As maidens peer down at them from the fortress above, Gunther sees Brunhild for the first time and deems her beautiful. After they disembark, Siegfried helps Gunther onto his horse within sight of the ladies. Brunhild’s vassals attend to the Burgundians’ food and lodging. Meanwhile, Brunhild asks her courtiers about the newcomers. When someone identifies Siegfried, Brunhild retorts that he has come at peril of his life, since she would never consent to marry him. Nevertheless, she dresses beautifully and goes to welcome him, attended by many ladies and knights.
Siegfried behaves like Gunther’s vassal when he knows the foreigners are watching. When Brunhild hears about him, it’s again clear that the two have some sort of a shared past. She extends courtly hospitality in spite of her disdain.
Siegfried introduces Gunther to Brunhild, taking care to present Gunther as his lord and himself as liegeman, and explains their quest. Brunhild warns them that she is a formidable opponent, and they might want to reconsider throwing away their lives and reputations by attempting her sports. Siegfried quietly reassures Gunther that he will employ “ruses” to defeat the Queen on his behalf. Gunther accepts Brunhild’s challenge.
Deception is the rule of the day, as Siegfried believes their quest can’t succeed in any other way. Brunhild’s “unladylike” bravado, meanwhile, reinforces the perception of her as a humorously larger-than-life figure.
While the rest are preparing for the games, Siegfried returns to the ship and slips into his invisibility cloak. Back at the athletic ring, Brunhild appears, armed with a heavy spear and a shield of steel and gold. Seeing this, Hagen tells Gunther, “We are done for—the woman whose love you desire is a rib of the Devil himself!” Gunther and Dancwart, too, are beginning to doubt the wisdom of Gunther’s suit, since to die shamefully at the hands of a woman would tarnish their reputation as heroes. Hagen laments that they don’t have their battle gear (the court chamberlains had stowed it upon their arrival), since if they did, “this amazon’s proud spirit would be mollified.”
Hagen’s remark casts Brunhild as not only a deviant female, but as diabolical; her enormous strength signals that there’s something deeply unnatural about her, and she can’t possibly have been created by God. The shameful prospect of being slain by a woman foreshadows a parallel threat to come at the end of the story. For now, the men tell themselves that if only they were dressed for battle, they could easily put Brunhild in her place.
In his magic cloak, Siegfried sneaks to Gunther’s side and instructs him not to worry: “Now, you go through the motions, and I shall do the deeds.” Then Brunhild hurls her javelin so forcefully that it tears through Siegfried’s shield and Gunther’s mailshirt. Siegfried rebounds and sends the spear back at her. Angered, Brunhild then hurls a great boulder 24 yards, following with an even longer leap. With the strength of the magical cloak, Siegfried exceeds these distances and carries Gunther along with him as he leaps.
This scene enacts Gunther’s ongoing dependence on the strength and initiative of others. It’s also meant to be humorous, with Brunhild’s unlikely feats—and Gunther’s comical playacting—showing just how strange and threateningly unfeminine she is. Only her fellow foreigner, Siegfried, is really a match for her, and that with magical assistance.
Furious at her defeat, Brunhild summons her vassals to pay homage to Gunther. Brunhild grants Gunther authority to rule over Iceland. Siegfried returns his magic cloak to the ship and returns to the palace, pretending he doesn’t know the games have already occurred. When Hagen explains the outcome, Siegfried says he is glad that someone has mastered Brunhild, and that she must return to Burgundy with them. With all the vassals converging on Isenstein, the Burgundian contingent is nervous about Brunhild’s intentions, so Siegfried sails away to gather a thousand of his best fighting-men to defend them.
Honoring the rules of her game, Brunhild submits to Gunther, though she’s simmering with rage—she may have been defeated, but she’s not yet fully “tamed.” She is still potentially dangerous to the outnumbered men, so Siegfried goes for reinforcements.