In a violent storm, a stranger takes refuge in the home of Sieglinde and Hunding.
On Hunding’s return it becomes clear that the unarmed stranger is in flight from Hunding’s kinsmen. The law demands that Siegmund be offered hospitality for the night, but Hunding warns that revenge will follow in the morning.
Sieglinde gives Hunding a sleeping draught and tells the stranger of the sword buried in the tree. As they share their stories, mutual feelings grow swiftly into a passionate expression of love.
Sieglinde, drawing on her earliest memories, also realises that he is no stranger. He is her twin brother, and she names him – Siegmund.
In the strength of this new identity, Siegmund draws the sword from the tree, and brother and sister escape as Bride and Bridegroom.
Wotan sees in Siegmund an opportunity to regain the ring of power that was lost during the events of Das Rheingold, held now in the clutches of the giant, Fafner. Wotan asks his favourite daughter, the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, to protect Siegmund in his coming fight with Hunding.
Fricka, wife of Wotan and Goddess of Marriage, is outraged by Wotan’s infidelity and the incestuous behaviour of the twins. On Fricka’s demand, Wotan must order Brünnhilde to let Siegmund fall in the battle with Hunding. Wotan shares his history and darkest moments with Brünnhilde and then gives Fricka’s order to the Valkyrie: Siegmund must die in the battle.
As Sieglinde and Siegmund flee from Hunding, Brünnhilde appears and ultimately offers her protection. Siegmund and Hunding fight, and Wotan shatters his son’s sword, causing Siegmund’s death. Brünnhilde carries Sieglinde and the splintered sword away, Wotan vowing revenge for her disobedience.
The Valkyries gather on the rocky mountain, before taking the dead heroes up to Wotan and Valhalla.
Brünnhilde brings Sieglinde to them, begging for their support in the face of Wotan’s anger. She reveals that Sieglinde is carrying a child who will be called Siegfried, but they refuse to help her for fear of Wotan’s wrath.
Brünnhilde gives Sieglinde the shattered pieces of the sword, Nothung, which one day Siegfried will forge again. She then sends Sieglinde off to the forest to fend for herself, remaining to receive Wotan’s judgement.
Wotan arrives in a huge storm, and as punishment for her disobedience strips Brünnhilde of her powers, removing her immortality. He places her into a deep sleep, for a mortal man to come and claim her as Wife. On Brünnhilde’s insistence, Wotan surrounds the rock on which she sleeps with fire: only a fearless hero worthy of her will be able to brave the flames.