The Children of Odin The Book of Northern Myths

Page: 115

[Pg 248] men should waken her. Whoever would break the fastenings of the breastplate would take out the Thorn of Sleep. "Odin granted me this," she said, "that as a mortal maid I should wed none but him who is the bravest in the world. And so that none but him might come to me, All-Father put the fire-ring round where I lay in slumber. And it is thou, Sigurd, son of Sigmund, who hast come to me. Thou art the bravest and I think thou art the most beautiful too; like to Tyr, the God who wields the sword."

She told him that whoever rode through the fire and claimed her as his wife, him she must wed.

They talked to each other fondly and the day flowed by them. Then Sigurd heard Grani, his horse, neigh for him again and again. He cried to Brynhild: "Let me go from the gaze of thine eyes. I am that one who is to have the greatest name in the world. Not yet have I made my name as great as my father and my father's father made their names great. I have overcome King Lygni, and I have slain Fafnir the Dragon, but that is little. I would make my name the greatest in the world, and endure all that is to be endured in making it so. Then I would come back to thee in the House of Flame."

Brynhild said to him: "Well dost thou speak. Make thy name great, and endure what thou hast to endure in making it so. I will wait for thee, knowing that none but Sigurd will be able to win through the fire that guards where I abide."

They gazed long on each other, but little more they spoke. Then they held each other's hands in farewell,[Pg 249] and they plighted faith, promising each other that they would take no other man or maiden for their mate. And for token of their troth Sigurd took the ring that was on his finger and placed it on Brynhild's—Andvari's ring it was.

[Pg 250]


He left Hindfell and he came into 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, for he looked such a one as might win the name of being the world's greatest hero. And 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[Pg 251] was filled with friendship for all the Nibelung race; he had love for the King's sons, Gunnar and Högni, and with Gunnar and Högni he swore oaths of brotherhood. Henceforward he and they would be as brethren. 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 longings 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 as yet he 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 knew the words they were saying. One said, "There is Sigurd who wears the wondrous helmet that he took out of Fafnir's hoard." And the other bird said, "He knows not that by 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." And the third bird said, "He knows not that the helmet can do anything so wonderful for him."

He rode back to the hall of the Nibelungs, and at the supperboard he told them what he had heard the birds say. He showed them the wondrous helmet. Also he told them how he had slain 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 wondrous possessions.[Pg 252]

But more precious than the hoard and more wondrous than the helmet was the memory of Brynhild that he had. But of this he said no word.

Grimhild was the name of the Queen. She was the mother of Gunnar and Högni and their half-brother Guttorm. And 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 upon him that Sigurd was the world's greatest warrior. She would have him belong to the Nibelungs, not only by the oaths of brotherhood he had sworn with Gunnar and Högni, but by other ties. And when she heard of the great hoard that was his she had greater wish and will that he should be one with the Nibelungs. She looked on the helmet of gold and on the great armring that he wore, and she made it her heart's purpose that Sigurd should wed with Gudrun, her daughter. But neither Sigurd nor the maiden Gudrun knew of Grimhild's resolve.