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Elizabeth A.Sackler Center for Feminist Art

Brynhild

Mythic, worshipped in Germany and northern Europe, exact dates uncertain

In Norse mythology, Brynhild is a Valkyrie, a female deity in service to the chief god Odin. When she defies him, he condemns her to life as a mortal, imprisons her in a castle surrounded by a ring of fire, and places her in a deep sleep from which only a hero can rescue her. She is awakened by Siguror, who promises to marry her and gives her a magic ring as a token of their engagement. There follows a complex tale of sorcery, betrayal, and identity swapping. Siguror marries someone else and through a deception retrieves the magic ring and gives it to his wife. When Brynhild discovers his treachery, she orchestrates his death. Overcome with grief, she casts herself into Siguror’s funeral pyre so that they will be together forever in the underworld.

Arthur Rackham. Sigfried Awakens Brynhild, circa 1911. From Richard Wagner, The Ring of the Niblung, with illustrations by Arthur Rackham (New York: Doubleday, Page, 1911?)

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