SIGURD AT THE HOUSE OF THE NIBELUNGS

He left Hindfell and he came to a kingdom that was ruled over by a people that were called the Nibelungs as Sigurd’s people were called the Volsungs. Giuki was the name of the King of that land.

Giuki and his Queen and all their sons gave a great welcome to Sigurd when he came to their hall, because he looked like someone who could win the name of being the world’s greatest hero. Sigurd went to war beside the King’s sons, Gunnar and Högni, and the three made great names for themselves, but Sigurd’s shone high above the others.

When they came back from that war there were great rejoicings in the hall of the Nibelungs, and Sigurd’s heart was filled with friendship for all the Nibelung race.He was close to the King’s sons, Gunnar and Högni, he swore oaths of brotherhood with them. Henceforth they would be like family. King Giuki had a stepson named Guttorm and he was not bound in the oath that bound Sigurd and the others in brotherhood.

After the war they had waged Sigurd spent a whole winter in the hall of the Nibelungs. His heart was full of memories of Brynhild and of a desire to ride to her in the House of Flame and to take her with him to the kingdom that King Giuki would have given him. But he still would not go back to her, for he had sworn to give his brethren further help.

One day, as he rode by himself, he heard birds talk to each other and he understood the words they were saying. One said, “There is Sigurd who wears the marvelous helmet that he took out of Fafnir’s hoard.” The other bird said, “He doesn’t know that with that helmet he can change his shape as Fafnir changed his shape, and make him look like this creature or that creature, or this man or that man.” The third bird said, “He doesn’t know that the helmet can do anything so wonderful for him.”

He rode back to the hall of the Nibelungs, and at supper he told them what he had heard the birds say. He showed them the marvelous helmet. Also he told them how he had killed Fafnir the Dragon, and of how he had won the mighty hoard for himself. His two sworn brothers who were there rejoiced that he had such wonderful possessions.

But more precious than the hoard and more wonderful than the helmet was the memory of Brynhild that he had. But he said nothing about this.

Grimhild was the name of the Queen. She was the mother of Gunnar and Högni and their half-brother Guttorm. She and the King had one daughter whose name was Gudrun. Now Grimhild was one of the wisest of women, and she knew when she looked at him that Sigurd was the world’s greatest warrior. She wanted him to belong to the Nibelungs, not only by the oaths of brotherhood he had sworn with Gunnar and Högni, but by other ties. When she heard of the great hoard that was his she had a greater wish and will that he should be one with the Nibelungs. She looked on the helmet of gold and on the great arm ring that he wore, and she made it her heart’s purpose that Sigurd should marry Gudrun, her daughter. But neither Sigurd nor the maiden Gudrun knew of Grimhild’s plan.

The Queen, watching Sigurd closely, knew that he had someone in his heart that stopped him from seeing Gudrun’s loveliness. She had knowledge of spells and secret brews (she was of the race of Borghild whose potion had destroyed Sinfiotli’s life) and she knew that she could make a potion that would destroy the memory Sigurd held.

She mixed the potion. Then one night when there was feasting in the hall of the Nibelungs, she gave the cup that held the potion into the hands of Gudrun and told her carry it to Sigurd.

Sigurd took the cup out of the hands of the fair Nibelung maiden and he drank the potion. When he had drunk it he put the cup down and he stood amongst the feasters like a man in a dream. And like a man in a dream he went into his chamber, and for a day and a night afterwards he was silent and his mind was in a fog. When he rode out with Gunnar and Högni they would say to him, “What is it you have lost, brother?” Sigurd could not tell them. But what he had lost was all memory of Brynhild the Valkyrie in the House of Flame.

He saw Gudrun and it was as though he looked at her for the first time. The long tresses of her hair; were soft as were her hands. Her eyes were like wood flowers, and her ways and her speech were gentle. Yet she was noble in her bearing as a Princess who would come into a kingdom. From the first time she had seen him on Grani, his proud horse, and with his golden helmet above his golden hair, Gudrun had loved Sigurd.

In the season when the wild swans came to the lake Gudrun went down to watch them build their nests. While she was there Sigurd rode through the pines. He saw her, and her beauty made the whole place change. He stopped his horse and listened to her voice as she sang to the wild swans, the song that Völund made for Alvit, his swan bride.

Sigurd’s heart was no longer empty of memory. It was filled with the memory of Gudrun as he saw her by the lake when the wild swans were building their nests. Then he watched her in the hall, sitting with her mother embroidering, or serving her father or her brothers, and tenderness for the maiden kept growing in his heart.

A day came when he asked Gunnar and Högni, his sworn brothers, for Gudrun. They were glad. They brought him before Giuki the King, and Grimhild the Queen. It seemed as if they had cast off all trouble and care and entered into the prime of their life and power, so greatly did the King and the Queen rejoice at Sigurd’s becoming one with the Nibelungs through his marriage with Gudrun.

When Gudrun heard that Sigurd had asked for her, she said to the Queen, “Oh, my mother, your wisdom should have strengthened me to bear such joy. How can I show him that he is so dear to me? But I shall try not to show it, for he might think that there is no sense in me. So great a warrior would not care for such love. I want to be with him as a battle maiden.”

Sigurd and Gudrun were married and all the kingdom that the Nibelungs ruled over rejoiced. Queen Grimhild thought that though the effect of the potion she gave would wear away, his love for Gudrun would forever fill his heart, and that no other memory would be able to find a place there.