Today, we tackle one of the more adventurous lords in the Fire Emblem series. The champion Sigurd, who appeared in Fire Emblem: Genealogy of the Holy War, has not come to the West yet. Nintendo has not localized this game to date. However, Genealogy of the Holy War is an epic saga that spans several generations and can rival A Song of Ice and Fire for density of medieval swords & sorcery, love, honor, and betrayal. With so much to unpack, let’s get started on the Ned Stark of Fire Emblem.
What’s in a Name?
The easiest place to start with Sigurd is his name, which is the name of a Norse hero. In the Volsunga saga, Sigurd is the son of the late Sigmund, who left him a broken sword. Sigurd is sent as a ward to a talented smith named Regin. Sadly, Regin is greedy and cursed. Regin’s brother, Fafnir, is also greedy and was cursed into becoming a dragon. Regin sends Sigurd to kill Fafnir for stealing Regin’s gold; Regin reforges Sigmund’s sword for Sigurd to accomplish this. The god Odin, posing as an old man, advises Sigurd to bathe in Fafnir’s blood after killing him, as that will make him invincible. Sigurd slays Fafnir and learns how to talk to birds once he bathes in Fafnir’s blood. The birds tell Sigurd to kill Regin too, since he is plotting Sigurd’s death. Sigurd kills Regin and then roasts and eats part of Fafnir’s heart, conferring the power of prophecy on him.
Later, Sigurd meets Brynhildr (often known as a Valkyrie but not necessarily so in the Volsunga saga), who pledges herself to him. However, the scheming Grimhild, who wants Sigurd’s gold, deceives Sigurd into drinking an ale of forgetfulness so he forgets Brynhildr and marries Grimhild’s daughter instead. Grimhild’s son courts Brynhildr, but she will only marry the man daring enough to march through fire for her. Sigurd’s horse, Grani, will march through fire but only if Sigurd is riding. Sigurd shapeshifts into Grimhild’s son and thus tricks Brynhildr into marrying Grimhild’s son. When the deception is later revealed, Brynhildr is outraged and isolates herself. Sigurd is sent to figure out why Brynhildr is mopey, but she later claims he assaulted her in this meeting. Accordingly, Grimhild’s sons ride the moral outrage train and murder Sigurd.
Yes, that was the easiest place to start. It’s important to know all of this because several elements of Sigurd’s story in the Volsunga saga come up in Sigurd’s story in Genealogy of the Holy War. As an added bonus, Brynhildr is also the name of the legendary tome that Leo wields in Fire Emblem Fates and Grani is the name of the special cavalry shield Camus carries in Fire Emblem Heroes. #wordnerd
As far as lords go, Sigurd is an interesting case. As with most lords, Sigurd is basically a nice guy. However, what sets him apart from many of the lords, especially those who precede him, is that there is no predetermined course for him. The tragic twists and turns of the Holy War present him as a hero cursed by fate to lose everything after giving everything. His loyalty to friends and family and his sense of honor and duty repeatedly propel him into mortal danger. Suffice to say, Sigurd’s heroism is born of his willingness to do the right thing. Unlike the prophesied heroes of Archanea and Valentia, Sigurd simply does what he feels is right without fate rolling the dice in his favor.
“The Holy Knight”
There’s just no way to discuss Sigurd without talking about the Holy War at large. If one were to summarize the plot of the Holy War, whittle it down for a SparkNotes analysis, and then abridge the SparkNotes, one would still have enough words to eclipse a Chekov play. Nevertheless, I will do my best to chart the course of Sigurd’s life in Genealogy of the Holy War.
Sigurd is the prince of Chalphy, a duchy in the Kingdom of Grannvale, located on the continent of Jugdral. Sigurd’s friend, Edain, is a captive of the Kingdom of Verdane. Sigurd decides to go on a rescue mission, recruiting several allies. One ally, Azelle, joins Sigurd without permission from his half-brother, Arvis. Arvis goes to assess the situation in Verdane and gives Sigurd a sword to continue his fight. One of the Verdanian princes frees Edain, who joins up with Sigurd.
Sigurd’s single-mindedness in rescuing Edain means that he ignored a larger scale conflict between Grannvale and Kingdom of Isaach that broke out at the beginning of the Holy War. Sigurd rescues Prince Shannan of Isaach, whose aunt joins Sigurd as a token of gratitude. Sigurd then encounters a lady named Deirdre for the first time, but she runs away without telling him who she is. Sigurd travels back to Verdane to liberate it from the control of the evil cultist Sandima, who has taken over Verdane. Deirdre meets Sigurd again and negates Sandima’s magic power, allowing Sigurd to defeat him. The dying King Batoi of Verdane, whom Sandima fatally wounded, warns Sigurd about the Loptyrian Cult, a nefarious organization to which Sandima belonged, trying to raised the fell dragon Loptyr in Jugdral. #illuminaticonfirmed
Sigurd must have been the 80s action hero of Fire Emblem, because he always went swinging into action to rescue hostages against hundreds of bad guys. Not long after vanquishing Sandima, he learns that King Chagall of Agusty has arrested and detained his good friend Eldigan. Sigurd rushes into action once again and frees Eldigan with the help of Lachesis, Eldigan’s half-sister. However, no good deed goes unpunished during the Holy War. For the next few months, Sigurd stabilizes the region, marries Deirdre, and fathers a boy with her named Seliph. Chagall strikes back and orders his vassal – none other than Eldigan – to fight Sigurd. Lachesis intercedes between Sigurd and Eldigan, convincing the latter to lay down his sword. Chagall is so outraged by this that he arrests Eldigan again and, this time, executes him. Deirdre disappears during the conflict. Somewhere in all of this tomfoolery, Prince Kurth of Grannvale, the guy who led the Grannvale invasion of Isaach, dies in an assassination plot led by Duke Lombard of Dozel and Duke Reptor of Friege (Deirdre is Kurth’s daughter, by the way). Duke Lombard pins Kurth’s death on Sigurd, who goes into hiding in the foreign nation of Silesse.
After quelling a civil war in Silesse, Sigurd decides to go back home and face his foes. He meets his dying father, who gives him the broken sword Tyrfing (named after the Norse god Tyr). Sigurd repairs Tyrfing and uses it to kill Duke Lombard in pitched battle. Realizing how deep in trouble he is, he sends Seliph and his niece and nephew to Isaach for safety before defeating Duke Reptor with the assistance of Aida. Aida is Arvis’s lover (that guy who gave Sigurd a sword back in Verdane). Aid takes Sigurd to Valhalla Castle for a victory celebration. Unfortunately, Arvis wants to control all Jugdral by eliminating any other powerful lord in the land. Sigurd gets the shock of his life when Arvis first pronounces him a traitor and then trots out his new wife, Deirdre. In a consummation of the Top Ten Anime Betrayals, Arvis wipes out Sigurd’s army with a magical meteor shower and personally incinerates Sigurd with the Valflame tome. Game over.
Sigurd is the first really heroic lord of Fire Emblem. He bets his life every time in the name of friends, family, and duty. He gambles one time too many in so doing and he loses everything. His moral character make him likable and we want to cheer for him because his ideals are our own. The fact that he ultimately loses makes him more sympathetic. We see Sigurd struggle and overcome seemingly insurmountable odds, only to lose it all in the end, and I mean all. He lsoes his father, his sister, his brother-in-law, his best friend from his academy days, his wife, his life, and his good name once Arvis rewrites history to make him the villain. Sigurd thus stands out as the only Fire Emblem lord who loses, and certainly not from a lack of trying. He becomes more of a role model for it, fighting for ideals in a corrupted world that ultimately crushes him.
A sad end? Yes, but it need not be. Come back next time when we restore light to the name of Sigurd through the next Fire Emblem lord, Seliph!