Nibelungs - George Upton

Siegfried Strives With Brunhild

Not long thereafter did Siegfried claim his promise from the king, saying: "Thou hast sworn, so I did aid thee in e~ \ thy wooing, thy sister Kriemhild should be my wife!"

Nor will I break my oath!" replied Gunther, and straightway sought his sister. When Kriemhild learned that she was to be wedded to Siegfried, she made no demur, but joyfully gave her hand to the young hero who so long had held her heart.

That night there was a great feast in the castle hall and Siegfried with his fair betrothed sat opposite to Gunther and his bride, whereat Brunhild wondered greatly. Much it grieved her that the sister of her lord should be given in marriage to a vassal, for as such had Siegfried appeared in Iceland, and presently she began to reproach the King therefor, tears falling from her beautiful eyes. This alarmed Gunther, and he sought to soothe her, saying that Siegfried was no vassal, but a great prince like himself, with lands and subjects. Thereupon Brunhild demanded wherefore Siegfried had chosen to appear at her court as Gunther's liegeman; but this the King refused to make known to her until some future day, nor would he yield, though more and more she urged him, being now full of curiosity to learn the secret. At last she could bear it no longer, but springing angrily from her seat she left the hall and retired to her own chamber. Thither Gunther followed, thinking to appease her and found her in a storm of tears and rage. Again she besought him to tell her the truth, and again he refused, whereupon her fury knew no bounds. Seizing her offending lord, she bound him hand and foot and tied him to an iron hook on the wall, and there, despite all his entreaties, was he forced to stay till the morning. Meanwhile Brunhild slumbered peacefully; but when at daylight the steps of the servitors were heard in the passage without, she loosed him, lest he be brought to shame before them.

As the midday hour approached, the royal couples, attired in all the splendor of their robes of state, repaired to the cathedral, where after holy mass was sung, the coronation took place amid great pomp and rejoicing. Six hundred noble squires were knighted in honor of the day and a grand tournament followed, wherein they had full scope to prove their skill and valor. All were joyous save the King. Perceiving his gloomy and troubled look, Siegfried took him aside and asked the cause of his sadness, and Gunther told how he had spent the night in his wife's chamber. Thereupon Siegfried bade the King take heart and swore so to punish Brunhild that nevermore should she desire to lay hands upon her lord; and forthwith they agreed upon a plan whereby this might be brought about.

That night Brunhild again retired early to her chamber and Gunther approached her with courteous words; but she scorned him, stormed as before, and at last threatened to fasten him once more with her girdle if he would not disclose the secret. With that Gunther blew out the tapers as a signal to Siegfried, who waited without the door, wearing the magic cap. He entered, and as Brunhild was about to seize her royal spouse, he stepped quickly into Gunther's place, nor was she aware in the darkness that Siegfried it was whom she had grasped. Then followed a mighty struggle. Siegfried was violently hurled to the floor, but quickly sprang to his feet again, only to be seized once more by the warrior Queen and crushed between the wall and an oaken press with such giant strength that Gunther began to despair for the hero's life. But rage and shame lent new strength to Siegfried; and now, although so terrible was Brunhild's grasp that the blood started from beneath her nails, with a mighty effort he regained his feet and overthrew his formidable adversary, forcing her down till her joints cracked. Then was she fain to yield and cry for mercy; whereupon Gunther, taking Siegfried's place again, drew from his unruly wife a vow to restrain her curiosity till he should see fit to reveal the secret, and to strive against him no more. And thereafter he released her, Siegfried meanwhile having left the room, bearing away with him as spoils of his victory Brunhild's ring and girdle, of which he had possessed himself during the struggle.

After the wedding festivities, which lasted for a space of two weeks, Siegfried made ready to set out with his fair bride for Niderland. Gunther and his brothers, out of gratitude for the services Siegfried had rendered them, would have bestowed much land upon him as a dowry for Kriemhild, but this the hero refused, having no wish for reward. At Kriemhild's desire, however, an escort of a thousand knights was granted her, and these she was permitted to choose, whereupon she bespoke Hagen and his men. But Hagen grew very wroth at this. He swore he would be the gift of no man, for his forefathers had ever served the Court of Burgundy, and there would he also bide. No other lord than Gunther would he own as liege. The grim knight was forgiven his harsh words, and Kriemhild made other choice; nor was this difficult, for many professed themselves ready to lead the band, among these the Margrave Eckewart.

At last was come the time for Siegfried's departure, and the King rode far upon the way with him. After they had parted with many professions of goodwill and friendship, Siegfried sent messengers on before with word to his parents that he was returning with the beautiful Kriemhild to Santen, there to abide thenceforth. Glad news was this indeed to Siegmund and Sieglind, and their hearts were filled with joy.

"Happy am I," said Siegmund,

"Thus to behold the day

Which sees the beauteous Kriemhild

Enthroned, with us to stay.

With praises of her virtue,

Let all the country ring!

Now shall our dear son Siegfried

Henceforward reign as King."