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Myths and Folklore Wiki

Gramr (Old Norse for "Wrath"[1]) is the sword which is primarily wielded by the men of the Vǫlsungar in the Vǫlsunga saga. Sigurðr, the mightiest hero of his clan, inherited the sword from his father Sigmundr and slayed the dragon Fáfnir with it.[2] However, it is also seen in other legends, such as the Þiðrekssaga wielded by Hildebrand.

Depending on the story and source material, Gramr may have other names. In The Nibelungenlied it is named Balmung.[3] In Richard Wagner's work, Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelung), it is referred to as Nothung.


Nowhere in the Vǫlsunga saga is a clear description of Gramr given, but there is enough scattered throughout the story to draw a picture of the sword. Sigurðr's weapons, Gramr included, are described as being "all decked with gold and gleaming bright".[4] Depending on how the text is read, the sword may or may not have a dragon emblazoned on it and/or depending on the translation been "brown of hue".[5]


Óðinn picks the sword into Barnstokkr. Illustration by Alan Lee.

Gramr is primarily seen in the Vǫlsunga saga used by men in the Vǫlsungr line after Sigmundr. Sigmundr receives it during the wedding feast for his sister, Signý. Part of the way through the feast, Óðinn, who disguised as a strange old man appears with a sword. He thrusts the sword into the tree Barnstokkr that grew in the middle of the hall and said:

"Sá, er þessu sverði bregðr ór stokkinum, þá skal sá þat þiggja at mér at gjöf, ok skal hann þat sjálfr sanna, at aldri bar hann betra sverð sér í hendi en þetta er."[6]

"Whoso draweth this sword from this stock, shall have the same as a gift from me, and shall find in good sooth that never bare he better sword in hand than is this."[7]

Soon after he departed every man made his attempt to pull the sword out of the wood. All fail except Sigmundr who easily extracts it. The sword is a fine sword, and King Siggeir is covetous of it, offering Sigmundr three times its weight in gold. But Sigmundr refuses and said,

"Þú máttir taka þetta sverð eigi síðr en ek, þar sem þat stóð, ef þér sæmdi at bera, en nú fær þú þat aldri, er þat kom áðr í mína hönd, þótt þú bjóðir við allt þat gull, er þú átt."

"Thou mightest have taken the sword no less than I from there whereas it stood, if it had been thy lot to bear it; but now, since it has first of all fallen into my hand, never shalt thou have it, though thou biddest therefor all the gold thou hast."

The king grows angry and secretly begins plotting to steal it from Sigmundr, eventually killing his father and capturing him and all of his brothers. After this the sword disappears from the narrative until Signý secretly gives it back to Sigmundr as he is buried alive with Sinfjǫtli. After Sigmundr avenges his family, he uses the sword in several battles before it is eventually broken by Óðinn during Sigmundr's final battle with the King Lyngvi. Hjǫrdís, Sigmundr's wife, takes up the two halves of the blade and keeps them for Sigurðr, their son.

After Gramr was broken by Óðinn, Hjǫrdís took the two halves and kept them for her future son. Soon the dwarven smith, Reginn, comes and begins teaching Sigurðr. After a period of time, he tells Sigurðr of the mighty dragon, Fáfnir, and the treasure which it guards, asking Sigurðr to slay it for him. Sigurðr agrees on one condition: that Reginn make him a mighty sword capable of slaying such a monster.

Reginn confidently makes Sigurðr an admirable sword, but when Sigurðr sees it, he is disappointed and breaks it over the anvil. On his second attempt, Reginn makes him a sword superior to the last, but it also breaks. On his third attempt, Sigurðr brings Reginn the two halves of Gramr, his father's sword, and when he strikes the anvil with Gramr, it is cloven in two. Once he tested the strength of the sword, he left the workshop and went to a nearby stream to check its edge. Throwing a piece of wool upstream, he lets it press against Gramr, causing it to be sliced through. After testing the blade's sharpness, he uses it to avenge his father, Sigmundr, slaying King Lyngvi. Of the many feats done by Gramr, by far the most well known and important is the slaying of Fáfnir. This deed is accomplished by Sigurðr with a single, mighty thrust to the left shoulder where he drives the sword so deep he gets his arms bloodied up to the shoulder.

In Der Ring des Nibelungen[]

In Siegfried, the third of the four operas in the Ring des Nibelungen cycle, Mime, who essentially takes Reginn's part, is unable to reforge Nothung (as Gramr is called in the Ring). Siegfried, however, manages. Apart from this the story of Reginn and Sigurðr is more or less identical to that of Mime and Siegfried.

Modern depictions[]

The sword is featured in the 2017 video game Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice, where it is found and used in combat by the main character, Senua. The sword's origins are explained to the character by her friend Druth, including the story of Sigmund and Sigurðr.

In the series High School D×D, Gramr is one of the swords used by a member of the Hero-faction named Siegfried and its ownership was transferred to Kiba Yuuto after Siegfried was defeated.

In the video game Fate/Grand Order, Gramr Reforged is wielded by Saber/Sigurðr while Balmung is under Saber of Black/Siegfried's possession.


See also[]


  1. Orchard, Andy (1997). Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend. Cassell. pp. 59-60. ISBN 0-304-34520-2.
  2. Sigurd-ein Held des Mittelalters (Edgar Haimerl)
  3. The Nibelungenlied - A Prose Translation. Project Gutenberg. Translated by Armour, Margaret. London: JM Dent. 1934 [c. 1200]. Retrieved 2019-04-26.
  4. Vsnrweb-publications. Viking Society Web Publications. Web. Apr.-May 2016.
  5. Volsunga Saga. Trans. Eiríkur Magnússon and William Morris. London: n.p., 1888. N. pag. Sacred-texts. Web. 8 May 2016.
  6. Völsunga saga at
  7. Translation from Völuspá.org.
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