“Brunhild Watching Gunther Suspended from the Ceiling on their Wedding Night”
John Henry Fuseli
Excerpt from The Nibelungenlied (c.1200) translated by A.T. Hatto:
“His attendants, both man and woman had left him. The chamber was quickly barred, and he imagined that he was soon to enjoy her lovely body: but the time when Brunhild would become his wife was certainly not at hand! She went to the bed in a shift of fine white linen, and the noble knight thought to himself: “Now I have everything here that I ever wished for’. And indeed there was great cause why her beauty should gratify him deeply. He dimmed the lights one after another with his own royal hands, and then, dauntless warrior, he went to the lady. He laid himself close beside her, and with a great rush of joy took the adorable woman in his arms.
He would have lavished caresses and endearments, had the Queen suffered him to do so, but she flew into a rage that deeply shocked him – he had hoped to meet with ‘friend’, yet what he met was ‘foe’!
‘Sir,’ she said, ‘you must give up the thing you have set your hopes on, for it will not come to pass. Take good note of this: I intend to stay a maiden till I have learned the truth about Siegfried.’
Gunther grew very angry with her. He tried to win her by force, and tumbled her shift for her, at which the haughty girl reached for the girdle of stout silk cord that she wore about her waist, and subjected him to great suffering and shames for in return for being baulked of her sleep, she bound him hand and foot, carried him to a nail, and hung him on the wall. She had put a stop to his love-making! As to him, he had all but died, such strength had she exerted.
And now he who had thought to be master began to entreat her, ‘Loose my bonds, most noble Queen. I do not fancy I shall ever subdue you, lovely woman, and I shall never again lie too close to you.’
She did not care at all how he fared, since she was lying very snug. He had to stay hanging there the whole night through to dawn, when the bright morning shone through the windows. If Gunther had ever possessed of any strength, it had dwindled to nothing now.