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The Nibelungenlied (Germany)
Transcript of The Nibelungenlied (Germany)
The Beginning ...
German epic poem which was written sometime around 1200, probably in what is today Austria. The title means “Song of the Nibelungs.”
A version of the Nibelungenlied was first translated into modern German in 1757 under the title of Kriemhild’s Revenge. Many more versions followed but no English translation appeared until 1814. The first complete English prose version appeared in 1848. There have been many more, in both prose and verse form.
The main characters are:
born and raised in the Lower Franconian town of Xanten (Santen) near the Dutch border and became famous because of his virility and courage.
in his youth he roamed many lands and survived many an adventure.
he acquired the mighty wealth of the Nibelungs, the magical sword of fable "Balmung" and a mysterious magical cape that made him invisible.
also incidentally killed a dragon and bathed in its blood. Helped King Gunther to marry Brünhild, he marries Kriemhild but eventually gets murdered by Hagen von Tronje who seeks to protect the King's honour after several incidents involving all of the main characters.
Summary of the Story
“Nibelungen” is the plural of Nibelung =
which is conquered by the hero or protagonist of the epic, the dragon-slayer Siegfried.
The word “lied” means “lay” = Germanic word for a song, poem or lyric.
The poem exists in more than thirty manuscripts, but three main versions represent the story
As an epic, celebrates the achievements, adventures, and battles of several heroic figures. It also encompasses elements of the romance genre as well, and includes tales of knights, courtly behavior, and chivalry. The Nibelungenlied draws on history, mythology, and legend fir its details. It encompasses themes such as heroism, feudalism, justice and revenge, honor, loyalty, deception, dreams, and the importance of keeping up appearances.
She is the virgin sister of Gunther in the court of Burgundy.
She is wooed by Siegfried who is finally allowed to marry her.
she remarries to Hungarian King Etzel and schemes a plot set to trap Hagen to revenge Siegfried's death after Siegfried's violent death.
herself is slain by an ally of King Etzel, who is infuriated by her shameful conduct.
The Queen of Iceland who will only marry the man capable of beating her in a fair fight.
Hagen von Tronje
a Burgundian warrior serving his brother, or rather half-brother, King Gunther.
He is a schemer and plays on the trust Kriemhild has in him in order to slay Siegfried and hide the hoard of the Nibelungs in the Rhine.
Hagen after he was enticed to her new court in Hungary.
Gunther, king of Burgundy.
Siegfried hears about the surpassing beauty and many virtues of Kriemhild and embarks for Burgundy to win her for his bride.
Gunther is attacked by his old enemies and Siegfried successfully drives them away. In gratitude, Gunther now allows his sister to appear at a banquet given to celebrate Siegfried’s victory. Gunther agrees to give Kriemhild in marriage to Siegfried but makes it a condition that Siegfried help him win Brunhild, the queen of Isenland, for his wife. Siegfried readily agrees to this proposition.
In Isenland every suitor of the queen has to undergo three tests of physical strength in the form of combats with her. If vanquished, the suitor would suffer a cruel death.
Queen Brunhild recognizes Siegfried and admires him for his reputed strength and courage and his great wealth which he had obtained when he killed a dragon by means of his sword named Balmung and bathed in its blood to render himself invulnerable to physical weapons. But she despises Gunther and his men because they seem inferior in wealth to her other suitors. Siegfried, to raise Gunther’s status, tells the queen that he is a vassal to Gunther.
The trials begin and Gunther wins only because of Siegfried, putting on his cloak of invisibility, performs all the actions for him. Gunther wins Brunhild for his wife and a double wedding is performed in Burgundy. Gunther is married to Brunhild and Siegfried to Kriemhild. Amidst all the songs and ceremonies, Brunhild is unhappy and resentful and reproaches her husband for giving his sister to a mere vassal. In her indignation she ties Gunther up in her girdle and hangs him on a nail. Siegfried pities the plight of Gunther and tells him that the secret of Brunhild’s strength is in her girdle and her ring. Once deprived of these things, she would become an ordinary woman. With Gunther’s consent, Siegfried succeeds in getting the girdle and ring but unfortunately gives them to Kriemhild and confides the story to her.
Kriemhild now leaves her family and goes with her husband to his home. Kriemhild has a son named Gunther and Brunhild also has a son who is named Siegfried.
A few years pass, Brunhild complains to her husband that Siegfried does not come to Burgundy to pay homage to Gunther. The Burgundians decide to hold a great feast. Siegfried and Kriemhild are invited. During the festivities a violent quarrel arises between the queens about the merits of their husbands. When Brunhild boasts that Siegfried is a mere vassal of Gunther’s, Kriemhild tells her the truth and, carried off by pride and passion, produces the girdle and the ring that Siegfried took from Brunhild.
At this, Brunhild vows vengeance, and with Hagen, the faithful vassal of Gunther, she plans to kill Siegfried.
Gunther pretends that enemies are about to attack Burgundy and Siegfried volunteers to defend it. Hagen, pretending to be worried about the reckless courage of Siegfried, convinces Kriemhild to reveal to him Siegfried’s vulnerable spot on his shoulder. Hagen promises to protect this spot from the enemy.
The enemy attack does not, of course, materialize, and the royal party goes hunting. After the hunt, when all are exhausted, Siegfried goes to a stream to drink. As he bends over the water, Hagen stabs and kills him and thus avenges Brunhild. This ends the first part of the epic.
The second part is a complicated and bewildering series of events relating the atrocious and horrifying revenge of Kriemhild on those who killed her husband. To secure revenge, she marries Etzel (Attila), the king of the Huns, and invites all her kinsmen, including Hagen, to a great feast. Kriemhild involves them in a bloody battle in which thousands are slain. Gunther and Hagen are taken prisoners and put to death by Kriemhild, who herself is killed at the end of the epic.
king of the Huns, second husband of Kriemhild