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German epic poem
(German: “Song of the Nibelungs”) Main
Middle High German epic poem written about 1200 by an unknown Austrian from the Danube region. It is preserved in three main 13th-century manuscripts, A (now in Munich), B (St. Gall), and C (Donaueschingen); modern scholarship regards B as the most trustworthy. An early Middle High German title of the work is Der Nibelunge Not (“The Nibelung Distress”), from the last line of the poem. The superscription on one of the manuscripts from the early 14th century is “The Book of Kriemhild.”

The story has a long history and, as a result, contains a number of disparate elements. For example, the word Nibelung itself presents difficulties. In the first part of the poem, it appears as the name of Siegfried’s lands and peoples and his treasure, but, throughout the second, it is an alternate name for the Burgundians.

The poem’s content falls into two parts. It begins with two cantos (aventiuren) that introduce, respectively, Kriemhild, a Burgundian princess of Worms, and Siegfried, a prince from the lower Rhine. Siegfried is determined to woo Kriemhild despite his parents’ warning. When he arrives in Worms, he is identified by Hagen, a henchman of Kriemhild’s brother King Gunther. Hagen then recounts Siegfried’s former heroic deeds, including the acquisition of a treasure. When war is declared by the Danes and Saxons, Siegfried offers to lead the Burgundians and distinguishes himself in battle. Upon his return, he meets Kriemhild for the first time, and their affections develop during his residence at court.

At this point a new element is introduced. News reaches the court that a queen of outstanding strength and beauty may be won only by a man capable of matching her athletic prowess. Gunther decides to woo Brunhild with the aid of Siegfried, to whom he promises the hand of Kriemhild if successful. Siegfried leads the expedition to Brunhild’s abode, where he presents himself as Gunther’s vassal. In the ensuing contests, Gunther goes through the motions of deeds actually performed by Siegfried in a cloak of invisibility. When Brunhild is defeated, she accepts Gunther as her husband. Siegfried and Kriemhild are then married as promised, but Brunhild remains suspicious and dissatisfied. Soon the two queens quarrel; Brunhild ridicules Kriemhild for marrying a vassal, and Kriemhild reveals Siegfried’s and Gunther’s deception.

Now Hagen becomes a prominent figure as he sides with Brunhild and takes the initiative in plotting vengeance. He wins Kriemhild’s confidence and learns Siegfried’s one vulnerable spot and then strikes the fatal blow.

During these events, Brunhild drops almost unnoticed out of the story, and the death of Siegfried does not appear to be so much vengeance on her part as an execution by Hagen, who is suspicious of Siegfried’s growing power. Siegfried’s funeral is conducted with great ceremony, and the grief-stricken Kriemhild remains at Worms, though for a long time estranged from Gunther and Hagen. Later they are reconciled in order to make use of Siegfried’s treasure, which is brought to Worms. Kriemhild begins to distribute it, but Hagen, fearing that her influence will grow, sinks the treasure in the Rhine.

The second part of the poem is much simpler in structure and deals basically with the conflict between Hagen and Kriemhild and her vengeance against the Burgundians. Etzel (Attila), king of the Huns, asks the hand of Kriemhild, who accepts, seeing the possibilities of vengeance in such a union. After many years, she persuades Etzel to invite her brothers and Hagen to his court. Though Hagen is wary, they all go to Etzel’s court, where general combat and complete carnage ensues. Kriemhild has Gunther killed and then, with Siegfried’s sword, she slays the bound and defenseless Hagen, who to the last has refused to reveal where Siegfried’s treasure is hidden. Kriemhild in turn is slain by a knight named Hildebrand, who is outraged at the atrocities that she has just committed.

In the Nibelungenlied some elements of great antiquity are discernible. The story of Brunhild appears in Old Norse literature. The brief references to the heroic deeds of Siegfried allude to several ancient stories, many of which are preserved in the Scandinavian Poetic Edda (see Edda), Vǫlsunga saga, and Thidriks saga, in which Siegfried is called Sigurd. The entire second part of the story, the fall of the Burgundians, appears in an older Eddaic poem, Atlakvida (“Lay of Atli”; see Atli, Lay of). Yet the Nibelungenlied does not appear to be a mere joining of individual stories but, rather, an integration of component elements into a meaningful whole.

It is the second part of the poem that suggests the title “The Book of Kriemhild.” The destruction of the Burgundians (Nibelungen) is her deliberate purpose. The climax of the first part, the death of her husband, Siegfried, prepares the ground for the story of her vengeance. Furthermore, Kriemhild is the first person introduced in the story, which ends with her death; and all through the story predominating attention is paid to Hagen. This concentration on Kriemhild and on the enmity between her and Hagen would seem to suggest that it was the poet’s intention to stress the theme of Kriemhild’s vengeance.

The Nibelungenlied was written at a time in medieval German literature when the current emphasis was on the “courtly” virtues of moderation and refinement of taste and behaviour. The Nibelungenlied, with its displays of violent emotion and its uncompromising emphasis on vengeance and honour, by contrast looks back to an earlier period and bears the mark of a different origin—the heroic literature of the Teutonic peoples at the time of their great migrations. The poem’s basic subject matter also goes back to that period, for it is probable that the story of the destruction of the Burgundians was originally inspired by the overthrow of the Burgundian kingdom at Worms by the Huns in ad 437, and the story of Brunhild and Siegfried may have been inspired by events in the history of the Merovingian dynasty of the Franks in about ad 600. Much of the heroic quality of the original stories has remained in the poem, particularly in the author’s conception of Hagen as the relentless protector of King Gunther’s honour.

Probably no literary work has given more to Germanic arts than the Nibelungenlied. Many variations and adaptations appeared in later centuries. The most significant modern adaptation is Richard Wagner’s famous opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen (1853–74).


see also: The Ring of the Nibelung illustrations by Arthur Rackham



Type of work: Saga
Author: Unknown
Type of plot: Heroic epic
Time of plot: The Germanic legend, with the Burgundian story added from historical events of about 437
Locale: North Central Europe
First transcribed: c. 1200


Chief among the battle sagas of Germanic peoples, The Nibelungenlied has merged and remerged with countless other legends and myths. In it are echoes of the ancient worship of the pagan gods along with elements of Christian ritual, as well as tales, like the battle of Siegfried and the dragon, that go back to prehistoric myths. Even in the modern era, the saga persists in poetry, music, and fiction.


Principal Characters

Siegfried (seg'fred), a prince of Niderland whose heroic achievements include the winning of the great treasure hoard of the Nibelung. Having bathed in the blood of a dragon he slew, Siegfried is invulnerable except for a spot between his shoulders where a linden leaf had fallen. He goes to Burgundy and there wins Kriemhild as his wife. Later he is treacherously killed by a Burgundian knight.
Kriemhild (krem'hild), the beautiful sister of the king of Burgundy. She marries Siegfried, and is subsequently tricked into revealing the secret of his vulnerability. After a long period of widowhood and mourning, she becomes the wife of the king of the Huns. Still seeking vengeance for Siegfried's death, she invites the whole Burgundian court to Hunland. In the final bloody combat all the Bur-gundians are killed, and Kriemhild herself is slain by her husband's order.
Gunther (goon'ter), king of Burgundy. He promises that Siegfried shall marry Kriemhild in return for aiding him in winning Brunhild. With Siegfried's aid. Gunther overcomes Brunhild in her required feats of skill and strength. After the double wedding, Siegfried is again needed to impersonate Gunther in subduing Brunhild, who has determined never to let Gunther share her bed. Gunther is killed in the final blood bath in Hunland.
Brunhild (broon'hild), the daughter of Wotan, won by Gunther with Siegfried's help. Wishing to see Siegfried again, she plans a hunting party to which he and Kriemhild are invited. A great rivalry develops between the women; Kriemhild takes revenge by telling Brunhild the true story of her wedding night. Though Gunther and Siegfried settle the quarrel to their own satisfaction, it becomes a source of trouble among Gunther's brothers.
Hagen (ha'gen), a retainer of the Burgundians and a crafty and troublemaking knight. It is he who slays Siegfried. Hoping to get the Nibelungen treasure, now Kriemhild's, for himself, he orders it dropped into the Rhine. He is slain by Kriemhild herself and with him dies the secret of the treasure's hiding place.
Gernot (gar'not) and Giselher (ge'se-ler), brothers of Kriemhild and Gunther. Convinced by Hagen that Siegfried has stained the honor of their house, they plot with Hagen to kill him. Later they fall victim to Brunhild's revenge.
Etzel (at'sal), also known as Attila, king of the Huns and Kriemhild's second husband.
Ortlieb (ort'leb), Kriemhild's small son. Etzel gives him to the Burgundians as a hostage, and he is killed by Hagen when the fighting begins.
Dank wart (dank'vart), the brother of Hagen. He too is killed in Hunland.
Sir Dietrich (det'rish), a knight who warns the Burgundians that Kriemhild still plots vengeance. As a result, they refuse to give up their weapons.
Sir Bloedel (blo'dal), a knight who comes to Dank-wart's quarters demanding vengeance for Kriemhild. He is killed by Dankwart and thus the final bloody combat begins.
Iring (I'ring), one of Kriemhild's heroes.
Hildebrand (hel'de-brand), a retainer of Etzel. At a sign from Etzel, he ends Kriemhild's life.
Hunold (hoo'nold), a Burgundian hero.
Queen Uta (oo'ta), the mother of Kriemhild.
King Siegmund (seg'moond), the father of Siegfried.
Queen Sieglind (seg'lind), the mother of Siegfried.
Ludger lood'ger), king of the Saxons. After spending a year in the Burgundian court, Siegfried aids Gunther in overcoming the Saxons. In the celebrations that follow, Ludger sees Kriemhild for the first time.
Gelfrat (galf'rat), a Burgundian slain by Dankwart in a quarrel at the start of the journey to Hunland. This and other evil omens are ignored.
Albric (al'brik), a dwarf from whom Siegfried won the cloak of invisibility.


The Story

In Burgundy there lived a noble family which numbered three brothers and a sister. The sons were Gunther, who wore the crown, Gernot, and Giselher; the daughter was Kriemhild. About them was a splendid court of powerful and righteous knights, including Hagen of Trony, his brother Dankwart, and mighty Hunold. Kriemhild dreamed one night that she reared a falcon which then was slain by two eagles. When she told her dream to Queen Uta, her mother's interpretation was that Kriemhild should have a noble husband but that unless God's protection followed him he might soon die.
Siegfried was born in Niderland, the son of King Sieg-mund and Queen Sieglind. In his young manhood he heard of the beautiful Kriemhild, and, although he had never seen her, he determined to have her for his wife. Undeterred by reports of her fierce and warlike kinsmen, he made his armor ready for his venture. Friends came from all parts of the country to bid him farewell, and many of them accompanied him as retainers into King Gunther's land. When he arrived at Gunther's court, Hagen, who knew his fame, told the brothers the story of Siegfried's first success, relating how Siegfried had killed great heroes and had won the hoard of the Nibe-lung, a treasure of so much gold and jewels that five score wagons could not carry all of it. He also told how Siegfried had won the cloak of invisibility from the dwarf Albric and how Siegfried had become invisible from having bathed in the blood of a dragon he had slain.
Gunther and his brothers admitted Siegfried to their hall after they had heard of his exploits, and the hero stayed with them a year. In all that time, however, he did not once see Kriemhild.
The Saxons led by King Ludger threatened to overcome the kingdom of the Burgundians. Siegfried pledged to use his forces in overcoming the Saxons, and in the battle he led his knights and Gunther's troops to a great victory. In the following days there were great celebrations at which Queen Uta and her daughter Kriemhild appeared in public. On one of these occasions Siegfried and Kriemhild met and became betrothed.
King Gunther, wanting to marry Brunhild, Wotan's daughter, told Siegfried that if he would help him win Brunhild then he might wed Kriemhild. Gunther set out at the head of a great expedition, all of his knights decked in costly garments in order to impress Brunhild. Her choice for a husband, however, was not for a well-dressed prince but for a hero. She declared that the man who would win her must surpass her in feats of skill and strength. With Siegfried's aid Gunther overcame Brunhild, and she agreed to go with Gunther as his wife.
Siegfried was sent on ahead to announce a great celebration in honor of the coming marriage of Gunther to Brunhild. A double ceremony took place, with Kriemhild becoming the bride of Siegfried at the same time.
At the wedding feast Brunhild burst into tears at the sight of Kriemhild and Siegfried together. Gunther tried to explain away her unhappiness, but once more, Gunther needed Siegfried's aid, for Brunhild had determined never to let Gunther share her bed. Siegfried went to her chamber and there overpowered her. Thinking she had been overcome by Gunther, she was thus subdued to Gunther's wit and will.
Brunhild bore a son, who was named for Siegfried. As time passed she wished once more to see Siegfried, who had returned with Kriemhild to his own country. Therefore, she instructed Gunther to plan a great hunting party to which Siegfried and Kriemhild should be invited.
At the meeting of the two royal families, there was great rivalry between Brunhild and Kriemhild. They vied with each other by overdressing their attendants and then argued as to the place each should have in the royal procession. Finally, Kriemhild took revenge when she told Brunhild the true story of her wedding night. Accusing Brunhild of acting the part of a harlot, she said that Brunhild had slept first with Siegfried, then with her husband, Gunther. For proof, she displayed Brunhild's ring and girdle, both of which Siegfried had won from Brunhild the night he had overcome her. Brunhild, furious and desirous of revenge, sought out her husband and confronted him with the story of her humiliation and betrayal.
Gunther and Siegfried soon settled to their own satisfaction the wanton quarrel between the two women, but Hagen, the crafty one, stirred up trouble among Gunther's brothers with his claim that Siegfried had stained the honor of their house, and then plotted to trap Siegfried and destroy him. When it was reported that the Saxons were to attack Gunther's knights, Kriemhild unwittingly revealed Siegfried's one vulnerable spot. While bathing in the dragon's blood, he had failed to protect a portion of his body the size of a linden leaf because a leaf had fallen down between his shoulders. The villainous Hagen asked her to sew a token on the spot so that he could protect Siegfried during the fighting.
Hagen sent men to say that the Saxons had given up the attack. Then, the fear of battle over, Gunther rode out to hunt with all of his knights. There, deep in the forest, as Siegfried was bending over a spring to drink, he was struck in the fatal spot by an arrow from Hagen's bow. Before he died Siegfried cursed the Burgundians and their tribe forever. Indifferent to the dying man's curse, Hagen carried home the body of the dead hero.
He placed Siegfried's body in the path where Kriemhild would see it on her way to church, but a chamberlain discovered the body before she passed. Kriemhild knew instinctively whose hand had done the deed. A thousand knights headed by Siegmund, his father, mourned the dead hero, and everyone claimed vengeance. The widow gave vast sums of money to the poor in honor of Siegfried. When Siegmund prepared to leave for Niderland, he asked Kriemhild to go with him. She refused but allowed him to take Siegfried's son with him. She was determined to stay with the Burgundians. Queen Brunhild, however, offered no compassion. The Nibelungen hoard was given to Kriemhild, for it was her wedding gift; however, by order of Hagen, who planned to get possession of the treasure, all of it was dropped to the bottom of the Rhine. In the years that followed Kriemhild remained in mourning for Siegfried.
At last the mighty Etzel, king of the Huns, sought to marry Kriemhild. After a long courtship he won Kriemhild and took her to his land to be his wife. Etzel was rich and strong, and after her long years of mourning, Kriemhild again occupied a position of power and honor. Now she began to consider how she might avenge herself for the death of Siegfried. Hoping to get Hagen in her power, she sent a messenger to her brothers, saying that she longed to see all of them again.
When they received her message, the brothers and Hagen set out. Old Queen Uta told them that in a dream she had seen a vision of dire foreboding, but the Burgundians refused to heed her warning. Furthermore, Hagen received a token from some mermaidens, who said none of the knights would return from Hunland. He disregarded the prediction. Then a quarrel broke out among the Burgundians, and Dankwart slew Gelfrat. Three evil omens now attended the coming journey, but still the brothers refused to turn back. At last the Burgundians came to Etzel's castle.
Gunther and his brothers were put into separate apartments. Dankwart and Hagen were sent to other quarters. Warned by Sir Dietrich that Kriemhild still plotted vengeance for Siegfried's death, Hagen urged them all to take precautions. When Kriemhild asked them to give her their weapons, Hagen replied that it could not be. The Burgundians decided to post a guard to prevent a surprise attack while they slept.
The court went to mass. At the services the Huns were displeased to see that Gunther and his party jostled Queen Kriemhild.
In honor of the Burgundians, a great tournament was held for all the knights. So bad was the feeling between the Burgundians and the Huns that King Etzel was forced to intervene in order to keep the peace. To appease the brothers, Etzel gave them Kriemhild's small son, Ortlieb, as a hostage. Sir Bloedel, however, pressed into Dank-wart's quarters demanding justice for Kriemhild.
In a few minutes he had aroused the anger of Dankwart, who rose from his table and killed Bloedel. For this deed the angered Huns killed Dankwart's retainers. Dankwart, at bay, ran to Hagen for help. Hagen, knowing that he would not live to seek his vengeance on Kriemhild later, slaughtered the little prince, Ortlieb. Then a mighty battle followed in which Hagen and Gunther managed to kill most of their adversaries.
Kriemhild now urged her heroes to kill Hagen. The first to take up the challenge was Iring. After he had wounded Hagen, he rushed back to Kriemhild for praise. Hagen recovered quickly and sought Iring to kill him.
The battle continued, and many knights from both sides fell in the bloody combat. Outnumbered, the Burgundians fell one by one. Kriemhild herself slew Hagen, the last of the Burgundians to survive. He died without revealing the location of the treasure.
King Etzel grieved to see so many brave knights killed. At a sign from him, Hildebrand, one of his retainers, lifted his sword and ended the life of Kriemhild as well.
So died the secret of the new hiding place of the Nibelungen treasure hoard.


Critical Evaluation

The material which forms the subject matter of the Germanic heroic epics is derived from historical events which became part of an oral tradition and were passed down, sometimes for centuries, in the form of sagas, before being established in written form. The historical events which lie behind the Nibelung saga are to be found in the fifth and sixth centuries, the period of the tribal wanderings at the end of the Roman Empire. The Burgundians, under King Gundahari, whose capital was at Worms, were in fact destroyed by the Huns in 437. The Siegfried figure is probably of Merovingian origin and may derive from an intermarriage between the Burgun-dian and Frankish royal houses. The record of these events, mingled with purely legendary elements, is preserved in a number of works: Besides The Nibelungenlied, the Scandinavian Poetic Edda (ninth to twelfth centuries) is the most important. It was upon this latter source rather than the Germanic version that Richard Wagner based his four-part music drama, The Ring of the Nibelung (1876). There are four main themes in the saga tradition: the adventures of the young Siegfried, Siegfried's death, the destruction of the Burgundians, and the death of Attila. These elements occurred as separate works in the early stages of composition. In the present version of the saga composed by an anonymous German author around the year 1200, the various elements are woven together into a unified plot, linking the death of Siegfried with the destruction of the Burgundians through the motive of revenge. Traces of the older separate versions are evident, however, in such inner inconsistencies as the transformation of the character of Kriemhild, who appears initially as a model courtly figure but becomes the bloodthirsty avenger of her husband's death in the second part. It is a mark of the artistic talent of the anonymous author that he fuses the core episodes with such care and achieves a plausible and aesthetically satisfying work.
The Nibelungenlied is the product of the brilliant period of the Hohenstaufen dynasty of the Holy Roman Empire, a time when the courtly culture of Germany was at its height. The poet was probably of Austrian origin: The importance of the splendid court at Vienna and the noble figure of Bishop Pilgrim of Passau indicate that the poet may have enjoyed the patronage of these courts. That the poet remains anonymous is a tradition of the heroic epic form, evolving from the anonymous court singer of the wandering Germanic tribes. Whereas the writers of Arthurian epics and religious epics name themselves and often discuss their work in a prologue, the composer of the heroic epic remains outside his work, presenting his material more as history and without the self-conscious comments and digressions found in works such as Par-zival (c. 1200-1210) or Tristan and Isolde (c. 1210), both of whose poets name themselves and go into some detail regarding their intentions and artistic conceptions. The work, written in four-line stanzas, bears the signs of its history of oral presentation—frequent repetition of rhyme words, the use of formulaic descriptions and filler lines, and general looseness of composition. The poem was not conceived as a written work but represents a written record of an oral performance tradition. Even after assuming written form, the work would be read aloud to an audience, books being a scarce and expensive commodity in this period.
The purpose of the work, like that of courtly poetry in general, was to mirror courtly society in its splendor, color, and activity and to present within that framework images of an idealized world in which larger-than-life figures act out the social rituals of the time and provide for the audience models of courtly behavior, of honor, fortitude, and noble bearing under great stress. Repeatedly in the work one observes long passages devoted to description of the court festivities—banquets, tournaments, processions—all filled with details of clothing and jewelry, splendid utensils, and weapons. Questions of etiquette and precedence provide some of the central conflicts of the work, while the lyrical episodes of the love between Siegfried and Kriemhild may be seen as an embodiment of the idealized conception of love celebrated by the Minnesanger. Although the grim events of the old dramatic saga material at times conflict with the more cultivated ideal of the thirteenth century, the poet succeeds even here in transforming the traditional material. Elements related to fairy-tale tradition—the stories of Siegfried's youth, the battle with the dragon, the magic aura surrounding Brunhild on her island—are largely suppressed.
The idealizing elements are developed, both in the first part, where Siegfried and Kriemhild stand out brightly against the menacing forces of the Burgundian court, especially Hagen, and in the second part, where, despite the atmosphere of betrayal and carnage, the high points are moments of fortitude and courage and the preservation of ethical integrity. Rudiger, who finds himself torn between feudal loyalty to King Etzel and his loyalty to and friendship with the Burgundians, to one of whom his daughter is engaged, is one of the greatest of these figures. The episode in which he finds himself obliged to fight against the Burgundian Gernot, to whom he has given the sword which now will kill him, is one of the most poignant scenes in the work.
The chain of crime and revenge finds cessation and resolution only in the lament for the fallen warriors, and it is in this tragic sense of the inevitable suffering that follows joy that the work preserves its links to the ancient Germanic heroic outlook, establishing its individuality against the more generally optimistic outlook of the Arthurian sagas. Here the fatalistic confrontation with destructive forces is opposed to the affirmation of order and the delight of life typical of much literature of the Hohenstaufen period. It is the tension between these two attitudes that provides much of the power of the work and lifts it into the realm of universal validity.



The Nibelungenlied

Translated by Daniel B. Shumway

Illustrations by Arthur Rackham




Full many a wonder is told us in stories old, of heroes worthy of praise, of hardships dire, of joy and feasting, of the fighting of bold warriors, of weeping and of wailing; now ye may hear wonders told.

In Burgundy there grew so noble a maid that in all the lands none fairer might there be. Kriemhild [3] was she called; a comely woman she became, for whose sake many a knight must needs lose his life. Well worth the loving was this winsome maid. Bold knights strove for her, none bare her hate. Her peerless body was beautiful beyond degree; the courtly virtues of this maid of noble birth would have adorned many another woman too.

Three kings, noble and puissant, did nurture her, Gunther [4] and Gernot, [5] warriors worthy of praise, and Giselher, [6] the youth, a chosen knight. This lady was their sister, the princes had her in their care. The lordings were free in giving, of race high-born, passing bold of strength were they, these chosen knights. Their realm hight Burgundy. Great marvels they wrought hereafter in Etzel's [7] land. At Worms [8] upon the Rhine they dwelt with all their power. Proud knights from out their lands served them with honor, until their end was come. Thereafter they died grievously, through the hate of two noble dames.

Their mother, a mighty queen, was called the Lady Uta, [9] their father, Dankrat, [10] who left them the heritage after his life was over; a mighty man of valor that he was, who won thereto in youth worship full great. These kings, as I have said, were of high prowess. To them owed allegiance the best of warriors, of whom tales were ever told, strong and brave, fearless in the sharp strife. Hagen [11] there was of Troneg, thereto his brother Dankwart, [12] the doughty; Ortwin of Metz [13]; Gere [14] and Eckewart, [15] the margraves twain; Folker of Alzei, [16] endued with fullness of strength. Rumolt [17] was master of the kitchen, a chosen knight; the lords Sindolt and Hunolt, liegemen of these three kings, had rule of the court and of its honors. Thereto had they many a warrior whose name I cannot tell. Dankwart was marshal; his nephew, Ortwin, seneschal unto the king; Sindolt was cupbearer, a chosen knight; Hunolt served as chamberlain; well they wot how to fill these lofty stations. Of the forces of the court and its far-reaching might, of the high worship [18] and of the chivalry these lords did ply with joy throughout their life, of this forsooth none might relate to you the end.

In the midst of these high honors Kriemhild dreamed a dream, of how she trained a falcon, strong, fair, and wild, which, before her very eyes, two eagles rent to pieces. No greater sorrow might chance to her in all this world. This dream then she told to Uta her mother, who could not unfold it to the dutiful maid in better wise than this: "The falcon which thou trainest, that is a noble man, but thou must needs lose him soon, unless so be that God preserve him."

"Why speakest thou to me of men, dear brother mine? I would fain ever be without a warrior's love. So fair will I remain until my death, that I shall never gain woe from love of man."

"Now forswear this not too roundly," spake the mother in reply. "If ever thou shalt wax glad of heart in this world, that will chance through the love of man. Passing fair wilt thou become, if God grant thee a right worthy knight."

"I pray you leave this speech," spake she, "my lady. Full oft hath it been seen in many a wife, how joy may at last end in sorrow. I shall avoid them both, then can it ne'er go ill with me."

Thus in her heart Kriemhild forsware all love. Many a happy day thereafter the maiden lived without that she wist any whom she would care to love. In after days she became with worship a valiant here's bride. He was the selfsame falcon which she beheld in her dream that her mother unfolded to her. How sorely did she avenge this upon her nearest kin, who slew him after! Through his dying alone there fell full many a mother's son.


[1] "Nibelungenlied", the lay of the Nibelungs. The ordinary etymology of this name is 'children of the mist' ("Nebelkinder", O.N. "Niflungar"), and it is thought to have belonged originally to the dwarfs. Piper, I, 50, interprets it as 'the sons of Nibul'; Boer, II, 198, considers "Hniflungar" to be the correct Norse form and interprets it as 'the descendants of Hnaef' (O.E. "Hnaef", O.H.G. "Hnabi"), whose death is related in the "Finnsaga".

[2] "Adventure" (M.H.G. "aventiure", from O.F. "aventure", Lat.

"adventura"). The word meant originally a happening, especially some great event, then the report of such an event. Here it is used in the sense of the different cantos or "fitts" of the poem, as in the "Gudrun" and other M.H.G. epics. Among the courtly poets it also frequently denotes the source, or is the personification of the muse of poetry.

[3] "Kriemhild" is the Upper German form of the Frankish "Grimhild". In the MSS., the name generally appears with a further shifting as "Chriemhilt", as if the initial consonant were Germanic "k". On the various forms of the name, which have never yet been satisfactorily explained, see Mullenhoff, ZsfdA. xii, 299, 413; xv, 313; and Bohnenberger, PB. Beit. xxiv, 221-231.

[4] "Gunther" is the historical "Gundahari", king of the Burgundians in the fifth century.

[5] "Gernot" was probably introduced by some minstrel in place of the historical "Godomar", who appears in the Norse version as "Gutthormr", though the names are not etymologically the same, as "Godomar" would be "Guthmarr" in Old Norse.

[6] "Giselher" is the historical "Gislaharius". Although mentioned by the "Lex Burgundionum" as one of the Burgundian kings, he does not appear in the early Norse version, or in other poems dealing with these persons, such as the "Waltharius", the "Rabenschlacht", the "Rosengarten", etc., and was probably introduced at a late date into the saga. Originally no role was ascribed to him, and not even his death is told. He probably came from some independent source.

[7] "Etzel" is the German form for the historical "Attila" (Norse "Atli"). A discussion of his connection with the saga will be found in the introduction.

[8] "Worms" is the ancient "Borbetomagus", which in the first century B.C. was the chief city of the German tribe of the "Vangioni". In the fifth century it was the capital of the Burgundian kingdom, but was destroyed by the Huns. The Merovingians rebuilt it, and in the seventh century it became a bishopric where Charlemagne at times held his court. It was later noted as the meeting-place of many imperial diets. It remained a free city till 1801. In the "Thidreksaga" the name is corrupted into "Wernize".

[9] "Uta" (M.H.G. "Uote"). The name means ancestress, and is frequently used for the mother of heroes. The modern German form is "Ute", but in order to insure its being pronounced with two syllables, the form "Uta" was chosen.

[10] "Dankrat" (M.H.G. "Dancrat") appears as the father only in the "Nibelungenlied" and poems dependent on it, e.g., the "Klage" and "Biterolf", elsewhere as "Gibiche" (Norse "Giuki").

[11] "Hagen of Troneg". Troneg is probably a corruption of the name of the Latin colony, "colonia Trajana", on the Lower Rhine, which as early as the fifth century was written as "Troja", giving rise to the legend that the Franks were descended from the ancient Trojans. "Troja" was then further corrupted to "Tronje" and "Tronege". Hagen was therefore originally a Frank and had no connection with the Burgundian kings, as the lack of alliteration also goes to show. Boer thinks that not Siegfried but Hagen originally lived at Xanten (see note 3 to Adventure II), as this was often called Troja Francorum. When the Hagen story was connected with the Burgundians and Hagen became either their brother or their vassal, his home was transferred to Worms and Siegfried was located at Xanten, as he had no especial localization. Thus Siegfried is never called Siegfried of Troneg, as is Hagen. Other attempts to explain Troneg will be found in Piper, I, 48.

[12] "Dankwart" is not an historical character nor one that belonged to the early form of the legend. He may have come from another saga, where he played the principal role as Droege (ZsfdA. 48, 499) thinks. Boer considers him to be Hagen's double, invented to play a part that would naturally fall to Hagen's share, were he not otherwise engaged at the moment. In our poem he is called "Dancwart der snelle", a word that has proved a stumbling-block to translators, because in modern German it means 'speedy', 'swift'. Its original meaning was, however, 'brave', 'warlike', although the later meaning is already found in M.H.G. In all such doubtful cases the older meaning has been preferred, unless the context forbids, and the word 'doughty' has been chosen to translate it.

[13] "Ortwin of Metz" appears also in the "Eckenlied", "Waltharius", and in "Biterolf". He is most likely a late introduction (but see Piper, I, 44). Rieger thinks that he belonged to a wealthy family "De Metis". Though the "i" is long in the original, and Simrock uses the form "Ortewein" in his translation, the spelling with short "i" has been chosen, as the lack of accent tends to shorten the vowel in such names.

[14] "Gere" is likewise a late introduction. He is perhaps the historical Margrave Gere (965) of East Saxony, whom Otto the Great appointed as a leader against the Slavs. See O. von Heinemann, "Markgraf Gero", Braunschweig, 1860, and Piper, L 43.

[15] "Eckewart" is also a late accession. He is perhaps the historical margrave of Meissen (1002), the first of the name. He, too, won fame in battle against the Slavs.

[16] "Folker of Alzet" (M.H.G. "Volker von Alzeije"), the knightly minstrel, is hardly an historical personage, in spite of the fact that Alzey is a well-known town in Rhine Hesse on the Selz, eighteen miles southwest of Mainz. The town has, to be sure, a violin in its coat of arms, as also the noble family of the same name. It is most likely, however, that this fact caused Folker to be connected with Alzei. In the "Thidreksaga" Folker did not play the role of minstrel, and it is probable that some minstrel reviser of our poem developed the character and made it the personification of himself.

[17] "Rumolt", "Bindolt", and "Hunolt" have no historical basis and merely help to swell the retinue of the Burgundians.

[18] "Worship". This word has been frequently used here in its older meaning of 'worth', 'reverence', 'respect', to translate the M.H.G. "eren", 'honors'.

Of Siegfried.
In the Netherlands there grew the child of a noble king (his father had for name Siegemund, [1] his mother Siegelind), [2] in a mighty castle, known far and wide, in the lowlands of the Rhine: Xanten, [3] men called it. Of this hero I sing, how fair he grew. Free he was of every blemish. Strong and famous he later became, this valiant man. Ho! What great worship he won in this world! Siegfried hight this good and doughty knight. Full many kingdoms did he put to the test through his warlike mood. Through his strength of body he rode into many lands. Ho! What bold warriors he after found in the Burgundian land! Mickle wonders might one tell of Siegfried in his prime, in youthful days; what honors he received and how fair of body he. The most stately women held him in their love; with the zeal which was his due men trained him. But of himself what virtues he attained! Truly his father's lands were honored, that he was found in all things of such right lordly mind. Now was he become of the age that he might ride to court. Gladly the people saw him, many a maid wished that his desire might ever bear him hither. Enow gazed on him with favor; of this the prince was well aware. Full seldom was the youth allowed to ride without a guard of knights. Siegmund and Siegelind bade deck him out in brave attire. The older knights who were acquaint with courtly custom, had him in their care. Well therefore might he win both folk and land.

Now he was of the strength that he bare weapons well. Whatever he needed thereto, of this he had enow. With purpose he began to woo fair ladies; these bold Siegfried courted well in proper wise. Then bade Siegmund have cried to all his men, that he would hold a feasting with his loving kindred. The tidings thereof men brought into the lands of other kings. To the strangers and the home-folk he gave steeds and armor. Wheresoever any was found who, because of his birth, should become a knight, these noble youths were summoned to the land for the feasting. Here with the youthful prince they gained the knightly sword. Wonders might one tell of this great feast;

Siegmund and Siegelind wist well how to gain great worship with their gifts, of which their hands dealt out great store. Wherefore one beheld many strangers riding to their realm. Four hundred sword-thanes [4] were to put on knightly garb with Siegfried. Many a fair maid was aught but idle with the work, for he was beloved of them all. Many precious stones the ladies inlaid on the gold, which together with the edging they would work upon the dress of the proud young warriors, for this must needs be done.

The host bade make benches for the many valiant men, for the midsummer festival, [5] at which Siegfried should gain the name of knight. Then full many a noble knight and many a high-born squire did hie them to the minster. Right were the elders in that they served the young, as had been done to them afore. Pastimes they had and hope of much good cheer. To the honor of God a mass was sung; then there rose from the people full great a press, as the youths were made knights in courtly wise, with such great honors as might not ever lightly be again. Then they ran to where they found saddled many a steed. In Siegmund's court the hurtling [6] waxed so fierce that both palace [7] and hall were heard to ring; the high-mettled warriors clashed with mighty sound. From young and old one heard many a shock, so that the splintering of the shafts reechoed to the clouds. Truncheons [8] were seen flying out before the palace from the hand of many a knight. This was done with zeal. At length the host bade cease the tourney and the steeds were led away. Upon the turf one saw all to-shivered [9] many a mighty buckler and great store of precious stones from the bright spangles [10] of the shields. Through the hurtling this did hap.

Then the guests of the host betook them to where men bade them sit. With good cheer they refreshed them and with the very best of wine, of which one bare frill plenty. To the strangers and the home-folk was shown worship enow. Though much pastime they had throughout the day, many of the strolling folk forsware all rest. They served for the largess, which men found there richly, whereby Siegmund's whole land was decked with praise. Then bade the king enfeoff Siegfried, the youth, with land and castles, as he himself had done. Much his hand bestowed upon the sword-companions. The journey liked them well, that to this land they were come. The feasting lasted until the seventh day. Siegelind, the noble queen, for the love of her son, dealt out ruddy gold in time-honored wise. Full well she wot how to make him beloved of the folk. Scarce could a poor man be found among the strolling mimes. Steeds and raiment were scattered by their hand, as if they were to live not one more day. I trow that never did serving folk use such great bounty. With worshipful honors the company departed hence. Of the mighty barons the tale doth tell that they desired the youth unto their lord, but of this the stately knight, Sir Siegfried, listed naught. Forasmuch as both Siegmund and Siegelind were still alive, the dear child of them twain wished not to wear a crown, but fain would he become a lord against all the deeds of force within his lands, whereof the bold and daring knight was sore adread.


[1] "Siegmund" (M.H.G. "Sigemunt") was originally the hero of an independent saga. See "Volsungasaga", chaps. 3-8.

[2] "Siegelind" (M.H.G. "Sigelint") is the correct name of Siegfried's mother, as the alliteration shows. The Early Norse version has "Hjordis", which has come from the "Helgi saga".

[3] "Xanten" (M.H.G. "Santen" from the Latin "ad sanctos") is at present a town in the Rhenish Prussian district of Dusseldorf. It does not now lie on the Rhine, but did in the Middle Ages.

[4] "Sword-thanes" (M.H.G. "swertdegene") were the young squires who were to be made knights. It was the custom for a youthful prince to receive the accolade with a number of others.

[5] "Midsummer festival". The M.H.G. "sunewende" means literally the 'sun's turning', i.e., the summer solstice. This was one of the great Germanic festivals, which the church later turned into St. John's Eve. The bonfires still burnt in Germany on this day are survivals of the old heathen custom.

[6] "Hurtling" translates here M.H.G. "buhurt", a word borrowed from the French to denote a knightly sport in which many knights clashed together. Hurtling was used in older English in the same significance.

[7] "Palace" (M.H.G. "palas", Lat. "palatium") is a large building standing alone and largely used as a reception hall.

[8] "Truncheons" (M.H.G. "trunzune", O.F. "troncon", 'lance splinters', 'fragments of spears'.

[9] "To-shivered", 'broken to pieces', in imitation of the older English to-beat, to-break, etc.

[10] "Spangles" (M.H.G. "spangen"), strips of metal radiating from the raised centre of the shield and often set, as here, with precious stones.


How Siegfried Came to Worms.
It was seldom that sorrow of heart perturbed the prince. He heard tales told of how there lived in Burgundy a comely maid, fashioned wondrous fair, from whom he thereafter gained much of joy, but suffering, too. Her beauty out of measure was known far and wide. So many a here heard of her noble mind, that it alone brought many a guest [1] to Gunther's land. But however many were seen wooing for her love, Kriemhild never confessed within her heart that she listed any for a lover. He was still a stranger to her, whose rule she later owned. Then did the son of Siegelind aspire to lofty love; the wooing of all others was to his but as the wind, for well he wot how to gain a lady fair. In later days the noble Kriemhild became bold Siegfried's bride. Kinsmen and liegemen enow advised him, since he would have hope of constant love, that he woo one who was his peer. At this bold Siegfried spake: "Then will I choose Kriemhild, the fair maid of Burgundy, for her beauty beyond measure. This I know full well, never was emperor so mighty, and he would have a wife, that it would not beseem him to love this noble queen."

Tidings of this reached Siegmund's ear; through the talk of the courtiers he was made ware of the wish of his son. Full loth it was to the king, that his child would woo the glorious maid. Siegelind heard it too, the wife of the noble king. Greatly she feared for her child, for full well she knew Gunther and his men. Therefore they sought to turn the hero from this venture. Up spake then the daring Siegfried: "Dear father mine, I would fain ever be without the love of noble dames, if I may not woo her in whom my heart hath great delight; whatsoever any may aver, it will avail but naught."

"And thou wilt not turn back," spake the king, "then am I in sooth glad of thy will and will help thee bring it to pass, as best I may. Yet hath this King Gunther full many a haughty man. If there were none else but Hagen, the doughty knight, he can use such arrogance that I fear me it will repent us sore, if we woo this high-born maid."

Then Siegfried made reply: "Wherefore need that hinder us? What I may not obtain from them in friendly wise, that my hand and its strength can gain. I trow that 1 can wrest from him both folk and land."

To this Prince Siegmund replied: "Thy speech liketh me not, for if this tale were told upon the Rhine, then durst thou never ride unto that land. Long time have Gunther and Gernot been known to me. By force may none win the maid, of this have I been well assured; but wilt thou ride with warriors unto this land, and we still have aught of friends, they shall be summoned soon."

"It is not to my mind," spake again Siegfried, "that warriors should follow me to the Rhine, as if for battle, that I constrain thereby the noble maid. My single hand can win her well--with eleven [2] comrades I will fare to Gunther's land; thereto shalt thou help me, Father Siegmund." Then to his knights they gave for garments furs both gray and vair. [3]

Now his mother Siegelind also heard the tale. She began to make dole for her loved child, whom she feared to lose through Gunther's men. Sorely the noble queen gan weep. Lord Siegfried hied him straightway to where he saw her; to his mother he spake in gentle wise: "Lady, ye must not weep for me; naught have I to fear from all his fighting men. I pray you, speed me on my journey to the Burgundian land, that I and my warriors may have array such as proud heroes can wear with honor; for this I will say you gramercy i' faith."

"Since naught will turn thee," spake then the Lady Siegelind, "so will I speed thee on thy journey, mine only child, with the best of weeds that ever knight did wear, thee and thy comrades. Ye shall have enow."

Siegfried, the youth, then made low obeisance to the queen. He spake: "None but twelve warriors will I have upon the way. Let raiment be made ready for them, I pray, for I would fain see how it standeth with Kriemhild."

Then sate fair ladies night and day. Few enow of them, I trow, did ease them, till Siegfried's weeds had all been wrought. Nor would he desist from faring forth. His father bade adorn the knightly garb in which his son should ride forth from Siegmund's land. The shining breastplates, too, were put in trim, also the stanch helmets and their shields both fair and broad. Now their journey to the Burgundian land drew near; man and wife began to fear lest they never should come home again. The heroes bade lade their sumpters with weapons and with harness. Their steeds were fair and their trappings red with gold. No need were there to live more proudly than Siegfried and his men. Then he asked for leave to journey to the land of Burgundy; this the king and queen sorrowfully vouchsafed. Lovingly he comforted them twain. "For my sake," spake he, "must ye not weep, nor have fear for me or for my life."

The warriors, too, were sad and many a maiden wept; I ween, their hearts did tell them rightly that many of their kinsmen would come to death because of this. Just cause had they for wailing; need enow they had in sooth.

Upon the seventh morning, forth upon the river sand at Worms the brave warriors pricked. Their armor was of ruddy gold and their trappings fashioned fair. Smoothly trotted the steeds of bold Siegfried's men. Their shields were new; gleaming and broad and fair their helmets, as Siegfried, the bold, rode to court in Gunther's land. Never had such princely attire been seen on heroes; their sword-points hung down to their spurs. Sharp javelins were borne by these chosen knights. Siegfried wielded one full two spans broad, which upon its edges cut most dangerously. In their hands they held gold-colored bridles; their martingales were silken: so they came into the land. Everywhere the folk began to gape amazed and many of Gunther's men fared forth to meet them. High-mettled warriors, both knight and squire, betook them to the lords (as was but right), and received into the land of their lords these guests and took from their hands the black sumpters which bore the shields. The steeds, too, they wished to lead away for easement. How boldly then brave Siegfried spake: "Let stand the mounts of me and of my men. We will soon hence again, of this have I great desire. Whosoever knoweth rightly where I can find the king, Gunther, the mighty, of Burgundian land, let him not keep his peace but tell me."

Then up spake one to whom it was rightly known: "Would ye find the king, that can hap full well. In yon broad hall with his heroes did I but see him. Ye must hither hie you; there ye may find with him many a lordly man."

To the king now the word was brought, that full lusty knights were come, who wore white breastplates and princely garb. None knew them in the Burgundian land. Much it wondered the king whence came these lordly warriors in such shining array, with such good shields, both new and broad. Loth was it to Gunther, that none could tell him this. Then Ortwin of Metz (a bold and mighty man was he) made answer to the king: "Since we know them not, ye should send for mine uncle Hagen, and let him see them. To him are known [4] all kingdoms and foreign lands. If so be he knoweth these lords, he will tell us straightway."

Then bade the king that Hagen and his men be brought. One saw him with his warriors striding in lordly wise unto the court.

"What would the king of me?" asked Hagen.

"There be come to my house strange warriors, whelm here none knoweth. If ye have ever seen them, I pray you, Hagen, tell me now the truth."

"That will I," spake then Hagen. He hied him to a window and over the guests he let his glances roam. Well liked him their trappings and their array, but full strange were they to him in the Burgundian land. He spake: "From wheresoever these warriors be come unto the Rhine, they may well be princes or envoys of kings, for their steeds are fair and their garments passing good. Whencesoever they bear these, forsooth high-mettled warriors be they."

"I dare well say," so spake Hagen, "though I never have seen Siegfried, yet can I well believe, however this may be, that he is the warrior that strideth yonder in such lordly wise. He bringeth new tidings hither to this land. By this here's hand were slain the bold Nibelungs, Schilbung and Nibelung, [5] sons of a mighty king. Since then he hath wrought great marvels with his huge strength. Once as the hero rode alone without all aid, he found before a mountain, as I have in sooth been told, by Nibelung's hoard full many a daring man. Strangers they were to him, till he gained knowledge of them there.

"The hoard of Nibelung was borne entire from out a hollow hill. Now hear a wondrous tale, of how the liegemen of Nibelung wished to divide it there. This the hero Siegfried saw and much it gan wonder him. So near was he now come to them, that he beheld the heroes, and the knights espied him, too. One among them spake:

'Here cometh the mighty Siegfried, the hero of Netherland.' Passing strange were the tidings that, he found among the Nibelungs. Schilbung and Nibelung greeted well the knight; with one accord these young and noble lordings bade the stately man divide the hoard. Eagerly they asked it, and the lord in turn gan vow it to them.

"He beheld such store of gems, as we have heard said, that a hundred wains might not bear the lead; still more was there of ruddy gold from the Nibelung land. All this the hand of the daring Siegfried should divide. As a guerdon they gave him the sword of Nibelung, but they were served full ill by the service which the good knight Siegfried should render them. Nor could he end it for them; angry of mood [6] they grew. Twelve bold men of their kith were there, mighty giants these. What might that avail them! Siegfried's hand slew them soon in wrath, and seven hundred warriors from the Nibelung land he vanquished with the good sword Balmung. [7] Because of the great fear that, many a young warrior had of the sword and of the valiant man, they made the land and its castles subject to his hand. Likewise both the mighty kings he slew, but soon he himself was sorely pressed by Alberich. [8] The latter weened to venge straightway his masters, till he then discovered Siegfried's mighty strength; for no match for him was the sturdy dwarf. Like wild lions they ran to the hill, where from Alberich he won the Cloak of Darkness. [9] Thus did Siegfried, the terrible, become master of the hoard; those who had dared the combat, all lay there slain. Soon bade he cart and bear the treasure to the place from whence the men of Nibelung had borne it forth. He made Alberich, the strong, warden of the hoard and bade him swear an oath to serve him as his knave; and fit he was for work of every sort."

So spake Hagen of Troneg: "This he hath done. Nevermore did warrior win such mighty strength. I wot yet more of him: it is known to me that the hero slew a dragon and bathed him in the blood, so that his skin became like horn. Therefore no weapons will cut him, as hath full oft been seen. All the better must we greet this lord, that we may not earn the youthful warrior's hate. So bold is he that we should hold him as a friend, for he hath wrought full many a wonder by his strength."

Then spake the mighty king: "Thou mayst well have right. Behold how valiantly he with his knights doth stand in lust of battle, the daring man! Let us go down to meet the warrior."

"That ye may do with honor," spake then Hagen; "he is of noble race, son of a mighty king. God wot, methinks, he beareth him in such wise, that it can be no little matter for which he hath ridden hither."

"Now be he welcome to us," spake then the king of the land. "He is both noble and brave, as I have heard full well. This shall stand him in good stead in the Burgundian land." Then went Lord Gunther to where Siegfried stood.

The host and his warriors received the guest in such wise that full little was there lack of worship. Low bowed the stately man, that they had greeted him so fair. "It wondereth me," spake the king straightway, "whence ye, noble Siegfried, be come unto this land, or what ye seek at Worms upon the Rhine."

Then the stranger made answer to the king: "This will I not conceal from you. Tales were told me in my father's land, that here with you were the boldest warriors that ever king did gain. This I have often heard, and that I might know it of a truth, therefore am I come. Likewise do I hear boasting of your valor, that no bolder king hath ever been seen. This the folk relate much through all these lands. Therefore will I not turn back, till it be known to me. I also am a warrior and was to wear a crown. Fain would I bring it to pass that it may be said of me:

Rightly doth he rule both folk and land. Of this shall my head and honor be a pledge. Now be ye so bold, as hath been told me, I reck not be it lief or loth to any man, I will gain from you whatso ye have--land and castles shall be subject to my hand."

The king had likewise his men had marvel at the tidings they here heard, that he was willed to take from them their land. The knights waxed wroth, as they heard this word. "How have I earned this," spake Gunther, the knight, "that we should lose by the force of any man that which my father hath rules so long with honor? We should let it ill appear that we, too, are used in knightly ways."

"In no wise will I desist," spake again the valiant man. "Unless it be that through thy strength thy land have peace, I will rule it all. And shouldst thou gain, by thy strength, my ancestral lands, they shall be subject to thy sway. Thy lands, and mine as well, shall lie alike; whether of us twain can triumph over the other, him shall both land and people serve."

Hagen and Gernot, too, straightway gainsaid this. "We have no wish," spake Gernot, "that we should conquer aught of lands, or that any man lie dead at hero's hands. We have rich lands, which serve us, as is meet, nor hath any a better claim to them than we."

There stood his kinsmen, grim of mood; among them, too, Ortwin of Metz. "It doth irk me much to hear these words of peace," spake he; "the mighty Siegfried hath defied you for no just cause. Had ye and your brothers no meet defense, and even if he led a kingly troop, I trow well so to fight that the daring man have good cause to leave this haughty mien."

At this the hero of Netherland grew wonderly wroth. He spake:

"Thy hand shall not presume against me. I am a mighty king, a king's vassal thou. Twelve of thy ilk durst not match me in strife."

Then Ortwin of Metz called loudly for swords. Well was he fit to be Hagen of Troneg's sister's son. It rued the king that he had held his peace so long. Then Gernot, the bold and lusty knight, came in between. He spake to Ortwin: "Now give over thy anger. Lord Siegfried hath done us no such wrong, but that we may still part the strife in courteous wise. Be advised of me and hold him still as friend; far better will this beseem us."

Then spake the doughty Hagen: "It may well grieve us and all thy knights that he ever rode for battle to the Rhine. He should have given it over; my lordings never would have done such ill to him."

To this Siegfried, the mighty man, made answer: "Doth this irk you, Sir Hagen, which I spake, then will I let you see that my hands shall have dominion here in the Burgundian land."

"I alone will hinder this," answered Gernot, and he forbade his knights speak aught with haughtiness that might cause rue. Siegfried, too, then bethought him of the noble maid.

"How might it beseem us to fight with you?" spake Gernot anew. "However really heroes should lie dead because of this, we should have scant honor therefrom and ye but little gain."

To this Siegfried, the son of Siegmund, made reply: "Why waiteth Hagen, and Ortwin, too, that he hasteth not to fight with his kin, of whom he hath so many here in Burgundy?"

At this all held their peace; such was Gernot's counsel. Then spake Queen Uta's son: "Ye shall be welcome to us with all your war-mates, who are come with you. We shall gladly serve you, I and all my kin."

Then for the guests they bade pour out King Gunther's wine. The master of the land then spake: "All that we have, if ye desire it in honorable wise, shall owe fealty to you; with you shall both life and goods be shared."

At this Lord Siegfried grew of somewhat gentler mood. Then they bade that care be taken of the armor of the guests. The best of hostels that men might find were sought for Siegfried's squires; great easement they gave them. Thereafter they gladly saw the guest in Burgundy. Many a day they offered him great worship, a thousand fold more than I can tell you. This his prowess wrought; ye may well believe, full scant a one he saw who was his foe.

Whenever the lordings and their liegemen did play at knightly games, Siegfried was aye the best, whatever they began. Herein could no one match him, so mighty was his strength, whether they threw the stone or hurled the shaft. When through courtesie the full lusty knights made merry with the ladies, there were they glad to see the hero of Netherland, for upon high love his heart was bent. He was aye ready for whatso they undertook, but in his heart he bare a lovely maid, whom he had never seen. She too, who in secret spake full well of him, cherished him alone. Whenever the pages, squires, and knights would play their games within the court, Kriemhild, the noble queen, watched them from the windows, for no other pastime she needed on such days. Had he known that she gazed on him thus, whom he bare within his heart, then had he had pastime enough, I trow, for well I wot that no greater joy in all this world could chance to him.

Whenever he stood by the heroes in the court, as men still are wont to do, for pastime's sake, so winsome was the posture of Siegelind's son, that many a lady loved him for very joy of heart. But he bethought him many a day: "How shall that hap, that I with mine own eyes may see the noble maid, whom I do love with all my heart and so have done long time. Sadly must I stand, sith she be still a stranger to me."

Whenever the mighty kings fared forth into their land, the warriors all must needs accompany them at hand, and Siegfried, too. This the lady rued, and he, too, suffered many pangs for love of her. Thus he dwelt with the lordings, of a truth, full a year in Gunther's land, and in all this time he saw not once the lovely maid, from whom in later days there happed to him much joy and eke much woe.


[1] "Guest" translates here the M.H.G. "gest", a word which may mean either 'guest' or 'stranger,' and it is often difficult, as here, to tell to which meaning the preference should be given.

[2] "Eleven" translates the M.H.G. "selbe zwelfte", which means one of twelve. The accounts are, however, contradictory, as a few lines below mention is made of twelve companions of Siegfried.

[3] "Vair" (O.F. "vair", Lat. "varius"), 'variegated', like the fur of the squirrel.

[4] "Known". It was a mark of the experienced warrior, that he was acquainted with the customs and dress of various countries and with the names and lineage of all important personages. Thus in the "Hildebrandslied" Hildebrand asks Hadubrand to tell him his father's name, and adds: "If thou tellest me the one, I shall know the other."

[5] "Schilbung" and "Nibelung", here spoken of as the sons of a mighty king, were originally dwarfs, and, according to some authorities, the original owners of the treasure. Boer, ix, 199, thinks, however, that the name Nibelungs was transferred from Hagen to these dwarfs at a late stage in the formation of the saga.

[6] "Angry of mood". The reason of this anger is apparent from the more detailed account in "Biterolf", 7801. The quarrel arose from the fact that, according to ancient law, Siegfried acquired with the sword the rights of the first born, which the brothers, however, refused to accord to him.

[7] "Balmung". In the older Norse version and in the "Thidreksaga" Siegfried's sword bore the name of Gram.

[8] "Alberich" is a dwarf king who appears in a number of legends, e.g., in the "Ortnit saga" and in "Biterolf". Under the Romance form of his name, "Oberon", he plays an important role in modern literature.

[9] "Cloak of Darkness". This translates the M.H.G. "tarnkappe", a word often retained by translators. It is formed from O.H.G. tarni, 'secret' (cf. O.E. "dyrne"), and "kappe" from late Latin "cappa", 'cloak'. It rendered the wearer invisible and gave him the strength of twelve men.

How He Fought with the Saxons. [1]
Now there came strange tales to Gunther's land, though messengers sent them from afar--tales of unknown warriors, who bare them hate. When they heard this word, in sooth it pleased them not. These warriors will I name to you: there was Liudeger of Saxon land, a great and lordly prince, and then from Denmark Lindegast, the king. For their journey they had gathered many a lordly stranger.

To Gunther's land were come the messengers his foes had sent. Men asked the strangers for their tidings and bade them hie them soon to court unto King Gunther. The king gave them greeting fair; he spake: "Be ye welcome . I have not heard who sent you hither, but let that now be told." So spake the right good king. But they feared full sore King Gunther's warlike mood.

"Will ye, O King, permit that we tell the tales we bring, then we shall not hold our tongue, but name to you the lordings who have sent us hither: Liudegast and Liudeger; they would march upon this land. Ye have earned their wrath, indeed we heard that both lords bear you mortal hate. They would harry at Worms upon the Rhine and have the aid of many a knight; that may ye know upon our faith. Within twelve weeks the journey must befall. And ye have aught of good friends, who will help guard your castles and your lands, let this soon be seen. Here shall be carved by them many a helm and shield. Or would ye parley with them, let messengers be sent. Then the numerous bands of your mighty foes will not ride so near you, to give you pain of heart, from which full many a lusty knight and a good must die."

"Now bide a time," spake the good king, "till I bethink me better; then ye shall know my mind. Have I aught of trusty men, I will not withhold from them these startling tales, but will make complaint thereof unto my friends."

To Gunther, the mighty king, it was loth enow, but in his heart he bare the speech in secret wise. He bade Hagen be fetched and others of his men, and sent eftsoon to court for Gernot. Then came the very best of men that could he found. The king spake:

"Men would seek us here in this our land with mighty armies, now make ye wail for that."

To this Gernot, a brave and lusty knight, made answer: "That will we fend indeed with swords. Only the fey [2] will fall. So let them die; for their sake I will not forget my honor. Let these foes of ours be welcome to us."

Then spake Hagen of Troneg: "This thinketh me not good. Liudegast and Liudeger bear great arrogance; nor can we summon all our men in such short time. Why tell ye not Siegfried of the thing?" So spake the valiant knight.

To the messengers they bade give lodging in the town. Whatever hate they bore them, yet Gunther, the mighty, bade purvey them well, as was but right, till he discovered of his friends who there was who would lend him aid. Yet in his fears the king was ill at ease. Just then full blithe a knight, who wot not what had happed, saw him thus sad and prayed King Gunther to tell him of the matter. "Much it wondereth me," spake Siegfried, for he it was, "that ye thus have changed your merry wont, which ye have used thus far with us."

To this Gunther, the stately knight, replied: "It liketh me not to tell all folk the grievance which I must bear within my heart in secret wise. Only to trusty friends should one confide his woe of heart."

At this Siegfried's color waxed both pale and red. To the king he spake: "I have denied you naught and will gladly help you turn aside your woes. And ye seek friends, I will be one of them and trow well to deport myself with honor until mine end."

"Now God reward you, Sir Siegfried, your speech thinketh me good, and though your prowess help me not, yet do I rejoice to hear that ye are friend to me, and live I yet a while, I shall repay you well. I will let you hear why I stand thus sad; from the messengers of my foes I have heard that they would visit me with war, a thing which knights have never done to us in all these lands."

"Regard this lightly," spake then Siegfried, "and calm your mood. Do as I pray you. Let me gain for you both worship and advantage and do ye command your knights, that they gather to your aid. Should your mighty foes be helped by thirty thousand [3] men, yet could I withstand them, had I but a thousand; for that rely on me."

Then spake King Gunther: "For this I'll serve you ever."

"So bid me call a thousand of your men, since of mine own I have but twelve, and I will guard your land. Faithfully shall the hand of Siegfried serve you. Hagen shall help us and also Ortwin, Dankwart, and Sindolt, your trusty men. Folker, the valiant man, shall also ride along; he shall bear the banner, for to none would I liefer grant it. Let now the envoys ride home to their masters' lands. Give them to understand they soon shall see us, that our castles may rest in peace."

Then the king bade summon both his kinsmen and his men. The messengers of Liudeger betook them to the court. Fain they were that they should journey home again. Gunther, the good king, made offrance of rich gifts and gave them safe-convoy. At this their spirits mounted high. "Now say unto my foes," spake then Gunther, "that they may well give over their journey and stay at home; but if they will seek me here within my lands, hardships shall they know, and my friends play me not false."

Rich gifts men bare then for the envoys; enow of these had Gunther to bestow, nor durst the men of Liudeger refuse them. When at last they took their leave, they parted hence in merry mood.

Now when the messengers were come to Denmark and King Liudegast had heard how they parted from the Rhine, as was told him, much he rued, in sooth, their [4] proud defiance. The envoys said that Gunther had full many a valiant man-at-arms and among them they saw a warrior stand, whose name was Siegfried, a hero from Netherland. Little liked it Liudegast when he heard aright this tale. When the men of Denmark had heard these tidings told, they hasted all the more to call their friends; till Sir Liudegast had gathered for his journey full twenty thousand knights from among his valiant men. Then King Liudeger, also, of Saxon land, sent forth his summons, till they had forty thousand men and more, with whom they thought to ride to the Burgundian land.

Likewise at home King Gunther got him men-at-arms among his kin and the liegemen of his brothers, and among Hagen's men whom they wished to lead thence for battle. Much need of this the heroes had, but warriors soon must suffer death from this. Thus they made them ready for the journey. When they would hence, Folker, the daring, must bear the flag. In such wise they thought to ride from Worms across the Rhine. Hagen of Troneg was master of the troop; with them rode Sindolt and Hunolt, too, who wist well how to merit Gunther's gold. Dankwart, Hagen's brother, and Ortwin, too, well could they serve with honor in this war.


"Sir King," spake then Siegfried, "stay ye at home; since that your warriors are willed to follow me, remain ye with the ladies and keep your spirits high. I trow well to guard for you both honor and estate. Well will I bring it to pass that those who thought to seek you out at Worms upon the Rhine, had better far have stayed at home. We shall ride so nigh unto their land that their proud defiance shall be turned to fear."

From the Rhine they rode through Hesse with their warriors towards Saxon land, where they later fought. With fire and pillage, too, they harried all the countryside, so that the two kings did learn of it in dire distress. Then came they to the border; the warriors marched along. Siegfried, the strong, gan ask: "Who shall now guard here the troop?" Forsooth never did men ride more scathfully to the Saxons. They spake: "Let the valiant Dankwart guard the young upon the way, he is a doughty knight. Thus shall we lose the less through Liudeger's men. Let him and Ortwin guard the rear."

"Then I myself will ride," spake Siegfried, the knight, "and play the outlook toward the foe, until I discover aright where these warriors be." Quickly the son of fair Siegelind donned his harness. The troop he gave in charge to Hagen, when he would depart, and to Gernot, the valiant man. Thus he rode hence into the Saxon land alone and many a helmet band he cut to pieces on that day. Soon he spied the mighty host that lay encamped upon the plain and far outweighed the forces of his men. Forty thousand or better still there were. Full blithely Siegfried saw this in lofty mood. Meantime a warrior full well arrayed had mounted to the outlook 'gainst the foe. Him Sir Siegfried spied, and the bold man saw him, too. Each began to watch the other in hostile wise. Who it was, who stood on guard, I'll tell you now; a gleaming shield of gold lay by his hand. It was the good King Liudegast, who was guarding here his band. The noble stranger pricked along in lordly wise.

Now had Sir Liudegast espied him with hostile eye. Into the flanks of their horses they plunged the spurs; with all their might they couched the spears against the shields. At this great fear befell the mighty king. After the thrust the horses carried past each other the royal knights, as though borne upon the wind. With the bridles they wheeled in knightly wise and the two fierce champions encountered with their swords. Then smote Sir Siegfried, so that the whole field did ring. Through the hero's hand from out the helmets, as from firebrands, flew the bright red sparks. Each in the other found his match. Sir Liudegast, too, struck many a savage blow; the might of each broke full upon the shields. Thirty of Liudegast's men stood there on guard, but ere they could come to his aid, Siegfried had won the fight, with three groat wounds which he dealt the king through his gleaming breastplate, the which was passing good. The blood from the wounds gushed forth along the edges of the sword, whereat King Liudegast stood in sorry mood. He begged for life and made offrance of his lands and said that his name was Liudegast. Then came his warrior's, who had witnessed what there had happed upon the lookout. As Siegfried would lead his captive thence, he was set upon by thirty of these men. With mighty blows the hero's hand guarded his noble prize. The stately knight then wrought worse scathe. In self-defense he did thirty unto death; only one he left alive, who rode full fast to tell the tale of what here had chanced. By his reddened helmet one might see the truth. It sorely grieved the men of Denmark, when the tale was told them that their king was taken captive. Men told it to his brother, who at the news began to rage with monstrous wrath, for great woe it brought him.

Liudegast, the warrior, then was led away by Siegfried's might to Gunther's men and given to Hagen in charge. When that they heard it was the king, full moderate was their dole. The Burgundians now were bidden raise their banner. "Up, men," cried Siegfried, "here shall more be done, ere the day end, and I lose not my life. Full many a stately dame in Saxon land shall rue this fight. Ye heroes from the Rhine, give heed to me, for I can guide you well to Liudeger's band. So shall ye see helmets carved by the hands of goodly knights; ere we turn again, they shall become acquaint with fear."

To their horses Gernot and all his men now hasted, and soon the stalwart minstrel, Sir Folker, grasped the battle-flag and rode before the band. Then were all the comrades arrayed in lordly wise for strife; nor had they more than a thousand men, and thereto Siegfried's twelve men-at-arms. Now from the road gan rise the dust, as across the land they rode; many a lordly shield was seen to gleam from out their midst. There, too, were come the Saxons with their troops and well-sharpened swords, as I since have heard. Sore cut these weapons in the heroes' hands, for they would fain guard both their castles and their land against the strangers. The lordings' marshals led on the troop. Siegfried, too, was come with his men-at-arms, whom he had brought from Netherland. In the storm of battle many a hand this day grew red with blood. Sindolt and Hunolt and Gernot, too, slew many a knight in the strife, ere these rightly knew the boldness of their foes. This many a stately dame must needs bewail. Folker and Hagen and Ortwin, too, dimmed in the battle the gleam of many a helm with flowing blood, these storm-bold men. By Dankwart, too, great deeds were done.

The men of Denmark proved well their hands; one heard many a shield resounding from the hurtling and from the sharp swords as well, many of which were wielded there. The battle-bold Saxons did scathe enow, but when the men of Burgundy pressed to the fight, by them was really a wide wound carved. Then down across the saddles the blood was seen to flow. Thus they fought for honors, these knights both bold and good. Loud rang the sharp weapons in the heroes' hands, as those of Netherland followed their lording through the sturdy host. Valiantly they forced their way in Siegfried's wake, but not a knight from the Rhine was seen to follow. Through the shining helmets one could see flow the bloody stream, drawn forth by Siegfried's hand, till at last he found Liudeger before his men-at-arms. Thrice had he pierced the host from end to end. Now was Hagen come, who helped him achieve in the battle all his mind. Before them many a good knight must needs die this day.

When the mighty Liudeger espied Siegfried and saw that he bore high in hand the good sword Balmung and did slay so many a man, then waxed the lording wroth and fierce enow. A mighty surging and a mighty clang of swords arose, as their comrades pressed against each other. The two champions tried their prowess all the more. The troops began to yield; fierce grew the hate. To the ruler of the Saxons the tale was told that his brother had been captured; great dole this gave him. Well he knew it was the son of Siegelind who had done the deed. Men blamed Sir Gernot, but later he learned the truth.

So mighty were the blows of Liudeger that Siegfried's charger reeled beneath the saddle. When the steed recovered, bold Siegfried took on a frightful usance in the fray. In this Hagen helped him well, likewise Gernot, Dankwart, and Folker, too. Through them lay many dead. Likewise Sindolt and Hunolt and Ortwin, the knight, laid many low in strife; side by side in the fray the noble princes stood. One saw above the helmets many a spear, thrown by here's hand, hurtling through the gleaming shields. Blood-red was colored many a lordly buckler; many a man in the fierce conflict was unhorsed. At each other ran Siegfried, the brave, and Liudeger; shafts were seen to fly and many a keen-edged spear. Then off flew the shield-plates, struck by Siegfried's hand; the hero of Netherland thought to win the battle from the valiant Saxons, wondrous many of whom one saw. Ho! How many shining armor-rings the daring Dankwart broke!

Then Sir Liudegor espied a crown painted on the shield in Siegfried's hand. Well he knew that it was Siegfried, the mighty man. To his friends the hero loudly called: "Desist ye from the strife, my men, here I have seen the son of Siegmund, Siegfried, the strong, and recognized him well. The foul fiend himself hath sent him hither to the Saxon land." The banners bade he lower in the fight. Peace he craved, and this was later granted him, but he must needs go as hostage to Gunther's land. This was wrung from him by valiant Siegfried's hand. With one accord they then gave over the strife and laid aside the many riddled helmets and the broad, battered bucklers. Whatever of these was found, bore the hue of blood from the Burgundians' hand. They captured whom they would, for this lay in their power. Gernot and Hagen, the full bold warriors, bade bear away the wounded; five hundred stately men they led forth captive to the Rhine. The worsted knights rode back to Denmark, nor had the Saxons fought so well that one could give them aught of praise, and this the heroes rued full sore. The fallen, too, were greatly mourned by friends.

Then they bade place the weapons on sumpters for the Rhine. Siegfried, the warrior, and his heroes had wrought full well, as Gunther's men must needs confess. Sir Gernot now sent messengers homeward to Worms in his native land, and bade tell his kin what great success had happed to him and to his men, and how these daring knights had striven well for honor. The squirelings ran and told the tale. Then those who afore had sorrowed, were blithe for joy at the pleasing tidings that were come. Much questioning was heard from noble dames, how it had fared with the liegemen of the mighty king. One of the messengers they bade go to Kriemhild; this happed full secretly (openly she durst not), for she, too, had amongst them her own true love. When she saw the messenger coming to her bower, fair Kriemhild spake in kindly wise: "Now tell me glad news, I pray. And thou dost so without deceit, I will give thee of my gold and will ever be thy friend. How fared forth from the battle my brother Gernot and others of my kin? Are many of them dead perchance? Or who wrought there the best? This thou must tell me."

Quickly then the envoy spake: "Ne'er a coward did we have, but, to tell the truth, O noble queen, none rode so well to the strife and fray, as did the noble stranger from Netherland. Mickle wonders the hand of valiant Siegfried wrought. Whate'er the knights have done in strife, Dankwart and Hagen and other men of the king, however much they strove for honor, 'tis but as the wind compared with Siegfried, the son of Siegmund, the king. They slew full many a hero in the fray, but none might tell you of the wonders which Siegfried wrought, whenever he rode into the fight. Great woe he did the ladies through their kin; upon the field the love of many a dame lay dead. His blows were heard to ring so loud upon the helmets, that from the wounds they drew forth the blood in streams. In every knightly art he is a worthy knight and a brave. Whatever Ortwin of Metz achieved (and he whom he could reach with his good sword, fell sorely wounded, but mostly dead), yet your brother wrought the direst woe that could ever chance in battle. One must say of the chosen knights in truth, that these proud Burgundians acquitted them so well that they can well preserve their honor from every taint of shame. Through their hands we saw many a saddle bare, while the field resounded with the flashing swords. So well rode the warriors from the Rhine, that it were better for their foes had it been avoided. The valiant men of Troneg, also, wrought dire woe, when in great numbers the armies met. Bold Hagen's hand did many a one to death; of this full many stories might be told here in the Burgundian land. Sindolt and Hunolt, Gernot's men, Rumolt the brave, have done such deeds that it may well ever rue Liudeger that he made war upon thy kinsmen by the Rhine. The very best fight that happed from first to last, that one has ever seen, was made full lustily by Siegfried's hand. Rich hostages he bringeth to Gunther's land. He won them by his prowess, this stately man. Of this King Liudegast must bear the loss and eke his brother Liudeger of Saxon land. Now listen to my tale, most noble queen:

by the hand of Siegfried the twain were caught. Never have men brought so many hostages to this land, as now are coming to the Rhine through him. Men are bringing to our land five hundred or more unharmed captives; and of the deadly wounded, my lady, know, not less than eighty blood-red biers. These men were mostly wounded by bold Siegfried's hand. Those who in haughty pride sent a challenge to the Rhine, must now needs be the captives of Gunther, the king, and men are bringing them with joy unto this land."

Still higher rose Kriemhild's color when she heard this tale. Her fair face blushed a rosy red, that Siegfried, the youth, the stately knight, had fared forth so joyfully from the dangerous strife. These tidings could not have pleased her better. For her kinsmen, too, she rejoiced in duty bound. Then spake the lovely maid: "A fair tale thou hast told me; therefore shalt thou have as guerdon rich attire. Likewise I'll have thee brought ten marks of gold." [5] Small wonder that such tales are gladly told to noble dames.

They gave him then his guerdon, the garments and the gold. Then many a fair maid hied her to the casement and gazed upon the street, where many high-mettled warriors were seen riding into the Burgundian land. There came the champions, the wounded and the sound. Without shame they heard the greetings of their friends. Merrily the host rode forth to meet his guests, for his great sorrow had been turned to joy. Well greeted he his vassals and the strangers, too; for it was only meet that the mighty king in courtly wise should thank those who were come back to him, because in the storm of battle they had won the fight with honor. Gunther bade his kinsmen tell who had been slain upon the march; but sixty had been lost, whom one must mourn, as is the wont with heroes. Many a riven shield and battered helm the unharmed warriors brought to Gunther's land. The men alighted from their steeds before the palace of the king. Loud was heard the joyous sound of the merry welcome; then order was given to lodge the warriors in the town. The king bade minister well unto his guests, attend the wounded and give them good easement. His courtesie was cleverly seen upon his foes. He spake to Liudegast: "Now be ye welcome. Much damage have I ta'en because of you; for this I shall now be repaid, if fortune favor. God reward my kinsmen, for they have given me joy."

"Well may ye thank them," answered Liudeger; "such noble hostages hath king never gained afore. For fair treatment we offer great store of wealth, that ye may act with mercy towards your foes."

"I will let you both go free," spake Gunther, "but I must have surety that my foes remain here with me, that they do not leave the land against my will." To that Liudeger pledged his hand.

Men brought them to their lodgings and gave them easement. The wounded were bedded well, and for the sound were poured out good mead and wine. Never could the comrades have been more merry. Their battered shields were borne away for keeping, and enow there was of bloody saddles which one bade hide away, that the ladies might not weep. Many a good knight returned aweary from the fray. The king did make his guests great cheer. His lands were full of strangers and of home-folk. He bade ease the sorely wounded in kindly wise; their haughty pride was now laid low. Men offered to the leeches rich rewards, silver without weight and thereto shining gold, if they would heal the heroes from the stress of war. To his guests the king likewise gave great gifts. Those that were minded to set out for home, were asked to stay, as one doth to friends. The king bethought him how he might requite his men, for they had brought to pass his wish for fame and honor.

Then spake Lord Gernot: "Let them ride away, but be it made known to them that in six weeks they must come again for a mighty feast. By then will many a one be healed who now lieth sorely wounded."

Then Siegfried of Netherland also asked for leave, but when King Gunther learned his wish, lovingly he bade him stay erstwhile. Were it not for the king's sister, this were never done. He was too rich to take reward, though he well deserved it and the king liked him well, as also did the kinsmen, who had seen what happed in battle through his strength. For the sake of one fair lady he thought to stay, if perchance he might espy her. Later it was done, and according to his wish he met the maid. He rode thereafter joyfully to Siegmund's land.

At all times the host bade practice knighthood, and many a youthful knight did this right gladly. Meanwhile he ordered seats prepared upon the sand before the town of Worms for those who were to visit him in the Burgundian land. At the time when they should come, fair Kriemhild heard it said that the king would hold a feasting for the sake of his dear friends. Then comely women hasted apace with robes and headgear which they were to don. The noble Uta heard tales told of the proud warriors who were to come. Then many rich dresses were taken from the press. To please her children she bade make garments ready, that many ladies and many maids might therewith be decked and many youthful knights of the Burgundian land. Also for many of the strangers she bade fashion lordly robes.


[1] "Saxons". This war with the Saxons does not appear in the poetic "Edda", but was probably introduced into the story later to provide the heroes with a suitable activity in the period elapsing between Siegfried's marriage and the journey to Brunhild's land. (In our poem it is placed before the marriage.) It reflects the ancient feuds between the Franks on the one hand and the Saxons and Danes on the other. Originally Siegfried probably did not take part in it, but was later introduced and made the leader of the expedition in place of the king, in accordance with the tendency to idealize him and to give him everywhere the most important role. The two opposing leaders are "Liudeger", lord of the Saxons, and "Liudegast", king of Denmark. In "Biterolf" Liudeger rules over both Saxons and Danes, and Liudegast is his brother.

[2] "Fey". This Scotch and older English word has been chosen to translate the M.H.G. "veige", 'fated', 'doomed', as it is etymologically the same word. The ancient Germans were fatalists and believed only those would die in battle whom fate had so predestined.

[3] "Thirty thousand". The M.H.G. epics are fond of round numbers and especially of thirty and its multiples. They will he found to occur very frequently in our poem. See Lachmann, "Anmerkungen zu den Nibelungen", 474 1.

[4] "Their". The original is obscure here; the meaning is, 'when he heard with what message they were come, he rued the haughtiness of the Burgundians'.

[5] "Marks of gold". A mark (Lat. "mares") was half a pound of gold or silver.

How Siegfried First Saw Kriemhild.
One saw daily riding to the Rhine those who would fain be at the feasting. Full many of these who for the king's sake were come into the land, were given steeds and lordly harness. Seats were prepared for all, for the highest and the best, as we are told, for two and thirty princes at the feast. For this, too, the fair ladies vied in their attire. Giselher, the youth, was aught but idle; he and Gernot and all their men received the friends and strangers. In truth, they gave the knights right courtly greetings. These brought into the land many a saddle of golden red, dainty shields and lordly armor to the feasting on the Rhine. Many a wounded man was seen full merry since. Even those who lay abed in stress of wounds, must needs forget the bitterness of death. Men ceased to mourn for the weak and sick and joyed in prospect of the festal day, and how well they would fare at the feasting of the king. Pleasure without stint and overabundance of joy pervaded all the folk which there were seen. Therefore great rejoicing arose throughout the whole of Gunther's land.

Upon a Whitsun morning five thousand or more brave men, clad in glad attire, were seen going forth to the high festal tide. On all sides they vied with each other in knightly sports. The host marked well, what he already wet, how from his very heart the hero of Netherland did love his sister, albeit he had never seen her, whose comeliness men praised above all maids. Then spake the knight Ortwin to the king: "Would ye have full honor at your feast, so should ye let be seen the charming maids, who live in such high honors here in Burgundy. What were the joy of man, what else could give him pleasure, but pretty maids and noble dames? Pray let your sister go forth before the guests." To the joy of many a hero was this counsel given.

"This will I gladly do," spake then the king, and all who heard it were merry at the thought. Then bade he say to the Lady Uta and her comely daughter, that with their maidens they should come to court. From the presses they took fair raiment and whatso of rich attire was laid away. Of rings and ribbons, too, enow they had. Thus each stately maiden decked herself with zeal. Full many a youthful knight upon that day was of the mind that he was so fair to look upon for ladies, that he would not exchange this chance for the lands of any mighty king. Gladly they gazed on those whom till now they had not known. Then bade the mighty king full a hundred of his men, who were his kin and hers, escort his sister and serve her thus. These were the court retainers of the Burgundian land and carried swords in hand. Soon one saw the noble Uta coming with her child. Full hundred or more fair ladies had she taken for her train, who wore rich robes. Likewise there followed her daughter many a stately maid. When from out a bower men saw them come, there rose a mighty press of knights who had the hope, if that might be, to gaze with joy upon the noble maid. Now came she forth, the lovely fair, as doth the red of dawn from out the lowering clouds. He then was reft of many woes who bore her in his heart so long a time, when he saw the lovely maid stand forth so glorious. How shone full many a precious stone upon her robes! In lovely wise her rose-red hue appeared. Whatever one might wish, he could not but confess that never in the world had he beheld a fairer maid. As the radiant moon, whose sheen is thrown so brightly on the clouds, doth stand before the stars, so stood she now before full many a stately dame. Therefore higher rose the spirits of the comely knights. Richly appareled chamberlains marched on in front, while the high-mettled warriors forsooth must press where they might see the lovely maid. At this Lord Siegfried felt both joy and dole. To himself he thought: "How could that chance, that I should love thee? That is a foolish dream. But if I now must lose thee, then were I better dead." At thought of this his color came and went. There stood the son of Siegmund in such dainty grace, as he were limned on parchment by skillful master's art. Indeed 'twas said of him that never had so fair a knight been seen. The escort of the ladies now bade everywhere give way and many a man obeyed. These high-born hearts rejoiced full many a wight, as thus so many a noble dame appeared in courtly bearing.

Then spake Lord Gernot of Burgundy: "Dear brother Gunther, him who offered service in such kindly wise, ye should in like manner requite before these knights; nor shall I ever rue this counsel. Bid Siegfried now approach my sister, that the maid may greet him; this will ever be our gain. She who never greeted warrior shall greet him fair, that by this means we now may win the stately knight."

Then went the kinsmen of the host to fetch the hero. To the champion from Netherland they spake: "You hath the king permitted to go to court; his sister is to greet you. This hath he decreed to do you honor."

At this the lord grew blithe of mood, for in his heart he bare joy without alloy, that he thus should see fair Uta's child. With lovely grace she greeted Siegfried then, but when she saw the haughty knight stand thus before her, her cheeks flamed bright. "Be welcome, Sir Siegfried, most good and noble knight," the fair maid spake, and at this greeting his spirits mounted high. Courteously he made obeisance; she took him by the hand. How gallantly he walked by the lady's side! Upon each other this lord and lady gazed with kindling eyes. Full secretly this happed. Was perchance a white hand there fervently pressed by heart-felt love? That know I not; yet I cannot believe that this was left undone, for soon had she betrayed to him her love. Nevermore in summertide nor in the days of May bare he within his heart such lofty joy as now he gained, when hand in hand he walked with her whom he fain would call his love.

Then thought full many a knight: "Had that but happed to me, to walk thus with her hand in hand, as now I see him do, or to lie beside her, I'd bear it willingly."

Never has warrior better served to gain a queen. From whatever land the guests were come, all gazed alike upon this pair alone. She then was bidden kiss the stately man, to whom no such delight had ever happened in this world.

Then spake the king of Denmark: "Because of this high greeting many a warrior lieth wounded (this wot I well), through Siegfried's hand. God grant that he may never come again to my kingly lands."

On all sides they bade make way for Kriemhild, as thus to church one saw her go with many a valiant knight in courtly wise. Then soon the stately knight was parted from her side. Thus went she to the minster, followed by many a dame. So full of graces was this queenly maid that many a daring wish must needs be lost. Born she was to be the eyes' delight of many a knight. Siegfried scarce could wait till mass was sung. Well might he think his fortune that she did favor him, whom thus he bare in heart. Cause enow he had to love the fair.

When she came forth from out the minster, they begged the gallant knight again to bear her company, as he had done afore. Then first the lovely maid began to thank him that he had fought so gloriously before so many knights. "Now God requite you, Sir Siegfried," spake the comely maid, "that ye have brought to pass with your service, that the warriors do love you with such fealty as I hear them say."

Then upon Dame Kriemhild he began to gaze in loving wise. "I will serve them ever," spake then the knight, "and while life shall last, never will I lay my head to rest till I have done their will; and this I do, my Lady Kriemhild, to win your love."

A twelfth-night long, on each and every day, one saw the winsome maid beside the knight, when she should go to court to meet her kin. This service was done from sheer delight. A great rout of joy and pleasure was daily seen in front of Gunther's hall, without and eke within, from many a daring man. Ortwin and Hagen began to do great marvels. Whatever any wished to play, these lusty knights were fully ready; thus they became well known to all the guests and so the whole of Gunther's land was decked with honor. Those who had lain wounded were now seen coming forth; they, too, would fain have pastime with the troop and guard themselves with bucklers and hurl the shaft. Enow there were to help them, for there was great store of men.

At the feasting the host bade purvey them with the best of cheer. He kept him free from every form of blame that might befall a king; men saw him move in friendly wise among his guests. He spake: "Ye worthy knights, ere ye go hence, pray take my gifts. I am minded to deserve it of you ever. Do not disdain my goods, the which I'll share with you, as I have great desire."


Then up spake they of Denmark: "Ere we ride homeward to our land, we crave a lasting peace; we knights have need thereof, for many a one of our kinsmen lieth dead at the hands of your men-at-arms."

Liudegast, the Saxon chief, was now cured of his wounds and had recovered from the fray, though many dead they left within this land. Then King Gunther went to find Sir Siegfried; to the knight he spake: "Now tell me what to do. Our foes would fain ride early and beg for lasting peace of me and of my men. Advise me now, Knight Siegfried, what thinketh thee good to do? What the lordings offer me will I tell thee; what of gold five hundred steeds can bear, that would they gladly give me, and I set them free again."

Then spake the mighty Siegfried: "That were done but ill. Let them ride hence unhindered, but make each of the lordings give surety with his hand, that their noble knights henceforth forbear all hostile riding hither to your land."

"This counsel will I follow." Herewith they parted, and to the king's foes was told that no one craved the gold they proffered. For their loved friends at home the battle-weary warriors longed. Many a shield full of treasure was then brought forth which the king dealt out unweighed to his many friends, to each five hundred marks of gold, and to a few, still more. Gernot, the brave, had counseled Gunther this. Then they all took leave, sith they would hence. One saw the guests draw nigh to Kriemhild and also to where Dame Uta sate. Never yet were knights dismissed in better wise. Lodgings grew empty as they rode away, but still there stayed at home the king and all his kin and many a noble liegeman. Daily they were seen as they went to Lady Kriemhild. The good knight Siegfried now would likewise take his leave; he weened not to win that on which his mind was set. The king heard said that he would hence, but Giselher, the youth, quite won him from the journey.

"Whither would ye ride now, noble Siegfried? Pray tarry with the knights, I beg you, with Gunther the king and with his men. Here, too, are many comely dames whom we shall gladly let you see."

Then spake the mighty Siegfried: "Let stand the steeds. I listed to ride hence, but now will I desist. The shields, too, bear away. To my land I craved to go, in truth, but Giselher with his great love hath turned me from it."

So the valiant knight stayed on to please his friends, nor could he have fared more gentilly in any land. This happed because he daily saw Kriemhild, the fair; for the sake of her unmeasured beauty the lording stayed. With many a pastime they whiled the hours away, but still her love constrained him and often gave him dole. Because of this same love in later days the valiant knight lay pitiful in death.

How Gunther Fared To Isenland [1] for Brunhild.
New tidings came across the Rhine. 'Twas said that yonder many a fair maid dwelt. The good king Gunther thought to win him one of these; high therefore rose the warrior's spirits. There lived a queen beyond the sea, whose like men knew not anywhere. Peerless was her beauty and great her strength. With doughty knights she shot the shaft for love. The stone she hurled afar and sprang far after it. He who craved her love must win without fail three games from this high-born dame. When the noble maid had done this passing oft, a stately knight did hear it by the Rhine. He turned his thoughts upon this comely dame, and so heroes must needs later lose their lives.

One day when the king and his vassals sate and pondered to and fro in many a wise, whom their lord might take to wife, who would be fit to be their lady and beseem the land, up spake the lord of the Rhinelands: "I will go down to the sea and hence to Brunhlld, however it may go with me. For her love I'll risk my life. I will gladly lose it and she become not my wife."

"Against that do I counsel you," spake then Siegfried, "if, as ye say, the queen doth have so fierce a wont, he who wooeth for her love will pay full dear. Therefore should ye give over the journey."

Then spake King Gunther: "Never was woman born so strong and bold that I might not vanquish her with mine own hand."

"Be still," spake Siegfried, "ye little know her strength."

"So will I advise you," spake Hagen then, "that ye beg Siegfried to share with you this heavy task. This is my rede, sith he doth know so well how matters stand with Brunhild."

The king spake: "Wilt thou help me, noble Siegfried, to woo this lovely maid? And thou doest what I pray thee and this comely dame become my love, for thy sake will I risk both life and honor."

To this Siegfried, the son of Siegmund, answered: "I will do it, and thou give me thy sister Kriemhild, the noble queen. For my pains I ask no other meed."

"I'll pledge that, Siegfried, in thy hand," spake then Gunther, "and if fair Brunhild come hither to this land, I'll give thee my sister unto wife. Then canst thou live ever merrily with the fair."

This the noble warriors swore oaths to do, and so the greater grew their hardships, till they brought the lady to the Rhine. On this account these brave men must later be in passing danger. Siegfried had to take with him hence the cloak which he, the bold hero, had won 'mid dangers from a dwarf, Alberich he hight. These bold and mighty knights now made them ready for the journey. When Siegfried wore the Cloak of Darkness he had strength enow: the force of full twelve men beside his own. With cunning arts he won the royal maid. This cloak was fashioned so, that whatsoever any wrought within it, none saw him. Thus he won Brunhild, which brought him dole.

"Now tell me, good Knight Siegfried, before our trip begin, shall we not take warriors with us into Brunhild's land, that we may come with passing honors to the sea? Thirty thousand men-at-arms can soon be called."

"However many men we take," quoth Siegfried, "the queen doth use so fierce a wont that they must perish through her haughty pride. I'll give thee better counsel, O brave and worthy king. Let us fare as wandering knights adown the Rhine, and I will tell thee those that shall be of the band. In all four knights, we'll journey to the sea and thus we'll woo the lady, whatever be our fate thereafter. I shall be one of the four comrades, the second thou shalt be. Let Hagen be the third (then have we hope of life), Dankwart then the fourth, the valiant man. A thousand others durst not match us in the fight."

"Gladly would I know," spake then the king, "ere we go hence ('t would please me much), what garments we should wear before Brunhild, which would beseem us there. Pray tell this now to Gunther."

"Weeds of the very best which can be found are worn all times in Brunhild's land. We must wear rich clothes before the lady, that we feel no shame when men shall hear the tidings told."

The good knight spake: "Then will I go myself to my dear mother, if perchance I can bring it to pass that her fair maids purvey us garments which we may wear with honor before the high-born maid."


Hagen of Troneg spake then in lordly wise: "Wherefore will ye pray your mother of such service? Let your sister hear what ye have in mind, and she'll purvey you well for your journey to Brunhild's court."

Then sent he word to his sister, that he would fain see her, and Knight Siegfried, too, sent word. Ere this happed the fair had clad her passing well. That these brave men were coming, gave her little grief. Now were her attendants, too, arrayed in seemly wise. The lordings came, and when she heard the tale, from her seat she rose and walked in courtly wise to greet the noble stranger and her brother, too.

"Welcome be my brother and his comrade. I'd gladly know," so spake the maid, "what ye lords desire, sith ye be thus come to court. Pray let me hear how it standeth with you noble knights."

Then spake king Gunther: "My lady, I'll tell you now. Maugre our lofty mood, yet have we mickle care. We would ride a-wooing far into foreign lands, and for this journey we have need of costly robes."

"Now sit you down, dear brother," spake the royal maid, "and let me hear aright who these ladies be whom ye fain would woo in the lands of other kings."

By the hand the lady took the chosen knights and with the twain she walked to where she sate afore upon a couch, worked, as well I wot, with dainty figures embossed in gold. There might they have fair pastime with the ladies. Friendly glances and kindly looks passed now full oft between the twain. In his heart he bare her, she was dear to him as life. In after days fair Kriemhild became strong Siegfried's wife.

Then spake the mighty king: "Dear sister mine, without thy help it may not be. We would go for knightly pastime to Brunhild's land, and have need of princely garb to wear before the dames."

Then the noble maiden answered: "Dear brother mine, I do you now to wit, that whatever need ye have of help of mine, that stand I ready to give. Should any deny you aught, 't would please Kriemhild but ill. Most noble knights, beseech me not with such concern, but order me with lordly air to do whatso ye list. I stand at your bidding and will do it with a will." So spake the winsome maid.

"We would fain, dear sister, wear good attire, and this your noble hand shall help to choose . Your maidens then must make it fit us, for there be no help against this journey." Then spake the princess: "Now mark ye what I say. Silks I have myself; see ye that men do bring us jewels upon the shields and thus we'll work the clothes. Gunther and Siegfried, too, gave glad assent.

"Who are the comrades," spake the queen, "who shall fare with you thus clad to court?"

He spake: "I shall be one of four. My liegemen twain, Dankwart and Hagen, shall go with me to court. Now mark ye well, my lady, what I say. Each of us four must have to wear for four whole days three changes of apparel and such goodly trappings that without shame we may quit Brunhild's land."

In fitting wise the lords took leave and parted hence. Kriemhild, the queen, bade thirty of her maidens who were skillful in such work, come forth from out their bowers. Silks of Araby, white as snow, and the fair silk of Zazamanc, [2] green as is the clover, they overlaid with precious stones; that gave garments passing fair. Kriemhild herself, the high-born maiden, cut them out. Whatso they had at hand of well-wrought linings from the skin of foreign fish, but rarely seen of folk, they covered now with silk, as was the wont to wear. [3] Now hear great marvels of these shining weeds. From the kingdom of Morocco and from Libya, too, they had great store of the fairest silks which the kith of any king did ever win. Kriemhild made it well appear what love she bore the twain. Sith upon the proud journey they had set their minds, they deemed ermine to be well fit. [4] Upon this lay fine silk as black as coal. This would still beseem all doughty knights at high festal tides. From out a setting of Arabian gold there shone forth many a stone. The ladies' zeal, it was not small, forsooth; in seven weeks they wrought the robes. Ready, too, were the weapons for the right good knights.

When now they all stood dight, [5] there was built for them in haste upon the Rhine a sturdy little skiff, that should bear them downward to the sea. Weary were the noble maids from all their cares. Then the warriors were told that the brave vestures they should wear were now prepared; as they had craved it, so it now was done. Then no longer would they tarry on the Rhine; they sent a message to their war-companions, if perchance they should care to view their new attire, to see if it be too long or short. All was found in fitting measure, and for this they gave the ladies thanks. All who saw them could not but aver that never in the world had they seen attire more fair. Therefore they wore it gladly at the court. None wist how to tell of better knightly weeds. Nor did they fail to give great thanks. Then the lusty knights craved leave to go, and this the lordings did in courtly wise. Bright eyes grew dim and moist thereat from weeping.

Kriemhild spake: "Dear brother, ye might better tarry here a while and pay court to other dames, where ye would not so risk your life; then would I say well done. Ye might find nearer home a wife of as high a birth."

I ween their hearts did tell them what would hap. All wept alike, no matter what men said. The gold upon their breasts was tarnished by their tears, which thick and fast coursed downward from their eyes.

She spake: "Sir Siegfried, let this dear brother of mine be commended to your fealty and troth, that naught may harm him in Brunhild's land." This the full brave knight vowed in Lady Kriemhild's hand.

The mighty warrior spake: "If I lose not my life, ye may be free from every care, my lady. I'll bring him to you sound again hither to the Rhine; that know of a surety." The fair maid bowed her thanks.

Men bare their gold-hued shields out to them upon the sands and brought them all their harness. One bade lead up the steeds, for they would ride away. Much weeping then was done by comely dames. The winsome maids stood at the easements. A high wind stirred the ship and sails; the proud war fellowship embarked upon the Rhine.

Then spake King Gunther: "Who shall be the captain of the ship?"

"That will I," quoth Siegfried, "I wot well how to steer you on the flood. That know, good knights, the right water ways be well known to me."

So they parted merrily from out the Burgundian land. Siegfried quickly grasped an oar and from the shore the stalwart man gan push. Bold Gunther took the helm himself, and thus the worshipful and speedy knights set forth from land. With them they took rich food and eke good wine, the best that could be found along the Rhine. Their steeds stood fair; they had good easement. Their ship rode well; scant harm did hap them. Their stout sheet-rope was tightened by the breeze. Twenty leagues they sailed, or ever came the night, with a good wind, downward toward the sea. These hard toils later brought the high-mettled warriors pain.

Upon the twelfth-day morning, as we hear say, the winds had borne them far away to Isenstein in Brunhild's land. To none save Siegfried was this known; but when King Gunther spied so many castles and broad marches, too, how soon he spake: "Pray tell me, friend Siegfried, is it known to you whose are these castles and this lordly land?"

Siegfried answered: "I know it well. It is the land and folk of Brunhild and the fortress Isenstein, as ye heard me say. Fair ladies ye may still see there to-day. Methinketh good to advise you heroes that ye be of one single mind, and that ye tell the selfsame tale. For if we go to-day before Brunhild, in much jeopardy must we stand before the queen. When we behold the lovely maiden with her train, then, ye far-famed heroes, must ye tell but this single tale: that Gunther be my master and I his man; then what he craveth will come to pass." Full ready they were for whatever he bade them vow, nor because of pride did any one abstain. They promised what he would; wherefrom they all fared well, when King Gunther saw fair Brunhild. [6]

"Forsooth I vow it less for thy sake than for thy sister's, the comely maid, who is to me as mine own soul and body. Gladly will I bring it to pass, that she become my wife."


[1] "Isenland" translates here M.H.G. "Islant", which has, however, no connection with Iceland in spite of the agreement of the names in German. "Isen lant", the reading of the MSS. BJh, has been chosen, partly to avoid confusion, and partly to indicate its probable derivation from "Isenstein", the name of Brunhild's castle. Boer's interpretation of "Isen" as 'ice' finds corroboration in Otfrid's form "isine steina" ('ice stones', i.e. crystals) I, 1. 70. Isenstein would then mean Ice Castle. In the "Thidreksaga" Brunhild's castle is called "Saegarthr" ('Sea Garden'), and in a fairy tale (No. 93 of Grimm) "Stromberg", referring to the fact that it was surrounded by the sea. Here, too, in our poem it stands directly on the shore.

[2] "Zazamanc", a fictitious kingdom mentioned only here and a few times in Parzival, Wolfram probably having obtained the name from this passage. (See Bartsch, "Germanistische Studien", ii, 129.)

[3] "Wont to wear". In the Middle Ages costly furs and fish-skins were used as linings and covered, as here described, with silk or cloth. By fish such amphibious animals as otter and beaver were often meant.

[4] "Well fit". In this passage "wert", the reading of A and D, has been followed, instead of unwert of B and C, as it seems more appropriate to the sense.

[5] "Dight", 'arrayed'; used by Milton.

[6] "Brunhild". The following words are evidently a late interpolation, and weaken the ending, but have been translated for the sake of completeness. They are spoken by Siegfried.

How Gunther Won Brunhild.
Meanwhile their bark had come so near the castle that the king saw many a comely maiden standing at the casements. Much it irked King Gunther that he knew them not. He asked his comrade Siegfried: "Hast thou no knowledge of these maidens, who yonder are gazing downward towards us on the flood? Whoever be their lord, they are of lofty mood."

At this Sir Siegfried spake: "I pray you, spy secretly among the high-born maids and tell me then whom ye would choose, and ye had the power."

"That will I," spake Gunther, the bold and valiant knight. "In yonder window do I see one stand in snow-white weeds. She is fashioned so fair that mine eyes would choose her for her comeliness. Had I power, she should become my wife."

"Right well thine eyes have chosen for thee. It is the noble Brunhild, the comely maid, for whom thy heart doth strive and eke thy mind and mood." All her bearing seemed to Gunther good.

When bade the queen her high-born maids go from the windows, for it behooved them not to be the mark of strangers' eyes. Each one obeyed. What next the ladies did, hath been told us since. They decked their persons out to meet the unknown knights, a way fair maids have ever had. To the narrow casements they came again, where they had seen the knights. Through love of gazing this was done.

But four there were that were come to land. Through the windows the stately women saw how Siegfried led a horse out on the sand, whereby King Gunther felt himself much honored. By the bridle he held the steed, so stately, good and fair, and large and strong, until King Gunther had sat him in the saddle. Thus Siegfried served him, the which he later quite forgot. Such service he had seldom done afore, that he should stand at any here's stirrup. Then he led his own steed from the ship. All this the comely dames of noble birth saw through the casements. The steeds and garments, too, of the lusty knights, of snow-white hue, were right well matched and all alike; the bucklers, fashioned well, gleamed in the hands of the stately men. In lordly wise they rode to Brunhild's hall, their saddles set with precious stones, with narrow martingales, from which hung bells of bright and ruddy gold. So they came to the land, as well befit their prowess, with newly sharpened spears, with well-wrought swords, the which hung down to the spurs of these stately men. The swords the bold men bore were sharp and broad. All this Brunhild, the high-born maid, espied.

With the king came Dankwart and Hagen, too. We have heard tales told of how the knights wore costly raiment, raven black of hue. Fair were their bucklers, mickle, good and broad. Jewels they wore from the land of India, the which gleamed gloriously upon their weeds. By the flood they left their skiff without a guard. Thus the brave knights and good rode to the castle. Six and eighty towers they saw within, three broad palaces, [1] and one hall well wrought of costly marble, green as grass, wherein Brunhild herself sate with her courtiers. The castle was unlocked and the gates flung wide. Then ran Brunhild's men to meet them and welcomed the strangers into their mistress' land. One bade relieve them of their steeds and shields.

Then spake a chamberlain: "Pray give us now your swords and your shining breastplates, too."

"That we may not grant you," said Hagen of Troneg; "we ourselves will bear them."

Then gan Siegfried tell aright the tale. "The usage of the castle, let me say, is such that no guests may here bear arms. Let them now be taken hence, then will all be well."

Unwillingly Hagen, Gunther's man, obeyed. For the strangers men bade pour out wine and make their lodgings ready. Many doughty knights were seen walking everywhere at court in lordly weeds. Mickle and oft were these heroes gazed upon.

Then the tidings were told to Lady Brunhild, that unknown warriors were come in lordly raiment, sailing on the flood. The fair and worthy maid gan ask concerning this. "Pray let me hear," spake the queen, "who be these unknown knights, who stand so lordly in my castle, and for whose sake the heroes have journeyed hither?"

Then spake one of the courtiers: "My lady, I can well say that never have I set eyes on any of them, but one like Siegfried doth stand among them. Him ye should give fair greetings; that is my rede, in truth. The second of their fellowship is so worthy of praise that he were easily a mighty king over broad and princely lands, and he had the power and might possess them. One doth see him stand by the rest in such right lordly wise. The third of the fellowship is so fierce and yet withal so fair of body, most noble queen. By the fierce glances he so oft doth east, I ween he be grim of thought and mood. The youngest among them is worshipful indeed. I see the noble knight stand so charmingly, with courtly bearing, in almost maiden modesty. We might all have cause for fear, had any done him aught. However blithely he doth practice chivalry, and howso fair of body he be, yet might he well make many a comely woman weep, should he e'er grow angry. He is so fashioned that in all knightly virtues he must be a bold knight and a brave."

Then spake the queen: "Now bring me my attire. If the mighty Siegfried be come unto this land through love of mine, he doth risk his life. I fear him not so sore, that I should become his wife."

Brunhild, the fair, was soon well clad. Then went there with her many a comely maid, full hundred or more, decked out in gay attire. The stately dames would gaze upon the strangers. With them there walked good knights from Isenland, Brunhild's men-at-arms, five hundred or more, who bore swords in hand. This the strangers rued. From their seats then the brave and lusty heroes rose. When that the queen spied Siegfried, now hear what the maid did speak.

"Be ye welcome, Siegfried, here in this our land! What doth your journey mean? That I fain would know."

"Gramercy, my Lady Brunhild, that ye have deigned to greet me, most generous queen, in the presence of this noble knight who standeth here before me, for he is my liege lord. This honor I must needs forswear. By birth he's from the Rhine; what more need I to say? For thy sake are we come hither. Fain would he woo thee, however he fare. Methink thee now betimes, my lord will not let thee go. He is hight Gunther and is a lordly king. An' he win thy love, he doth crave naught more. Forsooth this knight, so well beseen, did bid me journey hither. I would fain have given it over, could I have said him nay."

She spake: "Is he thy liege and thou his man, dare he assay the games which I mete out and gain the mastery, then I'll become his wife; but should I win, 't will cost you all your lives."


Then up spake Hagen of Troneg: "My lady, let us see your mighty games. It must indeed go hard, or ever Gunther, my lord, give you the palm. He troweth well to win so fair a maid."

"He must hurl the stone and after spring and cast the spear with me. Be ye not too hasty. Ye are like to lose here your honor and your life as well. Bethink you therefore rightly," spake the lovely maid.

Siegfried, the bold, went to the king and bade him tell the queen all that he had in mind, he should have no fear. "I'll guard you well against her with my arts."

Then spake King Gunther: "Most noble queen, now mete out whatso ye list, and were it more, that would I all endure for your sweet sake. I'll gladly lose my head, and ye become not my wife."

When the queen heard this speech, she begged them hasten to the games, as was but meet. She bade purvey her with good armor for the strife: a breastplate of ruddy gold and a right good shield. A silken surcoat, [2] too, the maid put on, which sword had never cut in any fray, of silken cloth of Libya. Well was it wrought. Bright embroidered edging was seen to shine thereon.

Meanwhile the knights were threatened much with battle cries. Dankwart and Hagen stood ill at ease; their minds were troubled at the thought of how the king would speed. Thought they: "Our journey will not bring us warriors aught of good."

Meanwhile Siegfried, the stately man, or ever any marked it, had hied him to the ship, where he found his magic cloak concealed. Into it he quickly slipped and so was seen of none. He hurried back and there he found a great press of knights, where the queen dealt out her lofty games. Thither he went in secret wise (by his arts it happed), nor was he seen of any that were there. The ring had been marked out, where the games should be, afore many valiant warriors, who were to view them there. More than seven hundred were seen bearing arms, who were to say who won the game.

Then was come Brunhild, armed as though she would battle for all royal lands. Above her silken coat she wore many a bar of gold; gloriously her lovely color shone beneath the armor. Then came her courtiers, who bare along a shield of ruddy gold with large broad strips as hard as steel, beneath the which the lovely maid would fight. As shield-thong there served a costly band upon which lay jewels green as grass. It shone and gleamed against the gold. He must needs be passing bold, to whom the maid would show her love. The shield the maid should bear was three spans thick beneath the studs, as we are told. Rich enow it was, of steel and eke of gold, the which four chamberlains could scarcely carry.

When the stalwart Hagen saw the shield borne forth, the knight of Troneg spake full grim of mood: "How now, King Gunther? How we shall lose our lives! She you would make your love is the devil's bride, in truth."

Hear now about her weeds; enow of these she had; she wore a surcoat of silk of Azagoue, [3] noble and costly. Many a lordly stone shone in contrast to its color on the person of the queen.

Then was brought forth for the lady a spear, sharp, heavy, and large, the which she cast all time, stout and unwieldy, mickle and broad, which on its edges cut most fearfully. Of the spear's great weight hear wonders told. Three and one half weights [4] of iron were wrought therein, the which scarce three of Brunhild's men could bear. The noble Gunther gan be sore afraid. Within his heart he thought: "What doth this mean? How could the devil from hell himself escape alive? Were I safe and sound in Burgundy, long might she live here free of any love of mine."

Then spake Hagen's brother, the valiant Dankwart: "The journey to this court doth rue me sore. We who have ever borne the name of knights, how must we lose our lives! Shall we now perish at the hands of women in these lands? It doth irk me much, that ever I came unto this country. Had but my brother Hagen his sword in hand, and I mine, too, then should Brunhild's men go softly in their overweening pride. This know for sure, they'd guard against it well. And had I sworn a peace with a thousand oaths, before I'd see my dear lord die, the comely maid herself should lose her life."

"We might leave this land unscathed," spake then his brother Hagen, "had we the harness which we sorely need and our good swords as well; then would the pride of this strong dame become a deal more soft."

What the warrior spake the noble maid heard well. Over her shoulders she gazed with smiling mouth. "Now sith he thinketh himself so brave, bring them forth their coats-of-mail; put in the warriors' hands their sharp-edged swords."

When they received their weapons as the maiden bade, bold Dankwart blushed for very joy. "Now let them play whatso they list," spake the doughty man. "Gunther is unconquered, since now we have our arms."

Mightily now did Brunhild's strength appear. Into the ring men bare a heavy stone, huge and great, mickle and round. Twelve brave and valiant men-at-arms could scarcely bear it. This she threw at all times, when she had shot the spear. The Burgundians' fear now grew amain.

"Woe is me," cried Hagen. "Whom hath King Gunther chosen for a love? Certes she should be the foul fiend's bride in hell."

Upon her fair white arm the maid turned back her sleeves; with her hands she grasped the shield and poised the spear on high. Thus the strife began. Gunther and Siegfried feared Brunhild's hate, and had Siegfried not come to Gunther's aid, she would have bereft the king of life. Secretly Siegfried went and touched his hand; with great fear Gunther marked his wiles. "Who hath touched me?" thought the valiant man. Then he gazed around on every side, but saw none standing there.

"'Tis I, Siegfried, the dear friend of thine. Thou must not fear the queen. Give me the shield from off thy hand and let me bear it and mark aright what thou dost hear me say. Make thou the motions, I will do the deeds."

When Gunther knew that it was Siegfried, he was overjoyed.

Quoth Siegfried: "Now hide thou my arts; tell them not to any man; then can the queen win from thee little fame, albeit she doth desire it. See how fearlessly the lady standeth now before thee."

Then with might and main the noble maiden hurled the spear at a shield, mickle, new, and broad, which the son of Siegelind bore upon his arm. The sparks sprang from the steel, as if the wind did blow. The edge of the mighty spear broke fully through the shield, so that men saw the fire flame forth from the armor rings. The stalwart men both staggered at the blow; but for the Cloak of Darkness they had lain there dead. From the mouth of Siegfried, the brave, gushed forth the blood. Quickly the good knight sprang back again and snatched the spear that she had driven through his shield. Stout Siegfried's hand now sent it back again. He thought: "I will not pierce the comely maid." So he reversed the point and cast it at her armor with the butt, that it rang out loudly from his mighty hand. The sparks flew from the armor rings, as though driven by the wind. Siegmund's son had made the throw with might. With all her strength she could not stand before the blow. In faith King Gunther never could have done the deed.

Brunhild, the fair, how quickly up she sprang! "Gunther, noble knight, I cry you mercy for the shot." She weened that he had done it with his strength. To her had crept a far more powerful man. Then went she quickly, angry was her mood. The noble maid and good raised high the stone and hurled it mightily far from her hand. After the cast she sprang, that all her armor rang, in truth. The stone had fallen twelve fathoms hence, but with her leap the comely maid out-sprang the throw. Then went Sir Siegfried to where lay the stone. Gunther poised it, while the hero made the throw. Siegfried was bold, strong, and tall; he threw the stone still further and made a broader jump. Through his fair arts he had strength enow to bear King Gunther with him as he sprang. The leap was made, the stone lay on the ground; men saw none other save Gunther, the knight, alone. Siegfried had banished the fear of King Gunther's death. Brunhild, the fair, waxed red with wrath. To her courtiers she spake a deal too loud, when she spied the hero safe and sound at the border of the ring: "Come nearer quickly, ye kinsmen and liegemen of mine, ye must now be subject to Gunther, the king."

Then the brave knights laid aside their arms and paid their homage at the feet of mighty Gunther from the Burgundian land. They weened that he had won the games by his own strength alone. He greeted them in loving wise; in sooth he was most rich in virtues.

Then the lovely maiden took him by the hand; full power she granted him within the land. At this Hagen, the bold and doughty knight, rejoiced him. She bade the noble knight go with her hence to the spacious palace. When this was done, they gave the warriors with their service better cheer. With good grace Hagen and Dankwart now must needs submit. The doughty Siegfried was wise enow and bare away his magic cloak. Then he repaired to where the ladies sate. To the king he spake and shrewdly did he this: "Why wait ye, good my lord? Why begin ye not the games, of which the queen doth deal so great a store? Let us soon see how they be played." The crafty man did not as though he wist not a whit thereof.

Then spake the Queen: "How hath it chanced that ye, Sir Siegfried, have seen naught of the games which the hand of Gunther here hath won?"

To this Hagen of the Burgundian land made answer. He spake: "Ye have made us sad of mind, my lady. Siegfried, the good knight, was by the ship when the lord of the Rhineland won from you the games. He knoweth naught thereof."

"Well is me of this tale," spake Siegfried, the knight, "that your pride hath been brought thus low, and that there doth live a wight who hath the power to be your master. Now, O noble maiden, must ye follow us hence to the Rhine."

Then spake the fair-fashioned maid: "That may not be. First must my kith and liegemen learn of this. Certes, I may not so lightly void my lands; my dearest friends must first be fetched."

Then bade she messengers ride on every side. She called her friends, her kinsmen, and her men-at-arms and begged them come without delay to Isenstein, and bade them all be given lordly and rich apparel. Daily, early and late, they rode in troops to Brunhild's castle.

"Welaway," cried Hagen, "what have we done! We may ill abide the coming of fair Brunhild's men. If now they come into this land in force, then hath the noble maid been born to our great rue. The will of the queen is unknown to us; what if she be so wroth that we be lost?"

Then the stalwart Siegfried spake: "Of that I'll have care. I'll not let hap that which ye fear. I'll bring you help hither to this land, from chosen knights the which till now ye have not known. Ye must not ask about me; I will fare hence. Meanwhile may God preserve your honor. I'll return eftsoon and bring you a thousand men, the very best of knights that I have ever known."

"Pray tarry not too long," spake then the king; "of your help we be justly glad."

He answered: "In a few short days I'll come again. Tell ye to Brunhild, that ye've sent me hence."


[1] "Palaces". See Adventure III, note 7.

[2] "Surcoat", which here translates the M.H.G. "wafenhemde", is a light garment of cloth or silk worn above the armor.

[3] "Azagouc". See Zazamanc, Adventure VI, note 2. This strophe is evidently a late interpolation, as it contradicts the description given above.

[4] Weights. The M.H.G. "messe" (Lat. "masse") is just as indefinite as the English expression. It was a mass or lump of any metal, probably determined by the size of the melting-pot.

How Siegfried Fared To His Men-At-Arms, the Nibelungs.
Through the gate Siegfried hied him in his Cloak of Darkness down to the sand, where he found a skiff. Secretly the son of Siegmund embarked and drove it quickly hence, as though the wind did blow it on. None saw the steersman; the bark fared fast, impelled by Siegfried's mighty strength. They weened a seldom strong wind did drive it on. Nay, it was rowed by Siegfried, the son of Siegelind, the fair. In the time of a day and night with might and main he reached a land full hundred rests [2] away, or more. The people hight Nibelungs, where he owned the mighty hoard. The hero rowed alone to a broad isle, where the lusty knight now beached the boat and made it fast full soon. To a hill he hied him, upon which stood a castle, and sought here lodgment, as way-worn travelers do. He came first to a gateway that stood fast locked. In sooth they guarded well their honor, as men still do. The stranger now gan knock upon the door, the which was closely guarded. There within he saw a giant standing, who kept the castle and at whose side lay at all times his arms. He spake: "Who is it who doth knock so rudely on the gate?"

Then bold Siegfried changed his voice and spake: "I am a knight; do up the door, else will I enrage many a one outside to-day, who would liefer lie soft and take his ease."

When Siegfried thus spake, it irked the warder. Meanwhile the giant had donned his armor and placed his helm upon his head. Quickly the mighty man snatched up his shield and opened wide the gate. How fiercely he ran at Siegfried and asked, how he durst wake so many valiant men? Huge blows were dealt out by his hand. Then the lordly stranger gan defend him, but with an iron bar the warder shattered his shield-plates. Then was the hero in dire need. Siegfried gan fear a deal his death, when the warder struck such mighty blows. Enow his master Siegfried loved him for this cause. They strove so sore that all the castle rang and the sound was heard in Nibelung's hall. He overcame the warder and bound him, too.

The tale was noised abroad in all the Nibelungs' land. Alberich, the bold, a savage dwarf, heard the fierce struggle through the mountain. He armed him quick and ran to where he found the noble stranger, as he bound the mighty giant. Full wroth was Alberich and strong enow. On his body he bare helmet and rings of mail and in his hand a heavy scourge of gold. Swift and hard he ran to where Siegfried stood. Seven heavy knobs [3] hung down in front, with which he smote so fiercely the shield upon the bold man's arm, that it brake in parts. The stately stranger came in danger of his life. From his hand he flung the broken shield and thrust into the sheath a sword, the which was long. He would not strike his servant dead, but showed his courtly breeding as his knightly virtue bade him. He rushed at Alberich and with his powerful hands he seized the gray-haired man by the beard. So roughly he pulled his beard, that he screamed aloud. The tugging of the youthful knight hurt Alberich sore.

Loud cried the valiant dwarf: "Now spare my life. And might I be the vassal of any save one knight, to whom I swore an oath that I would own him as my lord, I'd serve you till my death." So spake the cunning [4] man.

He then bound Alberich as he had the giant afore. Full sore the strength of Siegfried hurt him. The dwarf gan ask: "How are ye named?"

"My name is Siegfried," he replied; "I deemed ye knew me well."

"Well is me of these tidings," spake Alberich, the dwarf. "Now have I noted well the knightly deeds, through which ye be by right the sovran of the land. I'll do whatso ye bid, and ye let me live."

Then spake Sir Siegfried: "Go quickly now and bring me the best of knights we have, a thousand Nibelungs, that they may see me here."

Why he wanted this, none heard him say. He loosed the bonds of Alberich and the giant. Then ran Alberich swift to where he found the knights. In fear he waked the Nibelung men. He spake:

"Up now, ye heroes, ye must go to Siegfried."

From their beds they sprang and were ready in a trice. A thousand doughty knights soon stood well clad. They hied them to where they saw Sir Siegfried stand. Then was done a fair greeting, in part by deeds. Great store of tapers were now lit up; they proffered him mulled wine. [5] He gave them thanks that they were come so soon. He spake: "Ye must away with me across the flood."

Full ready for this he found the heroes brave and good. Well thirty hundred men were come eftsoon, from whom he chose a thousand of the best. Men brought them their helmets and other arms, for he would lead them to Brunhild's land. He spake: "Ye good knights, this will I tell you, ye must wear full costly garments there at court, for many lovely dames shall gaze upon us. Therefore must ye deck yourselves with goodly weeds."

Early on a morn they started on their way. What a speedy journey Siegfried won! They took with them good steeds and lordly harness, and thus they came in knightly wise to Brunhild's land.

The fair maids stood upon the battlements. Then spake the queen:

"Knoweth any, who they be whom I see sailing yonder far out upon the sea? They have rich sails e'en whiter than the snow."

Quoth the king of the Rhineland: "They're men of mine, the which I left hard by here on the way. I had them sent for, and now they be come, my lady." All eyes were fixed upon the lordly strangers.

Then one spied Siegfried standing at his vessel's prow in lordly weeds and many other men. The queen spake: "Sir King, pray tell me, shall I receive the strangers or shall I deny them greetings?"

He spake: "Ye must go to meet them out before the palace, that they may well perceive how fain we be to see them here."

Then the queen did as the king advised her. She marked out Siegfried with her greetings from the rest. Men purveyed them lodgings and took in charge their trappings. So many strangers were now come to the land, that everywhere they jostled Brunhild's bands. Now would the valiant men fare home to Burgundy.

Then spake the queen: "My favor would I bestow on him who could deal out to the king's guests and mine my silver and gold, of which I have such store."

To this Dankwart, King Giselher's liegeman, answered: "Most noble queen," spake the brave knight, "let me but wield the keys. I trow to deal it out in fitting wise; whatso of blame I gain, let be mine own." That he was bountiful, he made appear full well.

When now Sir Hagen's brother took the keys in charge, the hero's hand did proffer many a costly gift. He who craved a mark [6] received such store that all the poor might lead a merry life. Full hundred pounds he gave, nor did he stop to count. Enow walked before the hall in rich attire, who never had worn afore such lordly dress. Full sore it rued the queen when this she heard. She spake: "Sir King, I fain would have your aid, lest your chamberlain leave naught of all my store of dress; he squandereth eke my gold. If any would forfend this, I'd be his friend for aye. He giveth such royal gifts, the knight must ween, forsooth, that I have sent for death. I would fain use it longer and trow well myself to waste that which my father left me." No queen as yet hath ever had so bounteous a chamberlain.


Then spake Hagen of Troneg: "My lady, be it told you that the king of the Rhineland hath such great store of gold and robes to give, that we have no need to carry hence aught of Brunhild's weeds."

"Nay, and ye love me," spake the queen, "let me fill twenty traveling chests with gold and silk as well, the which my hand shall give, when we are come across to Gunther's land."

Men filled her chests with precious stones, the while her chamberlains stood by. She would not trust the duty to Giselher's men. Gunther and Hagen began to laugh thereat.

Then spake the queen: "With whom shall I leave my lands? This my hand and yours must first decree."

Quoth the noble king: "Now bid draw near whom ye deem fit and we will make him steward."

The lady spied near by one of her highest kin (it was her mother's brother); to him the maiden spake: "Now let be commended to your care my castles and my lands, till that King Gunther's hand rule here."

Then twenty hundred of her men she chose, who should fare with her hence to Burgundy, together with those thousand warriors from the Nibelung land. They dressed their journey; one saw them riding forth upon the sand. Six and eighty dames they took along and thereto a hundred maids, their bodies passing fair. No longer now they tarried, for they were fain to get them hence. Ho, what great wail was made by those they left at home! In courtly wise she voided thus her land. She kissed her nearest kinsmen who were found at court. After a fair leave-taking they journeyed to the sea. To her fatherland the lady nevermore returned. Many kinds of games were seen upon the way; pastimes they had galore. A real sea breeze did help them on their voyage. Thus they fared forth from the land fully merrily. She would not let her husband court her on the way; this pleasure was deferred until their wedding-tide in the castle, their home, at Worms, to which in good time she came right joyfully with all her knights.


[1] Adventure VIII. This whole episode, in which Siegfried fetches men to aid Gunther in case of attempted treachery on Brunhild's part, is of late origin and has no counterpart in the older versions. It is a further development of Siegfried's fight in which he slew Schilbung and Nibelung and became the ruler of the Nibelung land. The fight with Alberich is simply a repetition of the one in the former episode.

[2] "Rest" (M.H.G. "rast"), originally 'repose', then used as a measure of distance, as here.

[3] "Knobs", round pieces of metal fastened to the scourge.

[4] "Cunning" is to be taken here in the Biblical sense of 'knowing'. The M.H.G. "listig" which it here translates, denotes 'skilled' or 'learned' in various arts and is a standing epithet of dwarfs.

[5] "Mulled wine" translates M.H.G. "lutertranc", a claret mulled with herbs and spice and left to stand until clear.

[6] "Mark". See Adventure V, note 5.

How Siegfried Was Sent To Worms.
When they had thus fared on their way full nine days, Hagen of Troneg spake: "Now mark ye what I say. We wait too long with the tidings for Worms upon the Rhine. Our messengers should be e'en now in Burgundy."

Then spake King Gunther: "Ye have told me true, and none be more fitting for this trip than ye, friend Hagen; now ride ye to my land. None can acquaint them better with our journey home to court."

To this Hagen made answer: "I am no fit envoy. Let me play chamberlan, I'll stay with the ladies upon the flood and guard their robes, until we bring them to the Burgundian land. Bid Siegfried bear the message, he knoweth how to do it well with his mighty strength. If he refuse you the journey, then must ye in courtly and gentle wise pray him of the boon for your sister's sake."

Gunther sent now for the warrior, who came to where he stood. He spake: "Sith we be now nearing my lands at home, it behooveth me to send a messenger to the dear sister of mine and to my mother, too, that we draw near the Rhine. This I pray you, Siegfried; now do my will, that I may requite it to you ever," spake the good knight.

Siegfried, the passing bold man, however said him nay, till Gunther gan beseech him sore. He spake: "Ye must ride for my sake and for Kriemhild's too, the comely maiden, so that the royal maid requite it, as well as I."

When Siegfried heard these words, full ready was the knight. "Now bid me what ye will; naught shall be withheld. I will do it gladly for the fair maid's sake. Why should I refuse her whom I bear in heart? Whatso ye command for love of her, shall all be done."

"Then tell my mother Uta, the queen, that we be of lofty mood upon this voyage. Let my brothers know how we have fared. These tidings must ye let our friends hear, too. Hide naught from my fair sister, give her mine and Brunhild's greetings. Greet the retainers, too, and all my men. How well I have ended that for which my heart hath ever striven! And tell Ortwin, the dear nephew of mine, that he bid seats be built at Worms along the Rhine. Let my other kinsmen know that I am willed to hold with Brunhild a mighty wedding feast. And tell my sister, when she hath heard that I be come with my guests to the land, that she give fair greeting to my bride. For that I will ever render Kriemhild service."

The good Lord Siegfried soon took leave of Lady Brunhild, as beseemed him well, and of all her train; then rode he to the Rhine. Never might there be a better envoy in this world. He rode with four and twenty men-at-arms to Worms; he came without the king. When that was noised about, the courtiers all were grieved; they feared their master had been slain.

Then they dismounted from their steeds, high stood their mood. Giselher, the good young king, came soon to meet them, and Gernot his brother, too. How quickly then he spake, when he saw not Gunther at Siegfried's side: "Be welcome, Siegfried; pray let me know where ye have left the king my brother? The prowess of Brunhild, I ween, hath ta'en him from us. Great scathe had her haughty love then brought us."

"Let be this fear. My battle-comrade sendeth greetings to you and to his kin. I left him safe and sound. He sent me on ahead, that I might be his messenger with tidings hither to this land. Pray have a care, however that may hap, that I may see the queen and your sister, too, for I must let them hear what message Gunther and Brunhild have sent them. Both are in high estate."

Then spake Giselher, the youth: "Now must ye go to her, for ye have brought my much of joy. She is mickle fearful for my brother. I'll answer that the maid will see you gladly."

Then spake Sir Siegfried: "Howsoever I may serve her, that shall be gladly done, in faith. Who now will tell the ladies that I would hie me thither?"

Giselher then became the messenger, the stately man. The doughty knight spake to his mother and his sister too, when that he saw them both: "To us is come Siegfried, the hero from Netherland; him my brother Gunther hath sent hither to the Rhine. He bringeth the news of how it standeth with the king. Pray let him therefore come to court. He'll tell you the right tidings straight from Isenland."

As yet the noble ladies were acquaint with fear, but now for their weeds they sprang and dressed them and bade Sir Siegfried come to court. This he did full gladly, for he was fain to see them. Kriemhild, the noble maid, addressed him fair: "Be welcome, Sir Siegfried, most worshipful knight. Where is my brother Gunther, the noble and mighty king? We ween that we have lost him through Brunhild's strength. Woe is me, poor maid, that ever I was born."

Then spake the daring knight: "Now give me an envoy's guerdon, ye passing fair ladies, ye do weep without a cause. I do you to wit, I left him safe and sound. They have sent me with the tidings to you both. He and his bride do send you kindly greetings and a kinsman's love, O noble queen. Now leave off your weeping, they'll come full soon."

In many a day she had not heard a tale so glad. With her snow-white hem she wiped the tears from her pretty eyes and began to thank the messenger for the tidings, which now were come. Thus her great sorrow and her weeping were taken away. She bade the messenger be seated; full ready he was for this. Then spake the winsome maid: "I should not rue it, should I give you as an envoy's meed my gold. For that ye are too rich, but I will be your friend in other ways."

"And had I alone," spake he, "thirty lands, yet would I gladly receive gifts from your fair hand."

Then spake the courtly maid: "It shall be done." She bade her chamberlain go fetch the meed for tidings. Four and twenty arm-rings, set with goodly gold, she gave him as his meed. So stood the hero's mood that he would not retain them, but gave them straightway to her nearest maidens, he found within the bower. Full kindly her mother offered him her service. "I am to tell you the tale," then spake the valiant man, "of what the king doth pray you, when he cometh to the Rhine. If ye perform that, my lady, he'll ever hold you in his love. I heard him crave that ye should give fair greetings to his noble guests and grant him the boon, that ye ride to meet him out in front of Worms upon the strand. This ye are right truly admonished by the king to do."

Then spake the winsome maid: "For this am I full ready. In whatsoever wise I can serve the king, that will I not refuse; with a kinsman's love it shall be done." Her color heightened for very joy. Never was the messenger of any prince received more fair. The lady would have kissed him, had she but dared. How lovingly he parted from the dames!

The men of Burgundy then did as Siegfried counseled. Sindolt and Hunolt and Rumolt, the knight, must needs be busy with the work of putting up the seats outside of Worms upon the strand. The royal stewards, too, were found at work. Ortwin and Gere would not desist, but sent to fetch their friends on every side, and made known to them the feasting that was to be. The many comely maids arrayed themselves against the feast. Everywhere the palace and the walls were decked out for the guests. Gunther's hall was passing well purveyed for the many strangers. Thus began full merrily this splendid feast.

From every side along the highways of the land pricked now the kinsmen of these three kings, who had been called that they might wait upon those who were coming home. Then from the presses great store of costly weeds was taken. Soon tidings were brought that men saw Brunhild's kinsmen ride along. Great jostling then arose from the press of folk in the Burgundian land. Ho, what bold knights were found on either side!

Then spake fair Kriemhild: "Ye maids of mine, who would be with me at the greeting, seek out from the guests the very best of robes; then will praise and honor be given us by the guests." Then came the warriors, too, and bade the lordly saddles of pure red gold be carried forth, on which the ladies should ride from Worms down to the Rhine. Better trappings might there never be. Ho, what bright gold did sparkle on the jet-black palfreys! From their bridles there gleamed forth many a precious stone. The golden stepping-blocks were brought and placed on shining carpets for the ladies, who were gay of mood. As I have said, the palfreys now stood ready in the courtyard for the noble maids. One saw the steeds wear narrow martingales of the best of silk, of which tale might be told. Six and eighty ladies who wore fillets [1] in their hair were seen come forth. The fair ones came to Kriemhild wearing glittering robes. Then followed many a comely maid in brave attire, fifty and four from the Burgundian land. They were eke the best that might anywhere be found. Men saw them walking with their flaxen hair and shining ribbons. That which the king desired was done with zeal. They wore before the stranger knights rich cloth of silk, the best that could be found, and so many a goodly robe, which well befit their ample beauty. One found there many clothes of sable and ermine fur. Many an arm and hand was well adorned with bracelets over the silken sleeves, which they should wear. None might tell the story of this tiring to the end. Many a hand played with well-wrought girdles, rich and long, above gay colored robes, over costly ferran [2] skirts of silken cloth of Araby. In high spirits were these maids of noble birth. Clasps [3] were sewed in lovely wise upon the dress of many a comely maid. She had good cause to rue it, whose bright color did not shine in contrast to her weeds. No kingly race hath now such fair retainers. When now the lovely maids had donned the garments they should wear, there then drew near a mickle band of high-mettled champions. Together with their shields they carried many an ashen spear.


[1] "Fillets" were worn only by married women.

[2] "Ferran", a gray colored cloth of silk and wool; from O.F.


[3] "Clasps" or "brooches" were used to fasten the dresses in front.

How Brunhild Was Received At Worms.
Across the Rhine men saw the king with his guests in many bands pricking to the shore. One saw the horse of many a maiden, too, led by the bridle. All those who should give them welcome were ready now. When those of Isenland and Siegfried's Nibelung men were come across in boats, they hasted to the shore (not idle were their hands), where the kindred of the king were seen upon the other bank. Now hear this tale, too, of the queen, the noble Uta, how she herself rode hither with the maidens from the castle. Then many a knight and maid became acquaint. Duke Gere led Kriemhild's palfroy by the bridle till just outside the castle gate. Siegfried, the valiant knight, must needs attend her further. A fair maid was she! Later the noble dame requited well this deed. Ortwin, the bold, rode by Lady Uta's side, and many knights and maidens rode in pairs. Well may we aver that so many dames were never seen together at such stately greeting.

Many a splendid joust was ridden by worshipful knights (not well might it be left undone) afore Kriemhild, the fair, down to the ships. Then the fair-fashioned ladies were lifted from the palfreys. The king was come across and many a worthy guest. Ho, what stout lances brake before the ladies' eyes! One heard the clash of many hurtling shields. Ho, what costly bucklers rang loudly as they closed! The lovely fair stood by the shore as Gunther and his guests alighted from the boats; he himself led Brunhild by the hand. Bright gems and gleaming armor shone forth in rivalry. Lady Kriemhild walked with courtly breeding to meet Dame Brunhild and her train. White hands removed the chaplets, [1] as these twain kissed each other; through deference this was done.

Then in courteous wise the maiden Kriemhild spake: "Be ye welcome in these lands of ours, to me and to my mother and to all the loyal kin we have."

Low bows were made and the ladies now embraced full oft. Such loving greeting hath one never heard, as the two ladies, Dame Uta and her daughter, gave the bride; upon her sweet mouth they kissed her oft. When now Brunhild's ladies all were come to land, stately knights took many a comely woman by the hand in loving wise. The fair-fashioned maids were seen to stand before the lady Brunhild. Long time elasped or ever the greetings all were done; many a rose-red mouth was kissed, in sooth. Still side by side the noble princesses stood, which liked full well the doughty warriors for to see. They who had heard men boast afore that such beauty had ne'er been seen as these two dames possessed, spied now with all their eyes and must confess the truth. Nor did one see upon their persons cheats of any kind. Those who wot how to judge of women and lovely charms, praised Gunther's bride for beauty; but the wise had seen more clear and spake, that one must give Kriemhild the palm before Brunhild.

Maids and ladies now drew near each other. Many a comely dame was seen arrayed full well. Silken tents and many rich pavilions stood hard by, the which quite filled the plain of Worms. The kinsmen of the king came crowding around, when Brunhild and Kriemhild and with them all the dames were bidden go to where shade was found. Thither the knights from the Burgundian land escorted them.

Now were the strangers come to horse, and shields were pierced in many royal jousts. From the plain the dust gan rise, as though the whole land had burst forth into flames. There many a knight became well known as champion. Many a maiden saw what there the warriors plied. Methinks, Sir Siegfried and his knights rode many a turn afore the tents. He led a thousand stately Nibelungs.

Then Hagen of Troneg came, as the king had counseled, and parted in gentle wise the jousting, that the fair maids be not covered with the dust, the which the strangers willingly obeyed. Then spake Sir Gernot: "Let stand the steeds till the air grow cooler, for ye must be full ready when that the king will ride. Meanwhile let us serve the comely dames before the spacious hall."

When now over all the plain the jousts had ceased, the knights, on pastime bent, hied them to the ladies under many a high pavilion in the hope of lofty joys. There they passed the hours until they were minded to ride away.

Just at eventide, when the sun was setting and the air grew chill, no longer they delayed, but man and woman hasted toward the castle. Many a comely maiden was caressed with loving glances. In jousting great store of clothes were torn by good knights, by the high-mettled warriors, after the custom of the land, until the king dismounted by the hall. Valiant heroes helped the ladies, as is their wont. The noble queens then parted; Lady Uta and her daughter went with their train to a spacious hall, where great noise of merriment was heard on every side.

The seats were now made ready, for the king would go to table with his guests. At his side men saw fair Brunhild stand, wearing the crown in the king's domain. Royal enow she was in sooth. Good broad tables, with full many benches for the men, were set with vitaille, as we are told. Little they lacked that they should have! At the king's table many a lordly guest was seen. The chamberlains of the host bare water forth in basins of ruddy gold. It were but in vain, if any told you that men were ever better served at princes' feasts: I would not believe you that.

Before the lord of the Rhineland took the water to wash his hands, Siegfried did as was but meet, he minded him by his troth of what he had promised, or ever he had seen Brunhild at home in Isenland. He spake: "Ye must remember how ye swore me by your hand, that when Lady Brunhild came to this land, ye would give me your sister to wife. Where be now these oaths? I have suffered mickle hardship on our trip."

Then spake the king to his guest: "Rightly have ye minded me. Certes my hand shall not be perjured. I'll bring it to pass as best I can."

Then they bade Kriemhild go to court before the king. She came with her fair maidens to the entrance of the hall. At this Sir Giselher sprang down the steps. "Now bid these maidens turn again. None save my sister alone shall be here by the king."

Then they brought Kriemhild to where the king was found. There stood noble knights from many princes' lands; throughout the broad hall one bade them stand quite still. By this time Lady Brunhild had stepped to the table, too. Then spake King Gunther:

"Sweet sister mine, by thy courtesie redeem my oath. I swore to give thee to a knight, and if he become thy husband, then hast thou done my will most loyally."

Quoth the noble maid: "Dear brother mine, ye must not thus entreat me. Certes I'll be ever so, that whatever ye command, that shall be done. I'll gladly pledge my troth to him whom ye, my lord, do give me to husband."


Siegfried here grew red at the glance of friendly eyes. The knight then proffered his service to Lady Kriemhild. Men bade them take their stand at each other's side within the ring and asked if she would take the stately man. In maidenly modesty she was a deal abashed, yet such was Siegfried's luck and fortune, that she would not refuse him out of hand. The noble king of Netherland vowed to take her, too, to wife. When he and the maid had pledged their troths, Siegfried's arm embraced eftsoon the winsome maid. Then the fair queen was kissed before the knights. The courtiers parted, when that had happed; on the bench over against the king Siegfried was seen to take his scat with Kriemhild. Thither many a man accompanied him as servitor; men saw the Nibelungs walk at Siegfried's side.

The king had seated him with Brunhild, the maid, when she espied Kriemhild (naught had ever irked her so) sitting at Siegfried's side. She began to weep and hot tears coursed down fair cheeks. Quoth the lord of the land: "What aileth you, my lady, that ye let bright eyes grow dim? Ye may well rejoice; my castles and my land and many a stately vassal own your sway."

"I have good cause to weep," spake the comely maid; "my heart is sore because of thy sister, whom I see sitting so near thy vassal's side. I must ever weep that she be so demeaned."

Then spake the King Gunther: "Ye would do well to hold your peace. At another time I will tell you the tale of why I gave Siegfried my sister unto wife. Certes she may well live ever happily with the knight."

She spake: "I sorrow ever for her beauty and her courtesie. I fain would flee, and I wist whither I might; go, for never will I lie close by your side, unless ye tell me through what cause Kriemhild be Siegfried's bride."

Then spake the noble king: "I'll do it you to wit; he hath castles and broad domains, as well as I. Know of a truth, he is a mighty king, therefore did I give him the peerless maid to love."

But whatsoever the king might say, she remained full sad of mood.

Now many a good knight hastened from the board. Their hurtling waxed so passing hard, that the whole castle rang. But the host was weary of his guests. Him-thought that he might lie more soft at his fair lady's side. As yet he had not lost at all the hope that much of joy might hap to him through her. Lovingly he began to gaze on Lady Brunhild. Men bade the guests leave off their knightly games, for the king and his wife would go to bed. Brunhild and Kriemhild then met before the stairway of the hall, as yet without the hate of either. Then came their retinue. Noble chamberlains delayed not, but brought them lights. The warriors, the liegemen of the two kings, then parted on either side and many of the knights were seen to walk with Siegfried.

The lords were now come to the rooms where they should lie. Each of the twain thought to conquer by love his winsome dame. This made them blithe of mood. Siegfried's pleasure on that night was passing great. When Lord Siegfried lay at Kriemhild's side and with his noble love caressed the high-born maid so tenderly, she grew as dear to him as life, so that not for a thousand other women would he have given her alone. No more I'll tell how Siegfried wooed his wife; hear now the tale of how King Gunther lay by Lady Brunhild's side. The stately knight had often lain more soft by other dames. The courtiers now had left, both maid and man. The chamber soon was locked; he thought to caress the lovely maid. Forsooth the time was still far off, ere she became his wife. In a smock of snowy linen she went to bed. Then thought the noble knight: "Now have I here all that I have ever craved in all my days." By rights she must needs please him through her comeliness. The noble king gan shroud the lights and then the bold knight hied him to where the lady lay. He laid him at her side, and great was his joy when in his arms he clasped the lovely fair. Many loving caresses he might have given, had but the noble dame allowed it. She waxed so wroth that he was sore a-troubled; he weened that they were lovers, but he found here hostile hate. She spake: "Sir Knight, pray give this over, which now ye hope. Forsooth this may not hap, for I will still remain a maid, until I hear the tale; now mark ye that."

Then Gunther grew wroth; he struggled for her love and rumpled all her clothes. The high-born maid then seized her girdle, the which was a stout band she wore around her waist, and with it she wrought the king great wrong enow. She bound him hand and foot and bare him to a nail and hung him on the wall. She forbade him love, sith he disturbed her sleep. Of a truth he came full nigh to death through her great strength.

Then he who had weened to be the master, began to plead. "Now loose my bands, most noble queen. I no longer trow to conquer you, fair lady, and full seldom will I lie so near your side."

She reeked not how he felt, for she lay full soft. There he had to hang all night till break of day, until the bright morn shone through the casements. Had he ever had great strength, it was little seen upon him now.

"Now tell me, Sir Gunther, would that irk you aught," the fair maid spake, "and your servants found you bound by a woman's hand?"

Then spake the noble knight: "That would serve you ill; nor would it gain me honor," spake the doughty man. "By your courtesie, pray let me lie now by your side. Sith that my love mislike you so, I will not touch your garment with my hands."

Then she loosed him soon and let him rise. To the bed again, to the lady he went and laid him down so far away, that thereafter he full seldom touched her comely weeds. Nor would she have allowed it.

Then their servants came and brought them new attire, of which great store was ready for them against the morn. However merry men made, the lord of the land was sad enow, albeit he wore a crown that day. As was the usage which they had and which they kept by right, Gunther and Brunhild no longer tarried, but hied them to the minster, where mass was sung. Thither, too, Sir Siegfried came and a great press arose among the crowd. In keeping with their royal rank, there was ready for them all that they did need, their crowns and robes as well. Then they were consecrated. When this was done, all four were seen to stand joyful 'neath their crowns. Many young squires, six hundred or better, were now girt with sword in honor of the kings, as ye must know. Great joy rose then in the Burgundian land; one heard spear-shafts clashing in the hands of the sworded knights. There at the windows the fair maids sat; they saw shining afore them the gleam of many a shield. But the king had sundered him from his liegemen; whatso others plied, men saw him stand full sad. Unlike stood his and Siegfried's mood. The noble knight and good would fain have known what ailed the king. He hasted to him and gan ask: "Pray let me know how ye have fared this night, Sir King."

Then spake the king to his guest: "Shame and disgrace have I won; I have brought a fell devil to my house and home. When I weened to love her, she bound me sore; she bare me to a nail and hung me high upon a wall. There I hung affrighted all night until the day, or ever she unbound me. How softly she lay bedded there! In hope of thy pity do I make plaint to thee as friend to friend."

Then spake stout Siegfried: "That rueth me in truth. I'll do you this to wit; and ye allow me without distrust, I'll contrive that she lie by you so near this night, that she'll nevermore withhold from you her love."

After all his hardships Gunther liked well this speech. Sir Siegfried spake again: "Thou mayst well be of good cheer. I ween we fared unlike last night. Thy sister Kriemhild is dearer to me than life; the Lady Brunhild must become thy wife to-night. I'll come to thy chamber this night, so secretly in my Cloud Cloak, that none may note at all my arts. Then let the chamberlains betake them to their lodgings and I'll put out the lights in the pages' hands, whereby thou mayst know that I be within and that I'll gladly serve thee. I'll tame for time thy wife, that thou mayst have her love to-night, or else I'll lose my life."

"Unless be thou embrace my dear lady," spake then the king, "I shall be glad, if thou do to her as thou dost list. I could endure it well, an' thou didst take her life. In sooth she is a fearful wife."

"I pledge upon my troth," quoth Siegfried, "that I will not embrace her. The fair sister of thine, she is to me above all maids that I have ever seen."

Gunther believed full well what Siegfried spake.

From the knightly sports there came both joy and woe; but men forbade the hurtling and the shouting, since now the ladies were to hie them to the hall. The grooms-in-waiting bade the people stand aside; the court was cleared of steeds and folk. A bishop led each of the ladies, as they should go to table in the presence of the kings. Many a stately warrior followed to the seats. In fair hope the king sate now full merrily; well he thought on that which Siegfried had vowed to do. This one day thought him as long as thirty days, for all his thoughts were bent upon his lady's love. He could scarce abide the time to leave the board. Now men let fair Brunhild and Kriemhild, too, both go to their rest. Ho, what doughty knights were seen to walk before the queens!

The Lord Siegfried sate in loving wise by his fair wife, in bliss without alloy. With her snow-white hands she fondled his, till that he vanished from before her eyes, she wist not when. When now she no longer spied him, as she toyed, the queen spake to his followers: "Much this wondereth me, whither the king be gone. Who hath taken his hands from mine?"

She spake no other word, but he was gone to where he found many grooms of the chamber stand with lights. These he gan snuff out in the pages' hands. Thus Gunther knew that it was Siegfried. Well wist he what he would; he bade the maids and ladies now withdraw. When that was done, the mighty king himself made fast the door and nimbly shoved in place two sturdy bolts. Quickly then he hid the lights behind the hangings of the bed. Stout Siegfried and the maiden now began a play (for this there was no help) which was both lief and loth to Gunther. Siegfried laid him close by the high-born maid. She spake: "Now, Gunther, let that be, and it be lief to you, that ye suffer not hardship as afore."

Then the lady hurt bold Siegfried sore. He held his peace and answered not a whit. Gunther heard well, though he could not see his friend a bit, that they plied not secret things, for little ease they had upon the bed. Siegfried bare him as though he were Gunther, the mighty king. In his arms he clasped the lovely maid. She cast him from the bed upon a bench near by, so that his head struck loudly against the stool. Up sprang the valiant man with all his might; fain would he try again. When he thought now to subdue her, she hurt him sore. Such defense, I ween, might nevermore be made by any wife.

When he would not desist, up sprang the maid. "Ye shall not rumple thus my shift so white. Ye are a clumsy churl and it shall rue you sore, I'll have you to know fall well," spake the comely maid. In her arms she grasped the peerless knight; she weened to bind him, as she had done the king, that she might have her case upon the bed. The lady avenged full sore, that he had rumpled thus her clothes. What availed his mickle force and his giant strength? She showed the knight her masterly strength of limb; she carried him by force (and that must needs be) and pressed him rudely 'twixt a clothes-press and the wall.

"Alas," so thought the knight, "if now I lose my life at a maiden's hands, then may all wives hereafter bear towards their husbands haughty mien, who would never do it else."

The king heard it well and feared him for his liegeman's life. Siegfried was sore ashamed; wrathful he waxed and with surpassing strength he set himself against her and tried it again with Lady Brunhild in fearful wise. It thought the king full long, before he conquered her. She pressed his hands, till from her strength the blood gushed forth from out the nails: this irked the hero. Therefore he brought the highborn maiden to the pass that she gave over her unruly will, which she asserted there afore. The king heard all, albeit not a word he spake. Siegfried pressed her against the bed, so that she shrieked aloud. Passing sore his strength did hurt her. She grasped the girdle around her waist and would fain have bound him, but his hand prevented it in such a wise that her limbs and all her body cracked. Thus the strife was parted and she became King Gunther's wife.

She spake: "Most noble king, pray spare my life. I'll do thee remedy for whatso I have done thee. I'll no longer struggle against thy noble love, for I have learned full well that thou canst make thee master over women."

Siegfried let the maiden be and stepped away, as though he would do off his clothes. From her hand he drew a golden finger ring, without that she wist it, the noble queen. Thereto he took her girdle, a good stout band. I know not if he did that for very haughtiness. He gave it to his wife and rued it sore in after time.

Then lay Gunther and the fair maid side by side. He played the lover, as beseemed him, and thus she must needs give over wrath and shame. From his embrace a little pale she grew. Ho, how her great strength failed through love! Now was she no stronger than any other wife. He caressed her lovely form in lover's wise. Had she tried her strength again, what had that availed? All this had Gunther wrought in her by his love. How right lovingly she lay beside him in bridal joy until the dawn of day!

Now was Sir Siegfried gone again to where he was given fair greetings by a woman fashioned fair. He turned aside the question she had thought to put and hid long time from her what he had brought, until she ruled as queen within his land. How little he refused to give her what he should!

On the morn the host was far cheerier of mood than he had been afore. Through this the joy of many a noble man was great in all his lands, whom he had bidden to his court, and to whom he proffered much of service. The wedding feast now lasted till the fourteenth day, so that in all this while the sound never died away of the many joys which there they plied. The cost to the king was rated high. The kinsmen of the noble host gave gifts in his honor to the strolling folk, as the king commanded: vesture and ruddy gold, steeds and silver, too. Those who there craved gifts departed hence full merrily. Siegfried, the lord from Netherland, with a thousand of his men, gave quite away the garments they had brought with them to the Rhine and steeds and saddles, too. Full well they wot how to live in lordly wise. Those who would home again thought the time too long till the rich gifts had all been made. Nevermore have guests been better eased. Thus ended the wedding feast; Gunther, the knight, would have it so.


[1] "Chaplet" (O.F. "chaplet", dim. of "chapel", M.H.G.

"schapel" or "schapelin") or wreath was the headdress especially of unmarried girls, the hair being worn flowing. It was often of flowers or leaves, but not infrequently of gold and silver. (See Weinhold, "Deutsche Frauen im Mittelalter", i, 387.)



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