|Arthur Rackham. "Fafnir and Sigurd"|
For millions of years dragons have fueled the imaginations of artists and writers all over the world. The primeval fear, awe and respect that we humans have had for these creatures has written them into the very fabric of our cultures, with myths legends and fables about dragons filling hundreds of volumes. Perhaps nowhere in the world was the legend of the dragon more iconic than in the legend of Sigurd and Fafnir.
Fafnir was not a true dragon but was in fact a dwarf who was transformed by greed into a dragon killing his father Hreidmar, and stealing the golden horde for himself. Sigurd, the son of Sigmund is enlisted by Fafnir's brother Regin to take the legendary sword Gram, hunt down Fafnir and slay him. Once Sigurd encounters Fafnir he realizes that the dragon is too powerful to fight and so he digs a pit outside the dragon's lair and hides inside. When Fafnir leaves his cave to find Sigurd, he steps over the pit and from below Sigurd thrusts the sword Gram upward and impales the dragon, killing him.
This tale is a classic story of Germanic dragon lore and establishes one of the best stories that influences dragon stories for hundreds of years, where the hero is unable to vanquish the dragon through strength of arms and must use cunning and deception. Pieces of the Sigurd and Fafnir tale are seen again in the JRR depiction of Smaug in The Hobbit.
Below are some historical examples of art of Fafnir...