Myths and Legends of All Nations Famous Stories from the Greek, German, English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Danish, French, Russian, Bohemian, Italian and other sources

Page: 108

On the way to the tournament Kriemhild murmured her thanks for the good work Siegfried had done for her, and Siegfried vowed that he would always serve her brothers because of his great love for her.

Soon after the tournament Gunther announced his intention of winning for his wife, Brunhild, the princess of Issland, who had vowed to marry no man but the one who could[Pg 216] surpass her in jumping, throwing a stone and casting a spear. Gunther proposed that Siegfried go with him, promising him, in return for his services, the hand of Kriemhild. Such an offer was not to be despised, and Siegfried immediately consented, advising Gunther to take only Hagen and Dankwart with him.

Gunther and the three knights set out in a small vessel. Siegfried bade his companions represent him as Gunther's vassal only; but Brunhild, seeing his giant figure and guessing its strength, imagined that he had come to woo her. She was dismayed, therefore, when she heard that he had held the stirrup for Gunther to dismount. When he entered her hall, she advanced to meet him; but he drew aside, saying that honor was due to his master Gunther.

Brunhild ordered preparations for the evening contest, and Gunther, Hagen and Dankwart trembled when they saw four men staggering under the weight of Brunhild's shield and three more staggering under the weight of her spear. Siegfried, meantime, had donned his magic cloud cloak and bade Gunther rely upon his aid.

The combat opened. Brunhild poised her spear and flung it with such force that both heroes staggered; but before she could cry out her victory Siegfried had caught the spear and flung it back with such violence that the princess fell and was obliged to acknowledge defeat.

Undaunted, she caught up a huge stone, flung it far into the distance, and then leaping, alighted beside it. No sooner had she done this than Siegfried seized the stone, flung it still farther, and lifting Gunther by his broad girdle bounded through the air with him and alighted beyond the stone. Then Brunhild knew that she had found her master.

"Come hither all my kinsmen and followers," she said, "and acknowledge my superior. I am no longer your mistress. Gunther is your lord."

[Pg 217] The wedding was fitly celebrated and then Gunther and his bride were escorted back to Issland by a thousand Nibelung warriors whom Siegfried had gathered for the purpose. A great banquet was given upon their return, at which the impatient Siegfried ventured to remind Gunther of his promise. Brunhild protested that Gunther should not give his only sister to a menial, but Gunther gave his consent and the marriage took place immediately. The two bridal couples then sat side by side. Kriemhild's face was very happy; Brunhild's was dark and frowning.

You see, Brunhild was not pleased with the husband she had gained and preferred Siegfried. Alone with her husband the first night she bound him with her girdle and suspended him from a corner of her apartment. There she let him hang till morning. Released, Gunther sought out Siegfried and told him of the disgraceful affair.