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Full Online Book HomeLong StoriesThe Story Of Siegfried - Chapter VI. Brunhild
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The Story Of Siegfried - Chapter VI. Brunhild Post by :jetson77 Category :Long Stories Author :James Baldwin Date :February 2011 Read :2279

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The Story Of Siegfried - Chapter VI. Brunhild

Siegfried and the harper sat together in the little ship as
it lay moored to the sandy shore; and their eyes were turned
towards the sea-green castle and its glowing walls, and they
looked in vain for any movement, or any sign of wakeful
life. Every thing was still. Not a breath of air was
stirring. The leaves of the trees hung motionless, as if
they, too, were asleep. The great green banner on the
tower's top clung around the flagstaff as if it had never
fluttered to the breeze. No song of birds, nor hum of
insects, came to their ears. There was neither sound nor
motion anywhere.

"Play your harp, good Bragi, and awaken all these sleepers,"
said Siegfried.

Then the harper touched the magic strings, and strains of
music, loud and clear, but sweet as a baby's breath, rose up
in the still air, and floated over the quiet bay, and across
the green meadows which lay around the castle-walls; and it
was borne upward over the battlements, and among the shining
turrets and towers, and was carried far out over the hills,
and among the silent trees of the plain. And Bragi sung of
the beginning of all things, and of whatsoever is beautiful
on the land, or in the sea, or in the sky. And Siegfried
looked to see every thing awakened, and quickened into life,
as had oft been done before by Bragi's music; but nothing
stirred. The sun went down, and the gray twilight hung over
sea and land, and the red glow in the castle-moat grew
redder still; and yet every thing slept. Then Bragi ended
his song, and the strings of his harp were mute.

"Music has no charms to waken from sleep like that," he
said.

And then he told Siegfried what it all meant; and, to make
the story plain, he began by telling of Odin's bright home
at Gladsheim and of the many great halls that were there.

One of the halls in Gladsheim is called Valhal. This hall is
so large and wide, that all the armies of the earth might
move within it. Outside, it is covered with gold and with
sun-bright shields. A fierce wolf stands guard before it,
and a mountain-eagle hovers over it. It has five hundred and
forty doors, each large enough for eight hundred heroes to
march through abreast. Inside, every thing is glittering
bright. The rafters are made of spears, and the ceiling is
covered with shields, and the walls are decked with
war-coats. In this hall Odin sets daily a feast for all the
heroes that have been slain in battle. These sit at the
great table, and eat of the food which Odin's servants have
prepared, and drink of the heavenly mead which the
Valkyries, Odin's handmaids, bring them.

But the Valkyries have a greater duty. When the battle
rages, and swords clash, and shields ring, and the air is
filled with shouts and groans and all the din of war, then
these maidens hover over the field of blood and death, and
carry the slain heroes home to Valhal.(EN#15)

One of Odin's Valkyries was named Brunhild, and she was the
most beautiful of all the maidens that chose heroes for his
war-host. But she was wilful too, and did not always obey
the All-Father's behests. And when Odin knew that she had
sometimes snatched the doomed from death, and sometimes
helped her chosen friends to victory, he was very angry. And
he drove her away from Gladsheim, and sent her, friendless
and poor, to live among the children of men, and to be in
all ways like them. But, as she wandered weary and alone
over the earth, the good old King of Isenland saw her beauty
and her distress, and pity and love moved his heart; and, as
he had no children of his own, he took her for his daughter,
and made her his heir. And not long afterward he died, and
the matchless Brunhild became queen of all the fair lands of
Isenland and the hall of Isenstein. When Odin heard of this,
he was more angry still; and he sent to Isenstein, and
caused Brunhild to be stung with the thorn of Sleep. And he
said,--

"She shall sleep until one shall come who is brave enough to
ride through fire to awaken her."

And all Isenland slept too, because Brunhild, the Maiden of
Spring, lay wounded with the Sleepful thorn.

* * * * *

When Siegfried heard this story, he knew that the land which
lay before them was Isenland, and that the castle was
Isenstein, and that Brunhild was sleeping within that circle
of fire.

"My songs have no power to awaken such a sleeper," said
Bragi. "A hero strong and brave must ride through the flame
to arouse her. It is for this that I have brought you
hither; and here I will leave you, while I sail onwards to
brighten other lands with my music."

Siegfried's heart leaped up with gladness; for he thought
that here, at last, was a worthy deed for him to do. And he
bade his friend Bragi good-by, and stepped ashore; and
Greyfell followed him. And Bragi sat at the prow of the
ship, and played his harp again; and the sailors plied their
oars; and the little vessel moved swiftly out of the bay,
and was seen no more. And Siegfried stood alone on the
silent, sandy beach.

As he thus stood, the full moon rose white and dripping from
the sea; and its light fell on the quiet water, and the
sloping meadows, and the green turrets of the castle. And
the last notes of Bragi's harp came floating to him over the
sea.

Then a troop of fairies came down to dance upon the sands.
It was the first sign of life that Siegfried had seen. As
the little creatures drew near, he hid himself among the
tall reeds which grew close to the shore; for he wished to
see them at their gambols, and to listen to their songs. At
first, as if half afraid of their own tiny shadows, they
danced in silence; but, as the moon rose higher, they grew
bolder, and began to sing. And their music was so sweet and
soft, that Siegfried forgot almost every thing, else for the
time: they sang of the pleasant summer days, and of cooling
shades, and still fountains, and silent birds, and peaceful
slumber. And a strange longing for sleep took hold of
Siegfried; and his eyes grew heavy, and the sound of the
singing seemed dim and far away. But just as he was losing
all knowledge of outward things, and his senses seemed
moving in a dream, the fairies stopped dancing, and a little
brown elf came up from the sea, and saluted the queen of the
tiny folk.

"What news bring you from the great world beyond the water?"
asked the queen.

"The prince is on his way hither," answered the elf.

"And what will he do?"

"If he is brave enough, he will awaken the princess, and
arouse the drowsy people of Isenstein; for the Norns have
said that such a prince shall surely come."

"But he must be the bravest of men ere he can enter the
enchanted castle," said the queen; "for the wide moat is
filled with flames, and no faint heart will ever dare battle
with them."

"But I will dare!" cried Siegfried; and he sprang from his
hiding-place, forgetful of the little folk, who suddenly
flitted away, and left him alone upon the beach. He glanced
across the meadows at the green turrets glistening in the
mellow moonlight, and then at the flickering flames around
the castle walls, and he resolved that on the morrow he
would at all hazards perform the perilous feat.

In the morning, as soon as the gray dawn appeared, he began
to make ready for his difficult undertaking. But, when he
looked again at the red flames, he began to hesitate. He
paused, uncertain whether to wait for a sign and for help
from the All-Father, or whether to go straightway to the
castle, and, trusting in his good armor alone, try to pass
through the burning moat. While he thus stood in doubt, his
eyes were dazzled by a sudden flash of light. He looked up.
Greyfell came dashing across the sands; and from his long
mane a thousand sunbeams gleamed and sparkled in the morning
light. Siegfried had never seen the wondrous creature so
radiant; and as the steed stood by him in all his strength
and beauty he felt new hope and courage, as if Odin himself
had spoken to him. He hesitated no longer, but mounted the
noble horse; and Greyfell bore him swiftly over the plain,
and paused not until he had reached the brink of the burning
moat.

Now, indeed, would Siegfried's heart have failed him, had he
not been cheered by the sunbeam presence of Greyfell. For
filling the wide, deep ditch, were angry, hissing flames,
which, like a thousand serpent-tongues, reached out, and
felt here and there, for what they might devour; and ever
and anon they took new forms, and twisted and writhed like
fiery snakes, and then they swirled in burning coils high
over the castle-walls. Siegfried stopped not a moment. He
spoke the word, and boldly the horse with his rider dashed
into the fiery lake; and the vile flames fled in shame and
dismay before the pure sunbeam flashes from Greyfell's mane.
And, unscorched and unscathed, Siegfried rode through the
moat, and through the wide-open gate, and into the
castle-yard.

The gate-keeper sat fast asleep in his lodge, while the
chains and the heavy key with which, when awake, he was wont
to make the great gate fast, lay rusting at his feet; and
neither he, nor the sentinels on the ramparts above, stirred
or awoke at the sound of Greyfell's clattering hoofs. As
Siegfried passed from one part of the castle to another,
many strange sights met his eyes. In the stables the horses
slumbered in their stalls, and the grooms lay snoring by
their sides. The birds sat sound asleep on their nests
beneath the eaves. The watch-dogs, with fast-closed eyes,
lay stretched at full-length before the open doors. In the
garden the fountain no longer played, the half-laden bees
had gone to sleep among the blossoms of the apple-trees, and
the flowers themselves had forgotten to open their petals to
the sun. In the kitchen the cook was dozing over the
half-baked meats in front of the smouldering fire; the
butler was snoring in the pantry; the dairy-maid was quietly
napping among the milk-pans; and even the house-flies had
gone to sleep over the crumbs of sugar on the table. In the
great banquet-room a thousand knights, overcome with
slumber, sat silent at the festal board; and their chief,
sitting on the dais, slept, with his half-emptied goblet at
his lips.

Siegfried passed hurriedly from room to room and from hall
to hall, and cast but one hasty glance at the strange sights
which met him at every turn; for he knew that none of the
drowsy ones in that spacious castle could be awakened until
he had aroused the Princess Brunhild. In the grandest hall
of the palace he found her. The peerless maiden, most richly
dight, reclined upon a couch beneath a gold-hung canopy; and
her attendants, the ladies of the court, sat near and around
her. Sleep held fast her eyelids, and her breathing was so
gentle, that, but for the blush upon her cheeks, Siegfried
would have thought her dead. For long, long years had her
head thus lightly rested on that gold-fringed pillow; and in
all that time neither her youth had faded, nor her wondrous
beauty waned.

Siegfried stood beside her. Gently he touched his lips to
that matchless forehead; softly he named her name,--

"Brunhild!"

The charm was broken. Up rose the peerless princess in all
her queen-like beauty; up rose the courtly ladies round her.
All over the castle, from cellar to belfry-tower, from the
stable to the banquet hall, there was a sudden awakening, a
noise of hurrying feet and mingled voices, and sounds which
had long been strangers to the halls of Isenstein. The
watchman on the tower, and the sentinels on the ramparts,
yawned, and would not believe they had been asleep; the
porter picked up his keys, and hastened to lock the
long-forgotten gates; the horses neighed in their stalls;
the watchdogs barked at the sudden hubbub; the birds,
ashamed at having allowed the sun to find them napping,
hastened to seek their food in the meadows; the servants
hurried here and there, each intent upon his duty; the
warriors in the banquet-hall clattered their knives and
plates, and began again their feast; and their chief dropped
his goblet, and rubbed his eyes, and wondered that sleep
should have overtaken him in the midst of such a
meal.(EN#16)

And Siegfried, standing at an upper window, looked out over
the castle-walls; and he saw that the flames no longer raged
in the moat, but that it was filled with clear sparkling
water from the fountain which played in the garden. And the
south wind blew gently from the sea, bringing from afar the
sweetest strains of music from Bragi's golden harp; and the
breezes whispered among the trees, and the flowers opened
their petals to the sun, and birds and insects made the air
melodious with their glad voices. Then Brunhild, radiant
with smiles, stood by the hero's side, and welcomed him
kindly to Isenland and to her green-towered castle of
Isenstein.

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