HOW BRYNHILD WAS WON FOR GUNNAR
Now that Sigurd had married Gudrun he was joined to the Nibelungs. He brought the hoard that was in Fafnir’s cave and he left it in their treasure house. He went to his foster father’s kingdom again, and saw King Alv and Hiordis, his mother. But he had no memory of the House of Flame, or of Brynhild, who waited there for him.
King Giuki died, and Gunnar, Sigurd’s sworn brother, became King. His mother wanted him to marry, but Gunnar told her he had seen no suitable maiden.
When Sigurd and he were together Gunnar would talk about a maiden far away, that he often thought about. One day when Sigurd pressed him to tell who this maiden was, he spoke of one who the wisest of the poets talked about, a maiden in a Hall with a flame around it, a maiden named Brynhild who was guarded by a ring of fire.
Sigurd laughed to think that his shrewd brother was fascinated by someone who he had only heard of. But if he was mesmerized by stories about her, why shouldn’t he go and marry her? So Sigurd said. Then Gunnar asked Sigurd if he would help him to win her? Sigurd took Gunnar’s hand and swore that he would.
So Gunnar , Högni and Sigurd started off for Hindfell,. They rode on until they came in sight of the black walls with the rising and circling fire around them. Sigurd had no memory of the place. With the flame of eagerness on his face Gunnar went forward to ride through the ring of fire. He rode his horse Goti, near the flame, but the horse would not go through it. Then Gunnar thought that, mounted on Grani, Sigurd’s horse, he could ride through the ring of fire. He mounted Grani and came near to the flaring wall. But Grani, knowing that the one who rode him was afraid of the fire, reared up and would not go through it. Grani would only go through the flames with Sigurd on his back.
After they had considered it for a long time Högni the Wise said, “There is a way to win Brynhild, and that is for Sigurd to change shapes, using the magic of his helmet with Gunnar. Then Sigurd could ride Grani through the wall of flame and come to Brynhild in Gunnar’s shape.”
When Högni the Wise said this, and when he saw his sworn brother’s gaze fixed on him in pleading, Sigurd had to agree to ride through the flame and come to Brynhild in the way he said. So by the magic of his helmet he changed shapes with Gunnar. Then he mounted Grani and rode to the wall of flame. Grani, knowing that the one he carried was without fear, rode through the flaring fire. Then Sigurd came into the courtyard of the House of Flame. He dismounted from Grani, and he told his horse to be still.
He went inside the Hall and saw someone with a bow in her hands shooting at a target. She turned to him, and he saw a beautiful and stern face, with wonderful, bright gleaming hair and eyes that were like stars. He thought that the arrow in her hands had been shot through him. But it was not so. Brynhild threw down the bow and came up to him with that walk of hers that was like she was floating above the ground. When she came near and looked at him she uttered a strange cry.
“Who are you?” she said. “Who are you who has come to me through the wall of fire?”
“Gunnar, son of Giuki, of the race of the Nibelungs,” Sigurd said.
“Are you the bravest one in the world?” she asked.
“I have ridden through the wall of fire to come to you,” Sigurd answered.
“He who has come through that wall of fire may claim me,” Brynhild said. “It is written in the runes, and it must be so. But I thought there was only one who would come to me through it.” She looked at him, and her eyes had a flame of anger. “Oh, I want to fight you with warrior weapons,” she cried. Then Sigurd felt her strong hands on him, and he knew that she was trying to throw him.
They wrestled, and each was so strong that none could move the other. They wrestled, Sigurd the first of heroes, and Brynhild, the Valkyrie. Sigurd got her hand in his in the fight. There was a ring on that hand and Sigurd bent back the finger and pulled it off.
It was Andvari’s ring, the ring he had placed on her finger. When the ring was taken off it, Brynhild sank down on her knees.
Then Sigurd lifted her in his arms and carried her to where Grani, his horse, was waiting. He lifted her across his horse, and he mounted behind her and again he rode through the wall of flame. Högni and Gunnar were waiting, Gunnar in Sigurd’s shape. Brynhild did not look at them, but covered her face with her hands. Then Sigurd took back his own shape, and he rode in front of Gunnar and Högni to the hall of the Nibelungs.
He went inside, and found Gudrun, his wife, playing with Sigmund, his little son, and he sat beside her and he told her what had happened, how, for the sake of the sworn brotherhood, he had won Brynhild the Valkyrie for Gunnar, and how he had fought with her and had overcome her, taken off her finger the ring that he now wore on his own.
Even as he spoke to his wife the potion that Gudrun’s mother had given him was wearing off, and he had memories of going to the House of Flame on a day that was not this day, and of riding through the wall of fire in his own shape. And again, as on the night when he drank the potion that Queen Grimhild made, his mind became foggy. He stood watching his child as he played, and his wife as she worked at her embroidery, and he was like a man in a dream.
While he was standing there Gunnar and Högni came into the hall of the Nibelungs bringing Brynhild with them. Gudrun rose up to welcome her brother’s bride. Then Sigurd looked at Brynhild and then he remembered everything. When he remembered a mighty sigh rose from his heart which burst the links of the armor that was across his heart.