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Living with the Gods. Living for the Gods. Living through the Gods.

The Poetic Edda Online
In the translation of Bellows 

Lays of the Gods
Helreith Brynhildar

Brynhild's Hell-Ride


The little Helreith Brynhildar immediately follows the "short" Sigurth lay in the Codex Regius, being linked to it by the brief prose note; the heading, "Brynhild's Ride on Hel-Way," stands just before the first stanza. The entire poem, with the exception of stanza. 6, is likewise quoted in the Nornageststhattr. Outside of one stanza (No. 11), which is a fairly obvious interpolation, the poem possesses an extraordinary degree of dramatic unity, and, certain pedantic commentators notwithstanding, it is one of the most vivid and powerful in the whole collection. None the less, it has been extensively argued that parts of it belonged originally to the so-called Sigrdrifumol. That it stands in close relation to this poem is evident enough, but it is difficult to believe that such a masterpiece of dramatic poetry was ever the result of mere compilation. It seems more reasonable to regard the Helreith, with the exception of stanza 11 and allowing for the loss of two lines from stanza 6, as a complete and carefully constructed unit, based undoubtedly on older poems, but none the less an artistic creation in itself.

The poem is generally dated as late as the eleventh century, and the concluding stanza betrays Christian influence almost unmistakably. It shows the confusion of traditions manifest in all the later poems; for example, Brynhild is here not only a Valkyrie but also a swan-maiden. Only three stanzas have any reference to the Guthrun-Gunnar part of the story; otherwise the poem is concerned solely with the episode of Sigurth's finding the sleeping Valkyrie. Late as it is, therefore, it is essentially a Norse creation, involving very few of the details of the German cycle (cf. introductory note to Gripisspo).

Helreith Brynhildar
Brynhilds Hell Ride

After the death of Brynhild there were made two bale-fires, the one for Sigurth, and that burned first, and on the other was Brynhild burned, and she was on a wagon which was covered with a rich cloth. Thus it is told, that Brynhild went in the wagon on Hel-way, and passed by a house where dwelt a certain giantess. The giantess spake:

1. "Thou shalt not further   forward fare,
My dwelling ribbed   with rocks across;
More seemly it were   at thy weaving to stay,
Than another's husband   here to follow.

2. "What wouldst thou have   from Valland here,
Fickle of heart,   in this my house?
Gold-goddess, now,   if thou wouldst know,
Heroes' blood   from thy hands hast washed."

Brynhild spake:
3. "Chide me not, woman   from rocky walls,
Though to battle once   I was wont to go;
Better than thou   I shall seem to be,
When men us two   shall truly know."

The giantess spake:
4. "Thou wast, Brynhild,   Buthli's daughter,
For the worst of evils   born in the world;
To death thou hast given   Gjuki's children,
And laid their lofty   house full low."

Brynhild spake:
5. "Truth from the wagon   here I tell thee,
Witless one,   if know thou wilt
How the heirs of Gjuki   gave me to be
joyless ever,   a breaker of oaths.

6. "Hild the helmed   in Hlymdalir
They named me of old,   all they who knew me.
.    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .
.    .    .    .    .        .    .    .    .    .

7. "The monarch bold   the swan-robes bore
Of the sisters eight   beneath an oak;
Twelve winters I was,   if know thou wilt,
When oaths I yielded   the king so young.

8. "Next I let   the leader of Goths,
Hjalmgunnar the old,   go down to hell,
And victory brought   to Autha's brother;
For this was Othin's   anger mighty.

9. "He beset me with shields   in Skatalund,
Red and white,   their rims o'erlapped;
He bade that my sleep   should broken be
By him who fear   had nowhere found.

10. "He let round my hall,   that southward looked,
The branches' foe   high-leaping burn;
Across it he bade   the hero come
Who brought me the gold   that Fafnir guarded

11. On Grani rode   the giver of gold,
Where my foster-father   ruled his folk;
Best of all   he seemed to be,
The prince of the Danes,   when the people met.

12. "Happy we slept,   one bed we had,
As he my brother   born had been;
Eight were the nights   when neither there
Loving hand   on the other laid.

13. "Yet Guthrun reproached me,   Gjuki's daughter,
That I in Sigurth's   arms had slept;
Then did I hear   what I would were hid,
That they had betrayed me   in taking a mate.

14. "Ever with grief   and all too long
Are men and women   born in the world;
But yet we shall live   our lives together,
Sigurth and I.   Sink down, Giantess!"

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