The Nibelungenlied (the “Song of the Nibelungs”) was a heroic epic poem written in Middle High German, most likely in Austria, during the early 13th century. The Nibelungenlied was another version of the Nibelungen cycle that was different from the Icelandic works. It was the most popular epic written in medieval German, since half-dozen complete manuscripts had survived.
Like the Icelandic saga, the Nibelungenlied was a tale of the cycle of betrayal and revenge in the cursed Burgundian royal family.
There were other Nibelungen sagas from the Icelandic Völsunga Saga (Volsunga Saga), and the Norwegian called Thidrekssaga or Thiðrekssaga (“Deeds of Thiðreks” (Dietrich)). Though all three sagas were written around the same century, their sources were much older, and some of the characters had connection with historical (or semi-historical) figures.
The Nibelungenlied (as well as Thiðrekssaga) belonged to the German tradition, and it did not only form part of the Nibelungen cycle, but also the Dietrich cycle, called the Dietrichsage.
Dietrich or Thidreks in the Norwegian saga, was based on the historical figure, Theodoric the Great (AD 493-526), an Ostrogothic king of Italy. There are many other German tales of Dietrich, including Die Rabenschlacht (“The Battle of Ravenna”), Dietrichs Flucht (“Dietrich’s Flight”), Walther and Hildegund, and Hildebrandslied.
Some modern scholars say that the Nibelungenlied was only surpassed by the Iliad, though I think that is debatable. Unlike the Volsunga Saga and other sources, the Nibelungenlied adopted a more contemporary setting, since the heroes and villains wore armour and assumed behaviours of the knights of the twelfth century. Also, most of the kingdoms found in the Nibelungenlied, were predominantly Christians. Only Etzel (Atli or Attila), king of Hungary, was a heathen. Whereas those found in Volsunga Saga and the poems or dialogues found in Poetic Edda, the characters believed in the Old Norse religion and gods, so the characters were definitely pagans. The norse gods had appeared in the works of Volsunga Saga, especially Odin. The geography in the Nibelungenlied was also more precise than the Volsunga Saga.
I have written the Nibelungenlied, mainly as comparison to the Völsunga Saga.
I have divided the Nibelungenlied into two parts. The first part is concerned with the theme and climax of the death of the hero Siegfried. The second part end with the theme/climax of Kriemhild’s revenge on Hagen and her own death.
Well, I hope you enjoyed the Nibelungenlied, because last year, when I had completed the Volsunga Saga, I was not going to do the Nibelungenlied. Obviously, I have changed my mind again.
|My Noble Falcon|
|Wooing of Brunhild|
|Death of Siegfried|
|Treasure of the Nibelungs|
|My Noble Falcon|
|It began with Kriemhild having a dream. Kriemhild was the beautiful daughter of King Dancrat (Guiki) of Burgundy and Uote (Grimhild). She had three brothers, Gunther (Gunnar), Gernot and Giselher, who ruled and shared the kingdom between them.
Kriemhild dreamt of a beautiful falcon but was torn apart by two eagles. The dream upset her and she told her mother Uote. Uote interpreted that the falcon represented her husband. However, Kriemhild was still young, and was not interested in falling love with any man.
While at Xanten, a city within the kingdom of the Netherlands, Siegfried was newly knighted. There was great celebration because Siegfried was the son of King Siegmund and Sieglind (Hjordis). Siegfried hearing of Kriemhild’s great beauty, the young hero decided to woo her. Siegfried’s parents were happy with their choice, because they did not trust Kriemhild’s three brothers, particularly Hagen, Gunther’s powerful vassal. Siegfried won to win the girl through his prowess and deeds.
Siegfried arrived with his twelve companions to the Burgundy’s capital on the Rhine, called Worms. Only Hagen recognised the young hero.
Hagen told Gunther how Siegfried won treasure from the Nibelungs, two brothers and mighty princes named Schilbung and Nibelung. Siegfried killed Schilbung and Nibelung, and captured seven hundred men of Nibelungland. Then the hero wrested the cloak of darkness from Alberich, the treasurer of the Nibelungs. This cloak was called Tarnkappe, would make the wearer invisible. Siegfried became the lord of the Nibelungs’ land (Nibelungland).
Hagen also told of how Siegfried had killed a dragon and bathed in its blood. His body became invulnerable because of the dragon’s blood. Siegfried had only one vulnerable spot in his body, like the Greek hero Achilles. As was soaked from the dragon’s blood, a large leaf fell and landed between Siegfried’s shoulder blades. Only this area was untouched by the dragon’s blood. This was the only vulnerable spot of his skin.
Hagen told Gunnar that he would gain a great and powerful ally if he befriended Siegfried. So Gunther and his brothers set about winning Siegfried’s friendship.
Siegfried stayed with Gunther in Worms. The young hero attended the functions and festivals in Burgundy, with Gunther and his brothers. Kriemhild had only seen the brave warrior from a distance. She had fallen in love Siegfried, but the two had not yet been properly introduced until a year later.
When news broke out that the Saxons and the Danes were making war against Burgundy, Siegfried decided to aid Gunther. Liudeger was the king of Saxony, while his brother named Liudegast was the king of Denmark. The combined Saxons and Danish armies had the strength of sixty thousand men, while Gunther’s force was no more than a thousand strong. Siegfried advised that Gunther should stay in Worms, while the young guest lead the Burgundian army.
Siegfried was the best warrior in the war. In the reconnaissance, Siegfried captured Liudegast and killed twenty-nine Danish knights. Siegfried allowed one survivor to return to the Danish camp with the news of their king’s capture.
In the battle that followed, fought his way through enemy ranks until he reached King Liudeger of Saxony. They fought until Liudeger recognised the image on Siegfried’s shield. Thereupon, Liudeger surrendered himself to Siegfried.
Liudeger and Liudegast became prisoners of war, and were shipped to Worms as hostages. Gunther treated his enemy kings magnanimously. A large celebration was held for their victory. After a period, Gunther released Liudeger and Liudegast when they became his vassals.
|Wooing of Brunhild|
|During the victory celebration, Siegfried for the first time met Kriemhild. It was Gernot who thought that they would benefit from the marriage between Siegfried and Kriemhild.
Siegfried would enjoy Kriemhild’s company for days. The hero and the maiden had fallen deeply in love. Siegfried would do anything for Kriemhild’s brothers to win her favour.
When Gunther heard of the great beauty of Brunhild, Queen of Iceland, the Burgundian king wished to set out to win her. Siegfried advised Gunther against this, because he was aware of queen’s great strength. All her suitors, who had wooed Brunhild, met their death when she defeated them in a contest.
Hagen advised Gunther to take Siegfried with him. Siegfried agreed to help Gunther win Brunhild, in return that the hero was allowed to marry Kriemhild.
Siegfried advised Gunther and everyone else to pretend that Siegfried was a vassal to Gunther when they were in the presence of Brunhild.
When they arrived at Isenstein, Brunhild’s stronghold in Iceland, the warrior queen immediately recognised Siegfried. She thought that Siegfried had come to woo her. Brunhild seemed willing to marry Siegfried, because he was the most strongest and bravest warrior in the world. She thought that Siegfried would be a worthy husband than any of the other men who had wooed her.
Brunhild was terribly disappointed when Siegfried proclaimed that he was Gunther’s vassal and that it was Gunther here, who came to woo her. Brunhild only agreed to marry him if Gunther could defeat her in a contest. Brunhild’s words angered Gunther and Hagen. Siegfried told Gunther that he would help him through his ordeal.
Gunther had to face a Brunhild’s spear. Then the Rhenish king must throw a boulder as far as he could, but he must also jump further than the boulder that he would throw.
Gunther and his followers were quite dismayed at the size of her spear and the boulder he must throw. The poet informed the readers that even twelve ordinary men could barely lift the stone.
When the contest began, Siegfried worn his cloak of invisibility and fought for Gunther. Brunhild threw her large, heavy spear at Gunther. Siegfried holding the shield for Gunther caught the spear. The king and hero would have been skewered had they were not protected by Siegfried’s magical cloak. Yet blood spurt from his mouth, where the spear had struck Siegfried.
Siegfried hurled Brunhild’s spear back at the queen, but with the spear-point reversed, so that only the blunt end of spear struck Brunhild. Brunhild was knocked down to the ground, but was uninjured. She immediately leaped to her feet. Not knowing of the deception, she praised Gunther for his strength.
Then Brunhild easily lifted the large rock and hurled the boulder as far as she could. At the same time she released the boulder she leaped after the stone. The stone landed at a great distance, but she easily leapt further than the stone. Gunther and his followers were amazed and afraid of her great strength.
Gunther then pretended to lift and throw the stone. It was Siegfried who threw the stone, even at a great distance than Brunhild. Siegfried then leap after the stone, carrying Gunther with him. They flew past the stone.
Brunhild was angry that she lost the contest, but conceded that she will marry Gunther. However she refused to leave until she had gathered her vassals and and gave out some of her wealth.
Hagen and the other fearing that she would betray them, since they would be heavily outnumbered. Siegfried promised Gunther to gather his men from Nibelungland. Using his magic cloak, Siegfried left Isenstein, found a bark (boat) and rowed across the sea to Nibelungland.
Siegfried had to fight and overcome the gatekeeper and Alberich, the dwarf and treasurer of Nibelungland. Then, Siegfried gathered a thousand of the best warriors, and returned to Isenstein.
Brunhild reluctantly left her home for a new home in Worms, with her future husband. A double marriage was arranged, because Siegfried and Kriemhild were to be married on the same day, with Brunhild and Kriemhild’s brother. Only Brunhild was unhappy at the wedding, because she was still in love Siegfried.
Siegfried and Kriemhild enjoyed their wedding night, but the same could not be said for Gunther and Brunhild. Not only did Brunhild resist her new husband trying to make love to her; Brunhild easily overpowered Gunther. The new queen bound him with her girdle and suspended him high on the wall peg, while she slept on their bed. Gunther was totally embarrassed how his wife had easily manhandled him.
In the morning, Brunhild released him and threatened to do the same each night, if he tried to make love to her. Gunther regretted that he had ever married her.
When Siegfried found out Gunther’s problem with his new wife, he again promised to help the king.
At night, Siegfried sneaked into Gunther’s room. In the darkness of night, Siegfried took the king’s place in bed with Brunhild. Brunhild threatened the king with violence and threw Siegfried across the room.
Though stunned by her strength, Siegfried became angry and attacked the queen. They fought one another in the darkness, until Siegfried overcame her. Brunhild was in pain when she surrendered to the hero. Brunhild thought it was Gunther who bested her.
Before Siegfried left Brunhild, Siegfried foolishly took her gold ring and her orphrey girdle. Gunther then took over Siegfried’s place, but had difficulty taking his wife’s virginity. However, once Gunther had deflowered Brunhild, her seemingly invincible strength vanished and reduced her power to that of an ordinary woman.
Siegfried returned to his own chamber, and foolishly gave Brunhild’s ring and girdle to Kriemhild.
Two weeks later, Siegfried decided to return home with his new wife. In Netherlands, Siegmund and Sieglind welcomed Kriemhild, and loved the girl like their own daughter. Siegfried and Kriemhild had a son, which they named after her treacherous brother, Gunther.
Siegfried became king of the Netherlands, ruling with his father. Siegfried was also the lord of Nibelungland, and possessed the great hoard of treasure of the Nibelungs. For ten years, Kriemhild was living in happy contentment with her husband. Soon, that happiness would be short-lived.
|Death of Siegfried|
|In Burgundy, Brunhild was still unhappy with her marriage with Gunther. Brunhild also thought that it was strange that Gunther had allowed Kriemhild to marry Siegfried, whom she believed was a vassal to her husband. She still did not realise the deception of how Siegfried won her for Gunther.
Brunhild wanted to know the truth about Siegfried’s status and persuaded Gunther to invite his sister and Siegfried for the coming festival.
Siegfried returned to Burgundy with his wife and son. His father also attended the festival with them.
In the festival, Gunther had treated Siegfried as an equal, which surprised Brunhild. Still thinking that Siegfried was only her husband’s vassal; she treated Kriemhild as inferior to her.
This led to quarrels between the two queens. When Brunhild confronted Kriemhild that Siegfried was her husband’s vassal, the other queen claimed that Siegfried was not only her brother’s equal, but a hero who was stronger and braver than her own brother. Neither queen would back away from their claims.
This finally led to Kriemhild revealing that it was her husband overcame Brunhild. Kriemhild also (falsely) believed that her husband had taken Brunhild’s virginity. Brunhild was not only angry at her sister-in-law’s claim; she was also humiliated and embarrassed. Especially when Kriemhild foolishly revealed the ring and girdle she had received from Siegfried.
Her quarrel with Kriemhild, had distressed and shocked the queen, that she demanded the truth from Gunther. She demanded that Gunther to punish Siegfried and Kriemhild. Gunther had no choice but to confront Siegfried.
Siegfried swore that he had never boasted of being Brunhild’s first man. Gunther immediately dropped charges against his brother-in-law.
But this did not satisfy Brunhild’s demands for vengeance. Hagen, who did not like Brunhild when they first met, now promised the queen that he willing to plot against Siegfried’s downfall.
At first, Gunther was reluctant to turn against Siegfried, since the hero had helped him win his war and his wife for him. But Hagen managed to persuade his king that it was best for Siegfried to die. It seemed Hagen envied Siegfried’s great wealth, power and prowess. Though Hagen was Gunther’s best warrior, Hagen was really no match for Siegfried.
First, Gunther would announce false news that Liudeger and Liudegast was going to invade his land again, and was to ask Siegfried for aid. Which Siegfried had readily agreed.
Hagen then went to Kriemhild, to find out if Siegfried had any weakness. Kriemhild, unaware of her brother’s henchman of treachery, she disclosed that Siegfried’s only weakness was small area on the hero’s back, between the shoulder blades. Hagen lied to her, saying that he would protect her husband back in battle. Kriemhild, who was reassured by Hagen’s words, told the villain that she would sew a patch on Siegfried’s tunic, so that Hagen knows what area to protect.
The day Siegfried was about to set out with the army, Gunther gave another false news that Liudeger and Liudegast had withdrawn all claims to his land. Instead, Gunther invited Siegfried on a hunting trip.
Remembering her dream Kriemhild had a feeling of foreboding. She failed to persuade Siegfried to stay with her, rather than go hunting with her brother. Kriemhild began to suspect treachery from Hagen and her brother.
During the long day of hunting in the woods, Siegfried killed a bear with a sword. During lunch Hagen had secretly salted the food, to make Siegfried thirsty. Hagen also ensured that the servants left behind the wine.
Hagen challenged Siegfried to a race to a spring beyond the hills. Here, they may drink to quench their thirsts. Siegfried eagerly agreed and told them he would give them a chance by carrying all his equipment and weapons, while Gunther and Hagen can run in their tunics.
Siegfried easily outran his brother-in-law and Hagen, and reached the spring before the two. However, he let Gunther drink first. Siegfried stood his spear and sword against his tree, before taking off his armour.
While Siegfried took a drink from the spring, Hagen quickly hid Siegfried’s sword (Balmung) and picked up the hero’s javelin. With patch on the hero’s tunic, which revealed his vulnerable area, Hagen was able to drive the spear unerringly into Siegfried’s back, between the shoulder blades. The spear reached Siegfried’s heart.
Though, Hagen had treacherously stabbed him in the back, Gunther’s henchman fled in terror from the mortally wounded hero. In anger, Siegfried leaped to his feet to avenge himself, but could not find his sword. Taking his shield with him, he pursued and caught up with his enemy. Siegfried bashed Hagen with his shield. Without his sword, Siegfried could not kill his Hagen.
Soon, Siegfried collapsed from blood loss, apparently dying from his wound. Some of those people, who were loyal to the hero, mourned for him. Gunther also arrived, wept and mourned for Siegfried. Siegfried rebuked Gunther for his tears, because he knows that his brother-in-law was treacherous.
Hagen did not care if Kriemhild knew of his treachery, took Siegfried’s body back to the palace and set it at the threshold. When Kriemhild woke up before dawn, one of her servants discovered the body. Kriemhild knew immediately that the body was her husband’s.
According to an older manuscript of the Nibelungenlied, Brunhild laughed when she heard Kriemhild’s laments, which this poem had left out.
Kriemhild was inconsolable over Siegfried’s death, and knew that Hagen and Brunhild were responsible for the murder. News soon reached Siegmund of his son’s death, who became distraught. The men of Nibelungland swore vengeance.
Kriemhild knew that her father-in-law could not hope to defeat her brothers, dissuaded him from seeking revenge. Kriemhild told Siegmund that she would exact revenge upon her enemies. She told Siegmund that he must help and arrange a suitable funeral for the hero they loved.
When Gunther went to comfort Kriemhild, she rebuked him for treachery against the man who helped him win great honour as king.
It was customary, that mourner would move around the bier. When Hagen and Gunther appeared before the bier, Siegfried’s wound flow anew, revealing his murderers. Kriemhild accused him responsible for her husband’s death. Kriemhild did not believe her brother’s lie that robbers had killed Siegfried.
After a long funeral, Siegfried was finally buried.
Siegmund knew who was responsible for his son’s death, decided to go home. Siegmund ask his daughter-in-law to come with him to the Netherlands. Kriemhild would still be queen, being Siegfried’s wife.
However, her mother, and two brothers, Gernot and Giselher, managed to persuade with them. Giselher promised to be her protector and offered his own palace as her home. Siegmund was upset that Kriemhild would not leave her family behind. Kriemhild gave her son Gunther to Siegmund to raise, while she stayed with her family.
Unlike the Norse counterpart, such as the Volsunga Saga, Brunhild did not committed suicide at Siegfried’s funeral, like Brynhild did at Sigurd’s funeral (see Brynhild in Volsunga Saga). After the funeral of Siegfried’s funeral, Brunhild had disappeared from the rest of the Nibelungenlied, which I considered to be quite strange.
|Treasure of the Nibelungs|
|Kriemhild lived with younger brother Giselher, mourning for her brave husband, Siegfried. She continued to go to church as well as regularly visit her husband’s grave.
For over three years, she refused to reconcile with her brother Gunther and her enemy Hagen. Hagen, who knew of the fable treasure of the Nibelungs, convinced his king to take the first step in conciliation with his sister, so they could bring the treasure to Worms, the city of Burgundy.
Gunther’s younger brothers, Gernot and Giselher convinced Kriemhild to make peace with their elder brother (Gunther). Soon, Gunther convinced her of bring the Nibelung treasure to Burgundy. Alberich the Nibelung Treasurer thought that since Kriemhild was Siegfried’s widow, then she had right to the treasure. Beside that Alberich could protect the gold now that Siegfried’s cloak of invisible was lost.
Kriemhild became the richest woman in the world. Rather than use the treasure for herself, she continuously gave away treasure to friends and strangers who visited her.
Her generosity irritated Hagen. Hagen also feared that she would use the treasure to gather followers or an army so she could destroy Hagen and his lord. (Since Gunther reluctance to punish Hagen in anyway for the murder of Siegfried or for stealing her inheritance (the Nibelung treasure), she would one day, destroy her brother along with Hagen, to avenge Siegfried’s death.)
Hagen complained to his lord, and Gunther rebuked his henchman that the treasure belonged to his sister, which she made do what she like. Gunther refused to do anything about it.
So Hagen took matter in his own hands, and stole the hoard. To prevent Kriemhild regaining the treasure, he had the entire hoard sank in the Rhine, near Locheim.
Now Hagen had murdered her husband and stole her treasure. Though this angered the three Burgundian kings, they did not punish him. Gunther and his brothers also knew of the treasure location, and swore not to reveal it.
However in the second last chapter (28), Hagen said that the three kings commanded him to sink the treasure in the Rhine. This contradicted this scene.
Once again, Hagen and her brother incurred her wrath.
|Wooing of Kriemhild|
|Invitation to a Festival|
|The Nibelungs in Pochlarn|
|Battle in the Hall|
|The Nibelungs’ Last Stand|
|Wooing of Kriemhild|
|Thirteen years, after Siegfried’s death, Etzel (Atli or Attila), the king of the Huns or of Hungary, became a widower, when his beautiful wife, Helche (Erka) died. His vassals and friends advised that the king should take a new wife. They thought that Kriemhild was the most suitable wife for Etzel.
Kriemhild was still the most beautiful woman in the world. Etzel knew of the reputation of Kriemhild’s late husband’s prowess as a warrior. At first, he was reluctant because he was a heathen while Kriemhild was a Christian, but he finally agreed to at least try to win her.
Etzel decided to send Rüdiger (Rudiger), the Margrave of Pochlarn (in Austria), as his ambassador. Rudiger was living in exile and became vassal of Etzel. Rudiger lived in Pochlarn with his wife Gotelind, and his daughter who was unnamed in the story. Rudiger also knew of Kriemhild and her family, including Hagen. He had visited the Rhineland when he was younger.
The Burgundian kings welcomed Etzel’s envoy. When they heard of Rudiger’s request, the three princes approved of the arrangement. Only Hagen opposed the proposal marriage to Kriemhild. With Etzel as her husband, Hagen warned them that Kriemhild would be powerful enough to destroy him and the Burgundian house.
Kriemhild also opposed the marriage arrangement, because she still mourned over Siegfried’s. She was also reluctant to marry a heathen. After a few days of consideration, she saw that marrying would allow her to avenge Siegfried’s death.
When Kriemhild extracted an oath from Rudiger that he would avenge any wrongdoing, she finally agreed to marriage to Etzel. Rudiger assumed legal guardianship over Kriemhild.
Arrangement was quickly arrange for her travel to Hungary. Eckewart, a Burgundian margrave, who had followed her to the Netherlands, accompanied her to Hungary. A hundred ladies travelled with her. Kriemhild was escorted into Etzel’s empire by 500 of Rudiger’s warriors.
Though, Hagen had sunk most of Kriemhild’s treasure, the poet remarked that she still had more than a hundred packhorses could carry. Hagen still wanted to steal the rest of treasure from Kriemhild, which upset her and her brothers.
First they stopped at the town called Pochlarn, Rudiger’s own land. Kriemhild met the Margrave’s wife (Gotelind) and daughter (unnamed). Kriemhild showered Rudiger with gifts: twelve gold bracelets and fine cloths.
Kriemhild went through many towns before she met Etzel in Tulln, in Austria. Among the vassals of Etzel, who met Kriemhild was Dietrich von Bern.
On Rudiger’s advice, Kriemhild greeted Etzel with a chaste kiss in greeting. When she took off her wimple, she revealed to all those present that she was lovelier than Etzel’s late beloved queen, Helche were.
Then Etzel and his vassals escorted Kriemhild to Vienna, in Austria. They were wedded in Vienna, on Whitsuntide, and the festivities lasted 17 days. During that time she won many supporters through her generosity. She showered the public with her gifts. The other vassals of Etzel also followed her suit, and generously gave gifts to people.
On the eighteenth day, they left Vienna and travelled to Etzelnburg, Etzel’s capital in Hungary.
|Invitation to a Festival|
|Seven years after the marriage to Etzel, Kriemhild bore a son named Ortlieb (Aldrian in the Thriðreks saga).
It has now been 13 years since she had married Etzel, yet Kriemhild continued to mourn over Siegfried’s death. During those years, she won the people over to her, including many powerful vassals of her husband. She decided it was time for her take her revenge upon Hagen and her eldest brother, Gunther.
She persuaded Etzel to send an invitation to her brothers for the midsummer festival. She knew that Hagen would be reluctant to meet her in Hungary, she also knew that her enemy would follow Gunther despite the danger. Etzel was unaware of her intention, send his two minstrels or fiddlers, named Werbel and Swemmel, as envoy to Burgundy.
As predicted, Hagen opposed the Burgundian princes to visit their sister in Hungary. All his arguments that Kriemhild would bring about their downfall, fallen on deaf ears. Kriemhild’s brothers were determined to see her.
Hagen managed to persuade Gunther to at least take an well-armed escort of a thousand men. Ever loyal to Gunther, Hagen decided to go with kings to Hungary. Gunther left Rumold, the Lord of the Kitchen, as regent of Burgundy during his absence.
It should be note at this point of time, when the three brothers decided to undertake this journey to Hungary, that the poet began to call the Burgundians: Nibelungs. Originally, the Nibelungs were people who come from mythical land of Nibelungland, and became vassals of Siegfried, when he killed the two kings and acquired their fable wealth. In this half of the poem, the Burgundians and the Nibelungs became indistinguishable. Either the Nibelungs were another name of the Burgundians or it was the name of the dynasty in Burgundy.
On the day of their departure, their mother (Uote) had tried to persuade her sons to remain home, since she had a vision of their death and the destruction of the dynasty. But this time, Hagen was determined to go to Hungary and face Kriemhild’s wrath, mainly because Gernot had taunted him of cowardice.
|The Nibelungs in Pochlarn|
|In the journey to Hungary, Hagen set out to find a ferry at the Danube River, where met a group of nixies. One water sprite warned them to turn back, because they were all doom to die. Only the chaplain would survive this journey. But he did not believe them, so they direct them to the ferryman. The nixie told Hagen to treat the ferryman with respect.
However, the ferryman refused them passage and attacked Hagen. Hagen used the sword and severed the ferryman’s head. Then Hagen himself used the ferry to bring Gunther and his warriors across the river. When Hagen saw the chaplain, Hagen became angry at the fairy’s prophecy that only the priest would survive. Hagen tried to drown the chaplain, by throwing him overboard. The chaplain realising that Hagen was trying to kill him swam back to shore, and return home. The kings and warriors were shocked and outraged at Hagen’s attack upon priest.
Hagen explained to the kings why he try to drown the chaplain, kill the ferryman, and of the prophecy their doom in Hungary. This upset Nibelung warriors. Yet they continue on their journey, where they were attack by two margraves. The margraves were angry at the attack on their vassal (ferryman). In the fighting, Hagen’s brother Dancwart killed one of the margraves, named Gelpfrat, while the other fled.
The Nibelungs arrived safely to Pochlarn, where the Margrave Rudiger entertained them. Here, Giselher met Rudiger’s daughter, asked for her hand in marriage. They were promptly married, before Rudiger departed with Burgundian kings to Hungary.
Gotelind, Rudiger’s wife, gave each guest a parting gift. When she was going to give a gift to Hagen, he refused to accept any except the beautiful shield that hanged on the wall. The shield belonged to a warrior named Nuodung (Nauðung), who was killed in the war by Witege. This war was fought between Ermanaric and the hero Dietrich, in the Battle of Ravenna. This is only of the few allusions to Dietrich’s exile and war against his uncle. A complete tale about Dietrich is given in the Thidrekssaga, where the hero was called Thidrek. This brought tears to the Margravine, because Nuodung was a kinsman of Gotelind.
Hagen was now going to Hungary, equipped with the invincible sword of Siegfried (Balmung) and the fabulous shield of Nuodung.
|Battle in the Hall|
|The Nibelungs arrived in shiny armours at Gran, Etzel’s capital. Dietrich was unhappy at the arrival of the Nibelungs, because he knew that Kriemhild was set to turn Etzel’s vassals against the Nibelung guests. Dietrich who greeted the princes and Hagen; he warned the latter of Kriemhild’s plot.
She only greeted youngest brother, Giselher, with a kiss. On the first day, Kriemhild failed to set her subjects against Hagen. Kriemhild and Hagen were rude towards one another. Hagen refused to pay any sort of respect to her, while Kriemhild accused him of murdering Siegfried and stealing her treasure. Hagen did not deny his guilt, but he told her bluntly that she should love her current husband (Etzel) rather than continuing to mourn Siegfried, who was dead for the last 26 years.
At night, Volker and Hagen kept watch, while the Nibelung kings and their followers slept. Her warriors failed to attack them when they found Hagen and the Fiddler standing guard.
The first death occurred the next day, in a bohort (sort of like a jousting tournament). Either Volker purposefully or accidentally killed a Hun. Etzel prevented further fighting between the outraged Hunnish horsemen and his guests.
Though, Kriemhild pleaded with Dietrich to back her cause for vengeance, Dietrich refused to aid her, so she turned to Bloedelin, brother of Etzel, promising land formerly owned by Nuodung.
When Etzel asked the Rhenish princes to raise his son, Ortlieb, as a warrior in Burgundy, Hagen had impetuously told the Hunnish king that he would not serve Ortlieb, and that the prince’s life was short-lived. Though the Hagen’s words hurt Etzel, Etzel’s powerful vassals were offended by the slights.
Meanwhile, Bloedelin brought armed men to the guests’ quarters. Bloedelin confronted Dancwart and accuse Gunther and Hagen of treachery against the queen’s first husband. When Dancwart could not dissuade Bloedelin (Bloedel), the Burgundian marshal struck first, decapitating Bloedelin with his sword. Fighting immediately broke out. All the Rhenish squires except Dancwart were killed in the quarters. Dancwart managed to fight his way to where Etzel was entertaining his guests.
Hagen hearing how Bloedelin’s men killed all the squires in their quarters, Hagen decapitated Ortlieb so that his head fell on to Kriemhild’s laps. The Hunnish warriors were stunned by the attack on their prince. Hagen then killed Ortlieb’s tutor and severed the ambassador’s hand (Werbel’s). Fighting broke out in the hall. Volker joined Hagen in slaying Hunnish warriors. Gunther and his brothers tried to stop the fighting, but soon realised that they couldn’t stand to one side.
Gunther allowed Dietrich to leave the hall. Dietrich took Kriemhild and Etzel out of the hall. Giselher gave his father-in-law (Rudiger) safe conduct to leave. Dietrich and Rudiger took their retainers with them. The three Burgundian kings, however, refused to allow Hunnish warriors to leave. All the remaining Hunnish knights within the hall were killed.
Upon Giselher’s advice the corpses of the dead Huns were thrown out of hall, because they knew the fighting would not end. Hagen foolishly taunted Etzel. Battle was renewed when Hagen killed Margrave Iring of Denmark. The Danes attacked the Burgundians, but were slaughtered in the hall.
|The Nibelungs’ Last Stand|
|With the death of his son Ortlieb and many of his warriors in the hall, Etzel refused to give truce to Nibelung brothers. Kriemhild would allow her brothers leave Hungary in peace, if they would give her Hagen as her prisoner. Her brothers refused to give up Hagen, so the fighting began once again. During the battle, Kriemhild had the hall set on fire, to drive out the Burgundians, but many Hunnish knights were killed.
Kriemhild then called upon Rudiger’s oath to her, when he persuaded her to marry Etzel. Rudiger, who had guarranteed safe escort to the Nibelungs into Etzel’s court, offer them gifts and his daughter to Giselher, Rudiger wanted to remain neutral from the fighting. However, Etzel and Kriemhild urged him to fight.
Gunther and his brothers try to dissuade Rudiger from battle, but he told them he was constrained by oath of fealty to the king and his promise to avenge Kriemhild. In the fighting, Gernot and Rudiger killed one another. Gernot had killed the margrave with the sword Rudiger had given him.
Both sides lamented Rudiger’s death. When Dietrich heard about Rudiger’s death, he was upset and sent Hildebrand to find the truth of the news from the Nibelungs. Hildebrand and other followers lamented over Rudiger’s death. Hildebrand want to recover Hildebrand’s body for proper burial, but Volker’s taunted and provoked the men of Verona, particularly Wolfhart, Hildebrand’s nephew.
Fierce fighting broke out between the Nibelungs and the knights of Verona. When Volker killed Sigestap, nephew of Dietrich, Hildebrand avenged Sigestap’s death by downward blow to Volker’s head. Helpfrich killed Dancwart, while Wolfhart and Giselher killed one another. Only Gunther, Hagen and Hildebrand were only one to survive.
Hagen attacked Hildebrand, hoping to avenge Volker’s death. Hagen only managed to wound the old warrior with Balmung (Siegfried’s sword), who fled to Dietrich, with news of decimated Amelungs.
Dietrich lamented Rudiger’s death, but he was dealt with further shock, when he realised that Hildebrand was the only surviving warrior of his. Dietrich armed himself to confront Gunther and Hagen.
Dietrich asked Gunther to surrender to him as prisoner. Dietrich promised safe conduct out of Hungary if they surrendered him, escorting Gunther and Hagen back to their own country. As a warrior and a knight, Hagen angrily refused the offer. To surrender was to bring disgrace to his valour and skills as a warrior, and be forever branded as a coward.
So, Hagen attacked Dietrich. Though, Hagen was armed with Siegfried’s sword, Dietrich managed to wound his opponent. Dietrich then proceeded to bound Hagen and delivered his opponent to the latter’s mortal enemy, Queen Kriemhild. Though, Kriemhild was happy with Hagen’s capture, Dietrich asked the queen to spare his life.
Then Dietrich confronted Kriemhild’s brother, and Gunther was similarly overcome and bound as prisoner to his sister. Kriemhild kept her brother and her enemy in separate prison cells.
Kriemhild confronted Hagen, demanding the return of Siegfried’s treasure in return for freedom to return to Burgundy. Hagen mocked her, saying he would never disclose the treasure as long as one of Nibelung kings was alive. So she had her brother beheaded.
Kriemhild brought Gunther’s head to Hagen. Since the last of his brother was dead, she demanded that she tell him to disclose the treasure whereabouts.
Hagen told her that he would still not tell her where he had sunk the treasure. Kriemhild took up her husband’s sword, Balmung. With Hagen bound and helpless, Kriemhild struck off Hagen’s head with the Balmung.
Etzel and Dietrich finding Gunther and Hagen dead, lament that a woman had killed Hagen. Hildebrand immediately retaliated, by executing the queen.
So ended the “Nibelungs’ last stand”.