THE STORY OF THE VOLSUNGS
The Wooing of Brynhild
Now they array them joyously for their journey, and ride over hill and dale to the house of King Budli, and woo his daughter of him; in a good wise he took their speech, if so be that she herself would not deny them, but he said withal that so high- minded was she, that that man only might wed her whom she would.
Then they ride to Hlymdale, and there Heimir gave them good welcome; so Gunnar tells his errand; Heimir says, that she must needs wed but him whom she herself chose freely; and tells them how her abode was but a little way thence, and that he deemed that him only would she have who should ride through the flaming fire that was drawn round about her hall; so they depart and come to the hall and the fire, and see there a castle with a golden roof-ridge, and all round about a fire roaring up.
Now Gunnar rode on Goti, but Hogni on Holkvi, and Gunnar smote his horse to face the fire, but he shrank aback.
Then said Sigurd, "Why givest thou back, Gunnar?"
He answered, "The horse will not tread this fire; but lend me thy horse Grani."
"Yea, with all my good will," says Sigurd.
Then Gunnar rides him at the fire, and yet nowise will Gram stir, nor may Gunnar any the more ride through that fire. So now they change semblance, Gunnar and Sigurd, even as Grimhild had taught them; then Sigurd in the likeness of Gunnar mounts and rides, Gram in his hand, and golden spurs on his heels; then leapt Grani into the fire when he felt the spurs; and a mighty roar arose as the fire burned ever madder, and the earth trembled, and the flames went up even unto the heavens, nor had any dared to ride as he rode, even as it were through the deep mirk.
But now the fire sank withal, and he leapt from his horse and went into the hall, even as the song says --
"The flame flared at its maddest,
Earth's fields fell a-quaking
As the red flame aloft
Licked the lowest of heaven.
Few had been fain,
Of the rulers of folk,
To ride through that flame,
Or athwart it to tread.
"Then Sigurd smote
Grani with sword,
And the flame was slaked
Before the king;
Low lay the flames
Before the fain of fame;
Bright gleamed the array
That Regin erst owned.
Now when Sigurd had passed through the fire, he came into a certain fair dwelling, and therein sat Brynhild
She asked, "What man is it?"
Then he named himself Gunnar, son of Giuki, and said -- "Thou art awarded to me as my wife, by the good will and word of thy father and thy foster-father, and I have ridden through the flame of thy fire, according to thy that thou hast set forth."
"I wot not clearly," said she, "how I shall answer thee."
Now Sigurd stood upright on the hall floor, and leaning on the hilt of his sword, and he spake to Brynhild --
"In reward thereof, shall I pay thee a great dower in gold and goodly things?"
She answered in heavy mood from her seat, whereas she sat like unto swan on billow, having a sword in her hand and a helm on her head, and being clad in a byrny, "O Gunnar," she says, "speak not to me of such things unless thou be the first and best of all men; for then shall thou slay those my wooers, if thou hast heart thereto; I have been in battles with the king of the Greeks, and weapons were stained with red blood, and for such things still I yearn."
He answered, "Yea, certes many great deeds hast thou done; but yet call thou to mind thine oath, concerning the riding through of this fire, wherein thou didst swear that thou wouldst go with the man who should do this deed."
So she found that he spoke but the sooth, and she paid heed to his words, and arose, and greeted him meetly, and he abode there three nights, and they lay in one bed together; but he took the sword Gram and laid it betwixt them: then she asked him why he laid it there; and he answered, that in that wise must he needs wed his wife or else get his bane.
Then she took from off her the ring Andvari's loom, which he had given her aforetime, and gave it to him, but he gave her another ring out of Fafnir's hoard.
Thereafter he rode away through the same fire unto his Fellows, and he and Gunnar changed semblances again, and rode unto Hlymdale, and told how it had gone with them.
That same day went Brynhild home to her foster-father, and tells him as one whom she trusted, how that there had come a king to her; "And he rode through my flaming fire, and said he was come to woo me, and named himself Gunnar; but I said that such a deed might Sigurd alone have done, with whom I plighted troth on the mountain; and he is my first troth-plight, and my well-beloved."
Heimir said that things must needs abide even as now they had now come to pass.
Brynhild said, "Aslaug the daughter of me and Sigurd shall be nourished here with thee."
Now the kings fare home, but Brynhild goes to her father; Grimhild welcomes the kings meetly, and thanks Sigurd for his fellowship; and withal is a great feast made, and many were the guests thereat; and thither came Budli the King with his daughter Brynhild, and his son Atli, and for many days did the feast endure: and at that feast was Gunnar wedded to Brynhild: but when it was brought to an end, once more has Sigurd memory of all the oaths that he sware unto Brynhild, yet withal he let all things abide in rest and peace.
Brynhild and Gunnar sat together in great game and glee, and drank goodly wine.
Chapter XXVIII: How the Queens held angry converse together at the Bathing