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Profile Image for Meike.
1,585 reviews2,808 followers
August 31, 2021
Warriors! Honor! Love! Blood! Gold! Let's face it: I can't read the original, as I don't understand Middle High German, so the High German translation it is. This epos holds major power until today, as it was (ab-)used in various contexts throughout history to frame political and cultural events: While in today's tales about heroes, they usually don't die, but prevail, they're frequently killed in tales from the Middle Ages - their status is cemented by the fact that they remain unfazed and they don't give up, even when facing their own demise. It's easy to see why this constellation can be used for the good (stick to your moral convictions, even if they don't serve you well) and the bad: At the start of WW I, Kaiser Wilhelm II. declared "Nibelungentreue" (Nibelung loyalty) to his allies, at the end of the war, the "Dolchstoßlegende" ("legend of the stab in the back") invoked the destiny of Nibelung hero Siegfried who was murdered from behind, a framing that contributed to the start of WW II. Göring framed Stalingrad as a fight comparable to the events in the Nibelungen, thus portraying young men dying in the name fascism as heroes. And of course, Hitler was a huge fanboy of Richard Wagner, who wrote the opera "The Ring of the Nibelungs". Tarantino then went ahead and remixed the whole thing cleverly: His Siegfried is a Black slave named Django who, as Dr. Schultz explains, sets out to slay a dragon (the plantation owner) to free his Brunhilde (Django's wife Broomhilda von Shaft; this version is closer to the opera than the text).

Today, "Nibelungentreue" is used as an expression describing blind loyalty, the cultural climate contributes to the fact that we interpret the events in the original text differently (although "Game of Thrones" seems to work against that tendency): Siegfried, the hero, is an opportunist, rapist, and murderer; the portrayal of women is, well, not exactly feminist (it's the freakin' Middle Ages, guys). Still, this over-the-top spectacle of blood, sex, dragons, feuds, and conquest remains intriguing, and even more so as it is grounded in true events that happened during the Migration Period, mainly the destiny of the Burgundians. But of course, there are many links to other folk stories and sagen/sagas in there. A short summary with the help of Lego figurines can be found here (in German).

I just checked this out in order to be able to appreciate Die Nibelungen. Ein deutscher Stummfilm, and I really, really hope that the subtitle of Hoppe's novel, "A German silent movie", is a hint to Fritz Lang's unbelievable movie version from 1924. I am so excited!
Profile Image for Matt.
752 reviews532 followers
February 2, 2020
Of Knights and Kings, Love and Woe, Revenge and Death

I meant to read the famous epic poem Nibelungenlied (The Song of the Nibelungs) in the original Middle High German. How hard can it be? Eons ago I read some YA version of the underlying legends and I recall quite a bit from the stories around Siegfried (the dragon slayer who became invulnerable after bathing in the dragon’s blood), Kriemhild (his wife and avenging angel), Hagen (Siegfried’s murderer and treasure plunger) and the Triple-G Burgundian King=brothers (Gunther / Gernot / Giselher) — not to mention a dwarf named Alberich who owned the invisibility cloak (before Siegfried snatched it away in order to add invisibility to his invulnerability). So, knowing about the general plot, I figured I should be able to read the MHG text more or less without problems.

The epic was written around the year 1200 AD. According to the unwritten law of folk myths, the author remains anonymous. There are theories about his possible profession and residence (the area around Passau), but no further details are known. Of the three dozen copies of the manuscript, only three are completely preserved and are marked A, B, and C. They belong to the UNESCO Memory of the World Programme. All three are available online as transcription on the site of the Augsburg university and digitization (links below).

The author of the Nibelungenlied did not invent the stories himself, but interwoven several long-standing legends into a plot and brought them into a courtly form that seemed pleasant to the listeners. It is assumed that some of these legends are based on historical events at the time of the Migration Period, such as the wedding between Attila and the probably Germanic princely daughter Ildico (453 AD) and the destruction of the Burgundy Empire around 463 AD. But as is the case with oral traditions: things mixed together, something is exaggerated or made up, something left out or forgotten, places and times changed, figures renamed. To build one single coherent story was not an easy task. The author was confronted with the problem to weave a single plot and also blend the rather old historical savage tales with some representation of modern (from around 1200 AD) chivalry and a somehow Christian point of view. As a result it can happen that, during a carnage in which sparks spray, blood splashes to the ceiling and heads roll, the opponents suddenly pay each other respect and exchange courtesies before the other one’s skull is smashed. But the listeners of 13th century obviously liked it. The Nibelungenlied was a smash hit, as one can see from the relatively high number of copies.

Parts and motivs of the Nibelung legend also found their way into other traditions, most notably the heroic tales in the Poetic Edda and the Thidreksaga . Those Old Norse legends in turn influenced the likes of J.R.R.Tolkin ( The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún ), Richard Wagner (his opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen ) and, who knows, possibly George R.R.Martin and J.K.Rowling as well.

Unfortunately, the Nazis also adapted the Nibelungs for propaganda purposes and celebrated the return of Germanic greatness and heroism, loyalty and manly knighthood, and underpinned the idea of German national growth with these “Germanic virtues” — (and conveniently overlooked the fact that the blonde and blue-eyed German Siegfried was shamefully killed and that the Germanic tribes (in this case the Burgundians) were destroyed by the Huns in the Song of the Nibelungs). The Nibelungenlied is considered by many as the “national epic” of the German people. A story of love and suffering, of heroic power and wild battles, of betrayal, cunning and violence, deceitfulness and sacrifice, blood, greed and revenge and the never-ending hatred of man against man and finally the downfall in flames, blood and tears when all have triumphed each other in death. It was meant to be a historical lesson for the people at medieval times and survived the centuries as a national epic. In the present phase, the zeitgeist seems to demand that the concept of “national” be regained with passion. Especially today, when “national identity” is considered to be appropriate or even necessary, it is worth thinking about such terms and the dire consequences and the Nibelungenlied comes in quite handy. Goethe wrote about the Nibelungenlied: “[The poem] increases imagination, stimulates feelings, awakens curiosity, and in order to satisfy it, invites us to judge. Everyone should read it so that they may receive the effect of it according to the measure of their ability.”

Most of the above I learned before I even started. After reading the first few stanzas online, my initial plan of reading the whole thing in MHG got vaporized and I became disillusioned. Some of the words were easy to recognize. They have changed very little over the centuries (considering the sound shift). Other words seem familiar, but they didn’t make much sense to me in the context. That’s because their meaning has changed completely or at least drastically narrowed. Not exactly false friends, but something even more heinous: The MHG noun “arebeit” (NHG: “Arbeit”) didn’t mean “work” or “labour” but “hardship”. The MHG adjective “rîch” (NHG: “reich”) didn’t mean “rich” but “mighty”. The word “degen” appears five times in the second chapter. Today it means some kind of narrow sword, used for fencing (an epee). But those weapons weren’t even invented in the 13th century. I had to look it up in the MHG dictionary and found that it could mean “male child”, “boy”, “warrior”, “hero”, “brave man”, “honorable man” and so on.

From then on it was clear to me that in order to read the whole work, I had to invest far more time than anticipated. I was more interested in the actual story and the way it was told and I figured I had to read a translation into New High German before going back to MHG. There are several translations of the Nibelungenlied into NHG available. The best known one in verse form was made by Karl Simrock in 1827 (link below) but I didn’t like it that much on first glance. There are also an increasing number of translations into prose form which are marked as “re-told”, but that’s not what I wanted at all. I finally found the book at hand. It is a prose translation that is very close, almost sentence by sentence, oriented to the original and written by Uwe Johnson together with his fellow student (and later linguist) Manfred Bierwisch. The book also contains an afterword by Johnson about the Nibeluncs and an epilogue by Bierwisch in which the interesting publication history of their book in the former GDR is told. As further support, I also obtained the 900-page bilingual MHG/NHG edition by Schulze & Grosse (with a 300 pages appendix). With Johnson/Bierwisch as the main read and occasional detours via Schulze/Grosse and Simrock, I finally managed to read the whole work. It’s a bit strange overall. For modern readers there are some oddities. For example, the author doesn’t seem to have cared much about anticipating future events. These are not gloomy forebodings, but real spoilers. On the other hand, it is also interesting to see how a story was told back then. Especially in the last third many battle scenes are described (the last stand of the Burgundians against the Huns). Some of these scenes seemed to me to be in slow motion with conversations of the antagonists in between the fighting. There are also some logical inconsistencies and contradictions. That’s probably due to the interweaving of ancient lore and courtly customs. For example, the Burgundians (which were also called Nibelungs after they got hold of the treasure) once had to cross the Danube and only a small ferry is available. Nevertheless, all seven hundred henchmen and knights fit on it (the usual number that accompanies a king on his travels). Afterwards the boat is destroyed with only a few sword blows. What also makes the story a little dry to read are the so-called “tailor scenes”. Again and again there is a detailed account of which robes the characters wear, where those came from and what material they were made of. This is quite tiring in the long run. Possibly the author himself was a tailor or cloth merchant. What I personally found unfortunate is that the mythological scenes, especially Siegfried’s struggle with the dragon, are hardly mentioned and I wonder why the author didn’t dare to elaborate on these.

In the end I was happy that Johnson/Bierwisch kept so close to the original, because that was what I wanted to know about in the first place. And I haven’t completely given up the plan of reading the MHG version and if possible understand it. Here Manny Rayner’s LARA-project (Learning And Reading Assistant) will serve me well. See his review on the Icelandic version of the Little Prince for details.

Finally here are two stanzas of the Nibelungenlied from the first “Aventiure” (i.e. chapter) in the original and different translations:

Stanza #1 (the one that everyone quotes):
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.
Viel Wunderdinge melden · die Mären alter Zeit
Von preiswerten Helden · von großer Kühnheit,
Von Freud’ und Festlichkeiten · von Weinen und von Klagen,
Von kühner Recken Streiten · mögt ihr nun Wunder hören sagen.
In alten Berichten wird uns Erstaunliches erzählt von berühmten Helden, von großer Not und Bedrängnis, von Festen und geselligen Freuden, von Weinen und Klagen. Ihr werdet Unerhörtes vernehmen von den Taten kühner Recken.
Alice Horton (English verse translation 1898):
To us, in olden legends, · is many a marvel told
Of praise-deserving heroes, · of labours manifold,
Of weeping and of wailing, · of joy and festival;
Of bold knights’ battling shall you · now hear a wondrous tale.
Daniel Bussier Shumway (English prose translation 1909):
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.

Stanza #17 (Kriemhild, after her falcon dream, to her mother Ute. To me a leitmotiv of the whole epic):
»Di rede lât belîben«, · sprach si, »frouwe mîn
ez ist an manegen wîben · vil dicke worden schîn,
wie liebe mit leide · ze jungest lônen kan.
ich sol si mîden beide, · sône kan mir nimmer missegân«
»Die Rede laßt bleiben« · sprach sie, »Herrin mein.
Es hat an manchen Weiben · gelehrt der Augenschein,
Wie Liebe mit Leide · am Ende gerne lohnt;
Ich will sie meiden beide · so bleib’ ich sicher verschont!«
»Das mag ich nicht hören«, sagte Kriemhild. »Es ist so oft an mancher Frau offenbar geworden, daß die Freude zuletzt im Leid endet. Ich will das eine wie das andere meiden, so kann es mir nie schlecht ergehen.«
“Ah, let alone such counsel, · my mother dear I pray!
By many a woman’s witness · ‘tis proven clear as day,
How heart’s delight too often · with sorrow sore is paid;
Lest such mischance befall me, · I’ll shun them both,” she said.
“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.”



Manuscript A: Transcript · Digitization
Manuscript B: Transcript · Digitization
Manuscript C: Transcript · Digitization

Simrock translation:

English verse translation by Alice Horton:

English prose translation by Daniel Bussier Shumway:

Audio-Book (in German, ~9 hours) read by Peter Wapnewski (Simrock translation and many comments!)
(no more available) new version:

First stanza spoken in MHG (6.5 minutes)


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Profile Image for Warwick.
841 reviews14.6k followers
June 28, 2023
Sixteen centuries ago, a Germanic tribe known as the Burgundians crossed the Roman limes and settled on the edge of the Empire, somewhere on the west bank of the Rhine between what's now Mainz and Strasbourg. The Romans were a bit distracted at the time – but their attention didn't wander for long. General Aetius was tasked with getting rid of the intruders, and in AD 436 he called in Atilla's Huns to do the dirty work. Supposedly, 20,000 Burgundians were slaughtered.

That ‘First Burgundian Kingdom’, as it's known, only lasted twenty or thirty years, and must have been one of many such short-lived ‘barbarian’ kingdoms wiped out by Roman imperialism. Yet somehow, what happened to the Burgundians passed into legend throughout northern Europe. Medieval Icelanders were incorporating their stories into tales of the Völsungs, while Angles and Saxons remembered the fallen king as a great gift-giver.

As for the Germanic tribes that remained in that bit of Central Europe, the tales they told of the Burgundians coalesced into what was eventually written down, circa 1200, as ‘The Doom of the Nibelungs’, or the Nibelungenlied as it's usually known in modern German. Who in god's name the Nibelungs are, and what any of this has to do with them, is one of the many fascinating concretions that have built up around the central story: the main thrust of the poem is still about Huns wiping out Burgundians, but around that kernel are a whole lot of other legends, genealogies, mangled bits of history, and tall tales.

It makes it all read like an incredible mishmash. Some bits seem very influenced by courtly romances and Arthurian cycles: as when Sîfrit, the heroic knight, falls in love with the Burgundian princess Kriemhilt without ever setting eyes on her. But other parts feel older and more earthy – children getting their heads chopped off, sexual violence, and the traces of various Germanic mythical creatures: dwarfs, dragons, and of course the famous merwîp or water-sprites.

Given how many traditions clearly fed into it, it's amazing how coherent it is. It tells a much more unified story, with far fewer diversions, than, say, Beowulf or the Kalevala. The action falls pretty naturally into two halves: in the first, Sîfrit woos and wins Kriemhielt and is then betrayed to his death by devious means; and in the second, Kriemhilt, now remarried to ‘Etzel’ (Atilla the Hun), takes revenge for Sîfrit's death on the rest of her people.

The other power couple of the Nibelungenlied, besides Sîfrit and Kriemhilt, are the Burgundian king Gunther and his Icelandic bride Prünhilt. Prünhilt is an incredible character, possessed of superhuman strength and manifestly unwilling to take any shit from Gunther or his patriarchal ideas. On their wedding night, she point-blank refuses to put out, and Gunther tries to resort to force:

   dô wart ir Gunther gehaz.

Dô rang er nâch ir minne   unt zerfuort ir diu kleit.
dô greif nâch einem gürtel   diu hêrlichiu meit.
daz was ein starker borte,   den si umb ir sîten truoc.
dô tet si dem kunige   grôzer leide genuoc.

Di fuoze unt ouch di hende   si im zesamne bant.
si truoc in zeinem nagel   unt hiene in an di want.
dô er si slâfes irrite,   di minne si im verbôt.
jâ het er con ir krefte   vil nâch gewunnen den tôt.

Then Gunther grew hostile towards her. He struggled for her love and tore her clothes apart. The proud maiden then reached for a girdle, a strong braid that she wore about her waist. She then caused the king sorrow in abundance. She bound together his feet and hands; she carried him over to a nail and hung him up on the wall. When he deprived her of her sleep, she forbade his love-making. Her strength had almost proved the death of him. [Cyril Edwards translation]

She literally just hangs him up on the wall! I would have liked to see more of Prünhilt, and it's perhaps one of the few structural weaknesses of the poem that she never gets a proper ending, but just fades away in the second half.

One thing that's notable about the early sections of the poem, given the violence that we all know (or suspect) is coming, is how incredibly polite everyone is to each other. Unlike the heroes of Anglo-Saxon or Norse legend, who are often approvingly described as being ‘proud’ or ‘quick to anger’, the characters in the Nibelungenlied seem to go out of their way to de-escalate situations and avoid conflict. When Sîfrit wants to fight for ownership of the land, the king suggests a nice feast and some dancing instead: soon they're all the best of friends. When Kriemhilt asks the hot-tempered lord Hagan to relocate to the Netherlands, he loses his temper and everything seems about to descend into violence; but instead, we hear, Daz liezen si belîben ‘They let the matter rest’. How civilised!

Of course, it doesn't last long. The poem takes care to reinforce this awareness of the social codes preventing violence, and the effect of this is that when violence does break out, it feels explosive and meaningful. Still the overall tone, despite the slaughter, is not exactly one of complete catastrophe. It's more a kind of wistful melancholy – the world-weary lesson that ie diu liebe leide  zaller jungeste gît ‘joy always, at the very end, yields to sorrow’.

I read this in a few different versions – I had a copy of the original Middle High German text, a modern German translation (which frankly I don't find much easier to follow), and two English versions, the Arthur Thomas Hatto one from the 60s and a more recent one from Cyril Edwards, published by Oxford World's Classics, from 2010. Hatto and Edwards both translate into prose (which I like). Edwards resists what he calls the ‘Wagnerisation’ of personal names (so it's Sifrid and Prünhilt, not Siegfried and Brünhilde). He's also more literal in some ways (in the extract above, you can see that his short sentences reflect the lines of the original), whereas Hatto is more likely to string phrases together into more natural-sounding English lines. Edwards also, despite being generally more modern, has a soft spot for certain archaisms, as with the way he translates zürnen ‘to get angry’ with ‘to wax wrath’, an old Maloryesque variant of ‘wax wroth’ which seems a bit OTT.

But however you read it, it's a wonderfully entertaining and comprehensible story and a beautiful example of history transmuted into myth. And no matter how overblown the action gets, the poem always keeps its feet on the ground. When the wounded are staggering away from the fight, we're told matter-of-factly: si nehten sich nâch sorgen,  sô noch genuogen geschilt. ‘After their sorrows they recovered, as plenty still do today.’
Profile Image for Markus.
644 reviews78 followers
July 19, 2022
Das Nibelungenlied
By Anonymus
Translated from Mittelhochdeutsch by Karl Simrock in 1827

Existing historical locations and recordings of living persons at the time, determine the period of creation of this epic poem to between 1202 and 1204.

It is the German counterpart to the Anglo-Saxon sagas of King Arthur and his knights and Chretien of Troie’s Lancelot tales.

The geographical locations of the events stretch from Worms, the country on the river Rhine, to northern Iceland, the castle of Brunehilde and later further south and east to Bavaria, Austria, Vienna and possibly to Bohemia or Hungary to the castle of King Etzel.

Medieval chivalry is the background to the story of love and revenge between Siegfried the white knight in shining armour and Krimhilde the beautiful and faultless princess.

Fairytale features light up the story with Siegrieds battle and slaying of a dragon, covering his body with the dragon's blood, (almost) gaining invulnerability to any future battle wounds.

Nibelungenland is Siegfried's fairytale kingdom, the location of which is hard to guess.

Siegfried holds there an immense treasure of gold and silver, diamonds and jewellery as well as a mysterious invisibility cap which he uses on several occasions and not always to his advantage.

Inevitably the story also tells of the powerful dark villain knight Hagen, who causes endless sorrows, bloodshed and countless deaths with his treacherous intrigues and proceedings.

The author knows and highlights chivalry values such as unfailing courteous behaviour to ladies of their choosing and everlasting faith and mutual protection between friends.

The style of writing is unique. The story told in the German language of the nineteenth century is unusual in vocabulary and rhyme. The beauty of the original can only be guessed.

Chapter after chapter and sometimes between the lines, the author warns the reader of sorrow to come from ongoing actions and dialogues as they happen.

This epic tale is the pride of German literature of the medieval ages.

Its reading can be recommended to all friends with an interest in chivalry literature.
Profile Image for Ronald Morton.
408 reviews159 followers
February 24, 2016
How bad*** do you want your epics to be?

Do you want someone to hit someone else so hard that the plains shake and gouts of red fire shoot from the impact? How about someone throwing a boulder 20 fathoms and then leaping just as far?

And, if you don’t, what’s wrong with you?

This book/epic/lay is amazingly over the top, and at the same time is one of the greatest examples of medieval literature that has not been lost to antiquity. Any one who has read and enjoyed Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, Aelfric’s saga, etc. should not give this a miss.
Profile Image for Coco.
149 reviews29 followers
November 16, 2022

Este Cantar me lo mandaron leer para la asignatura de Literatura y Cultura Alemana de mi carrera. Me dio mucha curiosidad leerlo porque es un escrito de muchos años de antigüedad (más de 1000 del manuscrito, pero muchos más estuvo en circulación por la tradición oral).

Estructuralmente, está dividido en dos partes. La primera nos habla de Sigfrido, de sus hazañas, de cómo consigue a su amada Krisolda, de cómo ayuda a otros reinos y las tramas que se forman en su contra. La segunda parte cuenta la venganza de Krisolda: aquí aparece el rey de los hunos, Atila, y reaparecen los personajes anteriores.

Originalmente se escribió en Althochdeutch (alto alemán medio) y en versos separados de cuatro en cuatro. Después vemos capítulos (que reciben el nombre de Cantar, puesto que Nibelungenlied sería "La Canción de los Nibelungos" aunque la tengamos como "El Cantar de los Nibelungos"). En esta edición de Cátedra podemos ver estos versos originales en algunos estratos, aunque en su mayoría está traducido a español (sin respetar el verso o la rima pero sí su significado).

Pasando a los personajes, lógicamente (dados los tiempos y el desarrollo literario, como pasa con los demás tipos de artes) no hay mucho desarrollo de la introspección y psicología.

En ocasiones se puede hacer algo lento (sobre todo en los viajes o en las guerras) pero es bastante interesante para ver la realidad de aquella época, su vestimenta y su forma de interactuar.

El final no me gustó nada :(. No puedo hacer spoilers, pero con mi mentalidad del siglo XXI no veo consiguiente el motivo del último asesinato. Es cierto que después la profesora nos comentó las razones que tuvieron entonces para que la historia tuviera un final "justo" acorde a los valores de la época.

Si os animáis a aventuraros por el Nibelungenlied os recomiendo que vayáis llenos de ánimo y fuerza. Os daréis cuenta de que hay muchos motivos que se cogen para la literatura posterior (HP, Arturo, Tolkien...) y eso siempre es un buen incentivo para seguir leyendo y descubriendo.
Profile Image for Tristram Shandy.
728 reviews203 followers
November 8, 2022
“Uns ist in alten maeren wunders viel geseit
von helden lobebaeren von grôzer arebeit,
von fröuden, hôchgezîten, von weinen und von klagen,
von küener recken strîten muget ir nu wunder hœren sagen.“

Oder, prosaischer:

Wenn eine Party aus dem Ruder läuft

Kaum je dürfte ein hochtrabender Begriff verhängnisvoller gewirkt haben als das von Reichskanzler von Bülow geprägte Wort der Nibelungentreue, mit dem er 1909 in der Bosnischen Annexionskrise die Unterstützung, die das Deutsche Reich Österreich-Ungarn angedeihen ließ, rechtfertigte. Denn eben dieser Begriff wurde wiederaufgegriffen, um in der Julikrise Deutschlands Festhalten an der Bündnistreue gegenüber dem auf dem Balkan in heillose Verstrickungen geratenen Nachbarn zu begründen – und das Ergebnis war, daß hierdurch das Schlittern der europäischen Mächte in den Ersten Weltkrieg mit seinen Millionen von Toten, wenn zwar nicht verursacht, so doch erheblich vereinfacht wurde.

Im Nibelungenlied, dem deutschen Nationalepos des 19. Jahrhunderts, findet sich diese Nibelungentreue in zweierlei Gestalt – einmal in Kriemhilds Racheplänen, nachdem ihr Gatte Siegfried durch Hagens Hand – und mit Billigung zweier ihrer Brüder – gemeuchelt worden war, und zum anderen in der Weigerung der drei burgundischen Könige, Hagen an Kriemhild auszuliefern und statt dessen lieber den Kampf bis auf den Tod auszufechten. In Strophen 2102 und 2103 nach der Handschrift B des Nibelungenlieds spricht an dieser Stelle der mittlere der drei Brüder folgende Worte:

“‘Nune welle got von himele‘, sprach dô Gernôt,
‘ob unser tûsent waeren, wir laegen alle tôt,
der sippen dîner mâge ê wir dir einen man
gaeben hi ze gîsel. es wird et nimmer getân.‘

‘Wir müesen doch ersterben‘, sprach dô Gîselher.
‘uns scheidet niemen von ritterlicher wer.
swer gerne mit uns vehte, wir sîn et aber hie,
wande ich deheinen mînen friunt an den triuwen nie verlie.‘“

Es ist diese Weigerung, die dazu führt, daß am Ende beinahe alle Handelnden des Nibelungenliedes in grausamen Kämpfen den Tod finden, zumal auch die Gefolgsleute des hunnischen Königs Etzel sich durch ihren Treueid gebunden fühlen, den Kampf mit den ihnen eigentlich freundschaftlich verbundenen Burgunden aufzunehmen und in ihm zu fallen.

Das Nibelungenlied, im 12. Jahrhundert auf der Grundlage viel älterer Sagenstoffe zu Papier gebracht, zerfällt in zwei große Teile, deren erster die Geschichte des sagenhaften Drachentöters Siegfried an Gunthers Hof erzählt – wie er für Gunther die isländische Königin Brünhild durch Lug und Trug gewinnt und anschließend mit roher Gewalt gefügig macht, wobei zwischen den Zeilen recht eindeutig auf eine Vergewaltigung zu schließen ist, auch wenn Siegfried Gunther gegenüber eine solche in Abrede stellt. Brünhild jedenfalls argwöhnt, daß Siegfried und Gunther einen Pakt miteinander geschlossen hatten, und so kommt es zu dem fatalen Zerwürfnis zwischen ihr und Kriemhild und der Ermordung Siegfrieds und der Versenkung des Nibelungenhorts im Rhein durch Hagen von Tronje. Im zweiten Teil, ab der zwanzigsten Aventiure, wird dann erzählt, wie die erbitterte Witwe Kriemhild den Hunnenkönig Etzel heiratet und von langer Hand ihre “eisliche[r] rache“ an Hagen und Gunther plant, die dann in ein episches Gemetzel ausartet.

Das Nibelungenlied strotzt nur so von verbaler Kraftmeierei, etwa wenn Siegfried auf einer eigens zu seiner Täuschung ausgerufenen Jagd nicht nur den gesamten Tierbestand im Wald niedermetzelt, sondern auch noch einen Löwen tötet, der schon damals in der Nähe von Worms Seltenheitswert besessen haben dürfte. Ein Recke wie er bindet mit Hunderten von Gegnern an und bezwingt sie allesamt ohne große Mühe, und selbst einem Teufelskerl wie Hagen kann es nur durch List und Tücke gelingen, einen solchen Helden zu besiegen. Auch später zählt man die Opfer eher nach Tausenden denn nach Hunderten. Mit wahrer Lust beschreibt der Erzähler das aus den Wunden hervorquellende Blut [1] und den Funkenschlag, der sich ergibt, wenn Waffen auf Helme und Rüstungen niederschmettern, und von manchem Schlag “erdôz“ ein gesamtes Gebäude. So ist denn schlichtweg alles an diesem Epos Bombast, Großsprecherei und Geprahle, weshalb es nicht wundernimmt, daß diese Geschichte schließlich zum deutschen Nationalepos wurde.

Aber auch etwas anderes an diesem Epos ist in meinen Augen „typisch deutsch“, nämlich die morbide Lust am Untergang mit Donnern und Krachen aufgrund einer fixen Idee – und es ist nachgerade gruselig sich auszumalen, wie ein solches Epos, das man heute vielleicht nicht mehr ganz ohne Verwunderung lesen kann, vor etwas mehr als hundert Jahren von vielen meiner Landsleute sine grano salis verschlungen worden sein muß. Zudem sind die psychologischen Motivationen der Handelnden recht krude. Ein Beispiel gefällig?

Und dennoch vermag diese grausame, archaischen Ehrbegriffen frönende Sage auch heute noch einen Teil ihrer früheren Faszinationskraft auf den Leser auszuüben. Besonders empfehlenswert ist es sicherlich, sie im mittelhochdeutschen Original zu lesen, was so schwierig nicht ist, wenn man sich erst einmal ein wenig mit dieser Sprache vertraut gemacht hat. Auf Youtube gibt es eine ansehnliche Zahl von Clips, in denen erklärt wird, wie man das Mittelhochdeutsche ausspricht, und die mir vorliegende Reclam-Ausgabe bietet die B-Handschrift des Nibelungenliedes zweisprachig, einmal im Original, dann in einer neuhochdeutschen Prosaübersetzung, und zwar übersichtlich doppelseitig, so daß bei Unklarheiten je nach Bedarf auf den neueren Text zurückgegriffen werden kann.

Wer also bereit ist, sich auf die Geisteshaltung und die Sprache einer längst vergangenen Epoche einzulassen, der wird sich der Faszinationskraft des alten Nibelungenlieds trotz der einen oder anderen Durststrecke – wenn mal wieder Kleidung beschrieben wird – nicht wirklich entziehen können.

[1] Bei Siegfrieds Ableben etwa heißt es nicht minder effektvoll wie plastisch: “Die bluomen von bluote wurden naz. dô rang er mit dem tôde.“
1 review1 follower
December 15, 2010
As with Shakespeare's Pericles, I have a great deal of affection for the Nibelungenlied on account of the conflict in its structure. The poet (lost now) has had to wrangle together two conflicting folk traditions into a single story. His or her achievement here is subtle and remarkable.

Northrop Frye says that a central trait of epic is a change of mode and subject halfway through the poem. The Odyssey, the Aeneid and Paradise Lost all switch tack in the middle: Odysseus' and Aeneas' romantic wanderings turn to more comedic structures – that is, to the establishment of a new social order in a single location – and Paradise Lost makes a less pronounced move from the divine and demonic to the human. But I've never seen it done quite like this.

The poem's first half has some of the strongest and most interesting characterization of any epic I've read. Kriemhild is sympathetic, but not weak. We feel for her; we do not feel the need to protect her. There is a kind of burning drive in her, a determination that will become frightening in the second half. Hagen, on the other hand, starts out frightening: a scheming Iago, free of Iago's pathological obsession with Othello. Hagen is worried by Siegfried because he is a legitimate threat to Hagen's goals; he does not hate him exactly. Iago could not live without Othello (and is content to secede from life when Othello is dead), but, as will be shown in the second half, Hagen doesn't need Siegfried to define himself.

Siegfried is less of a triumph, though still interesting. It’s fairly clear that he rapes Brunhild when he takes her ring and girdle – I don’t know what else that could suggest, and a lot of the poem doesn’t make sense if we don't assume it – which would make him something more human than the hero he seems to be. But his role is structural, and it is primarily heroic. He exists to trick us into thinking the poem is going to be about him. I wish I had come to the Nibelungenlied without knowing he dies halfway through; the shock must be enormous.

Because, of course, the second half turns the whole book on its head. We move to Etzel’s castle, and suddenly Hagen and Volker are our heroes, not because of anything they have done, nor through revelation of new information, but simply because of the situation they are now in. Kriemhild bears down upon them, a wrathful dragon, and we fear her – again, not because she has fallen from rage into madness (though she has certainly come close) but because we have been pulled away from her perspective and put into Hagen's. We feel his terror, and even though we know that Kriemhild is justified in whatever she does to him, we can’t help but experience his horror.

Hagen and Volker are in the wrong, and they must die for it. We know this as an audience. The poet of the Nibelungenlied asks us to accept it, and, having done so, turn to watch Hagen and Volker die with as much dignity as possible: traditional epic dignity, meaning a death after extreme distinction in battle. Gunther is never redeemed. Gernot and Giselher become less and less attractive as the story progresses. But Hagen, surely the worst of the lot, forces his way into the heroic role left open by the death of Siegfried. There is no redemption in the plot, only in the narrative. Kriemhild descends from a romantic heroine to an almost novelistic human being. Hagen transcends his corruption and meanness to become an epic hero. The frame of one story contains and creates the other, and this new story in turn alters the first.

So there it is: a tale told from two perspectives, both convincing, both interesting, and somehow both reconcilable through their equal humanity. It's a pity this isn't more widely-read: it has strangeness, force and beauty to equal Milton and Homer, and characters that fall only a little short of the great figures in those authors. The Nibelungenlied remains one of my favourite experiences in literature.
Profile Image for Adonis Devereux.
Author 16 books33 followers
January 30, 2013
Siegfried is murdered.

Oops, did I spoil the whole story for you? Well, too bad, because the poet himself spoils it within the first three pages.

I'm all for classics, what with being a major in English literature and all. I mean, what else am I going to do with my degree than work a job totally unrelated to my field of study whilst crying myself to sleep every night using my now-defunct Norton Anthology as a pillow? Granted, this "epic" poem is German, but it's certainly part of what one would consider a literary education.

At the risk of sounding unenlightened, I say skip this and just read a good summary (unless, of course, you can read it in German). Not only is my copy translated into English, it's written in prose form, which is particularly irksome. Furthermore, 285 pages of content could have been reduced to 28 pages of actual action. I've rarely read anything so boring, which is weird considering the wee bits of action are actually quite interesting.

If you waste your time reading this poem, all you're going to get is redundant descriptions of people coming and going and sending emissaries to this or that place and accepting invitations to go to this or that festival, all while dressed impeccably wearing jewels that would bankrupt the world.

The poet has a particularly annoying habit of interrupting himself to describe what people are wearing. The back of my copy reads that it is an epic tale of murder and revenge. Right. More like an epic fashion show.

Oh, and no one has that much money. Kings and queens are constantly handing out gold and jewels like their wealth grows on trees, and yet they never grow poor. On the contrary, as the poem goes on, each king later introduced outdoes all kings before mentioned in wealth. Shields full of gems? Dumped on mere messengers? Every time? Bullcrap.

I also take issue with the use of the word "knight" in this poem. These men aren't knights; they're mercenaries. The only reason anyone does anything is for the promise of reward, which is usually merely alluded to--you know, good manners and all. Can't seem too greedy! But by the end of the poem, Kriemhild is begging anyone to go out and revenge for her, promising anyone shieldsful of red gold (which,I guess, is the best kind), having it brought right to front lines to administer to all and sundry. Even then, many "knights" won't take it because they're pissing themselves in fear of Hagen, Volker, and the other Burgundians. Bollocks to that--effing cowards! I thought you blokes were supposed to be "knights". Guess not. Lame.

The scenes where Siegfried puts on his cloak of invisibility and cheats to help Gunther best Brunhild in feats of strength are great. Even the scene where Siegfried invisibly wrestles Brunhild into sexual submission--though despicable by today's standards--at least doesn't have any unnecessary oohing and aahing at their new clothes! Seigfried's murder, Hagen destroying the ferry after hearing the nixies' prophecy--all these scenes are compelling, but you can get this just from the Cliff's Notes. Again, I don't read German, so the way it's written in translation isn't important to me. Just the story. And there simply isn't enough story to justify wasting your time slogging through this.

Having said that, if you get some kind of bullet-point summary of what's going on, then the last five chapters or so might be worth reading. Everyone slaughters everyone, and the scene where Rudiger gives Hagen his shield is quite touching. The final paragraph of the book is utterly retarded, though. Kriemhild just wants revenge for her murdered husband, and when she finally achieves it by chopping off the murderer's head, her own ally turns on her and hacks her to bits because it's dishonorable to be killed by a woman. ffs.
This entire review has been hidden because of spoilers.
Profile Image for Paul Haspel.
563 reviews83 followers
May 27, 2020
The Nibelungs, in case you were wondering, are the royal house of the Burgundians – and the Burgundians, whose name lives on in the Burgundy region of east-central France that produces some of the world’s finest wine, were a Germanic tribe that migrated to the Rhine River region around the city of Worms in the early 5th century A.D. All of this information can be helpful for the modern reader who wants to understand the compelling, troubling, and exceedingly violent work that is The Nibelungenlied (The Song of the Nibelungs), a German-language epic poem that is one of the founding documents of German literature.

The Nibelungenlied was composed by an unknown poet, in the area around Passau in modern-day Austria, sometime around the year 1200. The Middle Ages were a rough time in central Europe; Germany was a region, not a country – a place where small German-speaking states were constantly waging war upon one another – and therefore it should be no surprise that this poem that came to be considered characteristically German is a thoroughly medieval tale of blood, death, and revenge.

The anonymous poet who composed The Nibelungenlied drew upon earlier Norse accounts of the legendary hero Sigurd or Sigurðr, whose story is told in medieval Icelandic works like the Völsunga saga and the Poetic Edda; but in turning the Norse Sigurd into the German Siegfried, the poet took the work in some new directions of his own.

As The Nibelungenlied begins, Siegfried, who has already proven himself in battle against the Saxons, travels to Worms because of his love for Kriemhild, princess of Burgundy; the fact that the two have never met seems little more than a technicality. When Siegfried first sees his destined lady-love, Kriemhild “emerged like the dawn from the dark clouds, freeing from much distress him who secretly cherished her and indeed long had done so” (pp. 47-48). The feeling, it turns out, is mutual, as Kriemhild “soon conveyed her liking”, and Siegfried “had reason to bless his good fortune that the young woman whom he cherished in his thoughts was so well-disposed towards him” (pp. 49-50). It’s love at first sight – but sadly, a love that is destined to end unhappily, with even unhappier consequences for many.

You see, Kriemhild’s brother is Gunther, king of the Burgundians, and Gunther won’t let his sister marry Siegfried unless Siegfried helps Gunther win the love of the Icelandic queen Brunhild. And Gunther, it seems, is no Siegfried. When Gunther, with the help of some deception on Siegfried’s part, is able to marry Brunhild, the wedding night doesn’t go well. When Gunther, ardent for his new bride, “tumbled her shift for her…the haughty girl reached for the girdle of stout silk cord that she wore about her waist, and subjected him to great suffering and shame; for in return for being baulked of her sleep, she bound him hand and foot, carried him to a nail, and hung him on a wall. She had put a stop to his love-making!” (p. 88) Well, that’s embarrassing.

Some further deception on Siegfried’s part enables Gunther to consummate his marriage to Brunhild – taking away, in the process, the super-human powers that the queen of Iceland had once possessed – but the path is set for tragedy. Quarrelling between the two queens leads to a rift between Siegfried and Gunther. Hagen of Tronje, a vassal of King Gunther, feels that his king and queen have been dishonoured, and decides that Siegfried must die. King Gunther objects at first, but later consents.

A day of hunting is arranged, and on the fateful day Kriemhild doesn’t want Siegfried to go off on the hunt. “I dreamt last night – and an ill-omened dream it was…that two boars chased you over the heath and the flowers were dyed with blood! How can I help weeping so? I stand in great dread of some attempt against your life. – What if we have offended any men who have the power to vent their malice on us? Stay away, my lord, I urge you” (p. 124). But in spite of Kriemhild’s tearful insistence that “I fear you will come to grief”, Siegfried blithely states that “I know of no people who bear me any hatred” and assures her that “I shall return in a few days’ time, my darling” (p. 125). Spoiler alert: it doesn’t turn out that way.

Hagen knows that Siegfried, who once slew a dragon and bathed in its blood, is, like Achilles, invulnerable everywhere but in one spot – a place on his back that Kriemhild, at Hagen’s request, has obligingly marked with a cross on the back of Siegfried’s tunic. (Really?) What follows should be no surprise:

“[A]s Siegfried bent over the brook and drank, Hagen hurled the spear at the cross, so that the hero’s heart’s blood leapt from the wound and splashed against Hagen’s clothes. No warrior will ever do a darker deed” (p. 130).

The dying Siegfried denounces his murderers: “You vile cowards….What good has my service done now that you have slain me? I was always loyal to you, but now I have paid for it. Alas, you have wronged your kinsmen so that all who are born in days to come will be dishonoured by your deed” (p. 131).

The treasure of the Nibelungs is Kriemhild’s dowry, and therefore should be hers by right. But Hagen, intending to make sure that Kriemhild cannot use that treasure of the Nibelungs to raise an army and take revenge, “took the entire treasure and sank it in the Rhine at Locheim, imagining he would make use of it someday” (p. 149). In response, “Kriemhild could not have borne him greater malice”, and her “heart was burdened with sorrow that was ever fresh for the passing of her lord and the loss of all her treasure” (p. 149).

For the remainder of Kriemhild’s life, the one motivation of this once sweet and optimistic princess is revenge against Hagen – and indeed against all the Burgundian kings, by whom she feels betrayed. And she will get her revenge, but at an exceedingly high cost.

The occasion for Kriemhild’s revenge occurs when she awakens the romantic interest of the Hunnish king Etzel. Please be advised that “Etzel” is the poet’s name for Attila – yes, that Attila: Attila the Hun, who ravaged the Western Roman Empire from 451 to 453 A.D. Etzel’s queen, Helche, has recently died, and Etzel sends to Burgundy for Kriemhild.

Kriemhild travels to Hungary – evidently the Nibelungenlied poet does not realize that the Huns were not Hungarian, but rather were of an entirely different cultural stock. When Kriemhild meets Etzel, the poet records that Kriemhild “received the illustrious monarch kindly with a kiss, to bestow which she pushed back her wimple and revealed her lovely face all radiant amid the gold of her hair, so that many a man declared that Queen Helche had not been lovelier” (p. 172). This dramatic and fateful meeting is today commemorated by a monument in Tulln an der Donau, Austria.

Kriemhild marries Etzel – a Christian marrying a pagan – not out of love, but rather so that she can gain an army and take her revenge. One feels sorry for Attila – he is “as happy as he could possibly be”, especially after Kriemhild bears him a son named Ortlieb; but Kriemhild weeps in secret, mourns for her dead Siegfried, and forever plans her revenge. Etzel is but a pawn in Kriemhild's exceedingly bloody-minded game of thrones.

Eventually, Kriemhild arranges things such that all the high nobles and knights of the Burgundian court will travel to the Hunnish court in Hungary. Acts of violence between individual Huns and Burgundians quickly escalate toward full-scale war, as epitomized when Hagen recalls Kriemhild’s ongoing dedication to vengeance and then “struck Ortlieb so that the blood washed along the sword to his hands and the boy’s head fell into the Queen’s lap, unleashing a vast and savage slaughter among warriors” (p. 243).

In a fight within Etzel’s royal hall, the Burgundians kill 7,000 (!) Huns, and throw their corpses out of the hall. Kriemhild has her own idea for striking back against the Burgundians, telling her Hunnish knights, “I shall pay back Hagen’s arrogance in full. Do not let a man leave the building anywhere, while I have the hall fired at all four corners. Thus shall all my sorrows be utterly revenged!” (p. 261) And thus, amidst vast destruction and loss of life on both sides, the Burgundians move toward a Thermopylae- or Alamo-style denouement.

After the Burgundians have been destroyed, and Hagen and Gunther have been imprisoned, Kriemhild offers to let Hagen live if Hagen will reveal where he hid the treasure. Hagen refuses. What follows is one of the most dramatic scenes in an exceedingly dramatic poem:

“I shall make an end!” cried the noble lady, and she commanded them to take her brother [Gunther]’s life. They struck off his head, and she carried it to Hagen by the hair. Great was the grief it gave him.

When the unhappy warrior saw his brother’s head, he said to Kriemhild: “You have made an end as you desired, and things have run their course as I imagined. The noble King of Burgundy is dead….Now none knows of the treasure but God and I! You she-devil, it shall stay hidden from you forever!”
(p. 290)

And after Kriemhild's Cain-style murder of her brother Gunther, there is still more blood to be shed before the poem finally rings down the curtain on, as the poet puts it, “The Nibelungs’ Last Stand” (p. 291).

I read The Nibelungenlied in the context of a visit to Worms, Germany. In that beautiful little city that is said to have been the capital of the 5th-century Burgundian Kingdom, there is a Nibelungen Tower on the Nibelungen Bridge that flows over the Rhine, along with a very fine Nibelungen Museum. The modern city of Worms is a perfect place in which to ponder the power and the influence of this important poem.

And its influence has been wide-ranging. One sees echoes of The Nibelungenlied in Richard Wagner’s four-part musical drama Der Ring des Nibelungen (The Ring of the Nibelungs) (1876), a work that in turn may or may not have influenced the composition of J.R.R. Tolkien's three-part fantasy epic The Lord of the Rings (1954-55).

And, on a more menacing note, it is a matter of record – of sad record – that The Nibelungenlied, in the 19th and early 20th centuries, became associated with the totalitarian strain of German nationalism, from the beginnings of Prussian ascendancy through the end of the Second World War. The Nibelungen Museum in Worms acknowledges these difficult aspects of the poem’s history, including the ways in which the Nazi regime utilized the poem for propaganda purposes.

More than 800 years ago, a German-speaking poet set down a poem that would mean very different things to the people of different future centuries. With the fierce and uncompromising quality of its scenes of violence, the intensity of its emotions, the way in which it shows great love metamorphosing into equally fervid emotions of revenge-minded hate, The Nibelungenlied remains an important epic poem, and a vital – and troubling – glimpse into the German history of its own time, and of later times.
Profile Image for Adam  McPhee.
1,273 reviews206 followers
July 9, 2022
Between pop culture and Wagner it's not at all what I expected. I kept thinking it'd be pagan, and I think what people meant when they used that term was non-Christian (although Wagner throughs in a lot of pagan stuff that's not here). What it is is chivalric. This is operating entirely in the same space as The Song of Roland. I swear I can even see the Frankish history underneath that they're drawing from, in the same way the chansons de geste do: Brunhild and Kremhild are the Merovingian rival queens Brunhild and Fredegund, the Rhine treasure is Charlemagne's Avar hoard, etc etc.

There's a little bit more fantasy (dragon, hoard, invisibility, etc) than a chanson de geste and the court intrigue is a little more intricate, and the fight is in a Germanic castle instead of a Frankish battlefield, but otherwise chanson de geste. Off to watch the Fritz Lang adaptation now. I gotta re-read the Volsung Saga now too because I feel like I'll get more out of it now.
Profile Image for Leah.
419 reviews46 followers
October 21, 2017
Das Nibelungenlied ist es auf jeden Fall wert gelesen zu werden, vor allem, wenn man die Bestandteile auf das, was sie sind herunterbricht. (Aus heutiger Sicht wirkte es auf mich an manchen Punkten wie Comedy.)

Wer mitspielt:
Siegfried: Superstar und Königssohn aus Xanten, der so wunderwunderwunderschön ist, das es niemand glauben kann. Und natürlich auch super stark.
Ute: Muddi von den Burgunden
Gunther: Ihr Sohn, der auch schön ist aber nur wunderwunderschön.
Gernot: Sohn Nr. 2
Gieselher: Sohn Nr. 3 und der süüüße Junior
Kriemhild: Ihre schöne und sooo liebe Schwester, die später nicht mehr so lieb ist.
Brünhild: Auch ein Superstar (bis zu ihrer Entjungferung), überstark und krass drauf.
Hagen von Tronje: Badass und Superschurke, bisschen geldgeil auf Siegfrieds Hort.
Etzel: Ehemann Nr. 2 von Kriemhild und noch viel cooler als alle anderen Könige zusammen.
Hinzu kommen weitere Nebenfiguren, die mich mit Stolz auf die althochdeutschen Namen blicken ließen, wie: Dankwart (Hagens Bruder), Rüdiger von Bechelaren, Volker a.k.a der Spielmann, Ortwin, Dietrich von Bern etc.

Was passiert: Macht euch bereit für spannungsgeladene Action: Boten, die losgeschickt werden! Fette Parties! Reisen auf dem Boot oder zu Pferd! Seitenlange Beschreibungen von Kleidung! Ehrlich, ich wollte schon immer wissen was Gunther (dieser Name strahlt es ja schon aus) für fancy Sachen trägt.
Es gibt da einmal die Burgunden, die ziemlich rich sind und Siegfried, der ziemlich heldenhaft und reich ist (wie so ziemlich alle in diesem Buch). Er will Kriemhild, die Schwester von den Burgunden zur Frau nehmen. Nach mehreren Szenen, in denen Siegfried beweist, was für ein Badass-Typ er ist, geht das ganze klar. Aber erst braucht Gunther eine Frau: Brünhild.
Brünhild hat sich überlegt, dass sie nur heiratet, wenn der Mann sie besiegt in Speerwurf und Weitsprung. Gunther hat nicht so viel auf dem Kasten wie Siegfried und mithilfe einer Tarnkappe gelingt es den Beiden, Brünhild auszutricksen und sie glauben zu lassen, dass Gunther siegt. In Wahrheit siegt Siegfried aber die Täuschung klappt.
Tolle Doppelhochzeit. Für Siegfried auch eine tolle Hochzeitsnacht. Gunther wird an die Wand genagelt.
Er fragt wieder seinen BFF um Rat und der boxt Brünhild, bis sie sich entjungfern lässt. Danach wird sie leider ihre übermenschlichen Kräfte los.
Die Folgen des Betrugs sind: Brünhild hält Siegfried für einen Lehnsmann von Gunther. Siegfried hielt es aus irgendeinem Grund für eine schlaue Idee, Brünhild Ring und Gürtel zu klauen und Kriemhild zu schenken.
Es gibt Babys.
Bei einem Besuch von Kriemhild und Siegfried versucht Brünhild herauszufinden, ob Siegfried wirklich Untertan von Gunther ist. Es gibt ein Battle zwischen ihr und Kriemhild, in dem es eigentlich darum geht, wer hübscher aussieht und netter gekleidet ist. (Könnten sich die Schülerinnen von heute bestimmt auch mit identifizieren). Das endet darin, dass Kriemhild Brünhild "Kebse" (neuhochdeutsch: Blöde Bitch) nennt, behauptet, ihr Mann hätte Brünhild entjungfert (als Beweis dient ihr besagter Ring) und zuerst in die Kirche geht, was total super oberkrass ist. Brünhild reagiert wie jede vernünftige Frau des Mittelalters: Sie heult ihrem Mann die Ohren voll.
Hagen von Tronje bekommt die Burgunden dann überzeugt, dass Siegfried weg muss. Er selbst ist nur geil aufs Geld. Erst gibt es mal wieder Krieg, irgendwie... jedenfalls... und dann doch Jagd. Kriemhild war so nett, ihnen vorher zu verraten, wo die Unverwundbarkeit ihres Mannes nicht greift, und genau dort trifft Hagen ihn jetzt.
Die Leiche legen sie dann vor Kriemhilds Tür ab. Keine Ahnung, wieso man die arme Frau noch traumatisieren muss. Als er aufgebahrt liegt, spaziert Hagen an ihm vorbei und Siegfrieds Wunden fangen wieder an zu bluten, was beweist, wer sein Mörder ist.

Von da an ist Kriemhild eine Heulsuse und vermisst ihren Ehemann, bis ihre Brüder sie an den nächsten verscherbeln: Etzel. Wieder Party, Party. Rüdiger schwört ihr, ihr zu dienen. Noch ein Baby (süüüüüß) und irgendwann lädt Kriemhild ihre Brüder und Hagen von Tronje ganz unverfangen zu sich ein.
Von allen Seiten wird der Reisetrupp gewarnt aber es scheint sie nicht sonderlich zu interessieren. Hagen zeigt sich von seiner Brutalo-Seite: mordet Fährmänner und will Kaplane aus dem Boot schmeißen und irgendwie sind alle damit einverstanden. Ab der Ankunft in Etzels Reich ist alles nur noch ein riesengroßes Gemetzel und viele Tote, die auch wieder tolle Namen tragen sind zu vermelden. Feuer gibt es auch noch, besser als in jedem actiongelandenen Hollywood-Blockbuster. Am Ende ist es Kriemhild, die ihren Bruder enthauptet und dann auch Hagen und somit ihre Rache bekommen hat. Was sie nicht weiß: Im Mittelalter ist Emanzipation so was von uncool und das Frauen töten so wieso. Am Ende sind so ziemlich alle tot. Deprimierend.

Best of Plotholes und Ungereimtheiten: Das Nibelungenlied ist meiner Meinung nach ein wunderbares Beispiel für die inkosequente Erzählkunst, die sich so oft in Mittelaltertexten findet.
1. Siegfried, der am Hof der Burgunden erst mal Kämpfen will und über Kapitel hinweg vergisst, dass er ja eigentlich um die sexy Kriemhild werben wollte.
2. Siegfried und Brünhild kennen sich... irgendwie... vermutlich.
3. Kriemhild, die es für eine schlaue Idee hielt zu erzählen: "Oh und genau am Schulterblatt, ist Siegfried verwundbar. Warum auch immer ihr das wissen wollt..."
4. Hagen warnt vor der Reise zu Etzel und will dann aber mit, weil er kein Feigling ist? Äh ja.
5. Was ist mit Brünhild passiert? Wieso wird nie wieder von ihr gesprochen?
6. Was wird aus Gunter Junior? Und Siegfried Junior?

Zum Schluss noch was Ernstes:
Über das Nibelungenlied etwas zu schreiben, was noch nicht geschrieben oder untersucht worden ist, ist wahrscheinlich unmöglich. Als ein Glanzstück der mittelhochdeutschen Literatur und späterer Stilisierung zum Nationalepos gibt es wohl nichts, was noch nicht über das Buch gesagt worden ist.
Und trotzdem, Jahrhunderte später, ist es immer noch ein beeindruckendes Buch.
Profile Image for David Sarkies.
1,813 reviews315 followers
August 17, 2016
Massacre upon Massacre
3 August 2016 - Dusseldorf

Well, maybe it isn't the case that the entire book is about people being slaughtered, but when you reach the end it certainly feels like it, with the last quarter of the story involving a huge revenge slaughter in the Hungarian king's home. In fact it appears as if, with the exception of a couple of people, nobody actually comes out of this story on top – and the thing is that other than being a bit of a pompous git, Siegfried didn't do anything wrong, and while revenge against his murderers may not be the best response, Kreimhild was entirely justified (in a certain sense) to seek justice for Siegfried's murder (and also the fact that she was pretty upset that Hagan took all of her treasure – it is was certainly a LOT of treasure – and dumped it in the Rhine).

Anyway, it wasn't all that hard to actually pick a book to read in Germany, particularly since I have this habit of reading a book that has come from whatever country I am visiting. Okay, that isn't necessarily easy for a lot of places (Singapore for instance, unless it is the Lonely Planet Guide to Singapore, but that doesn't technically count as a book), but when it comes to Germany, picking the Nibelungenlied (translation being 'the Song of the Nibelungens) was pretty much a no-brainer, especially since it completely slipped my mind the last time I was in Germany (though that was only for a couple of days, and even then I ended up reading Gunter Grass – I also have some Hermann Hesse though since I only have one more day here I doubt I'll be able to get through Sidhartha – though I'll give it a shot).

Anyway, continuing with the theme, I found myself in a 19th Century Palace a few kilometres outside of Bonn called Schoß Drachenburg (which is located halfway up a mountain known as Drachenfels), and inside this palace there is a room known as the Nibelungenzimmer, and while there were chairs in the room, there was a rope between me and them so I couldn't actually sit down and read the book, so instead my brother took a photo of me standing up:

Reading in the Nibelungenzimmer

And here is a photograph of one of the paintings (though please forgive my photographic skills – they suck, though not as much as my French).


Anyway, enough of my travels and onto the book. A couple of years ago I saw this awesome miniseries based on the Nibelungenlied (the IMDB link is here), however having now read the book I have realised that while it was somewhat loosely based on the original epic (as was Wagner's opera, though since I have never seen it, nor know of the plot, I can't really comment), the story seemed to be somewhat different. The thing is that apparently Tolkien based a lot of his material for Lord of the Rings on this story, though as far as I am aware there wasn't any rings mentioned (though in other versions of the story a cursed ring actually plays a very big role). Also, a lot of the material that we are familiar with, such as Siegfried slaying the dragon and bathing in his blood, occur before the poem begins and are only relayed to us through a Hagen's tale.

Anyhow, the story is about how Siegfried comes to Burgundy and married Kriemhild (without ever seeing her, but it was traditional in the Middle Ages that the groom never sees the bride before the wedding night, which seems to be a tradition that has been passed down to us, that is the groom cannot see the bride in her wedding dress otherwise it will bring bad luck to the marriage). Gunther, the king, hears of how Brunhild of Iceland is seeking a suitor, as long as the suitor can defeat her in battle. However Gunther has no chance of accomplishing the feat, and gets Siegfried to do it while wearing a cloak of invisibility. After the wedding, Gunther discovers that he cannot consummate the marriage because Brunhild keeps on beating him up, so Siegfried once again does his stuff, but it is suggested that Siegfried also consummates the marriage on Gunther's behalf (despite the fact that he promised not to).

The story finishes off with Kriemhild and Brunhild having a row at the front of the church and Kriemhild insulting Brunhild by revealing the truth, and as a result it is agreed that Siegfried must die, so while on a hunting mission Hagan, a confidant of Gunther's kills Siegfried by throwing a javelin into his back, in the section that wasn't hardened by the dragon's blood because a leaf fell onto it while Siegfried was bathing. As a result, Kriemhild leaves and remarries, however for the rest of the book plots her revenge, which ends up in a huge massacre in her new home, and she also ends up meeting a rather nasty end.

This is one of those stories that literally contains everything – dragons, treasure, immortal heroes, and some incredibly bloodthirsty battles. Actually, the story of Siegfried is interesting because there is a reflection of Achilles' immortality – in fact as we are probably aware, Achilles was made invulnerable when his mother bathed him in the Styx, however because she held him by the ankle, that was the part that was vulnerable – and was also how he was killed (though there is no mention of Achilles' invulnerability in The Iliad). The other interesting thing is the similarities as to how the both died – Siegfried was killed when a javelin was thrown into his back, while Achilles died by having an arrow shot through his ankle (though how anybody could actually die by having an arrow shot into their ankle is beyond me, unless the wound became infected, and if that was the case then this would be a very painful way to go). In a way these attacks could be considered somewhat cowardly, based on the era, as people would fight up close and personal, and an honourable warrior was one who would fight in hand to hand combat. In the case of the Nibelungenlied, javelins were not used to kill people, they were used to hunt animals, however considering the nature of these two warriors, such an attack was probably the better way of being able to successfully taking them down.

Sigfried's Tod

The other interesting thing is the nature of the blood feud. There are plenty of movies about some guy who is angered by a bad guy and then goes out of his way to hunt down and kill them. I guess it is best summed up with Liam Neeson's line “I will look for you, I will find you, and I will kill you”. Okay, he was actually rescuing his kidnapped daughter, but it is still reflective of the nature of the revenge tale in out modern world – vengeance is justified, and nothing will happen to you if you will seek it (though this is not always the case, but it is certainly how Hollywood portrays it). This is not the case in our older literature – we see this is the case in the Nibelungenlied; Kreimhild certainly doesn't come out of it on top, or even in one piece – in fact everybody dies. I suspect that it has a lot to do with our modern perception of the world – if we are wronged then justice should be done, and if the authorities won't do it, then we should take it into our own hands.

In fact it is the nature of our litigious and rights based societies. First of all we never want to accept responsibility if we don't have to, and in fact we are brought up as being told that we are good. We are also conditioned to live in a comforted world, a world where if our house burns down then the insurance company will pay for it, or somebody else will. If we are injured then the first thing we do is look for somebody else to blame, despite the fact that it may have been through our own stupidity. In a way we should be looking back at these old epics and being taught that revenge doesn't always come out on top – in fact both sides end up loosing, particularly when a person's entire life is focused on seeking revenge, and seeking compensation for the perceived wrong that has been done to them. In any case, when we do consider the story, we must also remember that the characters aren't the most perfect examples of humanity, since they engage in lies, deceit, and one-upping of each other – I guess this is a prime example of our failings as humans, and that in the end, if we are left to ourselves, it is all going to end up in one bloody mess.
Profile Image for Neil.
293 reviews44 followers
August 20, 2012
I love this book so much, the characters and storyline are so absorbing. The blend and variation of French courtly romance and Germanic heroic ethic causes tension throughout the poem, with characters such as Siegfried, Hagen, Brunhild and Hildebrand representing the older heroic ethic and characters such as Gunther, Dietrich, Etzel and Ruedegar representing a new courtly ethic. kriemhild's transformation from courtly princess to heroic villain is also intriguing. Variation is also noticeable in scenic descriptions of courtly jousts, courtship, feasts and clothing descriptions and then scenes from an older heroic world such as Siegfried's dragon slaying episode, Hagen's slaying of the water sprites, the traditional Germanic bridal quest and the catastrophic last battle. The language also constantly alternates between courtly words like Ritter (knight) and older more heroic words like degan, recke (warrior) helt (hero) and the archaic word, wigant (warrior). The variation techniques constantly remind me of the Beowulf poet's use of pagan and Christian imagery and the Nibelungelied's use of arrival and departure scenes also remind me of Beowulf.

The driving force behind the whole poem are two ethical concepts, triuwe (loyalty) and vriunt (friend, relative, ally, lord-vassal relationship). The poet uses these two concepts to drive the poem to its apocalyptic conclusion.

The poet is thought to have composed the poem in two sections but working in reverse order and using lost older poems in the task of composing the Nibelungenlied. The second part is thought to be based on an old poem called by German scholars the Altere Not, traces of this poem are thought to be preserved in the Niflunga saga section of the Thidrekssaga af Bern. For the first section of the poem the poet it thought to have used a number of old poems on Siegfried and Brunhild, again, traces of these lost poems are thought to be preserved in works such as the Thidrekssaga, Hurnen Seyfred, Rosengarten zu Worms, Eddic poetry and Volsunga saga.

Out of all the older Nibelungenlied translations, I much prefer this edition by Mowatt. While the Penguin classics edition does have some useful appendices, it reads more like a modern novel. The Burton Raffel translation reminds me of Heaney's Beowulf translation, while it's good poetry, it's not the Nibelungenlied. Mowatt's excellent Everyman edition is very readable and preserves the formulaic feel of the original.
Profile Image for Le_Suti.
60 reviews10 followers
May 1, 2019
Das Nibelungenlied ist das berühmte mittelhochdeutsche Heldenepos, das vor ca. 800 Jahren im südostdeutsch-oberösterreichischen Raum entstand. Es ist das poetische Extrakt aus mehreren Sagen, wovon die bekannteste der Nibelungenstoff ist. Im ersten Teil des Epos wird vom jungen Siegfried erzählt, der den Schatz der Nibelungen erkämpft und durch ein Bad im Drachenblut beinahe unverwundbar wird. Er wirbt um die schöne Königstochter Kriemhild und lebt lange Zeit bei ihren Brüdern, den Burgundenkönigen. Seine Ermordung durch deren Gefolgsmann Hagen zieht die furchtbare Rache Kriemhilds und damit den Untergang der Burgunden nach sich, der im zweiten Teil des Epos erzählt wird. Das Nibelungenlied wurde zu Hochzeiten der Vaterlandsverehrung als deutsches Nationalgedicht angesehen, das angebliche deutsche Tugenden wie Ehre, Verlässlichkeit und Treue reflektieren soll. Der Held Siegfried galt lange als Inbegriff des „Superdeutschen“. Eine solche Interpretation hat sich aber als viel zu einseitig erwiesen: Das Nibelungenlied bietet mehr als die Verherrlichung von Helden und Heldentaten. Es ist eine spannende Mischung aus Mythischem und Historischem, speist sich aus mehreren älteren Quellen und verschafft uns Heutigen einen Einblick in die Welt des Mittelalters.
Profile Image for Bryn Hammond.
Author 13 books354 followers
February 11, 2012
May I defend the Nibelungenlied against charges of misogyny?

Brunhild warns her suitors: “He will have to cast the weight, follow through with a leap, and then throw the javelin with me. Do not be too hasty – you may well lose your lives and your reputations here,” said the charming woman. “Consider it very closely.” And Hatto footnotes, There is always a touch of burlesque when Brunhild goes into action. I like you, A.T. Hatto; you translated a steppe epic, bless you; but why is this burlesque? Brunhild’s a riot, I grant you, but the butt of the burlesque is Gunther. Its society is sexist, yes, which hides a girl away; but distinguish from that the author’s stance. Are we happy when Brunhild is robbed of her vast strength and Gunther manages to sleep with his wife? He can scarcely deserve her less. On his second attempt at a wedding night Hatto apologises for the poet, who as a child of his age, is shocked by her refusal to consummate the marriage. Is he? He’s thrown in a conservative sentence – at face value – but that has been a strategy of poets since. Does the story support a husband’s right? Doesn’t the story ask questions?
Profile Image for saïd.
6,316 reviews960 followers
March 18, 2023
This is hilariously over the top. I love it.

A.T. Hatto’s translation is a bit dated (it was originally published in 1964), but holds up academically, in no small part thanks to the extensive critical and historical appendices included alongside the text. Hatto, himself fluent in German and having a strong background in interpretation, produced perhaps not the best possible translation but certainly the best available translation.

Translating a lyrical text into another language is, well, almost always impossible: George Henry Needler, whose 1904 attempt is available online, noted in his introduction that:
Translations are at best but poor substitutes for originals. A new translation of a poem implies also a criticism of those that have preceded it. My apology for presenting this new English version of the Nibelungenlied is that none of those hitherto made has reproduced the metrical form of the original. In the hope of making the outlines of the poem clearer for the modern reader, I have endeavored to supply in the Introduction a historical background by summing up the results of investigation into its origin and growth. The translation itself was begun many years ago, when I studied the original under Zarncke in Leipzig.
He continued:
The language of the Nibelungenlied presents about the same difficulty to the German reader of to-day as that of our English Chaucer to us. Many translations into modern German have accordingly been made¹ to render it accessible to the average reader without special study.
Needler’s is the first English translation I attempted, quite a while ago, and found it nigh-incomprehensible (as an example, here’s how Needler renders the opening stanza:
To us in olden story / are wonders many told
Of heroes rich in glory, / of trials manifold:
Of joy and festive greeting, / of weeping and of woe,
Of keenest warriors meeting, / shall ye now many a wonder know.
compared to the original MhD.:
Uns ist in alten maeren / wunders vil geseit
von heleden lobebaeren, / von grôzer arebeit,
von fröuden, hochgezîten, / von weinen und von klagen,
von küener recken strîten / muget ir nu wunder hoeren sagen.
In my defence I didn’t understand English as well).

Alice Horton’s 1898 translation,² The Lay of the Nibelungs, was done as a line-by-line translation of what is known as the “B” manuscript, and is available digitally online. “The additional difficulties involved in any verse-translation are so great,” the preface to this edition notes,
that a translator may well be excused from facing them. Assuming the indispensable qualification of sympathy needful in the translation of any work of art from one medium to another, the differences in word-formation, in inflexion, and in grammatical construction between any two languages interpose mechanical obstacles which are inconsistent with the preservation of metrical similarity; a more or less close approximation is all that can be looked for.
In summation: Hatto’s is the best from an academic standpoint, but Horton’s is the most entertaining.³


¹An example is the Reclam edition, which has the original Middle High German (Mittelhochdeutsch) alongside a translation into modern German. I was able to read along with the modern German text, albeit slowly, and accordingly understand most of the MhD stuff.
²Deemed the most accurate of the “older translations.”
³Burton Raffel also “translated” a version, but we all know how I feel about his “translation,” so I won’t even evaluate it.
Profile Image for Yani.
416 reviews179 followers
August 11, 2016
Relectura agosto 2016

Tengo tantos motivos para amar este libro como para odiarlo, así que seré breve. Cantar de los Nibelungos sigue la historia de un linaje (el de la corte de Worms, situada en Burgundia) a partir de la entrada de Sigfrido en él y hasta el final del mismo. Son unos cuantos años de tragedias, malentendidos, traiciones, rencores y, por supuesto, varios olvidos y/o equívocos del compositor.

¿Lo bueno? Presenta unos cuantos personajes interesantes (los femeninos, sobre todo) que se involucran con leyendas, como el tesoro de los Nibelungos y la capa de invisibilidad (sí, como la de Harry Potter). Todos tienen personalidad propia y salen del maniqueísmo que suele espantar en las historias de estas épocas. Algunos incluso crecen en importancia y generan tensiones determinantes.
Me encantó el particular pedido de mano de Brunilda, su carácter y lo que implica para ella el matrimonio. Hay unas cuantas lecturas interesantes para hacer allí y Krimilda no se queda atrás en cuanto aportes a la trama.
Sirve mucho para tener otra óptica de personajes históricos que pululan por el cantar e invita a mirar mapas. Muchos mapas.

¿Lo malo? Hay un quiebre en la mitad del cantar que no logró mantener mi interés como la primera parte. Existen, además, “salidas de escena” incomprensibles y olvidos para darle paso a la brutalidad extrema de un linaje que está evidentemente maldito. Por supuesto, la culpa de todo recae más fácilmente en las mujeres que en los hombres (porque, claro está, en esa época hasta el más malo era preferible a una mujer enojada).
Las descripciones de la ropa y de las joyas son densas y repetitivas, pero necesarias porque servían para ostentar y comprar voluntades.
El final me hubiera gustado de no ser tan brusco, como si estuvieran apurados por resolver el conflicto. Se podría haber cerrado bien si no se hubiera perdido tanto tiempo en historias paralelas distractoras.
Profile Image for Anita Radeva.
175 reviews22 followers
March 1, 2023
Една много силна трагедия, представяща ни поредните заплетени интриги, породени от женска завист и обида. Първо и най-важно е да се отбележи невероятното усилие на преводача, тъй като историята е богата на български думи и зрелищни описания. Дори не бих желата да прочета оригиналът, след като съм прочела тази красива преработка.
След това разбира се цялата заплетена история, която в началото си ни разказва за невероятния герой Зигфрид. Защо и как бива убит е първият разочароващ момент, но все пак трябва да има някаква причина за последвалите бойни сцени. Следва поредица от отмъстителни своеволия на крале и подчинени, всеки убеден че е задължен да отмъсти за нечия друга смърт. До края се пролива безумно много кръв, летят глави на поразия, а краят въобще не го очаквах. Заслужава си да бъде прочетено!
Profile Image for Neil.
293 reviews44 followers
May 29, 2013
The Middle High German Nibelungenlied is thought to date from around 1180 to 1210 and is preserved in 35 known manuscripts. The poem probably originates from the Austrian Danube region. The poet, after much scholarly work, still remains a mystery, with theories on the poet's identity ranging from a Meister Konrad to the famous Walther von der Vogelweide.

The poem seems to have been popular during the Middle Ages with the vast amount of manuscripts in existence and the story seems to have remained popular and to have inspired the later Das Lied vom Hurnen Seyfred and Hans Sachs version. Although the story was never forgotten the poem itself seems to have disappeared for awhile, only to be rediscovered in the 18th century and then to inspire Wagner's operatic cycle on the legend.

The incidents related in the poem stretch way back into the 5th-6th century Migration Period and the destruction of the Burgundians at the hands of the Huns in 436ad. These incidents are related in numerous Latin chronicles from the period, by far the fullest account is given in Prosper's Epitoma Chronicon. Prosper states that "at the same time Aetius crushed Gundichar, who was king of the Burgundians and living in Gaul. In response to his entreaty, Aetius gave him peace, which the king did not enjoy for long. For the Huns destroyed him and his people root and branch." Alongside the Burgundians, other characters with an historical background are found in the poem such as Theodoric the Great, Attila the Hun and Brunhild the Visigothic princess.

The Blütezeit period in which the Nibelungenlied was written witnessed an explosion of German adaptions from French Arthurian Romance and courtly love poetry. While the Nibelungen poet has one foot in the courtly tradition, the other foot is firmly planted in the old German heroic ethic and blends both traditions to create a superb work of art.

The blend and variation of French courtly romance and Germanic heroic ethic causes tension throughout the poem, with characters such as Siegfried, Hagen, Brunhild and Hildebrand representing the older heroic ethic and characters such as Gunther, Dietrich, Etzel and Ruedegar representing a new courtly ethic. Two of the most interesting features of the poem are Kriemhild's transformation from courtly princess to a devil like villain and Hagen's transformation from treacherous villain to valiant hero. Variation is also noticeable in scenic descriptions of courtly jousts, courtship, feasts and clothing descriptions and then contrasted with scenes from an older heroic world such as Siegfried's dragon slaying episode, Hagen's slaying of the water sprites, the traditional Germanic bridal quest and the catastrophic last battle.

The language also constantly alternates between courtly words like Ritter (knight) and older more heroic words like degan, recke (warrior) helt (hero) and the archaic word, wigant (warrior). The variation techniques constantly remind me of the Beowulf poet's use of pagan and Christian imagery and the Nibelungelied's use of arrival and departure scenes also remind me of Beowulf. Also reminiscent of Beowulf are certain digressive episodes and patterned/formulaic like phrases such as "Dô sprach der helt von Tronege" and "Dô sprach der künec Gunther."

The driving force behind the whole poem are two ethical concepts, triuwe (loyalty) and vriunt (friend, relative, ally, lord-vassal relationship). These two ethical ideas are what the character adhere to, with characters on both sides having these relationships toward one another. The poet uses these conflicting loyalties that are governed by these two concepts to drive the poem to its apocalyptic climax.

The poet is thought to have composed the poem in two sections but working in reverse order and using lost older poems in the task of composing the Nibelungenlied. The second part is thought to be based on an old poem called by German scholars the Altere Not, traces of this poem are thought to be preserved in the Niflunga saga section of the Thidrekssaga af Bern. For the first section of the poem the poet it thought to have used a number of old poems on Siegfried and Brunhild, again, traces of these lost poems are thought by some scholars such as Andreas Heusler and most recently by Theodore Andersson to be preserved in works such as the Thidrekssaga, Hurnen Seyfred, Rosengarten zu Worms, Eddic poetry and Volsunga saga.

This revision of Karl Bartsch's Middle High German text was undertaken by Helmut de Boor and is based on manuscript b of the Nibelungenlied with variants given in the footnotes. The book comes with an introduction, character and place name list, plus a foldout map of the Nibelungenstraße. My only gripe about this edition is that they should have included the Klage in an appendix.
Profile Image for Oscar Gonzalez.
86 reviews12 followers
February 17, 2014
Si tuviera que decir, con la menor cantidad de palabras posible, cual es el tema del libro, diría que se trata de La Lealtad. La lealtad en todas sus formas y en todas sus motivaciones. Siegfried es leal a Gunther para poder casarse con Kriemhild; la soberbia ilimitada de Hagen se deriva de su lealtad a Brunhild, su Señora. Al principio, Rüdiger se niega a combatir a los Burgundios, quienes son sus huéspedes, y se siente obligado a respetarlos, pero termina atacándolos por lealtad a Etzel (Atila). Para rescatar su cadáver, Dietrich e Hildebrand sacrifican todo un ejército, como un último tributo a su memoria.
No es la intención de la obra, creo yo, hacer recuento de hechos históricos, aunque aparecen personajes como Atila (Etzel), Bleda (Blödel) hermano de Atila, y Teodorico El Grande . (Dietrich). Existen también similitudes entre lo sucedido con Honoria y Atila, y la manera en que se acordó el matrimonio de la viuda Kriemhild y Etzel. Por cierto, Atila, a diferencia del personaje sanguinario y casi invencible que nos pinta la historia, es retratado como un conciliador, incluso algo débil, que reacciona hasta que su hijo, Ortlieb, es insultado y Asesinado por los Burgundios.
Pudiera esperarse que abundara la barbarie, que no falta, o que fuera una historia en exceso simple. Al contrario, es de gran riqueza, llena de imágenes vívidas y escenas dignas de recordarse, como veremos más delante. Hay más exageración que temas fantásticos: el combate de Siegfried con Fafnir no sirve más que para justificar la invulnerabilidad del héroe y no merece más que dos o tres versos. La traducción es un esfuerzo por poner la obra en su “formato” original, de dísticos, y llega a ser repetitiva, lo que es entendible, tratándose de un poema épico. Por poner un ejemplo, cada vez que se menciona la Ciudad de Worms, se aclara que se halla a las orillas del Rhin.
La versión que leí, es una traducción de la Germanista Marianne Oeste de Bopp, de la Universidad Nacional, a un texto desarrollado por el filólogo Karl Lachmann basado en una versión el siglo XIII.
Como sucede con los clásicos, existe una vasta iconografía ilustrando esta obra. He aquí una pequeña colección:
Gunther y sus hermanos Gernot y Geiselher
Noche de bodas de Brunhild y Gunther.
Hagen asesina a Siegfried por la espalda, mientras Gunther se hace de la vista gorda
Monumento que señala la fuente donde Siegfried fue asesinado, en Odenheim. Pensé que no existía un hito señalando el hecho, sin embargo, lo hay.
Hagen arroja a las aguas del Rhin el Tesoro de los Nibelungos. Kriemhild reclama el tesoro, del que es heredera a la muerte de Siegfried, aunque nunca se le entrega. El tesoro debe permanecer en ese lugar hasta ahora.
Abadía de Lorsch. Construida a la memoria de Siegfried. Sus restos debían trasladarse a este lugar, aunque el autor olvida mencionar si eso finalmente se hizo.
El Obispo Pilgerin recibe a Kriemhild, su sobrina, que viaja a desposar a Etzel.
Combate entre Hunos y Burgundios
Etzel consternado ante la mutua destrucción de Hunos y Burgundios
Kriemhild muestra la cabeza cercenada de Gunther, su Hermano, a Hagen de Tronje
Profile Image for Ajeje Brazov.
724 reviews
March 21, 2018
"La canzone dei Nibelunghi" o semplicemente "I Nibelunghi", narra delle gesta di Siegfried, eroe della mitologia norrena e di sua moglie Crimilde sorella del Re di Burgundia, Gunther.
La mitologia norrena mi ha sempre affascinato, ma qui ho letto quasi solo di intrighi di palazzo, di vendette, di onore, di belle fanciulle/donzelle che si agghindano con belle vesti per presenziare all'arrivo di qualche nobile cavaliere (non so quante volte l'avrò letto, a dir poco estenuante!) ecc... e poco o, praticamente nulla di mitologia, folklore, avventure mitiche e gesta prodigiose. Poi il racconto mi è risultato abbastanza pesante, poco coinvolgente...
Profile Image for Mark Adderley.
Author 19 books50 followers
October 24, 2009
This is an intriguing read, but not necessarily a very pleasant one. I read it to complement my reading of The Song of Roland, and intend to read The Poem of the Cid afterwards.

The Nibelungenlied is on the list of Great Books of the Western World, but I don't quite see why. The characterization is wildly inconsistent. Kriemhild, for example, is portrayed as a virtuous woman for the first half of the tale, but then as an evil schemer for the second half. Hagen of Troneg as an evil schemer for the first half of the story (he kills Siegfried and steal Kriemhild's treasure) but as a virtuous hero in the second half.

I understand how medieval literature works. Storytellers used diverse sources to construct their own tales. The author of The Quest of the Holy Grail, for example, used sources analogous to Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval or the Story of the Grail, and its many continuations (which can be found, somewhat abridged, in Nigel Bryant's translation), as well as some material they made up themselves. But they smoothe over the joins better than the author of the Nibelungenlied.

Oddly enough, the Great Books list doesn't include Beowulf, which I would consider far better than either the Nibelungenlied or the The Song of Roland.

I'll struggle through, though, and perhaps read the The Saga of the Volsungs, its direct source, soon. I might enjoy that more.
Profile Image for Carlo Mascellani.
Author 18 books262 followers
May 1, 2019
Rilettura sempre gradita. Assieme a Beowulf resta uno dei poemi che più amo della lettura nordica. Preferisco sempre la prima parte: La trovo più suggestiva rispetto ai punti in cui la storia si intreccia con le vicende di Attila e Teodorico. Ma il modo in cui viene trattato il tema dell'amore e della vendetta non ha nulla da invidiare nemmeno a Shakespeare.
Profile Image for Lucas.
20 reviews5 followers
March 8, 2012
Seigfried is my favorite mythical hero. He's kinda like a German Achilles without the 20+ chapters of pouting. He is a fierce warrior but also childlike and innocent in many ways. I just wanted the guy to win, and that's what he does for half the book. Then some cat-fight between his wife and his brother-in-law's wife escalates into his murder.

Then for the second half of the book, his widow plots revenge by marrying Attila the Hun and inviting her whole family to their last celebration. I was like "yeah! Kill those bastards!" Then when the massacre was well underway suddenly it became clear what that meant and I wanted to yell "Wait! Don't kill THAT guy. He's good! And you! You don't even like the guy you're fighting for. Stop fighting those 30 huns alone before they...DAMN! Okay! Everybody! Please! Put your swords down and lets talk about this for a minute!" But talk they do not, and it is a bloodbath.

If you're used to Hollywood storytelling, then you are expecting the people who happen to be good but fighting on the wrong side to either a. see the light and find an appropriate way out of their obligations or b. stay with the losing side but somehow end up miraculously spared. If you like that kind of tripe, then stay far away from this book. It doesn't happen here.

Many warriors die in this book. Most of them noble and not at all connected to the crime that brings about their end. They leave for Atilla's kingdom knowing they are on a journey to their deaths, and they go anyway. It is honor that kills these heroes. First Siegfried because even though he did nothing wrong, it's the only way to compensate for his wife's shaming of Brunhild. Then it is so many knights who insist on fulfilling their knightly duties wholeheartedly.

I found the book fascinating. It starts out as a lighthearted heroic epic, then halfway through takes a very dark turn and condemns anyone with a sense of chivalry to death. It's like a manual for how a hero should live, immediately followed by countless examples of how a hero should die. Great story!

[Note about the alleged rape: The book (or at least my translation of it) does not say that Siegfried raped Brunhild. Kreimhild (whose vindictive nature becomes crystal clear in the second part) implies it by showing off her ring and girdle. You're left with two choices to make about how things went down. Either he didn't or he did, because the book doesn't explicitly say either way. Right or wrong, I concluded that he didn't because he swears on his honor to Gunther that he didn't. Keep in mind that mythical heros are supposed to be better than your average mortal, and this was supposed to be the greatest hero for this culture. A contemporary listener to Siegfried's adventures probably would have accepted his oath as gospel, so I believe this actually is the story's way of saying it didn't happen. Admittedly, the accusation and denial are both awkward, but it wasn't like the author put this together with the Court TV generation in mind. My point is, I took it as he was innocent. When I stated above that he did nothing wrong, I was NOT saying "rape is cool," so kindly holster your hatemail.]
Profile Image for Czarny Pies.
2,531 reviews1 follower
August 3, 2016
I saw the four operas of Wagner's Ring Cycle over twenty years finishing in 1983. Since that time I have been meaning to read the source story and finally had the strange impulse to do so last Friday.

I chose to read French prose version from the 20th century rather than the epic poem composed in Medieval German in the 13th century. This meant essentially that I missed most of the work's literary value but probably succeeded in my effort to gain marginal insight into Wagner's creative process.

The first impression is that drew very selectively from this source in order to create the plot for his operatic cycle. Wagner took several important elements from this work. First his Siegfried like the Nibelungen Siegfried is a naive person who through a combination of clumsy deception and his naivety brings down the destruction of his entire family. As with the Nibelunglied, Wagner has several dishonest and vengeful characters who have progressively greater difficulty resisting their evil sides as the drama progresses. The characters ignore all portents (such as warnings from the Lorelei or Rhine Mermaids) and rush straight to their doom.

With these basic elements, Wagner makes brilliant modifications. Kreimhilt who is the villainess of the medival saga disappears from Wagner's ring. Albrich the dwarf becomes a dramatic and compelling force for evil something like Gollum in Tolkein's Ring Trilogy. Wagner also adds incorporates portions of the edda and the Volsung Saga into his work. All in all a reading of the Nibelungleid leaves one impressed at Wagner as a synthesist of medival mythology and literature.

The question then is what does someone who is not familiar with Wagner's Ring Cycle gain from reading the Nibelungleid? I think that there is a great deal to be learned but your experience is likely depend to where you are on the learning curve of medieval literature. Remember, in the Middle Ages the vernacular languages (German, French and English) were still very crude instruments and simply not capable of the same refinement and precision of expression as they would be several centuries later. Thus superlatives abound. Devious and subtle characters are often described in rather blunt and clumsy fashion. The medieval and early rennaissance texts (such as the Canterbury Tales or Pantagruel) have a joyful robustness that delights the modern reader who has the time and energy to read original versions. However, once these texts are rendered into modern English or French they seem quite strange and lifeless.

The Nibelungenleid is clearly a great work but your ability to enjoy it will depend greatly on the extent of your previous experience with works from this era.

May 17, 2018
Эпический боевик!

Книжка мне понравилась: здесь всё очень динамично, не нудно (в отличие от других прочитанных мною эпосов, за исключением Shah Nameh or the Persian Poet Firdausi), живо как-то (несмотря на то, что в живых остаются всего 2-3 героя (George R.R. Martin есть к чему стремиться!!!)).

Ещё мне очень понравился перевод Юрия Борисовича Корнеева! Всегда восхищался переводчиками таких больших эпических произведений. А когда удаётся не только смысл передать, а ещё всё это зарифмовать да при этом использовать нормальный, не слишком архаичный русский язык, то получается вполне себе самостоятельный шедевр!!!

Единственный минус - это непонятная любовь автора к спойлерам!!! Заранее известно кто (а иногда и кем именно) будет убит! Хотя, учитывая, что убиты будут практически все... Это становится не так уж и важно!
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