German Heroes and Heroines
|Attila or Etzel was king of the Huns, in Hungary, where he ruled a large empire that included Austria and Germany. Attila was known in the Norse myths as Atli, but he was historically derived from Attila the Huns.
In the German legend, Attila (Etzel) was the son of Osid, the king of Frisia. Attila was the brother of Ortnid. When Milias, the king of the Huns, had died, Attila won Hunland through ruthless conquest. Attila then moved the Hunnish capital from Valterborg to Susa.
Attila had many powerful advisers. Among his vassals were the hero Dietrich and Rudiger. It has been mentioned several times in the Nibelungenlied, Etzel (Attila) had once held Hagen and Waltharius of Aquitaine as hostages. This is how Hagen met Dietrich and became his friend.
Attila was first married to Helche, who called Erka in Thiðrekssaga.
According to Thiðrekssaga, Erka (Helche) was the daughter of Osantrix, king of Vilkinaland, and of Oda, daughter of King Milias of Hunland. Attila had won Erka through trickery. His ambassador to Osantrix, named Duke Rudolf, but used the name Sigifred or Sigurd when he offered services to Osantrix for two years. Osantrix not realising Rudolf/Sigurd was Attila’s agent, infiltrated his court. Then Rudolf won audience with Erka, who secretly agreed to marry Attila. When the time was ripe, Rudolf spirited Erka away to Hunland, where she married Attila. A long feud between Attila and Osantrix erupted.
In the Nibelungenlied, Helche had a niece named Herrat, and Herrat was betrothed to Dietrich. When Helche died, Helche had warned her husband not to marry Kriemhild (Gudrun or Grimhild), but his advisers forgotten her warning and told him that Burgundian princess was also widow; they suggested that Etzel should marry Kriemhild. Attila agreed and sent his vassal Rudiger as adviser.
Etzel did not realised that Kriemhild had only marry him to get her revenge upon Hagen and Gunther, as well recover the Nibelung treasure that belong to her first husband.
Only the death of his son Ortlieb and some of his faithful vassals, had turned the king against Burgundian guests. Though, Rudiger tried to remain neutral between the conflict, Kriemhild demanded that he avenge her, while Etzel called upon Rudiger’s oath of fealty, to fight against the Burgundians.
When Dietrich had captured Gunther and Hagen, he asked Kriemhild to spare their lives. But Kriemhild had her brother and her enemy killed when Dietrich went to fetch the king (Etzel). Seeing Kriemhild decapitating Hagen, upsetted Etzel and Dietrich. They didn’t believe that a warrior of calibre deserved to die at the hand of a woman. With Etzel’s consent, Hildebrand cut down Kriemhild, which ended the epic with her death.
In the Nibelungenlied and other German epics, Etzel was portrayed as a noble and generous king, unlike his Norse and historical counterparts. This was because the German poets see Etzel and the Huns as German people, not the barbarians from steppe of Central Asia.
In the Volsunga Saga and the Thiðrekssaga, it was Atli (or Attila) who wanted Sigurd’s treasure, not his wife Gudrun (Kriemhild or Grimhild). Gudrun was more loyal to her brothers than to her husband Atli in these sagas. In the Volsunga saga, Atli had Hogni’s heart cut out and Gunnar thrown into a snake pit (the same as in Thiðrekssaga), when they refused to disclose the location of the treasure. Gudrun avenged her brothers’ death, by killing a wine-intoxicated Atli, with a sword, before setting fire to the palace. (In the Thiðrekssaga, Atli allowed Thiðreks (Dietrich) execute his wife Grimhild (Gudrun or Kriemhild) for causing so many deaths.)
The Volsunga Saga and the heroic poems in the Poetic Edda, were probably more closer to the historical Attila (died in AD 453) than the Etzel in the Nibelungenlied. Atli was more like Attila, because the real Hunnish king was known for his brutality and greed, especially for gold. Though, the real Gunther (“Guntharius”) was contemporary to Attila, Guntharius was not killed by Attila’s Huns, but by the Hunnish mercenaries led by the Roman general, Aetius (AD 437).
According to Thiðrekssaga, Attila’s death was different to that of Atli in the Volsunga saga.
After the hero Thidrek (Dietrich) returned to his own kingdom, Aldrian (Niflung), the son of Hogni (Hagen) decided to lure Attila to his death, because the king had married Aldrian’s vengeful aunt Grimhild (Kriemhild or Gudrun), who was largely responsible for his father’s death. Since Grimhild was already dead, the boy decided that he would avenge his father’s death with Attila’s.
Aldrian was only twelve. He became Attila’s foster son, after Hogni’s death. Attila, on the other hand, was an aged ruler of Hunland.
Aldrian told the king where the treasure of Sigurd (Niflung treasure) was hidden. Aldrian promised to take Attila to the treasure, if the king would come alone with him and not disclose where they were going. Attila unsuspecting of treachery, followed his foster son through the forest to the cave.
This cave was in the mountain, with strong doors. The cave contained treasures of Gunnar and Hogni. But Aldrian led the old king deeper into the cave, where there was another door that hid the dragon treasure hoard of the hero Sigurd. There was more gold in part of the cave than the combination of treasure of Gunnar and Hogni.
With Attila so absorbed with gold of Sigurd, Aldrian shutted and locked the door, leaving the old king trapped with gold. Only then he realised that he was betrayed by his stepson. Attila also realised that this was the vengeance for the death of Hogni and the destruction of the Niflungs (Nibelungs). Attila tried to plead with Aldrian for his freedom, offering him the kingdom and all the Niflung gold. Aldrian told the king that he already have everything he wanted. Aldrian left the cave, locking the door, before covering the entrance with boulders and rocks.
Aldrian returned to Niflungaland, where he was welcomed by Brynhild (Brunhild), Gunnar’s wife. Brynhild made the boy as earl in Niflungaland.
|Brunhild (Brynhild) was the warrior-queen of Iceland. Brunhild dwelled in the fortress called Isenstein.
Brunhild was a queen of superhuman strength. Her strength comes from her maidenhood. If she were to lose her virginity, then she would lose her superhuman strength. Her prodigious strength had even surprised Siegfried. She was able to lift and throw a large boulder that twelve men would have difficulty in lifting.
Unlike the Volsunga Saga, Siegfried was not in love with Brunhild, nor did he promise to marry the Amazonian queen. Siegfried was only in love with Kriemhild, Gunther’s sister.
Her beauty had won her many suitors, but she didn’t want a husband, so she challenged each suitor to a contest of strength. Any man, who loses the contest, would lose his life. Such was the situation, when Gunther pressed his claim.
However Siegfried and his companion arrived in her kingdom, she thought her suitor was Siegfried. She seemed interested in being Siegfried’s wife, and was disappointed when he did not come as her suitor.
Siegfried and Gunther deceived her several times, in the story. She was told that Siegfried was Gunther’s vassal. It was Siegfried who overcame her for Gunther in a contest. Siegfried had the cloak of invisibility, to defeat Brunhild. Brunhild had no choice but to marry Gunther. Brunhild had to give up her kingdom, and moved to Worms, Gunther’s capital in Burgundy.
Brunhild would not allow Gunther to take her virginity, so he bound her husband with her girdle, and hang Gunther on the peg on the wall. Brunhild only released him at dawn. So Gunther asked for his brother-in-law’s aid. Gunther switched place with Siegfried in the dark bedroom. Siegfried again overcame her with his own strength, to allow Gunther to take her virginity. Brunhild lost her superhuman strength from her being deflowered by Gunther. When Siegfried had overcome her, Siegfried had foolishly stole her ring and her girdle, and had given them to Kriemhild.
(Note that in the Thiðrekssaga, after three humiliating nights of hanging on the wall, Gunnar (Gunther) ask for Sigurd’s help (Siegfried’s). Sigurd overpowered Brynhild. It was actually Sigurd, who deflowered Brynild (Brunhild) for Gunnar (Gunther), so that she would lose her superhuman strength.)
After Siegfried returned home to the Netherlands with Kriemhild, Brunhild was curious to know why her husband allowed his sister to marry Siegfried. Unaware of the deception, Brunhild thought that Kriemhild was marrying beneath her station, that her sister-in-law was married to a vassal, instead of a king. Brunhild was becoming suspicion of Kriemhild’s marriage.
Ten years after their marriage, she persuaded her husband to invite Siegfried and Kriemhild to a festival, because she was still curious about Siegfried’s true status.
Conflicts arose from the two queens. Brunhild was surprised that Kriemhild treated her as an equal, instead of beneath her station. Soon, they were embroiled in an argument over who had precedence over the other.
Soon Kriemhild revealed the truths to Brunhild about the deceptions. That Kriemhild was not only Brunhild’s equal, but also her husband (Siegfried) was equal or higher in status than her brother Gunther. To further humiliated Brunhild, Kriemhild told the other queen that it was Siegfried who conquered her in the contest and later, when Brunhild’s lost her virginity. Kriemhild proved her words, by revealing the ring and girdle that Siegfried had taken from Brunhild. Kriemhild thought that her husband must have also taken Brunhild’s maidenhood (which was not true).
(In the Volsunga Saga, Brynhild plotted for Sigurd’s death, because it was not Gunnar who rode through the Ring of Fire, but Sigurd, the man she loved, rode through the flame disguised as Gunnar. It was Gudrun who revealed to Brynhild, the deception of Sigurd and Gunnar. Gudrun proved this to Brynhild by revealing the cursed ring (Andvaranaut) that had Brynhild had once worn. This had nothing to do with Brunhild’s virginity in the Nibelungenlied.)
Brunhild anger by the public humiliation from Kriemhild, and the deception that her husband and Siegfried had played on her, she would not be satisfy until she had punished Kriemhild and Siegfried.
Brunhild had won Hagen to her side, who promised to murder Siegfried. Hagen and Gunther plotted Siegfried’s death, with Hagen dealing the deathblow to Siegfried in the forest.
With the death and funeral of Siegfried, Brunhild no longer played any significant role in the Nibelungenlied. She was still alive and married to Gunther, but the story now centred on Kriemhild and Hagen. Brunhild did not committed suicide like Brynhild at the funeral of Sigurd, the Volsunga Saga.
|Dietrich of Verona was a popular German hero, also known as the Dietrich von Bern. Dietrich appeared in a number of medieval German heroic poems, known collectively as Dietrichsage.
The Dietrichsage became entwined with Nibelungen legend, such as in the German epic Nibelungenlied and in the Norwegian saga called Thiðrekssaga (Thidrekssaga). Dietrich appeared in poems called Dietrichs Flucht (“Dietrich’s Flight”), Die Rabenschlacht (“The Battle of Ravenna”), Alpharts Tod (“Alphart’s Death”). Dietrich also appeared in the Waltharius.
In the Thiðrekssaga, he was known as the hero, Thiðrek (Thidrek), the son of King Thetmar of Bern and of Odila. The Thiðrekssaga by far gives the fullest account of Dietrich/Thidrek, from childhood to his death, portraying him as a greater hero than even Sigurd (Siegfried). In a way, Thiðrek was like King Arthur, who was leader of the Round Table. Thiðrek had similarly became friend of many great warriors, like Hildebrand, Vidga (Witege), Heimir, Sigurd, Gunnar, Hogni and many others. But unlike Arthur, Thiðrek remained in the forefront of the battles and adventures; whereas Arthur’s role had reduced as a passive king, while his knights goes off on perilous quests.
However, Dietrich was derived from the historical figure, named Theodoric the Great, the Ostrogoth king of Italy. Theodoric ruled after Odoacer (AD 493), another Ostrogoth king. It was Odoacer who ended the Roman Empire in the West in AD 476, and was the first to establish the kingdom of Italy. Odoacer was Theodoric’s true enemy, not Ermanaric as in the German legend, because Ermanaric had died a century earlier, in c. AD 376. Theodoric died in AD 526, a year before Justinian the Great began his reign in Byzantine. The kingdom of Italy didn’t last after Theodoric’s death.
In the Dietrichsage, Theodoric was evolved into a romanticised German hero. According to the German legend, Dietrich lost his kingdom to Ermanaric (Jormunrek), another Ostrogoth king who ruled in the region where modern Ukraine and went into exile for 30 years in Etzel’s court (Etzel – Attila the Huns. See also Atli, in the Norse characters). With the backing of the Huns, Dietrich defeated Ermanaric at the Battle of Ravenna, and later regained his kingdom, with the death of Ermanaric.
Note that historically, Ermanaric (Jormunrek), Guntharius (Gunther or Gunnar) and Attila (Etzel or Atli) had actually lived in a time before Theodoric was born.
In the Nibelungenlied, Dietrich was still living in exile at Etzel’s court. Dietrich was the son Dietmar (Theodemir). Dietrich was an Amelung (name of the family or dynasty, and his people were often called the Amelungs).
The poem mentioned several times that Dietrich was a friend of Hagen, when Hagen was serving as hostage to Etzel. It was that friendship that he warned Hagen of Kriemhild’s plots when the Burgundians (Nibelungs) visited her in Hungary. Dietrich tried to remain neutral in the conflict between Nibelungs (Burgundians) and the Huns.
However, he was drawn into conflict, when all his vassals and warriors, except Hildebrand, were killed by the Nibelungs. Dietrich single-handedly captured and bound Gunther and Hagen. Dietrich became upset when Kriemhild executed Hagen. The epic ended with Hildebrand executing Kriemhild.
In the Thiðrekssaga, an early 13th century Norwegian saga, it provided the most extensive narrative of Thiðrek’s life. Thiðrek (Dietrich) was made the nephew of Erminrek (Ermanaric), who would later become his archenemy. Thiðrek became the king of Bern (Verona), but lost his kingdom to his uncle Erminrek. He lived in exile for 32 years with Attila, the king in Hunland. Thiðrek left Attila’s court after the destruction of the Niflungs, where he lost many of his followers. Thiðrek returned to Bern, where he regained his kingdom, and married Lady Herad, the niece of Queen Erka. When Herad died from illness, Thiðrek married Isold, the wife of Hertnid. Thiðrek had killed the dragon that had killed Isold’s husband.
Thiðrek was never seen again, when he mounted a demon steed. The saga ended with where his fate was unknown.
Thiðrek wielded the sword Naglhring and Ekkisax. His helmet was called Hildigrim, and his horse was named Falka. On his red shield, he had a symbol of a gold lion, with a gold crown above it’s head.
(Note that several people were named Thiðrek. One of them was King Osantrix of Vilkinaland, who had changed his name to Thidrek of Vilkinaland, so he could secretly entered the court of King Milias of the Hunland, to seduce Milias’ daughter, Oda, to be his wife. Another Thiðrek was Thiðrek Valdimarsson, which is the son of King Valdimar of Rusiland. Valdimar was Osantrix’s brother.)
The only references I could find of Dietrich in the Icelandic works, come from the 2nd and 3rd lays (poems) of Gudrun in the Poetic Edda. Dietrich does not appear in the Volsunga Saga. Dietrich is called Thiodrek, in the lays of Gudrun. See Gudrun in Norse Heroes.
The Icelandic poet and historian, Snorri Sturluson, didn’t mentioned Thiodrek/Dietrich in his Prose Edda at all.
In the Second Lay of Gudrun, Thiodrek (Dietrich) and Gudrun were trying to comfort one another, exchanging their woes. Gudrun lament over her brothers, who were killed by Atli, while almost all of Thiodrek’s men were killed, fighting on Atli’s side.
In the Third Lay of Gudrun, Atli heard accusation from Gudrun’s maid that she saw his wife committing adultery with Thiodrek (Dietrich). Gudrun proved her innocence by retrieving some precious stones in a boiling cauldron, while the maid was scalded. Atli had the maid executed for her lies.
|Ermanaric was another historical figure, who was later shrouded in legend. As a historical figure, Ermanaric was an Ostrogoth king whose kingdom was located in present day Ukraine. Ermanaric was killed in AD 375, when the Huns invaded and overan his kingdom.
According to the Icelandic legend that can be found in the Volsunga Saga, where Ermanaric was known as Jormunrek, the king of the Goths. The Norse legend was almost identical to the historical account in the historical account written by Jordanes, titled The Origin and Deeds of the Goths (mid-6th cenutry AD).
According to Jordanes, the tribe of the Rosomoni had betrayed Ermanaric when the Huns first invaded his kingdom. Ermanaric in reteliation, captured the Rosomoni chieftain’s wife, Sunilda, where her limbs were torn apart by wild horses. Sunilda’s brothers, Sarus and Ammius, attempted to assassinate Ermanaric, receiving a serious sword wound to the side. Though, Ermanaric had survived, the Gothic king couldn’t prevent Balamber, the king of the Huns, from conquering his kingdom. Ermanaric died at the age of 110.
What is similar to the Volsunga Saga, was how Jormunrek (Ermanaric) put to death Swanhild (Sunilda), the daughter of Sigurd and Gudrun, and how Swanhild’s brothers tried unsuccessfully to avenge her death. See the Volsunga Saga, Jormunrek and Swanhild.
In German oral tradition and legend, it was a different story about Ermanaric. Ermanaric had driven Dietrich out of his kingdom. Ermanaric was made the archenemy of Dietrich, instead of the historical Odoacer. Ermanaric ruled the kingdom thirty years, before Dietrich returned with an army from Attila. Ermanaric was killed in the Battle of Ravenna.
According to the Thiðrekssaga, Ermanaric was called Erminrek, and he was the son of King Samson of Salerni and of Hildisvid, daughter of Earl Rodgeir. Erminrek was the also the brother of Thetmar, which make him the uncle of the hero Thiðrek (Dietrich).
|Gernot was the second son of Dancrat and Uote. Gernot was the co-ruler of Burgundy, sharing the kingdom with his brothers, Gunther and Giselher. Gernot was also the brother of Kriemhild. In the Norwegian epic, Thiðrek Saga, he was called Gernoz.
Gernot and his brothers befriended Siegfried when he came to their kingdom. After the war against the Saxons, it was Gernot who advised Gunther that a marriage between Siegfried and their sister would benefit their prestige and kingdom.
Though, Gernot and Giselher protest against Hagen’s plot to murder Siegfried, they did nothing to warn the hero. After Siegfried’s funeral, like Gunther, Gernot did not protect his sister from Hagen’s machination, when Hagen stole the Nibelung treasure.
Gernot joined his brothers and Hagen to visit Kriemhild in Hungary. Despite the portent of doom in the visit, they went to Hungary, knowing that their sister was plotting against them. During their stop at Pochlarn, Rudiger gave Gernot a magnificant sword, as a gift before they continue their journey to Hungary.
Gernot and his brothers tried to unsuccessfully to the fighting between the Hagen and the Hunnish warriors, but when they saw that the Hunnish knights might overwhelm their warriors, so they set about rescuing Hagen and Burgundians.
Gernot and Rudiger killed one another on the last day of fighting. Rudiger was killed by the sword that he had given Gernot as a gift before their departure from Pochlarn to Hungary.
|Giselher was the youngest son of Dancrat and Uote. In the Thiðrek Saga, he was called Gislher.
Though, Giselher was opposed to Hagen’s plan of murdering Siegfried, he also did not do anything to prevent it. Giselher thought that Siegfried had done a great deal for Gunther and Burgundy, such as helping them win the war against the Saxons and win Brunhild for Gunther, so that Siegfried did not deserve this betrayal.
Upon Siegfried’s death, Giselher wanted his sister to stay in his own palace, rather than that she lived in the Netherlands with her father-in-law, Siegmund. Uote and her sons tried to comfort the inconsolable widow.
Giselher had also promised Kriemhild to become her protector. Yet he had failed to protect her property, when Hagen stole her Nibelung treasure. If anything, he and his brothers were more interested in protecting Hagen than their own sister.
When Etzel (Atli) wish to take a new wife, Giselher along with his mother and brothers, had also tried to marry her off to the powerful heathen king from Hungary. Reluctantly, Kriemhild agreed to the marriage proposal only because she saw that she could gain her revenge, since her brothers failed to protect her from Hagen.
When Etzel invited Giselher and his brothers to a festival, Hagen was against the visit. Giselher and his brothers refused to listen to Hagen.
During their stop in Pochlarn, Giselher married Rudiger’s unnamed daughter. Giselher left his new wife behind, while he went to Hungary with his brother. Giselher was supposed to take his wife back to Burgundy after visiting his sister at the midsummer festival. Rudiger accompany his new son-in-law to Hungary; neither would return home. Nor would Giselher ever consummate his marriage with his new wife.
Upon their arrival at Etzel’s palace, Kriemhild would only welcomed Giselher with a warm kiss. However, he would die from his sister’s machination and revenge.
During the battle between the Nibelungs and the Huns, Giselher had distinguished himself in the fighting. On being offer, that she would allowed her brothers to leave her kingdom, only if they leave her Hagen as her prisoner, Giselher and his brother rejected the offers.
Kriemhild and Etzel forced Rudiger to fight the Burgundians. Rudiger being his father-in-law, Giselher refused to fight Rudiger. When his brother Gernot and Rudiger had killed one another in the fighting, Giselher lamented for both his brother and Rudiger’s death.
When the Burgundians fought against the Amelungs (vassals and followers of Dietrich, he was confronted by Wolfhart, the nephew of Hildebrand. They had killed one another. Giselher had cut a deep mortal wound to Wolfhart’s body. With his dying strength, Wolfhart delivered an overhead blow with his sword, which sliced through Giselher’s helmet. Wolfhart was the last of Dietrich’s vassal to die. Wolfhart told his uncle not to mourn for him, not because he had killed a king (Giselher), but he had died at the hand of a king.
According to the Thiðrekssaga, Gislher (Giselher) was the last of the Burgundian king to die. Rather than outlive his brothers, Gislher attacked Hildebrand and was killed.
|In the Nibelungenlied, Gunther (Gunnar) was the son of Dancrat and Uote (Uta). However, in Waltharius, Gunther was a son of Gibicho, instead of Dancrat. Gunther ruled as the king of Burgundy with his two brothers, Gernot and Giselher. Gunther was also the brother of Kriemhild (Gudrun or Grimhild).
His loyal henchman was his uncle, Hagen of Troneck (though, in the Thiðrekssaga, Hogni was his half-brother, while in the Volsunga Saga, Hogni was his brother).
At Hagen’s advice, Gunther befriended Siegfried, the hero from the Netherlands, who helped him in the war against the Saxons and Danes. Gunther agreed to marriage between his sister and Siegfried, in return that Siegfried would help him win Brunhild, the warrior-queen of Isenstein, in Iceland.
Though, Gunther showed himself as a great warrior in the second half of the poem, his strength was no match for Brunhild. The only way Gunther could marry her, if he could defeat Brunhild in a contest of strength. Gunther and his followers would die if he were to lose. Gunther only defeated Brunhild, because of Siegfried’s strength, and that the hero was also invisible. Brunhild had no choice but to marry her.
The marriage to Brunhild proved to be unhappy and would sealed the doom for him and his family. On the wedding night, Brunhild humiliated Gunther by tying her husband with her girdle and hanging him in the wall, until dawn. Again, Gunther gained Siegfried’s help and the hero pretending to be her husband, overcame the warrior-queen with his own strength, until she had surrendered to her husband (Siegfried in disguise). Before he let Gunther make love to his wife, Siegfried took Brunhild’s ring and girdle (as trophy?), and gave them to Kriemhild. Gunther took Brunhild’s virginity, thereby reducing her strength to that of an ordinary mortal woman.
When Brunhild found out the secret from his sister that it was Siegfried who won her with his strength for Gunther, she demanded revenge from her husband. Hagen agreed to assassinate Siegfried. At first, Gunther was reluctant, but finally agreed to Hagen’s plan.
When Siegfried lied dying in the forest, Gunther wept for his brother-in-law, but Siegfried accused him of treachery and hypocrisy. The hero foretold Gunther’s death and the destruction of his kingdom.
Kriemhild knew that his brother was involved in her husband’s death, but they were reconciled at Hagen’s advice, only because Hagen wanted the fable Nibelung treasure brought to Worms. When Kriemhild started giving away the treasure, this irritated Hagen, who was determined to steal her treasure. Gunther knew of Hagen’s plan, but look the other way. To ensure that Kriemhild could not use the treasure, Hagen sank the treasure into in the Rhine River. But later in the poem, all three brothers knew of the treasure location, and they had sworn not to reveal its location while one of the kings was still alive.
Hagen was against the marriage between Kriemhild and Etzel, the king of Hungary. Hagen feared that Kriemhild would have powerful allies that will destroy him and the brothers. Gunther and his brothers dismiss Hagen’s claim and approved with marriage.
When Etzel invited Gunther and his brothers to a midsummer festival, Hagen was against the visit. They would not be persuaded from visiting their sister. So Hagen decided to accompany the brothers with armed escort.
Upon arrival to Etzel’s capital, Gunther realised that his sister was plotting to kill Hagen, even bring destruction upon her brothers and people. Hagen inflamed the situation, when Hagen killed Ortlieb, the son of Etzel and Kriemhild. When fighting erupted between Hagen and the Hunnish warriors, he and his brothers had no choice but to fight with beleaguered warriors.
Gunther and his warriors managed to repel attackers. Dietrich and Rudiger, along with their retainers, tried to remain neutral. However, Rudiger was reluctantly drawn into the conflict because of his promise to Kriemhild and his fealty to Etzel. Gunther’s brother, Gernot and Rudiger killed one another in the fighting.
Dietrich’s men (Amelungs) were drawn into a conflict when they went to recover Rudiger’s body for burial. Volker, a Burgundian ministrel, provoked Amelungs into battle. Gunther’s youngest brother, Giselher was killed, that wiped out the two sides. Only Hildebrand survived on the Amelung side, while the only survivors on the Burgundian side were Gunther and Hagen.
Dietrich then became involved in the fighting against Gunther and Hagen. Dietrich offered them safe passage if they surrendered, which Gunther and Hagen rejected, because they would be branded as cowards. Dietrich overcame first Hagen, then Gunther; they were bound and delivered to Kriemhild.
Kriemhild was happy now that she would gain her revenge for the death of her first husband, Siegfried. Dietrich asked her to spare them, before he left her alone with the prisoners, to fetch Etzel. Gunther was killed; his severed head was brought to Hagen, when Hagen had defiantly refused to disclose the location of her treasure. When Hagen still refused she killed Hagen with Siegfried’s sword, Balmung. Hildebrand executed Kriemhild for killing Hagen.
Unlike the Nibelungenlied, the Volsunga saga and Thiðrekssaga says that Gunnar (Gunther) was killed in the snake pit. In the Volsunga saga, Gunther was the last to die, but it was Atli (Etzel), who ordered his death when he had refused to tell of the location of the treasure. In the Thiðrekssaga, the same thing happened as in the Nibelungenlied, captured by Thidreks (Dietrich), but it was Giselher, who was the last to die.
|Hagen was lord of Troneck. Hagen was the son of Aldrian, and his brother was Dancwart. Hagen was also a kinsman (uncle) of Burgundian kings and Kriemhild.
Hagen was renown as a loyal vassal and henchman of Gunther (Gunnar) in the Nibelungenlied. Hagen often advised Gunther in many issues or policies.
In the Nibelungenlied (as well as in the Thiðrekssaga), the poem allude to the time when Hagen served as hostage to Etzel with the hero Waltharius (Walter) of Aquitaine. This is told in full in the heroic poem of Waltharius.
It was Hagen who advised Gunther to befriend Siegfried. It was his advice would be tragedy and destruction upon the Burgundian royal house. When the Queen Brunhild demanded revenge, it was Hagen who first plotted against Siegfried, while the brothers looked away. Hagen discovered Siegfried’s weakness from Siegfried’s wife, Kriemhild. Hagen plunged Siegfried’s spear in the hero’s back.
Though, Kriemhild accused him of her husband’s death, he did not care, and Kriemhild was powerless to act against Hagen. Her brothers’ failure to punish Hagen, she would wreak destruction and death upon her brothers and their warriors.
Hagen had further antagonised Kriemhild, when he stole her Nibelung treasure, which she had inherited from her husband. Her brothers again failed to protect her, which Kriemhild bitter and more vengeful.
Kriemhild reluctantly accepted marriage proposal from Etzel, a powerful, heathen king from Hungary. Hagen opposed this marriage, since he knew that Kriemhild would gain powerful allies in Hungary.
Thirteen years after her marriage to Etzel, Kriemhild contrived her brothers to visit her, hoping to avenge Siegfried’s death. Hagen once again, opposed the kings’ decision, but was powerless to prevent them. Hagen and many of Burgundian most powerful vassals joined the kings’ visit to Hungary. None of them would ever return.
Upon their arrival in Etzel’s capital, Dietrich immediately warned Hagen of Kriemhild’s treachery.
Hagen inflamed the situation in Kriemhild from his refusal to pay any respect to the queen. The situation grew, when Kriemhild encouraged her son Ortlieb, to slap Hagen’s face. Hagen retaliated against the boy, by decapitating Etzel’s son.
Fighting broke out first, at their quarters. Kriemhild managed to persuade Bloedelin, Etzel’s vassal to provoke and attack the Burgundians. Dancwart, Hagen’s brother, was the only survivor in their quarters. Dancwart managed to reach the hall where the kings and most of the retainers were guests. Fighting spread and spilled into the hall.
Hagen was often fighting side by side with Volker, a Burgundian minstrel. Among those who would fall victims to Hagen’s sword (Balmung) were Iring and Iring’s lord, Hawart, and Werbel, the Hunnish minstrel and Etzel’s ambassador.
At first, Dietrich and Rudiger did not take part in the battle, because of their friendship with either Hagen or the Burgundian brothers. But the next day, Rudiger reluctantly had to oppose them. Rudiger’s death would bring Dietrich’s men into the conflict.
All of Dietrich’s men were killed, except for Hildebrand. Gunther and Hagen were the only survivors of the Burgundians. Hagen tried to kill Hildebrand, to avenge Volker’s death. Hagen managed only to wound Hildebrand, who fled back to Dietrich.
Dietrich had no choice but to fight against Gunther and Hagen. Dietrich tried to make them surrender, in return for safe passage home, which they refused; otherwise they would be branded as cowards. So Dietrich fought them, one by one. He would first overwhelmed Hagen, bound him, and delivered him in chain to Kriemhild as prisoner. Dietrich did the same thing to Gunther. Dietrich asked Kriemhild to spare them.
However, Kriemhild had her brother killed, and then Hagen with her husband’s sword (Siegfried’s). Kriemhild decapitated Hagen with Balmung. Hildebrand, with Etzel’s permission, executed Kriemhild for Hagen’s death.
In the Thiðrekssaga, the story had a slightly different ending. Thidreks (Dietrich) captured Hogni (Hagen), but when Grimhild (Kriemhild) killed Gernot, Thidreks executed Grimhild, with Attila’s permission (Etzel), because she had caused the carnage. Hogni did not die. After he was healed from his wounds, Thidreks sent Hogni home.
In the Norse sagas (eg. the Volsunga Saga), Hagen was known as Hogni. Hogni was not a vassal of Gunnar (Gunther), but was the second brother of Gunnar. Hogni had his heart cut out when he and Gunther refused to disclose the location of Sigurd’s treasure.
While in the Thiðrekssaga, Hogni was the son of an incubus and the wife of Aldrian (Oda). This made Hogni the half-brother of Grimhild and the Burgundian kings. In the end, he was capture by Thiðreks (Dietrich), but was spared, while Thiðreks, with Attila’s permission, executed Grimhild (Gudrun or Kriemhild) for causing the fighting the Burgundians and the Huns (this ending is different from the Nibelungenlied). See Hogni for a comparison of Hagen and Hogni.
In the Germanic legend, known as Waltharius, he was known as Hagano (Hagen), the vassal, first to Gibicho, and later to Guntharius (Gunther), Gibicho’s son and successor.
There is also another Hagen, who you should not confuse with. This is Hagen, king of Ireland, and the son of Siegebart and unnamed wife. The Irish Hagen appeared in the Middle High German poem, titled Kudrun (or Gudrun), from the early half of the 13th century. Kudrun doesn’t belong to the Nibelungen cycle, though some of characters has the same names as of other sagas.
|In the epic Thiðrekssaga, a long-time friend of Thiðrek. Heimir was the son of Studas. Heimir’s real name was also Studas, like his father, but he adopted a new name. At the age of twelve, he named himself after the great dragon Heimir.
His father was vassal of Brynhild, and has a farm in the forest not far from Brynhild’s capital, Saegard, which is north of the mountain of Svava. Heimir was arrogant youth, who did not want to live his life on a farm.
Heimir’s horse was named Rispa, and a sword called Blodgang. With these, he set out to Bern to challenge Thiðrek into a duel, ignoring his the Elder Studas’ advice it was better to become Thiðrek’s friend than be his enemy. Thiðrek. In the fight that followed, Heimir was wounded in the joust, but the two young warriors then fought with swords on foot. The fight ended when Heimir broke Blodgang on Thiðrek’s helmet (Hildigrim). Rather than kill Heimir, they became friends.
When he won a new and better sword (called Ekkisax) from Ekka, Thiðrek gave his old sword, Naglhring, to Heimir. He had blue shield with an image of pale colour horse.
Later in his life, Heimir entered the monastery, hoping to end the life of adventure and violence. However, when a giant Aspilian attacked the monastery, Heimir killed the giant.
Heimir appeared in several epics as Heimi, but he was never the main character or hero. Heimir appeared in Alphart, which is also the name of the hero. Alphart had defeated Witege (Vidga) in single combat, but later Witege would unfairly fight Alphart again, with the help of Heimir, and Alphart was killed.
|Helche was the first wife of Etzel (Attila) in the Nibelungenlied. Helche had already died and does not appear in the Nibelungenlied, thought she was mentioned several times as the Good Queen. She was the aunt of Herrat.
Helche was known as Erka, daughter of Osantrix, in the 12th century Norwegian saga, titled Thidrekssaga. Erka had a sister named Berta. Attila’s duke, named Rudolf managed to help the king win Erka. Erka ran away with her sister to Hunland. However, enmity and long feud resulted between Attila and Osantrix. Erka was married to Attila, and was the mother of two sons – Erp and Ortvin. Erka was seen as a wise and compassionate queen. As a reward for his services, Attila and Erka allowed Rudolf to marry Berta, sister of Erka.
Erka was a close friend of the hero Dietrich (known as Thiðrek in Thidrekssaga), who had helped her husband to win the war against her own father. In return for this service, her sons aided Dietrich in the war against Erminrek and were killed by the hero Witege (Vidga). Erka comforted Dietrich, who had failed to protect her sons in the fighting. Erka died shortly from either illness or from grief.
Before her death she warned her husband Attila, not to marry Kriemhild (Grimhild or Gudrun), because she foresaw that Kriemhild would bring ruin to Attila and his vassals. Her warning was ignored that would later result in a battle between the Nibelungs (or the Niflungs, the Burgundian family) and the Huns (with the Amelungs).
|The niece of Helche (Erka). Herrat or Herad was the daughter of Nantwin and betrothed to the hero Dietrich. When Kriemhild (Grimhild), second wife of Etzel (Attila), had used her to start the conflict between the Huns and her brothers, the Nibelungs (Burgundians).
Herrat appeared in the Thidrekssaga as Herrað, niece of Erka (Helche). Like the German epic, she was betrothed to Thidrek (Dietrich), whom she later married.
|Hildebrand or Hildibrand was the tutor and master-at-arms of Dietrich of Verona. Hildebrand was the son of Reginbald, who was the son of the Duke of Fenidi (Venice).
Hildebrand received knighthood at the age of 12, from his father. When he was 30, he left his home, to serve King Thetmar in Bern. There he met Dietrich (Thidrek) who was only five year old at the time. From then on they became the best of friend, and it was he who trained Dietrich in the art of combat and war.
As a vassal of Thidrek, his shield was red and he had emblem of a white castle with golden towers. The castle represented that of Bern. He later carried Sigurd’s sword, Gram, after the death of Hogni.
In the battle between Etzel’s warriors and the Burgundians, Dietrich wanted to remain neutral, since Hagen was his old friend (when Hagen was Etzel’s hostage).
Dietrich heard news that Rudiger had joined in the battle against the Burgundians and that his friend had died in the fighting. Dietrich sent Hildebrand and his men to the Burgundian kings, peacefully investigate the news.
When Hildebrand discovered from Hagen that Rudiger was indeed dead, he wanted to recover Rudiger’s body for decent burial, but Volker provoked Dietrich’s men into the conflict. The renewed fighting had decimated the Nibelungs (Burgundians) and the Amelungs (Dietrich’s warriors). Wolfhart died, after killing Giselher, while Hildebrand had killed Volker. Only Gunther and Hagen were alive among the Burgundians, while Hildebrand was the sole survivor.
Hagen had wounded Hildebrand, who fled back to Dietrich with dire news. Dietrich reprimanded Hildebrand for fighting against the Burgundians, since he did not want to fight his Burgundian friends. But Dietrich was shocked that all his warriors, except Hildebrand, were dead.
Dietrich single-handedly fought and captured Gunther and Hagen; he had them bound as prisoners to Kriemhild. Dietrich had wanted to set them free and escort them back to Burgundy, but Kriemhild broke his words. Kriemhild had her brother Gunther and Hagen killed.
Their death upset both Etzel and Dietrich. With Etzel’s consent, Hildebrand cut her down with his sword.
According to the Thidrekssaga, Hildebrand died from illness.
Hildebrand was the subject of another tale, called Hildebrandslied (“Song of Hildebrand”), in which he came into conflict with his son, Hadubrand. Unfortunately, the ending of the poem is lost. It is believed that Hildebrand killed his own son in single combat.
There is also another poem similar poem, called Jüngres Hildebrandslied (c. 13th century), where the father and son recognised one another and were reconciled. Hildebrand finally returned home to his wife after 32 years in exile with Dietrich.
Though, in the later German poem, the Younger Lay of Hildebrand from the 15th century, concluded with the reconciliation between Hildebrand and his son Hadubrand. There is a slightly different version found in the Thidrekssaga.
|Krimehild was the wife of Siegfried (Sigurd) and Etzel (Atli). Kriemhild (Grimhild or Gudrun) was the beautiful daughter of King Dancrat (Guiki) of Burgundy and Uote (Grimhild). She was the sister of Gunther, Gernot and Giselher. (In the Volsunga Saga, Hogni (Hagen) was her brother, while the Thiðrekssaga say that Hogni was her half-brother.)
The story began with her vision of her future husband in a form of a falcon, but two eagles (Gunther and Hagen) destroyed her falcon.
When Siegfried arrived at Worms, Kriemhild only saw the young hero from a distance. She had fallen in love Siegfried. It was only after the war against the Saxons (a year later) that Kriemhild was introduced to Siegfried.
Gunther allowed Siegfried to marry Kriemhild if the hero help him to win Brunhild’s hand in marriage. Brunhild was the warrior queen from Isenstein.
The tragedy was that Siegfried had foolishly allowed his pride to take a ring and girdle that belonged to Brunhild. Kriemhild had allowed her to be drawn into argument over precedence, and had mistakenly believed that Siegfried had taken Brunhild’s virginity, not her brother. Since Kriemhild had Brunhild’s ring and girdle in her possession, then everyone else would also believed Kriemhild’s claim over who took Brunhild’s virginity.
This led to Hagen and Gunther conspiring to murder Siegfried. Hagen had managed to deceive Kriemhild into disclosing Siegfried’s weakness. Then Hagen had plunged the spear into Siegfried’s back, as the unsuspecting hero drank water from the river.
Kriemhild was inconsolable over Siegfried’s death and knew Hagen and her brother Gunther were responsible for her husband’s murder. To further antagonised Kriemhild, Hagen stole her inheritance, the Nibelung treasure. Hagen sank the treasure into the Rhine. Neither Gunther nor her younger brothers had bothered to punish Hagen for Siegfried’s death, or stealing their sister’s treasure.
Her family insisted that she marry Etzel, a heathen king, while she was a Christian. Seeing that her younger brothers, Kriemhild decided to win allies away from her home, so she agreed to marry Etzel. Rudiger of Pochlarn, Etzel’s ambassador had given his promise to protect and avenge her from any wrongdoings against her.
Among the stops, Kriemhild visited Rudiger’s wife and unnamed daughter. Kriemhild gave her gold bracelets to Rudiger’s daughter, before they set out again, towards Hungary. They met Etzel in Vienna, Austria, where they were introduced and later married. Etzel took his new wife to Etzelnburg, Hungary.
Kriemhild gave birth to a son named Ortlieb. But the marriage was unhappy, because Kriemhild still wept over the death of her first husband. Thirteen years after Kriemhild’s marriage to Etzel, Kriemhild deceived her husband, asking her husband to invite her brothers to Hungary.
Her plan was to turn Etzel’s subjects and vassals on her Hagen and her brothers. It was Kriemhild who was vindictive, not her husband Etzel. Since she was a woman, the poem showed her in a poorer light; though Hagen was the one who murdered her husband and stole her inheritance. Kriemhild tried to win Etzel’s champions to her side, either by her charm or bribery. Kriemhild offered Bloedelin (Etzel’s vassal), so he offered Nuodung’s destined bride in marriage and all the land that belonged to Nuodung. It was Bloedelin who provoked Dancwart (Hagen’s brother) into battle, and lost his life.
She had even used young son Ortlieb. Kriemhild her seven years old son to slap Hagen in the face. Hagen retaliated by decapitating Ortlieb with his sword. This upset Etzel, but it offended every Etzel’s warriors.
Kriemhild made Rudiger also compelled into a conflict, by reminding his oath to avenge any wrongdoing done to her. Rudiger’s death led to Dietrich’s men into battle, before Dietrich himself confronted and captured Gunther and Hagen.
With Gunther and Hagen bound helplessly as her prisoners, she once again demanded the return of her treasure from Hagen, but he defiantly refused. She had her brother killed, and severed Hagen’s head. Hagen’s death by Kriemhild, upset Etzel and Dietrich. Etzel ordered Hildebrand to kill his wife. The poem ending with Kriemhild’s death at Hildebrand’s hand.
In the Norwegian saga, Thidrekssaga she was known as Grimhild, while in the Icelandic Edda and the Volsunga Saga, she was called Gudrun. The Thidrekssaga tends to use the Norse or Icelandic names, but it follows the German tradition, rather than the Icelandic/Norse tradition. In the Icelandic tales, Gudrun took revenge upon her husband, by killing Atli, for the death of her brothers. While in both and the Thidrekssaga, like the Nibelungenlied, she desired and plotted her brothers’ death, not that of Etzel/Attila.
In the Volsunga Saga and the two Eddas, Gudrun had only three brothers, Gunnar (Gunter), Hogni (Hagen) and Guttorm (Guthorm). While in Thidrekssaga, the number of brothers varied from four to five.
In chapter 169 of Thidrekssaga, she has three brothers, Gunnar, Gernoz and Gislher, and a half-brother Hogni. In the next chapter (170), she had one extra brother, Guthorm, who is never mention again in the Thidrekssaga. Also in 169, her father was named Aldrian, but in 170, Irung and her mother Oda.
Since the Thidrekssaga was more like the Nibelungenlied, I would mention other differences found in the Icelandic versions. In the Volsunga Saga, she was more forgiving to her brothers, even they plotted her husband’s death (Sigurd’s) than she were to her second husband, Atli (Etzel) for killing her brother.
Another difference, is why Sigurd married Gudrun instead of Brynhild. In the Icelandic texts, her mother, Grimhild, was a witch who made a potion so that Sigurd would forget about Brynhild. While in Thidrekssaga, Sigurd broke his oath to Brynhild, because he thought that Gudrun having brothers, would make powerful allies, where as Brynhild had not. Of course, Sigurd would rue the day he married her because of her brothers.
|Nuodung or the Norwegian Nauðung was a vassal of Attila (Etzel). Nuodung was a kinsman of Gotelind (Gudilinda), the wife of Rudiger (Rodingeir).
Nuodung was only briefly mentioned in the Nibelungenlied, where Witege (Viðga) had killed him in battle. When the Burgundian kings visited Rudiger, the host gave each king a gift. Hagen (Hogni) had also received a gift from Rudiger, Nuodung’s shield.
A more detailed account of his death can be found in the Norwegian epic Thiðrekssaga. Here, he appeared as Duke Nauðung of Valkaborg. Nauðung was an ally of Thiðrek in the war against Erminrek (Ermanaric).
Nauðung fought bravely, killing many of Erminrek’s warriors, causing Sikha to flee. Viðga (Witege), the son of Wayland the Smith, seeing Nauðung routing the Amelungs, attacked Nauðung. Fierce fighting between these two warriors, but Nauðung was no match against Viðga, who was armed with Mimung, the sword made by his father. Viðga swept off his head.
Erp, son of Attila, seeing Nauðung had fallen to Viðga, attacked his enemy, but he was slaughtered, including Thether, brother of Thiðrek, who was meant to protect the prince. Thiðrek avenged their death by killing his former friend (Viðga).
Like the Nibelungenlied, Hogni (Hagen) had later received Nauðung’s shield as a gift from Rudiger (Rodingeir) and Gudilinda (Gotelind).
|Rüdiger (Rudiger) was a margrave of Pochlarn. Rudiger had married Gotelind, and they had daughter who was unnamed in the epic. Gotelind was cousin of Dietrich. In the Thiðrekssaga, he was Roðingeir of Bakalar.
Rudiger was a vassal of Etzel. Rudiger was living in exile with his family in Pochlarn. Rudiger was also the friend of the Burgundian royal family.
When Etzel decided to marry after the death of his wife, Rudiger was chosen as envoy to Burgundy, to ask for Kriemhild’s hand in marriage. She was chosen because of her great beauty.
When Rudiger brought Gunther and his brothers to Pochlarn, Giselher asked for his daughter’s hand in marriage. Rudiger happily agreed. Rudiger gave his each of his distinguished guest a gift. Among them, he gave Gernot a sword. Rudiger decided to join and escort the Burgundian kings to Hungary.
When fighting broke out between the Burgundians and the Huns, Rudiger, as well as Dietrich, refused to fight for either side, Rudiger preferred to remain neutral. However on the second day of battle, Kriemhild demanded that Rudiger fulfilled his promise to her, to avenge any wrong that had been done to her. Etzel also pleaded with Rudiger, since the margrave owed fealty to Etzel.
Rudiger was driven into despair. Not only was Giselher was his new son-in-law, but he had given his guests friendship and gifts. Since Rudiger had also escorted them to Hungary, it was his duty to protect the Burgundian kings. Yet, Rudiger had no choice but to enter the conflict against the Burgundians.
When the Burgundians encountered Rudiger and his men, they realised Rudiger had no choice in the matter. Hagen and Giselher refused to face Rudiger in combat. Giselher, because the young king was married to Rudiger’s daughter. And Hagen, because Rudiger had freely given him a new shield. During the fighting between Burgundians and Etzel’s vassals, Rudiger and Gernot, (Giselher’s brother) killed one another. Rudiger had died on the sword that he had given to Gernot, back at Pochlarn.
Rudiger’s death brought Dietrich’s men (the Amelungs) into the conflict. This also led to Gunther and Hagen’s captured and death at Kriemhild’s hand.
|The hero of the Nibelungenlied. Siegfried was the son of Siegmund (Sigmund), the king of the Netherlands, and Sieglind (Sisibe or Hjordis). His counterpart was the hero Sigurd, who appeared in many of the Icelandic and Scandinavian sagas, such as the Volsunga Saga.
Siegfried was knighted at the age of eighteen. Siegfried hearing of Kriemhild’s great beauty, the hero decided to woo Kriemhild. Siegfried also hoped to win fame and glory through his own prowess in warfare.
Siegfried became lord of Nibelungland, after killing the two brothers, Schilbung and Nibelung. Siegfried gained the Nibelungs’ treasure and the cloak of darkness (Tarnkappe) from Alberich, the dwarf and Nibelungs’ treasurer. Siegfried also possessed the sword Balemung and the horse.
Siegfried skin became invulnerable when he killed a dragon and was bathed in the dragon’s blood. The only vulnerable spot on his body was on his back where a large leave covered fell on his back between his shoulders. Only Kriemhild knew of her husband’s weakness. Hagen would later tricked Kriemhild to reveal this weakness to him.
When Siegfried arrived in Worms, a city in Burgundy, Gunther won his friendship. Though he sought to woo Gunther’s sister, he did not see her until a year later. They were only formerly introduced, after helping the king to win the war against the Saxons and the Danes, when Siegfried captured the two kings.
Siegfried fell in love with Kriemhild, and her brothers approved of the marriage, if the hero would help Gunther win Brunhild in marriage. Siegfried does so by defeating the warrior-queen, using his magic cloak, Tarnkappe. Brunhild thought she was contesting Gunther.
There was a double wedding. Whereas Siegfried’s marriage was happy, Gunther was humiliating. When Gunther had tried to make love to his new wife, Brunhild fought him, bound the king, and hanged the king up on the wall. Gunther was no match for Brunhild’s superhuman strength.
Again, Siegfried had to secretly overcome Brunhild for Gunther. When Brunhild finally submitted to husband, Siegfried stole her ring and girdle, gave them to Kriemhild. The ring and girdle became symbols of their deception over Brunhild.
Siegfried returned home in Xanten (Netherlands) with his new wife, when Siegmund share the kingdom with his son. Siegmund and his wife treated Kriemhild like their own daughter. Siegfried and Kriemhild had a son, which they named after Gunther (Gunther II).
Ten years later, Gunther invited them to festivity in Worms. Brunhild was curious of Siegfried’s status, because when she had first met Siegfried and Gunther they had told her Siegfried was her husband’s vassal. Yet, Gunther and his brothers treated Siegfried as an equal. Not realising of this deception, she became involved in argument with Kriemhild over precedence.
The quarrel climaxed with total humiliation for Brunhild. Kriemhild told Brunhild that Siegfried was the man who overcame her strength in the contest, not Gunther, and that Siegfried had taken her virginity (not true). Kriemhild proved this, by revealing the ring and the girdle that Siegfried had taken from Brunhild.
Outraged and humiliated, Brunhild demanded punishment for Siegfried and Kriemhild. Hagen agreed. Hagen believed that Siegfried earned death for the deception and betrayal.
Together with Gunther, they plotted Siegfried’s assassination. Hagen tricked Kriemhild into revealing Siegfried’s weakness, and then they lured the hero into woods, on the pretence of a hunting trip.
As Siegfried drank water from the spring, Hagen hid the hero’s sword, before plunging a javelin into Siegfried’s back. Even though mortally wounded, Siegfried pursued and attacked Hagen, until his strength gave out and he died. Siegfried prophesied Gunther’s own death.
Kriemhild was inconsolable, and knew that Gunther and Hagen were responsible over her husband’s death. At the funeral, Siegfried’s wound bled again, revealing his killer, when Hagen stood before Siegfried’s bier.
Kriemhild decided to stay with her brother Giselher, but gave her son (Gunther II) to her father-in-law, Siegmund. She promised to Siegmund that she would somehow avenge Siegfried.
Twenty-six years later, Kriemhild managed to lure Hagen and her brothers to their deaths and the destruction of her people. Kriemhild had finally avenged her husband, but it had also cost her life.
There is another Siegfried in the German legend, from the poem Kudrun (or Gudrun). This Siegfried was a Moorish king who tried to woo Kudrun (not to be confuse with Gudrun in the Volsunga Saga), daughter of King Hetel of the Hegelings, from Denmark. But this poem has nothing to do with the Burgundian family and Attila. See Kudrun.
|Siegmund was the king of the Netherlands. Siegmund was the husband of Sieglind (Sisibe or Hjordis), and the father of Siegfired. Siegmund ruled in the city of Xanten, as his capital.
Siegmund did not like his son’s plan to woo Kriemhild of Burgundy, but the old king was resigned to his son’s desire. Yet, when Siegfried married her, Siegmund loved Kriemhild as if she was his own daughter, when she was living in Xanten. Siegmund became the grandfather of Gunther II.
Siegmund mourned his son’s death. Kriemhild prevented fighting between Siegmund and her brothers. Kriemhild promised to her father-in-law that she would avenge Siegfried’s death. Siegmund tried to persuade Kriemhild to return with him, rather than stayed with very people, who plotted and murdered his son and her husband, but she refused, on the ground that she has no blood relatives in the Netherlands. However, she gave her son to Siegmund, to raise and rule after the old king.
In Norse myths, he was called Sigmund and he was the son of Volsung. Signy was his twin sister, and they appeared in the first part of the saga. Sigmund became the father of Sinfjotli by his sister Signy; Helgi and Hamund by Borghild; and Sigurd by Hjordis.
Sigmund played a significant role in the Volsunga Saga. Sigmund drew the sword from the tree, Branstock; avenging his father and brothers’ death in Gothland; banishing his wife Borghild for the death of Sinfjotli; and his death in the war against Hundings (sons of Hunding).
Sigmund (Siegmund) had died before Sigurd (Siegfried) was born, but in the Nibelungenlied, he had outlived his son. See Sigmund in the Norse Heroes and Sigmund and Signy in the Volsunga Saga, for more detail.
|Wayland was the legendary smith and craftsman. Wayland may have become god of crafts and metalworking.
Wayland was a popular Germanic mythical figure, since he appeared in many of the sagas and poems in the Germanic societies (Scandinavia, Germany and Anglo-Saxon England). Wayland appeared as Volund in the Völundarkvida (“Lay of Völundr”) of the Poetic Edda, and in the Beowulf (Old English saga) as Weland, who made the corslet for the hero Beowulf. In the Norwegian Thiðrekssaga, he was called Velent. The German authors called him Wielund.
In the Völundarkvida, he had been called Volund, the “Prince of Elves”. He was not merely a smith. He was also a hunter, and several times, he was called the weather-eyed shooter, indicating he was an excellent archer.
Wayland had even reappeared in William Shakespeare’s Midsummer Night’s Dream.
In the Norse myth, Völund (or Wayland) was the brother of Egil and Slagfid (Slagfinn). They were the sons of a Lappish king and resided in Wolfdale, which is possibly south of Mirkwood. The three brothers had encountered three sisters who were bathing in a lake. These sisters were Valkyries (or swan-maidens), named Alvit (Hervor) and Svanhvit (Hladgud), the daughters of King Hlodver, and Olrun, the daughter of King Valland. The brothers raped the three sisters. Alvit became Wayland’s wife.
The three sisters stayed with them for seven years, but flew away to the battlefield, they never returned to their husbands. Wayland’s brothers left him to find their wives.
King Nídud (Nidud) of Sweden, the lord of Niarar, was so impressed with craftsmanship of Wayland that he captured the hero at Wolfdale. While Wayland was out hunting, the king’s men came to his home and found a bast rope threaded through 700 rings, and the men took only one of the ring. This was made by Volund, just in case his wife should return. When Volund return from the hunt, he immediately recognised one of the gold ring was missing. He sat for a long time, until he fell asleep. That’s when Nídud’s men captured and bound him in fetter and brought the smith before the king. Nídud took Wayland’s own sword as his own, and gave the missing ring to his daughter, Bödvild (Bodhilda).
Nídud’s wife saw that Wayland was dangerous, even when held captive. To prevent Wayland from leaving, Nídud had him crippled, but cutting his sinews around the knees, and had the smith confined on the island, called Sævarstadir.
After some times, Wayland killed Nídud’s two sons, using their skulls to make cups studded with gemstones. He gave these skull cups to Nídud, while he made with the boys’ eyes into gemstones, which he gave to Nídud’s wife.
When Nídud’s daughter (Bödvild) turned up in the smithy, she brought her ring for Wayland to repair. It was the same ring that Nídud had stolen from Wayland. Wayland raped Bödvild, who became the mother of the hero Vidia (Witege, Wade, Widga or Vidga in the Thiðrekssaga).
It is not clear how Wayland escaped from Nídud by flying away, but according to Thidrekssaga, he creating a huge winged device that allowed him to fly away, just like in myth of King Minos, the craftsman Daedalus, who had also made a similar escape. But it is possible that this ring had magical property, which enabled Wayland to transform into a swan and fly away; this is a possibly since it mentioned “my webbed feet”, which the king’s men had deprived him off. Before he left Nídud, he revealed to the king, how he had murdered Nídud’s two son and had inpregnated his daughter. It was said that he flew all the way to Asgard.
Similar tales about Wayland can be found in other Germanic and Norse sources. A more complete tale can be found in one of the episodes of the Thiðrekssaga, where he was known as Velent.
Velent (Wayland) was the son of the giant Vadi, who was the son of King Vilkinus and an unnamed mermaid. Vadi had another son named Egil. At the age of nine, Vadi decided to send his son to learn the trade of the smith from Mimir, from the Hunland.
Velent had only stayed there for only 3 years as Mimir’s apprentice, demonstrating great craftsmanship. Vadi brought his son home in Sjoland (Zealand), because Sigurd, Mimir’s foster son was bullying the Velent and the other apprentices.
Vadi decided make his apprentice to two dwarfs living in a mountain of Kallava. The dwarfs agreed only to take the boy for one year, but during that time they found that boy not only learned quickly, mastering any task that were put before Velent, but that he made object with superior skill. The jealous dwarfs had to plead with the father to allow the boy to stay another year, but warned Vadi that he must pick up the boy on the appointed day, or else they will cut off Velent’s head.
Vadi agreed to the term, but he secretly told his son that he hid the sword in a bush. Vadi told Velent should he not be able to arrive in time, he urged his son to find the sword and defend himself.
As the second year draw to a close, Vadi set out a few days earlier so that he could arrive in time. Vadi tiring from the journey decided to rest at the foot of the mountain. As he slept, the boulders from the mountain came crashing down on Vadi, instantly killing him.
Young Velent became concern when his father didn’t arrive on the appointed day, so the boy retrieve his father’s sword and killed the two dwarfs. Rather than return home, Velent took the entire tool and gold from the dwarfs’ cave, and build himself a sort of vessel from the large tree trunk, near the water. Stowing all the tools and treasure in the vessel, he set the vessel adrift in the river to the sea for 18 days.
Finally, the vessel came to the shore of Thiod in Jutland (Denmark), where it was found by King Nidung (Nídud). At first, he had taken loyal service with Nidung, as a great smith. Velent had to compete against Nidung’s chief smith, killing his enemy with Mimung, the great sword he had forged.
However, he later lost favour with the king, when Velent killed Nidung’s favourite steward, who attacked him. It was for this that Nidung crippled Velent, by severing Velent’s Achilles tendons, so that Velent would continue to serve him.
Nidung had three sons and a daughter. Like in the Icelandic poem, Velent killed the king’s two sons. Velent used the boys’ bone to make various objects to be used by the king, including making cups out of skuls. Velent kept the blood in a sealed bladder.
When Nidung’s daughter visited Velent, to fix her ring, Velent seduced her, where she became pregnant. Shortly after that Velent’s brother Egil took service with king. Egil was the best archer in the world. Egil helped his brother to escape. First Egil killed a lot of geese and gathered the feathers for Velent, who made a winged device. Egil was the first to test the device. Velent knew that the king would order Egil to shoot him. Velent told him to shoot under his arm, where the bladder of blood would be hidden under his clothes.
Later, Velent made his escape. First, as he hovered above the king, Velent boasted that he had murdered Nidung’s two sons and made the princess pregnant with his child. Anguished and angered by the words, Egil to shoot his brother down. Egil unerringly hit the bladder, as Velent flew away. Nidung thought that Velent had been mortally wounded, because the blood of the two princes flowed from Velent’s wound.
Velent flew and returned to Sjorland, the land of his father. Nidung died either grief over his sons’ death or from shame of his daughter’s pregnancy. Nidung’s third son, Otvin became king. Peace was settled between Otvin and Velent. Otvin’s sister went to Sjoland and became Velent’s wife. Velent became the father of Vidga (Widga), a great warrior and friend of Thiðrek (Dietrich).
In a way, he was like the Celtic god Goibhniu, the master craftsman of the Tuatha de Danann and Hephaestus (Vulcan), the Greek artisan god of fire, who was the son of Zeus and Hera. Hephaestus was also a crippled master craftsman. Wayland’s escape from Nídud, bears a striking resemblance to that of the Cretan architect and inventor, Daedalus, who escaped from King Minos, in wings made out of feathers and wax.
|German hero in the legend of Dietrich/Thidrek. Witege was the son of the famous craftsman or smith, named Wayland and Bödvild, the daughter of King Nídud of Sweden. In the Norse legend, he was Viðga, son of Völund. Other variation of his name include – Vidia, Widga, Wade.
The Norwegian saga, Thiðrekssaga tell a more detailed account of his life, as Viðga, the son of Velent (Wayland or Volund). Viðga was one of the few warrior to defeat the hero Thiðrek (Dietrich) in single combat, because he was armed with Mimung, the sword that his father had made. Nevertheless, Viðgaga became one of the earliest companions of Thiðrek, often fighting side by side with Thiðrek.
Viðga’s equipment were white, and his shield had a red symbol of hammer and tongs, indicating the origin of his father. There was also three carbuncle-stones on his shield, represented his mother. His father also made strong byrnie (mail shirt) and helmet with a red-gold snake painted on the crown.
However, when Viðga married Bolfriana, the widow of Aki Amlungatrausti, who was the half-brother of Erminrek (Ermanaric), Viðga became a powerful vassal of Erminrek. When war erupted between Erminrek and his nephew Thiðrek, Viðga had no choice but to fight against his friend.
In the battle that followed, Viðga slay Nauðung, the brother-in-law of Rodingeir (Rudiger). Then Viðga killed the two sons of Attila and Erka (Helche), Ortvin and Erp, who was under the protection of Thiðrek. Thether, the brother of Thiðrek tried to avenge the two princes’ death. Viðga was reluctantly to fight Thether, because he did not want to anger Thiðrek. Yet, Viðga had to fight, so in the end he killed Thether and incurred Thiðrek’s enmity.
Thiðrek hearing the news of the death of his own brother and Attila’s sons, the hero was grief-stricken. Thiðrek pursued Viðga, who refused to confront his old friend. Vidga ran his horse into lake, but before he could either escape or drown, Thiðrek hurled his spear, which killed him.
Thiðrek was distraught over the death of Attila’s sons that Queen Erka had to comfort the hero, and attached no blame for their death. Erka, however, died shortly after the battle, due to illness.
|Wolfhart was the hotheaded nephew of Hildebrand and vassal of Dietrich of Verona.
When Rudiger and Gernot at each other hand, Dietrich sent his Hildebrand and retainers, to investigate how Rudiger had die. Even though Rudiger was killed by one of the Nibelungs, Dietrich wanted to remain neutral, siding with neither the Huns nor the Burgundians. Hildebrand brought Dietrich’s vassals and retainers armed to the Nibelungs.
Hagen answered Hildebrand’s enquiry to Rudiger’s death; Volker suspecting attacks from the Amelungs, provoked the Amelungs into attacking.
In the end, the Amelungs were all killed except Wolfhart and his uncle, Hildebrand. While Hildebrand killed Volker, and Wolfhart and Giselher killed one another. However, Giselher had mortally wounded Wolfhart. Before dying in Hildebrand’s arms, Wolfhart told his uncle not to mourn for he had die with great honour; not only had killed Giselher, but he was proud of the fact that he had died at the hand of a king (Giselher).
Wolfhart doesn’t appear in the Thidrekssaga, which seemed to parallel with the tale in the Nibelungenlied.
|Volker of Alzei was a vassal to Burgundian princes. Volker was exceptional warrior, probably the second best, next to Hagen. Volker knew how to play the viol, so he was nicknamed the Minstrel or the Fiddler. In the Thiðrekssaga, he was called Folkher.
Volker was a close friend of Hagen and joined the princes’ retinues to Hungary, bringing 30 knights. During the battle between the Burgundians and the Etzel’s vassals, he killed many enemy knights, before he was killed by Hildebrand.
Dancwart was the son of Aldrian and the brother of Hagen. His brother served Dancwart served as Marshal of Burgundy.
Dancwart was among those who went to Hungary. Dancwart was killed by Helpfrich, a vassal of Dietrich.
Ortwin of Metz was the nephew of Hagen and Dancwart. As vassal of the Burgundian kings, Ortwin served as the King’s Seneschal. He was one of those who supported Hagen in a conspiracy to murder Siegfried.
Rumold was Lord of the Kitchen. Rumold supported Hagen that the Burgundian kings should stay home, rather than visit their sister in Hungary. Rumold was appointed regent of Burgundy, when the three Burgundian kings departed for Hungary.
Eckewart was a margrave and vassal of the Burgundian kings. Eckewart became Kriemhild’s steward, when she lived with her husband Siegfried in the Netherland, and served her again when she lived with her second husband Etzel in Hungary.
|Beowulf was the Geatish hero of the Old English (Anglo-Saxon) poem, titled Beowulf. The dating of the poem had become a subject of debate, because the poem survived in a single manuscript in the 11th century, yet the composition suggested a much earlier date. The dates vary between the 7th century and the 10th century, the time when Old English language of the Anglo-Saxon dialect was spoken.
Beowulf was the son of Ecgtheow and of the unnamed daughter of Hrethel. Beowulf was brought up by Hrethel, king of Geatland. Beowulf became thane of his uncle, Hygelac, who became king after the death of Hygelac’s second brother.
His name suggests that it may mean, “bear”. Like he a bear, he could crushed his enemy. He had killed a Frankish warrior, Dæghrefn, in a bear-hug. Beowulf was known for his powerful grips, as it was seen when he fought Grendel. The poem shows the hero as the strongest and bravest man in the world.
Beowulf went to Heorot, on the Zeeland island, to aid the Danish king, Hrothgar, to rid of the monster, Grendel, who had been killing Hrothgar’s thanes and warriors.
After his fight with Grendel, Beowulf had been compared with the Norse hero, Sigmund (Sigemund in the Beowulf), who was a slayer of dragon in this poem (but not in the Norse myth).
Hrothgar rewarded Beowulf with many gifts, after killing Grendel, and the monster’s mother. Hrothgar would have even adopted Beowulf and make the hero his successor, had his wife not convinced him to allow their sons inherit the kingdom.
The poem often called him wise or sagely, but to the modern scholars, he was more rash and reckless. In his youth it was understandable that he was reckless, when he had no responsibility, except to gain glory through heroism. But fifty years after killing Grendel, he was a king, and ruler has duty to his people and kingdom. A real king wouldn’t have taken such an undertaking. Well, actually there was no one brave enough to hunt a dragon. Beowulf was still reckless, willing to fight the dragon without aid, but his death would probably bring ruins to his people.
The Geats had previously fought two wars, one against the Frisians, and then against the Swedes. With his death, the Geats’ former enemies were likely to attack his kingdom, once they knew he was dead. There is no doubt about Beowulf’s bravery in in the battlefield and fighting against monsters, though I doubted the wisdom of confronting enemies without weapons. He had saved his people from the dragon, only to sacrifice his entire kingdom from hostile neighbour. So as you can see, he was less than a wise king.
|Danish king, who appeared in the Old English poem, Beowulf. Hrothgar was the son of Healfdene. Hrothgar was also the brother of Heorogar, Halga and Yrse. Hrothgar had married Wealhtheow, and was the father of a daughter named Freawaru, and of two sons, Hrethric and Hrothmund. Hrothgar belonged to the family known as the Scyldings.
In his youth, Hrothgar was considered to be a great warrior in battle. It was he who built the hall – Heorot. The hall was a place of joyous feasting, drinking and singing. Traegdy struck when the humanoid creature, called Grendel, murdered his loyal thanes and warriors in their sleep, before devouring them. Heorot became a place of slaughter for twelve years, because Hrothgar failed to hunt down and kill Grendel, until the arrival of the Geatish hero, named Beowulf. It is mentioned later, before Beowulf left Hrothgar, that the Danish king had ruled for 50 years.
Beowulf had not only killed Grendel, he had also slain Grendel’s more powerful mother. Hrothgar’s gratitude and generosity knew no bound. Hrothgar rewarded him with armours, weapons and precious items. Hrothgar would have also adopted the hero, because of his love for the brave hero, but his wife, Wealhtheow, persuaded the king to leave the kingdom to her son.
Though, Hrothgar played no part in the second half of the poem, Hrothgar would have a feud with his son-in-law, Ingeld the Heathobard, who married his daughter Freawaru. Also, it has been suggested that Hrothgar’s nephew, Hrothulf, would betray him, depriving his own sons of kingship.
|A Geatish hero, who appeared in the Old English poem, Beowulf. Wiglaf was the son of Weohstan, who was the kinsman of the Swedish leader, Ælfhere. Wiglaf was also a kinsman of Beowulf, and they were both heroes belonged the family known as the Wægmundings.
As one of Beowulf’s most loyal and bravest thane, Wiglaf was one of eleven warriors who accompanied Beowulf, to kill the dragon. Wiglaf possessed the sword belonging to the Swedish king, Eanmund, the son of Ohthere. His father, Weohstan, had killed Eanmund in battle.
It was this sword, that Wiglaf had wounded the dragon, giving Beowulf enough time to dispatch the dragon with his dagger.
Wiglaf received from Beowulf, a gold collar that probably meant that Wiglaf would succeed him as king of the Geats. Nothing more is known Wiglaf in the other works.