Helreið Brynhildar is the twenty-sixth part of the Older Edda (OE) or Poetic Edda.
INTRODUCTORY NOTE by Henry Adams Bellows
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).
Eddukvæði II, Hetjukvæði, Jónas Kristjánsson og Vésteinn Ólason gáfu út, p. 349-351, Íslenzk fornrit, Reykjavík 2014.
Brynhilds helferd (Helreiþ Brynhildar), tr. G.A Gjessing, Kristiania 1899.
HELREITH BRYNHILDAR, Brynhild's Hell-Ride, tr. Henry Adams Bellows, in the Poetic Edda, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1936.
Input by Angela Kowalczyk, August 13th, 2016.