Brunhild

Brunhild (brōnˈhĭld) [key], Brünnehilde brünˌəhĭldˈə, or Brynhild brĭnˈhĭld, mighty female warrior of Germanic mythology and literature. In the Nibelungenlied, a medieval German epic poem (see under Nibelungen), she is the warlike queen of Iceland, whom Siegfried defeats in combat and wins for his brother-in-law, Gunther. Hating Siegfried, Brunhild contrives his death at the hands of Gunther's henchman, Hagen. In the Icelandic version of the story, the Volsungasaga, as Brynhild, she is the chief of the Valkyries. Sigurd (Siegfried) saves her from an enchanted stronghold, and the two fall in love. Later, Gudrun makes him forget Brynhild by means of a magic potion and takes him as her husband; Sigurd then wins Brynhild for Gunnar (Gunther). After bringing about Sigurd's death, Brynhild destroys herself on his funeral pyre. Wagner in his opera cycle The Ring of the Nibelungs, in which she is Brünnehilde, makes her a Valkyrie who defies her father, the god Wotan (see Woden), to help the lovers Siegmund and Sieglinde. Wotan places her sleeping on a mountaintop surrounded by fire, from which she is rescued by Siegfried. He is made by magic to forget her, and for his unfaithfulness she brings about his death, her own death on his pyre, and the burning of Valhalla.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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