Myths of the Norsemen From the Eddas and Sagas

Page: 141

Over her waves

The linden’s bane:

Ygg whilom stuck

A sleep-thorn in the robe

Of the maid who

Would heroes choose.”

Lay of Fafnir (Thorpe’s tr.). [278]

This adventure was the very thing for Sigurd, and he set off at once. The way lay through trackless regions, and the journey was long and cheerless, but at length he came to the Hindarfiall in Frankland, a tall mountain whose cloud-wreathed summit seemed circled by fiery flames.

“Long Sigurd rideth the waste, when, lo, on a morning of day,

From out of the tangled crag-walls, amidst the cloudland grey,

Comes up a mighty mountain, and it is as though there burns

A torch amidst of its cloud-wreath; so thither Sigurd turns,

For he deems indeed from its topmost to look on the best of the earth;

And Greyfell neigheth beneath him, and his heart is full of mirth.”

Sigurd finds Brunhild

Sigurd finds Brunhild

J. Wagrez

Sigurd rode up the mountain side, and the light grew more and more vivid as he proceeded, until when he had neared the summit a barrier of lurid flames stood before him. The fire burned with a roar which would have daunted the heart of any other, but Sigurd remembered the words of the birds, and without a moment’s hesitation he plunged bravely into its very midst.

“Now Sigurd turns in his saddle, and the hilt of the Wrath he shifts,

And draws a girth the tighter; then the gathered reins he lifts,

And crieth aloud to Greyfell, and rides at the wildfire’s heart;

But the white wall wavers before him and the flame-flood rusheth apart,

And high o’er his head it riseth, and wide and wild its roar

As it beareth the mighty tidings to the very heavenly floor:

But he rideth through its roaring as the warrior rides the rye,

When it bows with the wind of the summer and the hid spears draw anigh;

The white flame licks his raiment and sweeps through Greyfell’s mane,

And bathes both hands of Sigurd and the hilt of Fafnir’s bane,

And winds about his war-helm and mingles with his hair,[279]

But nought his raiment dusketh or dims his glittering gear;

Then it fails and fades and darkens till all seems left behind,

And dawn and the blaze is swallowed in mid-mirk stark and blind.”

The threatening flames having now died away, Sigurd pursued his journey over a broad tract of white ashes, directing his course to a great castle, with shield-hung walls. The great gates stood wide open, and Sigurd rode through them unchallenged by warders or men at arms. Proceeding cautiously, for he feared some snare, he at last came to the centre of the courtyard, where he saw a recumbent form cased in armour. Sigurd dismounted from his steed and eagerly removed the helmet, when he started with surprise to behold, instead of a warrior, the face of a most beautiful maiden.

All his efforts to awaken the sleeper were vain, however, until he had removed her armour, and she lay before him in pure-white linen garments, her long hair falling in golden waves around her. Then as the last fastening of her armour gave way, she opened wide her beautiful eyes, which met the rising sun, and first greeting with rapture the glorious spectacle, she turned to her deliverer, and the young hero and the maiden loved each other at first sight.

“Then she turned and gazed on Sigurd, and her eyes met the Volsung’s eyes.

And mighty and measureless now did the tide of his love arise,

For their longing had met and mingled, and he knew of her heart that she loved,

And she spake unto nothing but him and her lips with the speech-flood moved.”

The maiden now proceeded to tell Sigurd her story. Her name was Brunhild, and according to some authorities she was the daughter of an earthly king [280]whom Odin had raised to the rank of a Valkyr. She had served him faithfully for a long while, but once had ventured to set her own wishes above his, giving to a younger and therefore more attractive opponent the victory which Odin had commanded for another.

Odin and Brunhild

Odin and Brunhild

K. Dielitz

By Permission of the Berlin Photographic Co., 133 New Bond St., W.

In punishment for this act of disobedience, she had been deprived of her office and banished to earth, where Allfather decreed she should wed like any other member of her sex. This sentence filled Brunhild’s heart with dismay, for she greatly feared lest it might be her fate to mate with a coward, whom she would despise. To quiet these apprehensions, Odin took her to Hindarfiall or Hindfell, and touching her with the Thorn of Sleep, that she might await in unchanged youth and beauty the coming of her destined husband, he surrounded her with a barrier of flame which none but a hero would venture through.

From the top of Hindarfiall, Brunhild now pointed out to Sigurd her former home, at Lymdale or Hunaland, telling him he would find her there whenever he chose to come and claim her as his wife; and then, while they stood on the lonely mountain top together, Sigurd placed the ring Andvaranaut upon her finger, in token of betrothal, swearing to love her alone as long as life endured.

“From his hand then draweth Sigurd Andvari’s ancient Gold;

There is nought but the sky above them as the ring together they hold,

The shapen ancient token, that hath no change nor end,

No change, and no beginning, no flaw for God to mend:

Then Sigurd cried: ‘O Brynhild, now hearken while I swear,

That the sun shall die in the heavens and the day no more be fair,

If I seek not love in Lymdale and the house that fostered thee, [281]

And the land where thou awakedst ’twixt the woodland and the sea!’

And she cried: ‘O Sigurd, Sigurd, now hearken while I swear

That the day shall die for ever and the sun to blackness wear,

Ere I forget thee, Sigurd, as I lie ’twixt wood and sea

In the little land of Lymdale and the house that fostered me!’”

The Fostering of Aslaug

According to some authorities, the lovers parted after thus plighting their troth; but others say that Sigurd soon sought out and wedded Brunhild, with whom he lived for a while in perfect happiness until forced to leave her and his infant daughter Aslaug. This child, left orphaned at three years of age, was fostered by Brunhild’s father, who, driven away from home, concealed her in a cunningly fashioned harp, until reaching a distant land he was murdered by a peasant couple for the sake of the gold they supposed it to contain. Their surprise and disappointment were great indeed when, on breaking the instrument open, they found a beautiful little girl, whom they deemed mute, as she would not speak a word. Time passed, and the child, whom they had trained as a drudge, grew to be a beautiful maiden, and she won the affection of a passing viking, Ragnar Lodbrog, King of the Danes, to whom she told her tale. The viking sailed away to other lands to fulfil the purposes of his voyage, but when a year had passed, during which time he won much glory, he came back and carried away Aslaug as his bride.

“She heard a voice she deemed well known,