom     which is dealt to men

^^^who wound each other with words?”


Andvari said:

“A heavy doom     is dealt to men

^^^who in Vathgelmir’s waters wade;

he who untruth utters     and on others lies,

^^^long will he linger there.”


Loki saw all the gold which Andvari owned. Now when he had given up all the gold but one ring which he kept for himself, Loki took that from him too.


The dwarf went into his cave and said:

“The glittering gold     which Gust had owned

the bane shall be     of brothers twain,

and to eight athelings     bring untimely death:

he who holds my hoard     shall e’er hapless be.”


The Æsir gave Hreithmar the gold. They stuffed the otterskin with it and raised it on its feet. Then were the gods to heap the gold round about it until it was covered altogether. When that had been done, Hreithmar stepped near and saw one beard hair of the otter, and bade them cover that too. Then Óthin took forth the ring which Andvari had owned and covered up the hair.


Loki said:

“The gold thou hast gotten,     but great has been

^^^the worth thou laid’st on my life;

’twill sorrow bring     to thy son and thee,

^^^it will work the bane of you both,”


Hreithmar said:

“Gifts thou gavest,     but grudgingly,

^^^nor gavest with whole heart;

but little life     were left to thee,

^^^if aware I had been of this woe.”


Loki said:

“Still worse by far-     I ween to know-

^^^is kinsmen’s clash for the gold:

unborn the lords,     I believe, as yet,

^^^on whose life this curse will alight.”


Hreithmar said:

“My hoard of gold     to hold I mean

^^^the while my life does last;

not a whit dread I     thy deadly threat:

^^^now hie you home hence!”


Fáfnir and Regin asked Hreithmar for their share of the weregild for their brother Otr. But he would not yield it up. Then Fáfnir thrust his sword into his father Hreithmar while he slept.


Hreithmar called out to his daughters:

“Lyngheith and Lofnheith!     Know that my life is ended:

^^^much I crave of my kin!”


Lyngheith answered:

“Though their father be felled,     few sisters would

^^^seek their brother’s blood.”


(The following stanza is said to obviously not fit in properly and seems to be taken from another lay. I will include it to maintain some shred of fluidity, but know that the gist of what it is supposed to mean is that since she does not want to kill her brother to avenge her father, the duty of vengeance falls either to the son Lyngheith bears or, if she would bear a daughter in wedlock rather than a son, to the son that daughter would bear. So basically what we’re seeing here is the beginning of a blood feud.)

Hreithmar said:

[“Wolf-hearted woman,     if in wedlock a son

be not born to thee,     then bear thou a daughter;

give the maid to a man     in thy might need:

will their son then     to thy need see.”]


Then Hreithmar died; but Fáfnir took all the gold. Regin asked for his share of the inheritance after his father; but Fáfnir said no to that. Then Regin sought counsel of his sister Lyngheith, how he should win his share.


She said:

“Thy kinsman shalt     in kindness ask

^^^thy fee and a fairer mind;

not seeming is it     with the sword thou should’st

^^^ask of Fáfnir thy own.”


All this told Regin Sigurth. One day when he came to Regin’s abode, he was greatly welcomed.


Regin said:

“Hither has come     the kinsman of Sigmund,

the keen atheling,     to our hall;

hardier he is     than hero tried:

from warlike wolf     I wait me strife.


“Foster shall I     the fearless lordling,

now Yngvi’s kinsman     has come to us;

under high heaven     among heroes first,

his fate-thread is spun     to overspread all lands.”


Sigurth stayed with Regin. He told Sigurth how Fáfnir lay on the Gnita Heath in the shape of a dragon and had the Helm of Terror, of which all living things are adread.  Regin made Sigurth a sword called Gram, which was so sharp that when he dipped it into the Rhine, and let a flock of wool float down with the stream against it, the flock was cut in two as though it had been water. With this sword did Sigurth cleave asunder Regin’s anvil. Thereafter Regin egged on Sigurth to slay Fáfnir.


But Sigurth said:

“Soon would sneer then     the sons of Hunding,

they who ended     Eylimi’s life,

if more keen the king     to crave red gold

than blood for blood     of his father’s banesmen.”


King Hjálprek gave Sigurth a fleet and men so that he might avenge his father. A great storm arose when they were weathering a promontory.


A man stood on the cliff and said:

“What men ride there     on Rævil’s steeds

the weltering waves,     the wild-tossing sea?

Doth salty sweat     the sea-nags fleck,

will the wave-horses     not weather the storm.”


Regin made answer:

“On the sea-trees sit     young Sigurth’s men,

toward Hel bears us     a heavy wind;

over stem and stern     the storm-waves fall,

plunge the roller-horses:     who is it asks?”


The man said:

“I was Hnikar hight     when hawks were gladdened,

son of Sigmund,     and slain were many.

Man of the mountain     may’st now call me,

Feng or Fjolnir:     let me fare with you!”


They sailed near to the land, and the man came on board. Then the storm abated.


Sigurth said:

“Tell me, Hnikar,     for the twain thou know’st:

^^^what be good signs for gods and men;

what bodeth best     on battleground,

^^^the time that swords are swung?”


Hnikar said:

“Signs there are many,     if men but knew,

^^^which are good at the swinging of swords:

to doughty hero     the dusky raven’s

^^^flight is a following fair.


“Another this:     when outbound art,

^^^and ready art forth to fare,

and beholdest     good heroes twain,

^^^and stouthearted, stand on the path.


“A third is this:     if thereafter

^^^a wolf howl in the woods;

good hap thou’lt have     among helmet-bearers,

^^^if first thou see’st them fare.


“His foe let no one     fight withershins;

into setting sun     see thou never;

for victory is theirs     whose view is best,

of the war-workers     who in wedges array them.


(Regarding the following stanza: the third line is sometimes given as “guileful dísir [female spirits] on either side of thee.”)


“Then art thou fey     if thy foot stumbles,

^^^when bound for the swinging of swords.

Will guileful ghosts     glower at thee-

^^^would fain see thee fall.


“Combed and clean washed     should keen man be,

^^^and have early eaten his fill;

for unsure is it     where at eve he be:

^^^’tis ill to forego one’s gain.”


Sigurth fought a great battle with Lyngvi, the son of Hunding, and his brothers.


After the battle Regin said:

“With the bitter brand now     the bloody eagle

was slashed in the back     of Sigmund’s banesman;

bolder in battle     no baron ever

dyed red the earth     and the ravens gladdened.”