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 • The author of the workis 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 verse:
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 klagen, Von küener recken strîten muget ir nu wunder hœren sagen. Ez wuohs in Búrgónden ein vil édel magedîn, Daz in allen landen niht schœners mohte sîn, Kriemhild geheizen: si wart ein scœne wîp. Dar umbe muosen degene vil verlíesén den lîp.
Der Nibelunge Nôt • The verse form is unique in medieval German epics – Nibelungenstrophe. • The language of the Nibelungenlied is Middle High German – roughly equivalent to Chaucer’s Middle English. • 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 Christianelements anddoes 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: • Siegfried’s wooing of Kriemhild and Gunther’s winning of Brunhild, culminating in Siegfried’s murder. • Kriemhild’s marriage to Etzel and her revenge, culminating in everyone’s 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 confrontation–the 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 kingsGunther, 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.).
Der Nibelunge Nôt 2 • Generosity of the king and feudal fiefdoms described as well – also gifts to wandering minstrels! • Minstrels (German Minnesänger) – the unknown author of the Nibelungenlied was possibly one of these. • Story of cursed gold and dragon slaying described later in the epic – less important.
Der Nibelunge Nôt 3 • Siegfried hears of Kriemhild’s 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 Siegfried’s 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 sheoften 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 Liudegast’s warriors, takes the king prisoner. • Battle of 1000 against 40,000 takes place – victory to the Burgundians (38-40) because of Siegfried’s heroics in capturingKingLiudeger.
Der Nibelunge Nôt 4 • Kriemhild asks to see the messenger privately – he tells of her brothers and of brave Siegfried’s exploits (41f.)! • Kriemhild blushes when told of Siegfried’s heroics – not as brazen as saga women! • The battle serves to highlight Siegfried’s heroic stature and to establish the Gunther’s debt to him. • 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 Siegfried’s advice) on very generous terms.
Der Nibelunge Nôt 6 • News comes to Burgundy of a fabulously beautiful warrior princess living far away in Iceland – Brunhild (cite53). • 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 Siegfried’s aid in winning Brunhild – he agrees, for Kriemhild’s 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, Brunhild’s 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 (59). • Siegfried leads Gunther’s 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 magiccloak of invisibility to aid Gunther. He returns secretly (unseen by anyone). • Gunther sees the size and quality of Brunhild’s 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 ofthe 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 • Dancwartgenerously gives away Brunhild’s 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 betrothsKriemhild 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 other’s 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! (88). • 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 (cite89f.). • 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 (cite91f.)!
Der Nibelunge Nôt 10 • Brunhild is mastered – Gunther listened to the entire fight with theunnaturalBrunhild. • Siegfried secretly takes a ring and a girdle from Brunhild, switches places with Gunther. • Ring and girdle (later given to Kriemhild) – 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 author’s 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 fierceroyal 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 vassal’s 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 (116). • 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 (cite118).
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” – Kriemhild’s 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 mark–Siegfried’s death (130f.).