The Children of Odin, by Padraic Colum, , at sacred-texts.com
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
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.
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.
And the Queen, watching Sigurd closely, knew that he had a remembrance in his breast that held him from seeing Gudrun's loveliness. She had knowledge of spells and secret brews (she was of the race of Borghild whose brew had destroyed Sinfiotli's life) and she knew that she could make a potion that would destroy the memory Sigurd held.
She mixed the potion. Then one night when there was feasting in the hall of the Nibelungs, she gave the cup that held the potion into the hands of Gudrun and bade her carry it to Sigurd.
Sigurd took the cup out of the hands of the fair Nibelung maiden and he drank the potion. When he had drunk it he put the cup down and he stood amongst the feasters like a man in a dream. And like a man in a dream he went into his chamber, and for a day and a night afterwards he was silent and his mind was astray. When he rode out with Gunnar and Högni they would say to him, "What is it thou hast lost, brother?" Sigurd could not tell them. But what he had lost was all memory of Brynhild the Valkyrie in the House of Flame.
He saw Gudrun and it was as though he looked upon her for the first time. Soft were the long tresses of her hair; soft were her hands. Her eyes were like woodflowers, and her ways and her speech were gentle. Yet was she noble in her bearing as became a Princess who would come into a kingdom. And from the first time she had seen him upon Grani, his proud horse, and with his golden helmet above his golden hair, Gudrun had loved Sigurd.
At the season when the wild swans came to the lake Gudrun went down to watch them build their nests. And while she was there Sigurd rode through the pines. He saw her, and her beauty made the whole place change. He stopped his horse and listened to her voice as she sang to the wild swans, sang the song that Völund made for Alvit, his swan-bride.
No more was Sigurd's heart empty of memory: it was filled with the memory of Gudrun as he saw her by the lake when the wild swans were building their nests. And
now he watched her in the hall, sitting with her mother embroidering, or serving her father or her brothers, and tenderness for the maiden kept growing in his heart.
A day came when he asked Gunnar and Högni, his sworn brethren, for Gudrun. They were glad as though a great fortune had befallen them. And they brought him before Giuki the King, and Grimhild the Queen. It seemed as if they had cast off all trouble and care and entered into the prime of their life and power, so greatly did the King and the Queen rejoice at Sigurd's becoming one with the Nibelungs through his marriage with Gudrun.
When Gudrun heard that Sigurd had asked for her, she said to the Queen: "Oh, my mother, your wisdom should have strengthened me to bear such joy. How can I show him that he is so dear, so dear to me? But I shall try not to show it, for he might deem that there was no sense in me but sense to love him. So great a warrior would not care for such love. I would be with him as a battle-maiden."
Sigurd and Gudrun were wed and all the kingdom that the Nibelungs ruled over rejoiced. And Queen Grimhild thought that though the effect of the potion she gave would wear away, his love for Gudrun would ever fill his heart, and that no other memory would be able to find a place there.