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Myths and Legends Lecture


Kriemhild's marriage to Etzel and her revenge, culminating in everyone's death. ... an equal to Gunther, and incomparably superior in all other ways (111-113) ... – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Myths and Legends Lecture

Der Nibelunge Nôt
  • The Nibelungenlied is one of the few great heroic
    epics in world literature.
  • It was likely composed around 1200 in southern
    Germany, between Passau and Vienna.
  • It was composed from the same oral literature as
    the Volsunga saga, but through an independent
    literary tradition.
  • Unlike the Eddic poems in Iceland, all the
    earlier poems in German have been lost.

Der Nibelunge Nôt
Der Nibelunge Nôt
  • The author of the work is unknown.
  • Most of the other authors of German epics from
    this period are known at least by name.
  • The author was probably from the Danube valley,
    between Passau and Vienna.
  • His lack of firsthand familiarity with courtly
    activities (e.g. hunting) suggests he was a
    commoner, probably with church training.

Der Nibelunge Nôt
  • Like the Volsunga saga, the Nibelungenlied deals
    with marriage, murder, revenge and destruction in
    an extended family.
  • Unlike the Volsunga saga, the hero of the
    Nibelungenlied is not Siegfried, but the two
    adversaries Kriemhild and Hagen.
  • Unlike the Volsunga saga, the epic is written in

Der Nibelunge Nôt
  • 1. Âventiure
  • Uns ist in alten mæren wunders vil geseit
  • Von helden lobebæren, von grôzer arebeit,
  • Von fröuden, hôchgezîten, von weinen und von
  • Von küener recken strîten muget ir nu wunder
    hren sagen.
  • Ez wuohs in Búrgónden ein vil édel magedîn,
  • Daz in allen landen niht schners mohte sîn,
  • Kriemhild geheizen si wart ein scne wîp.
  • Dar umbe muosen degene vil verlíesén den lîp.

Der Nibelunge Nôt
  • The verse form is unique in medieval German epics
  • The language of the Nibelungenlied is Middle High
    German roughly equivalent to Chaucers Middle
  • Modern Germans can read and understand most of
    the text (but need training to understand all of
    the subtleties).

Der Nibelunge Nôt
  • The Nibelungenlied contains Christian elements
    and does not retain the mythological background
    of the Volsunga saga.
  • The epic also contains numerous chivalrous
    elements, but it is not a courtly romance!
  • It is a mixture of Germanic, heathen elements
    from the Völkerwanderung, and Christian,
    chivalrous elements from medieval Germany.

Der Nibelunge Nôt
  • The Nibelungenlied has two parts, roughly equal
    in length
  • Siegfrieds wooing of Kriemhild and Gunthers
    winning of Brunhild, culminating in Siegfrieds
  • Kriemhilds marriage to Etzel and her revenge,
    culminating in everyones death.
  • Most of the mythological material is absent.

Der Nibelunge Nôt
  • The Nibelungenlied is less focused on historical
    and dynastical issues than the Volsunga saga.
  • The author is not interested in historical,
    geographical, or dynastical correctness.
  • The author, however, is interested in dramatic
    confrontationthe characters reveal themselves in
    their actions and their conflicts. It is as much
    dramatic theater as epic.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 1
  • The text begins with the story of the maiden
    Kriemhild, who corresponds to Gudrun of the
    Volsunga saga (17).
  • Her brothers are the Burgundian kings Gunther,
    Gernot and Giselher (who correspond roughly to
    Gunnar and Guttorm).
  • The fierce warrior Hagen replaces Hogni.
  • They all reside in Worms on the Rhine.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 1
  • The elder Burgundian king is called Dancrat,
    married to Queen Uote (Gjuki and Grimhild in the
    Volsunga saga).
  • The knights (German Degen) are Hagen von
    Troneck, Dancwart, Ortwin, Gere, Eckewart, and
    Volker many hold the symbolic offices of
    medieval courts (18).
  • Kriemhild dreams of a falcon Siegfried.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 1-2
  • Kriemhild does not wish to marry and be made
    wretched by the love of any man.
  • Dreams and omens play the same role in the
    Nibelungenlied as in Icelandic sagas.
  • Siegfried grows up in the city of Xanten in the
    Netherlands (son of Siegmund and Sieglind)
    youthful description (20).
  • Knighting ceremonies for Siegfried, a
    coming-of-age ritual (21f.).

(No Transcript)
Der Nibelunge Nôt 2
  • Generosity of the king and feudal fiefdoms
    described as well also gifts to wandering
  • Minstrels (German Minnesänger) the unknown
    author of the Nibelungenlied was possibly one of
  • Story of cursed gold and dragon slaying described
    later in the epic less important.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 3
  • Siegfried hears of Kriemhilds beauty and
    nobility and resolves to win her for his wife.
  • His parents are fearful of a match with the
    prideful Burgundians, but support him.
  • Siegfried takes 12 select warriors on a wooing
    expedition to Burgundy obsession with their
    clothes and adornments (24ff.).
  • Only Hagen recognizes the strangers (27).

Der Nibelunge Nôt
Siegfried arrives in Worms
Der Nibelunge Nôt 3
  • Hagen recounts Siegfrieds earlier exploits how
    his slew the bold Nibelungs and took their huge
    treasure (27f.).
  • Siegfried also fought the dwarf Alberich and won
    from him a cloak of invisibility.
  • Hagen also reports that Siegfried slew a dragon
    and bathed in its blood which made him
    invincible to weapons (28).
  • They decide to receive him courteously.

Der Nibelunge Nôt
Siegfried and the Dragon
Der Nibelunge Nôt 3
  • Siegfried boldly states that he has come to
    wrest from you by force all that you possess!
    (29). Open challenge to Gunther.
  • Siegfried at first barbaric, becomes purified and
    elevated to courtly manners through his love for
    Kriemhild medieval romance.
  • Hagen and the other brothers manage to pacify
    Siegfried and no battle ensues.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 3-4
  • Siegfried stays in Worms for a year, but is not
    allowed to see Kriemhild though she often
    watches him from her window!
  • Kings Liudeger (Saxony) and Liudegast (Denmark)
    threaten Burgundy with invasion.
  • Gernot responds like a Germanic warrior (34).
    They alone die that are doomed.
  • Siegfried vows to help Gunther, wants to gain
    glory (and maybe a bride) for himself.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 4
  • Siegfried leads the Burgundians against 40,000
    men strikes out alone to spy on the enemy and
    defeats King Liudegast (37f.).
  • Siegfried slays 29 of Liudegasts warriors, takes
    the king prisoner.
  • Battle of 1000 against 40,000 takes place
    victory to the Burgundians (38-40) because of
    Siegfrieds heroics in capturing King Liudeger.

Der Nibelunge Nôt
Der Nibelunge Nôt 4
  • Kriemhild asks to see the messenger privately
    he tells of her brothers and of brave Siegfrieds
    exploits (41f.)!
  • Kriemhild blushes when told of Siegfrieds
    heroics not as brazen as saga women!
  • The battle serves to highlight Siegfrieds heroic
    stature and to establish the Gunthers debt to
  • Festivities planned to celebrate and reward.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 5
  • As part of the festivities, the young maidens of
    the court are presented to the knights Kriemhild
    makes her appearance (47f.).
  • Siegfried is presented to Kriemhild after more
    than a year of waiting, he can finally speak to
    her (and get a ceremonial kiss) (49).
  • Festivities continue the prisoners are sent
    home (on Siegfrieds advice) on very generous

Der Nibelunge Nôt 6
  • News comes to Burgundy of a fabulously beautiful
    warrior princess living far away in Iceland
    Brunhild (cite 53).
  • Suitors have to defeat her in three contests to
    win her love javelin, shot put, and long jump!
    (Loss of event meant loss of head!).
  • Gunther asks for Siegfrieds aid in winning
    Brunhild he agrees, for Kriemhilds hand.
  • Gunther agrees to the arrangement (54).

Der Nibelunge Nôt 6
  • Gunther, Siegfried and their small party (Hagen
    and Dancwart) prepare to travel down the Rhine on
    their way to Iceland.
  • More obsession with clothes and adornment.
  • Siegfried vows to Kriemhild that he will serve
    and protect Gunther in Iceland (58).
  • Siegfried captains the boat downstream (and
    beyond) to Isenstein, Brunhilds fortress (59).

Der Nibelunge Nôt 6-7
  • Siegfried tells the men to repeat this lie that
    Gunther is Lord and that Siegfried is his vassal.
    This deception necessary to impress Brunhild
  • Siegfried leads Gunthers horse ashore signs of
    service rendered by a vassal.
  • Description of the four newcomers (62).
  • Brunhild thinks Siegfried has come for her she
    is fated to marry only the best.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 7
  • Siegfried tells Brunhild that his liege lord
    Gunther intends to win her love (63).
  • Brunhild issues her athletic challenge
    Siegfried rushes to the boat to get his magic
    cloak of invisibility to aid Gunther. He returns
    secretly (unseen by anyone).
  • Gunther sees the size and quality of Brunhilds
    weapons and is afraid (65).

Der Nibelunge Nôt 7
  • Brunhild throws her great spear, but invisible
    Siegfried blocks the shaft, hurls in backwards at
    Brunhild, so as not to kill her. It appears that
    Gunter won Round 1(67)!
  • Brunhild throws the great stone, and outleaps her
    throw Siegfried throws it farther, then carries
    Gunther in his own great leap! (67). Rounds 2 and
    3 to Gunther.
  • Brunhild admits defeat, gives Gunther rule.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 7-8
  • Siegfried pretends not to have seen the games
    deception is complete.
  • Brunhild gathers her vassals for a farewell,
    though Hagen and Gunther fear ambush.
  • Siegfried departs secretly to get his own vassals
    warriors of the Nibelungs!
  • He challenges the giant guarding his treasure and
    defeats him (71).

Der Nibelunge Nôt
Siegfried and the Giant Watchman
Der Nibelunge Nôt 8
  • Siegfried then fights with his own treasurer, the
    Dwarf or Kobold Alberich (71).
  • Siegfried commands Alberich to bring 1000 of the
    best Nibelung warriors they depart later for
    Iceland to support Gunther. Prestige.
  • Suggestions in the text that Brunhild had an
    abortive relationship with Siegfried, as in the
    Volsunga saga. Awkward love triangle.
  • Brunhild deceived repeatedly by Gunther.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 8-9
  • Dancwart generously gives away Brunhilds gold,
    and she appoints a governor in Iceland.
  • Gunther sends Siegfried ahead to announce the
    festivities in Worms Siegfried behaves as a
    vassal again in order to win Kriemhild.
  • Siegfried speaks directly to Kriemhild in a
    dialogue heavy in double entendres courtly
    affection and romance (78f.).

Der Nibelunge Nôt 10
  • Brunhild arrives in Worms to a great reception
    with pageantry and festivities.
  • The knights joust in the bohort (half game, half
    parade) and the ladies watch.
  • Siegfried reminds Gunther of his promises, and
    Gunther formally betroths Kriemhild to Siegfried
    in ring of warriors (85f.).
  • Brunhild is upset that Kriemhild appears to be
    marrying much below her station (85).

Der Nibelunge Nôt 10
  • Siegfried and Kriemhild enjoy each others
    affections that evening, their wedding night.
  • King Gunther and Brunhild do not have quite as
    good a time she intends to remain a maiden
    until she has learned the truth about Siegfried!
  • Brunhild wrestles Gunther down, ties him up, and
    hangs him on a nail on the wall (88).

Der Nibelunge Nôt 10
  • Gunther confesses his marital humiliation to
    Siegfried (cite 89f.).
  • Siegfried vows to use his magic cloak to tame the
    unruly Brunhild for Gunther.
  • Gunther agrees, but cautions Siegfried not to
    make love to her though he can kill the
    dreadful woman if necessary (90)!
  • Siegfried wrestles Brunhild (cite 91f.)!

Der Nibelunge Nôt 10
  • Brunhild is mastered Gunther listened to the
    entire fight with the unnatural Brunhild.
  • Siegfried secretly takes a ring and a girdle from
    Brunhild, switches places with Gunther.
  • Ring and girdle (later given to Kriemhild)
    signify virginity in medieval texts in
    Thidrikssaga, Siegfried deflowers Brunhild
    himself! The author glosses over the act.
  • Deflowered Brunhild loses her strength.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 11
  • Gunther and his brothers offer to share their
    lands with Siegfried he rejects the property,
    but Kriemhild wants a noble retinue.
  • Hagen of Troneck refuses to go with Kriemhild
    he identifies himself with direct service to the
    Burgundian crown (96).
  • Siegfried returns home triumphantly with his
    Queen Kriemhild. Crowned in Xanten.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 11-12
  • Siegfried and Kriemhild rule in peace and
    prosperity for 10 years she has a son whom they
    name Gunther.
  • Gunther and Brunhild rule in Burgundy
    uneventfully she has a son they name Siegfried.
    Everybody seems to be happy.
  • Brunhild, however, wonders why Siegfried has
    never paid any feudal dues to his liege
  • Brunhild wonders about feudal precedence.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 12
  • Brunhild is curious about their status, has
    Gunther invite Siegfried and Kriemhild to Worms.
  • Feudal status is immensely important Brunhild
    is proud of her preeminent place.
  • The messengers travel to Norway (?) to visit
    Siegfried the authors geography is very poor.
    Many places seem like fantasy lands (except Rhine
    and Danube valleys).

Der Nibelunge Nôt 12-13
  • Siegfried accepts their invitation, travels with
    Kriemhild, his father Siegmund, and 1000 warriors
    to Burgundy.
  • They leave their little son at home.
  • Elegant and gracious reception for Siegfried in
    Worms no hint of coming hostility.
  • Brunhild initially well disposed toward Siegfried
    and Kriemhild.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 14
  • As the two queens watch the knightly sports,
    Kriemhild praises her husband Siegfried I have
    a husband of such merit that he might rule over
    all the kingdoms of this region (111). She
    stresses his innate, heroic qualities.
  • Brunhild is confused, states that Gunther must
    take precedence over all kings (111), stressing
    social status and feudal ties.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 14
  • What started as prideful boasting becomes a
    fierce royal quarrel for supremacy.
  • Brunhild thinks that Siegfried is a liegeman, and
    thus inferior to Gunther.
  • Kriemhild knows Siegfried is socially an equal to
    Gunther, and incomparably superior in all other
    ways (111-113).
  • Duel who shall enter the church first?

Der Nibelunge Nôt 14
  • Showdown before the Munster
  • Brunhild demands they halt A leigewoman may not
    enter before a Queen! (113).
  • As one insult deserves another, Kriemhild
    replies How could a vassals paramour ever wed
    a King? (114).
  • Brunhild learns of the deception, she cries while
    Kriemhild enters the church, gloating.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 14
  • Brunhild demands proof that Siegfried had
    deflowered her.
  • Kriemhild produces the ring Siegfried took from
    Brunhild on the night her marriage was
    consummated (114).
  • As further proof, Kriemhild points to the fine
    silk girdle she is wearing recognize this?
  • Public insult and humiliation the Queen, like
    men in the sagas, needs vengeance!

Der Nibelunge Nôt 14
  • Brunhild complains to Gunther, who summons
    Siegfried and asks if he ever made the boast of
    having slept with Brunhild.
  • Siegfried vows to swear an oath that he never did
    such a thing Gunther proclaims him innocent
  • Both kings eager to keep the deception secret.
  • Both kings decide to keep their queens (and their
    malicious tongues) under control.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 14
  • Brunhild tells Hagen von Troneck of the insult,
    and he vows to get vengeance, or die trying
    Are we to rear cuckoos? (117).
  • Gunther Giselher try to dissuade Hagen.
  • Hagen tells Gunther that he would be lord of
    many kingdoms if Siegfried were dead.
  • Weak Gunther is easily persuaded Hagen tells
    him of his plan (cite 118).

Der Nibelunge Nôt 15
  • (False) envoys arrive with message of war from
    old enemies Liudeger and Liudegast.
  • Siegfried, as expected, offers his support.
  • Hagen goes to Kriemhild, treacherously asks how
    he can aid Siegfried in the battle (120f.)
  • Kriemhild reveals the secret weakness of
    Siegfried the linden leaf!
  • Hagen asks her to sew a little mark on his
    clothing Kriemhilds aid brings his death.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 15-16
  • Hagen sees his mark, makes ready.
  • The war is called off, replaced by a Hunt.
  • Kriemhild has an ill-omened dream (124).
  • Guileless Siegfried goes on a bizarre hunting
    expedition, boars, lions, bison, moose, and other
    German beasts?? (126).
  • Siegfried catches a bear for camp entertainment.
    Comic relief before tragedy.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 16
  • No wine is available Hagen had it sent
    elsewhere, so everyone is thirsty.
  • Hagen suggests drinking at a cool spring nearby
    he further suggests a race (130).
  • Thirsty, unsuspecting Siegfried races through the
    forest toward his doom.
  • Hagen hides Siegfried's weapons, waits until he
    is lying down drinking, then hurls his spear at
    the markSiegfrieds death (130f.).

Hagen spears Siegfried while he drinks from the
cool spring.
Der Nibelunge Nôt 16-17
  • Siegfried dies among the flowers (cite 131).
  • Gunther laments the deed, but fierce Hagen
    rejoices that he has put an end to his
    supremacy (132).
  • Hagen lays Siegfrieds body at Kriemhilds
    doorstep in the nightgruesome discovery, but she
    earlier suspected Hagens treachery (133).
  • Uproar in the castle over Siegfrieds murder.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 17
  • King Siegmund and the Nibelung warriors want to
    avenge his death, but Kriemhild cautions them not
    to attack foolishly.
  • Kriemhild vows vengeance of her own
  • At Hagens presence, the wound begins to bleed
    anew a sign that he is guilty! (137)
  • Kriemhild and Nibelungs keep vigil 3 days beside
    the coffin. Extraordinary mourning.

Der Nibelunge Nôt 18
  • After the burial, King Siegmund wants to take
    Kriemhild back to the Netherlands.
  • Her mother and brother Giselher want her to stay
    with them in Worms, where her entire family lives
    eventually Kriemhild agrees.
  • She commends her little son to Siegmunds care,
    and he rides home in sorrow.
  • Brunhild sat enthroned in her pride (144).

Der Nibelunge Nôt
  • The First Half of the Epic concludes with
    Siegfrieds burial.
  • The Joyful Heroic Tale of the Dragon Slayer is
    over the epic now moves toward vengeance, death
    and doom.
  • Kriemhild emerges from her mourning as a vicious,
    vengeance-obsessed witch.
  • Hagen reveals himself as the great Germanic
    warrior bravely facing his destiny.

Discussion of the Nibelungenlied continues on the
followingPower Point Presentation (Nibelungen 2).