Brunhild, also known as Brunhilda or Brynhild (Old Norse: Brynhildr, Middle High German: Brünhilt, Modern German: Brünhild or Brünhilde), is a powerful female figure from Germanic heroic legend. She may have her origins in the Visigothic princess Brunhilda of Austrasia.
In the Norse tradition, Brunhild is a shieldmaiden or valkyrie, who appears as a main character in the Völsunga saga and some Eddic poems treating the same events. In the continental Germanic tradition, where she is a central character in the Nibelungenlied, she is a powerful Amazon-like queen. In both traditions, she is instrumental in bringing about the death of the hero Sigurd or Siegfried after he deceives her into marrying the Burgundian king Gunther or Gunnar. In both traditions, the immediate cause for her desire to have Sigurd murdered is a quarrel with the hero's wife, Gudrun or Kriemhild. In the Scandinavian tradition, but not in the continental tradition, Brunhild kills herself after Sigurd's death.
Richard Wagner made Brunhild (as Brünnhilde) an important character in his opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen. The majority of modern conceptions of the figure have been inspired or influenced by Wagner's depiction.
Brunhild has been called "the paramount figure of Germanic legend." The Nibelungenlied introduces her by saying:
Ez was ein küneginne gesezzen über sê.
There was a queen who resided over the sea,