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First page of manuscript C of the Nibelungenlied (around 1220–1250)
Depiction of Siegfried's murder from the manuscript k of the Nibelungenlied (1480–1490)

The Nibelungenlied is a medieval heroic epic . The text we know today was written in Middle High German at the beginning of the 13th century . However, the material is significantly older.

Attached to the Nibelungenlied in the medieval manuscripts is the Nibelungenklage , a formally independent narrative that interprets and evaluates what happened, continues in part and tells a presumably fictitious genesis of the work.

The Nibelungenlied was rediscovered in the 18th century and was in the 19th and 20th centuries as a national epic, the Germans , with Sigurd to a German national hero was reinterpreted.


The title, by which the Nibelungenlied has been known since its rediscovery, is derived from the final line of one of the two main text versions (version * C): hie hât daz mære an end: daz is the Nibelungen liet ("here the story has an end: this is the Nibelungen Lied ”). However, a liet in Middle High German is not simply to be understood as a “song” in the narrower, modern sense, but describes an epic or, in general, a narrative poem , which under certain circumstances can also be performed as a song. The final sentence of the version * B, which is probably closer to the original text, does not contain the word "liet" and is different: diz is the Nibelunge not (= "downfall").

Historical background

The Nibelungenlied is the most important high medieval German version of the Nibelungen saga . Its origins go back to the time of the Germanic migrations , which in the literature of the 19th century was regarded as the " heroic age " of the Germans.

A historical core or connection point of the legend is often seen in the smashing of the Burgundy Empire in the area of Worms in late antiquity (around 436 ) by the Roman army master Aëtius with the help of Hunnic auxiliary troops.

Other historical events that may have been processed are the wedding between Attila and the probably Germanic princely daughter Ildico (453) and, according to some, the dispute in the Merovingian house between Brunichild and Fredegunde . Since the oral transmission of such historical events is often modified and embellished and the material has been comprehensively designed poetically, the Nibelungen saga probably does not preserve any authentic historical memories. The names of certain protagonists are most likely to be considered historical. The Bishop Pilgrim von Passau , stylized as the most important narrator in the subsequent “lament”, is a person who really existed, although his connection to the subject may have been invented. His paternal ancestors can be traced back to the Worms area via the Sieghardinger .


The text of the Nibelungenlied is preserved in around 37 (mostly only fragmentarily preserved) German manuscripts and a Dutch revision (including two manuscripts that only contain the “Klage” and an aventiur directory). The manuscripts were mainly found in the southern part of the German-speaking area (Switzerland, Vorarlberg, Tyrol). Karl Lachmann designated the three oldest complete text witnesses (main manuscripts) with letters (Siglen) as follows:

These three manuscripts are considered to be the main representatives of three different text versions, the relationship between which is largely unclear to this day. In 2009 all three manuscripts were by UNESCO for the World Soundtrack Awards explained. In addition to the three main lines of transmission (A, B and C), one must also assume a broad oral tradition, the effect of which on the written versions is difficult to assess.

The manuscripts and their text versions are grouped according to the last verse of the text. Handwriting A and B end with the words: daz is the Nibelung not (“this is the downfall of the Nibelung”). These texts are therefore referred to as the "emergency version". The manuscript C and its relatives end in daz is the Nibelung liet ("this is the song / epic of the Nibelungs"). This text is therefore called the "song version".

The C-Text found the most widespread use and is an arrangement with consideration for the audience and, above all, alleviates the tragedy. There are several manuscripts that offer almost the same text as C; they are therefore summarized under the group designation * C. Some, but few, manuscripts offer almost the same text as B; this group is called * B. /

Berlin State Library : Signature mgf 474, Manuscript I, around 1300, discovered by Beda Weber at Obermontani Castle

The handwriting A offers the text very similar to B, but apparently less carefully written; therefore belongs to group * B. In some games, especially in the first part, including Kriemhild's Falkentraum, at the first meeting between Kriemhild and Siegfried and when explaining Siegfried's rank as king and his motivation for helping Gunther to recruit Brünhild, A has a different one, in places shorter text that gives the impression of being older than * B. Karl Lachmann had taken A to be the oldest version and therefore gave it this symbol; However, some passages are undoubtedly secondary changes in the * B-material or even adoptions from the * C-material. A direct processing of * A and * C by the * B available to us today can, however, be excluded. Rather, two parallel versions are likely that will eventually become tangible in the categories * A, * B and * C. One explanation for this contradiction could be that two different templates were used in the production of A, one of which goes back to an older version than * B, perhaps a preliminary stage of the Nibelungenlied, which could be called * A, while the other, the was used as a template for the majority of A, was a poorer handwriting of the * B group.

In addition to the main editorships A, B and C, there are also the mixed editorships D, I and d and the special editorships T, k, m and n. Despite its independent character, Editorial I was always overshadowed by the “Big Three”. I occupies a central position between the nôt and liet version and also influenced the subsidiary editors of the Nibelungenlied.

Author and origin

The author of the Nibelungenlied is not named in the text. This corresponds to the genre convention of the heroic epic , which does not accentuate the literary performance of a poet, but rather emphasizes the roots of the narrative in the oral tradition.

Obviously, however, the work is a closed poem by a single author, which refers to written works and was written down as an original by the poet himself (or according to his dictation). Therefore, nowadays it is rarely doubted that there was an “original version” (and thus a single “ author ”). The thesis that it is more about an editor or even just one or more gifted reciter of older, orally transmitted material is largely out of date. However, the individual manuscripts contain major or minor changes and additions by editors. The handwriting B seems to contain such changes only to a minor extent, while C in particular represents a major reworking with a different message and a different creative drive. Manuscript A uses a perhaps even older version for some passages in the first part, which could have been a “preliminary version” of the Nibelungenlied.

The origin of the text can be clearly delimited through the political structures assumed in it and through references to contemporary poetry to the years 1190 to 1210 (and thus to the "heyday" of Middle High German literature ). There is evidence of an origin just before the year 1204.

The author's precise knowledge of the place, a preponderance of the early tradition in the south-east German-Austrian area and the obvious emphasis on the Bishop of Passau as the acting figure make the area between Passau and Vienna likely as the place of origin, in particular the court of the Bishop of Passau, Wolfger von , who is known as a patron Erla (Bishop in Passau 1191–1204).

Wolfger is of great importance for the dating of Middle High German literature, because in his travel bills with the date November 12, 1203 there is a note that the cantor ("minstrel") Walther von der Vogelweide was paid money for a fur coat. This note is the only extra-literary evidence for the existence of this poet and is therefore an important indicator of the chronological classification of Middle High German poetry, which has largely been handed down without dates and without information about the authors.

Today it is usually assumed that the poet of the Nibelungenlied was a spiritually and literarily educated man in the vicinity of the Passau bishop's court and that his audience can also be found there among the clergy, monks, nuns, merchants and noble lay people.

A kind of appendix to the Nibelungenlied, the Nibelungenklage , also tells of the genesis of the poem. It is important to the author to show the content of the legend as "really happened" and to relocate the first recording to the protagonists' lifetime. A "Master Konrad" is named, whom the Bishop "Pilgrim" of Passau commissioned to write down according to the information provided by an eyewitness to the events, the minstrel Swemmel. It is believed that this is an honorable reference to a predecessor in office of the alleged sponsor Wolfger, the Bishop Pilgrim von Passau (971–991). Since the political situation of the Hungarian invasions of the 10th century and the important role of Passau in the Christianization of Hungary under Pilgrim are reflected in the Nibelungenlied, the poet presumably had written records from Pilgrim's time. It is uncertain whether the author of a source from Pilgrim's time is actually meant by “Master Konrad” or whether the author of the Nibelungenlied or the author of the “Lament” is behind this mention. The name "Konrad" can also not lead to the trace of a specific person, as it was the second most common name (after Heinrich) in the German Middle Ages. Attempts to prove a “Konrad” named somewhere as the author of one of these works must therefore fail.

In the course of time, research in popular science and local history in particular sought to link the Nibelungenlied to almost every writer attested between 1180 and 1230 in the Bavarian-Austrian region. Even today, new names are regularly suggested. This includes:

  • The Kürenberger (origin unknown, in the 19th century the Kürnberger Wald near Linz , Upper Austria, later places in Bavaria and Kirnberg an der Mank were accepted as the place of origin), in whose stanzan form the Nibelungenlied is written and on its “Falkenlied” also the Falkentraum Kriemhilds refers. Most researchers describe the Kürenberger as too early for the Nibelungenlied.
  • Walther von der Vogelweide . Many of the characteristics required of the poet of the Nibelungenlied apply to him: a greater common vocabulary, which can also be explained by the common spatial origin (Austrian Danube region); and the patronage of Bishop Wolfger von Passau . In essential points of the worldview, however, the Nibelungenlied differs greatly from Walther.
  • Bligger from Steinach
  • Konrad von Fußesbrunnen (Feuersbrunn, Lower Austria), documented around 1182. He is the author of the work Die Kindheit Jesu , composed in 3000 rhyming verses, and worked in Passau. But his style has nothing in common with that of the Nibelungenlied.
  • an unknown nun from Niedernburg. The mention of a monastery in Passau, in addition to the Passau bishop and the town's merchants, led to the assumption that this monastery meant the women's monastery in Passau- Niedernburg . There was also a male monastery attached to the bishopric. The naming of the monastery in the Nibelungenlied, however, is more likely to explain that the nuns and monks belonged to the author's audience at a lecture and were immortalized as patrons and patrons; not in such a way that the author (or the author) was among them. The same goes for the merchants. Bishop Wolfger von Passau was probably the main patron, who presumably entrusted the work to an experienced, literary and literary writer of heroic songs.

The last three author theories (Bligger, Konrad and the nun) are hardly considered worthy of discussion by German studies.

Form and language

The Nibelungenlied is composed in singable four-line stanzas (today known as the Nibelungenstrophe ), but its melody is unknown and its rhythm has only been reconstructed to the extent that it can be understood metrically. This metric form is a characteristic of the heroic epic , it is also taken up by the somewhat younger Kudrun epic by an unknown poet; Dietrichepik is also divided into stanzas ; but it appears in poetry even before the Nibelungenlied, namely with an early minstrel, the " Kürenberger ", who in his 'Falkenlied' also introduced the subject of the falcon as a symbol for a beloved man in German literature. The Nibelungenlied also refers to this in terms of motifs, in that the plot begins with Kriemhild's dream of a falcon. Sangable (that does not necessarily mean: sung) stanza epics differs significantly from the contemporary courtly narrative literature, especially the ancient and Arthurian novels, which are almost without exception written in (spoken) rhyming verses. In this respect, the Nibelungenlied is “more archaic” than the “modern” knight literature of Hartmann , Wolframs (who, however, also tried strophic epics in his Titurel ) and Gottfried .

The approximately 2400 stanzas of the Nibelungenlied, depending on the version, are subdivided into 39 aventiurs (read: Aventuren). These are chapter-like narrative units of different lengths that are headed in most manuscripts. However, these headings and the designation of the sections as “Aventures” do not go back to the author: each manuscript has different chapter headings, and the St. Gallen manuscript, which is probably the closest to the original, does not put any titles over the sections, but only subdivides them by paragraphs and initial jewelry.

A twofold dilemma can be seen in the language and narrative attitude of the Nibelungenlied: not only the gap between the oral improvisation tradition (assumed by research) and literarization ( orality versus written form ) wanted to be bridged; In addition, the tradition dating back to the (pseudo-) historical legends of the Migration Period had to be reconciled with a Christian, noble and courtly world.

Especially at the beginning of the research on the Nibelungenlied, the assumption arose that the core of the Nibelungen saga had been passed down orally by epic singers for 700 years. What this oral tradition might have looked like is largely unknown. However, this "improvisation theory" was only formed based on the way in which the Guslaren lecture in the Balkans; nothing similar is documented in the Germanic area. What we have is a list of popular subjects in front of an audience in a stanza by the Marner , a traveling singer from the middle of the 13th century, who complains that people prefer Siegfried's death, Kriemhild's betrayal of their brothers, the Nibelungenhort (and some other heroic sagas that do not belong to the Nibelungenkreis) than from his, Marner's, learned songs.

We can assume that there were numerous variants of the story; different sagas were also linked to one another, characters changed their roles or were newly introduced or deleted and much more; no will of an author could fix the material, i. H. before 1200 no one had apparently tried to translate this legend into a written version.

The Nibelungenlied - as the first of a new literary tradition - shows both (content) traces of its “authorless” prehistory as well as (linguistic) traces of the poetic language of oral storytelling; but at the same time it shows features of the “great” antique-historical book epic, on which the writing process was ultimately oriented.

The well-known opening stanza is an introductory addition that was probably added later. Here, brought in normalized Middle High German version of the manuscript C .

In old mæren we are wondrously
by the side of heroes lobebæren, of great work, of
joy and exaltation, of weeping and complaints,
of brave warriors struggling muget ir not hearing miracles say.

Many wonderful things are told to us in old stories,
about praiseworthy heroes, great struggle,
joys and celebrations, weeping and lamentations;
you can now hear wonderful stories about the battles of daring heroes.

It is assumed that older versions, such as the manuscript B, began with the introduction of Kriemhild:

Ez wuohs in Burgonden a vil noble magedîn,
that in all lands
Kriemhild would not like to heat up. You were a beautiful wîp.
umbe muosen degene vil left the lîp.

A princess grew up in Burgundy,
so beautiful that there couldn't be anything more beautiful in the whole world,
called Kriemhild. She became a beautiful woman.
Because of this, many heroes lost their lives.

Many famous scenes of the saga, such as Jung- Siegfried's dragon fight , appear in the Nibelungenlied only in the form of mentions; the whole prehistory is either assumed to be known or, more likely, reduced in favor of Kriemhild as the main character. The song is stylistically shaped by the demands of the oral lecture , because everyday language and courtly language mix as well as historical vocabulary and contemporary terms of the early thirteenth century.

Artful literary tone and complicated syntactic constructions alternate with formulaic speaking and simple, almost distant descriptions by the narrator, who only mentions himself in a few places in the work.

Medieval social structure

The literary version of the time around 1200 addresses different concepts of feudal society based on the people : Siegfried embodies a type of ruler whose rule is based on physical strength, but also on hereditary royal rank and the acceptance of his followers, which he earned through wise judgments. King Gunther represents a ruler whose power relies on family members and ministerials and who delegates the struggle for rule. Dietrich von Bern and Etzel work through an authority that is partly based on the use of their powerful voice. In addition, Dietrich not only perceives the Lord's rights over allegiance, but is ready to give his people protection for them, i.e. H. makes serious about the reciprocity of the loyalty relationship. Dietrich mourns the death of his people, even if they are to blame for him, also out of pity for them and not only as his misfortune that he lost followers (in contrast to Gunther, who is only angry that he is robbed of his followers if one kills her, but shows no mourning over her death). With Etzel, tolerance is added to authority (he tolerates Christians and Gentiles side by side at his court) and the willingness to give hospitality to displaced persons from many countries.

The central conflict is that between vassalism , which demands subordination and obedience, and a modernized feudal rule that is no longer or only partially based on feudalism . At least that's how many performers see it at the moment; Since terms such as “vassality” and “ministeriality” are not mentioned in the Nibelungenlied, but are only the result of interpretations, this point of view is highly controversial. The term “vassal” was almost never (any more) used in Germany in the High Middle Ages; it actually only applies to the conditions in France, from which the Germans differed quite strongly, even around 1200. While ministeriality around 1200 did not come from the kinship of the rulers, the most important positions at the Worms court were occupied by relatives of the kings ( Hagen von Tronje , Dankwart, Ortwin von Metz).

The social world of the Nibelungenlied is, at least in part, archaic. Above all in Hagen's world of thought, a central term is “follow along”, that is, the follower has to come with the master (on trips or military campaigns) when he orders it. According to the name, the old allegiance system is still alive, even if it differs greatly from the so-called old Germanic allegiance system in terms of content.

Gender roles

According to some interpretations, the work can be interpreted in such a way that the problem of gender roles is shown: The Worms kings are not introduced as such, but in their capacity as guardians of their sister Kriemhild, the main character. After the death of her father, she is under the tutelage of her brothers, after her marriage under that of her husband. Her sister-in-law Brünhild only accepts male supremacy if he can defeat her, but then completely. In contrast to this, Kriemhild initially accepts the gender roles completely, although she has difficulties with them on several occasions: When, on the occasion of her marriage, she asked the brothers to give her a share of the inheritance as one of the four children of the deceased father, all men were against it, including her Husband Siegfried. For Hagen in particular, it is inconceivable that he could become a woman's follower in the future. It is an inherited obligation of his family to serve "the kings". He feels seriously offended by Kriemhild's suggestion. Kriemhild initially subordinates himself. She even accepts her husband's right to chastise (when Siegfried beats her as a punishment for insulting Brünhild). Only when her husband is not only murdered, but also her property is stolen through fraud and the brothers in this conflict respect Hagen's code of honor, the henchman, does she grow out of this role: "If I were a knight" she wishes (verse 1413 of version B). When she finally abandons the role of woman, in a thirst for vengeance, reaches for the sword and chops off Hagen's head, the world of men cannot bear it: Although Hildebrand himself tried to kill Hagen, it is unthinkable for him that a hero should fall by the hand a woman dies and he kills her for it. With the complete abandonment of the role of women, which she initially lived, her life is also ended.

So three images of women are presented:

  • the modern courtly, which is Kriemhild's first, which tries to combine the joy of company and love for the individual and the possibility of individual choice of partner by the woman with submission to the patriarchal system of rule (but this fails).
  • as a counter-concept the archaic-mythical Brünhilds, who only accepts the rule of the man if he can defeat the woman. It also corresponds to the attitude of Siegfried, who gives his fight in bed against Brünhild socially relevant, as it were mythical dimensions and sees this fight as the fight of the man against the woman par excellence (stanza 670 in ms. B): "O woe", thought the hero, "If I lose my life now to a virgin, then all women can be rebellious against their husbands from now on in the future, even one who would otherwise never do it."
  • inconspicuously in the background is the image of Kriemhild's mother Ute , who sees her own life as happy and draws security from the protection of her male relatives. This old generation's image of women is threatened by the new, doomed concept of individual courtly love and social joy.

The role of the man is seen differently by Siegfried, Dietrich , Rüdiger von Bechelaren and Etzel and in each case different from the view of the Worms court. Here loyalty to the henchman and henchman is paramount. Even if he has put himself in the wrong, he is to be supported unconditionally.

The highest goal of the warrior is most clearly formulated by Wolfhart, a young hot spur among the people of Dietrich von Bern: the fame after a heroic death. The Nibelungenlied also grants him this: Wolfhart receives a fatal wound from a king, Giselher, but is not immediately dead. Since he knows that he is about to die, there is no point in defense. He can therefore throw away the shield, grab the sword with both hands and strike Giselher's head so hard that his helmet breaks. Giselher dies immediately. Wolfhart can still see in his death that a worthy opponent felled him, that he could avenge himself for it and that his uncle Hildebrand is also present, who will spread his, Wolfhart's, fame. He dies happily (stanza 2299 in ms. B). On the other hand, Dietrich wept for Wolfhart's death: this heroic ideal is not everyone's ideal.

The pursuit of fame can also be seen as a decisive motor for Hagen von Tronje's actions and explains his behavior from the point in time when he learns through a prophecy that all participants in the trip to the Hunland will find death there: he challenges fate, especially the Hun King, in the hope of being able to prove himself against his strongest warrior. On the other hand, fate brings him the shameful death at the hand of a woman. This strongest violation of the idea of ​​the honorable heroic death, the extreme shame, is demonstrated in the prominent figure of Hagen. This creates a maximum contrast between Wolfhart's and Hagen's end, which the Nibelungenlied narrative comments.


The Nibelungenlied can be divided into two parts: the first part focuses on Kriemhild's first marriage to Siegfried and Siegfried's death, while the second part focuses on Kriemhild's revenge. The spatial environment is the Burgundian empire on the Rhine, as well as (in the second part) south-east Germany and the Danube area of ​​today's Austria and Hungary.

First part

1. Âventiure

Kriemhild lives at the royal court in Worms with her three brothers Gunther, Gernot and Giselher, who are her guardians, and their mother Ute. Your father, Dankrat, has already passed away. Important followers of the kings are Hagen von Tronje, a relative of the kings and their most important advisor, Hagen's brother Dankwart and, from their relatives, Ortwin von Metz, as well as, among the court officials, the chef Rumold. Kriemhild dreams that she is raising a falcon that two eagles tear apart. Her mother interprets the dream: the falcon represents a noble man, and Kriemhild runs the risk of losing him if God does not protect him. Kriemhild rejects the idea of ​​man and love; she wants to remain "beautiful" (that means: virgin) until her death, because love has already brought suffering to many women. The mother tries to calm her down and to portray neither the dream nor the love that makes people happy as dangerous. Nevertheless, Kriemhild will refuse love for a long time.

2. Âventiure

Now Siegfried is introduced, the son of King Siegmund and Queen Sieglinde von Xanten on the Lower Rhine. He has wonderful dispositions and is brought up by wise educators to be an exemplary future ruler. Siegfried is described as a combative and courageous young man who often tests his strength. The most important event in Siegfried's youth is his sword leadership (promotion to knight); the Nibelungenlied tells of the only festival of the entire epic where no one feels suffering, everyone just feels joy. On the occasion of the award of the hereditary fiefs by Siegfried to the feudal people of the next generation at this festival, the powerful lords express that they would also like to see Siegfried take over power. However, he does not care about rule and voluntarily steps back behind his parents, although he likes to perform the duties of the king, especially the judge's office. Siegfried's move to fulfill the duties of a ruler easily and gladly and not strive for the formal honors of rulership will be characteristic of him until his death.

3. Âventiure

Siegfried wants to advertise for Kriemhild, who rejects all advertisers. But his parents, Siegmund and Sieglinde, are initially against this connection. Siegmund is apparently worried that a war with the Burgundians could break out - the mighty Worms Empire would probably not marry off a princess to the smaller Xanten Empire - and Sieglinde worries about her son's life. Although both strongly advise against him, Siegfried makes the firm decision to stop Kriemhild's hand, if necessary by force. In the end he gets his way. Siegfried sets off for Worms with only twelve companions. When they arrive there, Hagen suspects that the newcomer is Siegfried and tells the court from his story: Siegfried acquired the wonderful hoard of the late King Nibelung by killing his sons. They got into a dispute over the division of the estate and asked Siegfried to share the hoard for them. But they also disagreed with his division and attacked him angrily. With foresight, Siegfried had asked in advance as a reward for the division of the estate Balmung , the sword of the Nibelung. With that he killed her and the giants in her wake. The dwarf Alberich guarded the hoard with an invisible cap of invisibility , but was tied up by Siegfried. From then on, Alberich had to guard Siegfried's hoard as a treasurer. In addition, continues Hagen, Siegfried once killed a dragon , bathed in its blood and since then has had an invulnerable cornea. The most important thing that Hagen reports about Siegfried is the acquisition of the hoard: Hagen's thoughts are always fixated on it. Gunther then goes to meet Siegfried (which means honorable recognition of equality), but Siegfried challenges Gunther to a duel, citing his royal descent; the inheritance of the loser should belong to the victor. The Wormser Hof does not go into this: The Burgundian Empire is a legacy; one does not need to take someone's kingdom by force, nor does one want to cede it against violence. There is almost a fight, but at the last moment Gernot intervenes and prevents it. He suggests that Siegfried should stay as a guest, which he gladly accepts. However, he does not get to see Kriemhild for a year, and he does not mention that she is the reason for his coming. While the princess is kept hidden from the eyes of the knights, including Siegfried, she can watch the games of the knights in the courtyard from above, through the windows of the bower , without being seen, during which Siegfried excels. She falls in love with him without his knowing that she has already seen him.

4th to 5th Âventiure

When the Saxons and Danes declare war on the Worms Empire with an overpowering army, Siegfried offers his help. He carefully leads the campaign and personally defeats the two enemy kings in a duel. Since it has been recognized that Kriemhild motivated Siegfried to help, one tries at the Victory Festival to lure him with Kriemhild in order to continue to be sure of his help. During the festival, Kriemhild and Siegfried exchange loving looks.

6-8 Âventiure

Nevertheless, Siegfried does not want to advertise until he has also helped Gunther to find a bride: Gunther has put Brünhild in his head, the Queen of Iceland, but Siegfried advises against: Brünhild has supernatural, magical powers and is, as long as she remains a virgin unwilling to indulge in a man who cannot defeat them in three fighting games: stone throwing, long jump and javelin throwing. If he fails, his life is forfeited. If he succeeded, she would be ready to acknowledge his superiority and become his wife. But Gunther couldn't do that. Siegfried is both familiar with the place, because he has already been to Brünhild's court and knows her personally, and is strong enough to pass the games, but has not advertised her. Hagen advises Siegfried to help Gunther find her. Siegfried promises if Gunther gives him Kriemhild as his wife. Gunther, Siegfried, Hagen and Dankwart sail in a magical way, just four of them in a small ship to Iceland.

Brünhild initially expects Siegfried to want to woo her. In order not to arouse their suspicions about why he is coming, Siegfried poses as Gunther's henchman and declares that he does not come voluntarily. In order to perfect this deception, Siegfried does strator service for Gunther : he leads Gunther's horse by the reins in front of everyone. Brünhild then accepts that Gunther wants to woo her and, to her surprise, is defeated by him, whom she considers weak: made invisible by the magic hat, Siegfried defeats Brünhild in such a way that she believes that Gunther had won the victory on her own . Brünhild has her followers brought in to hand over the rule to Gunther. As always, Hagen fears an ambush.

Siegfried, invisible through the invisible cloak, takes the boat to the Nibelungenland and fetches a thousand Nibelungs - after he has incognito checked the gatekeeper and his chamberlain Alberich for their loyalty and beaten them up. Brünhild and Gunther now hand over the administration of Iceland to a relative of Brünhild; one leaves for Worms.

9. Âventiure

Gunther wants to send Hagen ahead as a messenger so that a festive reception can be prepared in Worms. But Hagen refuses because he is not a messenger. Gunther should ask Siegfried instead. Siegfried initially rejects this demand, but when Gunther asks him to carry out the job for Kriemhild's sake, Siegfried agrees. He fulfills him perfectly, and everything is prepared for reception.

10. Âventiure

Brünhild arrives in Worms. Everything is different here: Siegfried is, to her amazement, treated just as royally as Gunther. There is a double wedding: Gunther – Brünhild and Siegfried – Kriemhild. Kriemhild's marriage to the supposed follower Siegfried appears to Brünhild as a mesalliance . Brünhild cries at the wedding table and asks Gunther to explain. In order not to endanger the marriage, she must not find out that she has been betrayed. Gunther therefore refuses to give her the information. Then she decides to refuse to consummate the marriage until he confesses the truth to her. Since Gunther cannot do that, Brünhild ties him up with her belt on the wedding night and hangs him on a nail on the wall. Only in the morning does she take it off. Siegfried has to help again: the next night, invisible through the magic cap, he sneaks into Gunther's bedroom and wrestles Brünhild in the marriage bed until she surrenders voluntarily. Then Gunther and Siegfried swap places and Gunther marries. Only when she loses her virginity does she lose her magical powers. During the fight, Siegfried secretly stole Brünhild's ring and belt and later gave them to his wife Kriemhild as evidence of where he had been the night after their wedding night.

11. Âventiure

Siegfried and Kriemhild leave for their kingdom at the end of the wedding celebrations. This is where the first difference of opinion arises. Kriemhild wishes that her brothers share the inheritance with her. Siegfried is against it because he's so rich that she doesn't need to take anything away from her brothers. Kriemhild's brothers would be willing to compromise; Kriemhild herself as well: she wanted a share of the Burgundian followers in order to have confidants around her in the new country. One agrees on that; she wants to take Hagen von Tronje with her. Hagen is outraged: the obligation of those of Tronje is to serve the kings; they are not allowed to give him away to Siegfried. A woman as ruler does not appear in Hagen's worldview. So Siegfried and Hagen are of one mind on this important question for Kriemhild. Some followers follow Siegfried and Kriemhild voluntarily; especially Count Eckewart. Kriemhild is received splendidly in Niderland; Siegmund hands over the rule completely to Siegfried. After nine years Kriemhild gives birth to a son who is called Gunther; about the same time Brünhild also gave birth to a son; he is called Siegfried. Siegfried rules over Niderland as well as Nibelungenland, which is identified with Norway, and above all enjoys the unimaginable riches of the Nibelungenhort.

12-13 Âventiure

Although it has been a long time since the wedding, Brünhild is always moved by the question of Siegfried's alleged vassal position. She wonders how Kriemhild could lead a happy marriage with him, who had previously presented himself as Gunther's follower at Brünhild's courtship. Also, for a long time neither he nor Kriemhild have performed vassal service to King Gunther - Brünhild senses the deception and presses for the truth.

Although the vassal relationship between Siegfried and Gunther would have long since become statute-barred due to such a long period of non-performance, Brünhild still demands that the king order Siegfried to serve at court. In order to meet Brünhild's demands without offending Siegfried, Gunther finds a compromise. He invites Siegfried and Kriemhild to a party in Worms. Gunther sends messengers to Siegfried and Kriemhild, who temporarily reside in Xanten, Siegfried's inheritance, and temporarily in the Norwegian Nibelungenland. Despite her great love for Siegfried and the position of power that she has held since Sieglinde's death, Kriemhild occasionally feels homesick for Worms. At her request, Siegfried accepts the invitation and lets the messengers return to Worms with generous gifts. The lavish gifts prompt Hagen to make a disapproving comment about Siegfried's wealth.

Siegfried, Kriemhild and Siegmund travel to Worms; the child is left behind. In Worms, Siegfried and Kriemhild are treated equally with Gunther and Brünhild.

14. Âventiure

Sculpture “Queen's Dispute” by Jens Nettlich (2000) at St. Peter's Cathedral in Worms

As they watch a tournament, the two queens get into a dispute about the rank of their husbands: Kriemhild praises her husband Siegfried exuberantly when he excels in the tournament, and says that such a wonderful hero should also be entitled to the Worms Empire to rule. Brünhild replies that she herself heard Siegfried say that Gunther was his master. Therefore, she considers him to be a `` Eigenmann '' (an unfree person) and obliged to serve, - but Siegfried's statements and actions in Iceland had not gone that far (the stirrup service as a symbol of submission was also performed by Popes Hadrian IV and Alexander III of Emperor Friedrich I Barbarossa demands - for the audience of the Nibelungenlied the question of how deeply one humiliates oneself through the strator service had a highly political component). Kriemhild gets angry. Both want to publicly resolve the dispute in order to make a binding decision on the question of rank: The one of the two who is allowed to enter the cathedral first at the evening mass should be considered higher in rank. Kriemhild prepares for this performance accordingly and dresses herself and her entourage splendidly. As Brynhild Kriemhild commands before entering the cathedral to stand, and use it as diu own ( 'serf maid') insulted, called Kriemhild they own man concubine ( 'the concubine of a serf man'), as Siegfried, not Gunther, Brynhild's virginity have taken. Brünhild weeps; Kriemhild is the first to enter the cathedral. During the mass, Brünhild ponders why Kriemhild could have uttered such an insult and decides in himself that Siegfried would have to die if he had spoken accordingly. After the mass, Brünhild is caught again and demands evidence from Kriemhild. This now shows Brünhild's ring and belt. Brünhild cries again and calls Gunther over, who has Siegfried fetched to testify whether he had boasted that he had taken Brünhild's virginity or swore an oath not to have said it. Siegfried is immediately ready to take the oath. But Gunther releases him from the oath because he is aware of Siegfried's innocence. Siegfried puts the blame on the women's quarrelsome addiction and emphasizes the husband's duty to chastise his wife. Hagen wants to take revenge for the seriously injured honor of his humiliated mistress; the incident provides an excellent reason to kill Siegfried. Above all, however, Hagen is concerned with the Nibelungenhort, which he can only get hold of after Siegfried's death. In the "Mordrat", Hagen proposes the murder of Siegfried, because he considers Siegfried to be a threat to the court of Worms and convinces Gunther that it would also be of use to him, Gunther, if Siegfried was killed: one could then take possession of Siegfried's riches tear. Gunther reluctantly gives in and takes responsibility for Hagen's actions.

15.-16. Âventiure

Gunther and Hagen let false messengers appear, they should announce a renewal of the Saxon War. Siegfried is ready to help again immediately. Hagen manages to elicit the secret from Kriemhild that a place on Siegfried's back, which was covered by a linden leaf while bathing in the dragon's blood , remained vulnerable by pretending to her that he wanted to protect this place during the war. She should mark this place on Siegfried's clothes with a cross. When he has achieved this, the fictitious war campaign can be canceled by new fake messengers who reverse the declaration of war. Instead, Gunther has a hunt scheduled.

When Siegfried said goodbye to Kriemhild to take part in the hunting trip, she suspected that it was careless to tell Hagen the secret. By telling warning dreams she tries to persuade Siegfried not to take part in the hunt, but does not dare to confess her unwise act to him. Siegfried does not take the warning seriously and takes part in the hunt. He is the most successful hunter. With Gunther's consent, Hagen has the wine sent to the wrong place; when Siegfried thirsts, he suggests a race to a spring in the forest; Siegfried should show how fast he can run. Siegfried then proposes to run a race with Hagen. Siegfried wins the race, but out of courtesy he waits until Gunther has come and has had a drink. Then Siegfried bends over the spring. Now Hagen can murder Siegfried from behind with his spear. The dying scolded cowardly murder as contemptible; Most contemptible was Gunther's attitude. Hagen is proud to have secured the rule of the Burgundian kings and increased their wealth.

17th-19th Âventiure

Johann Heinrich Füssli , Kriemhild throws himself on the dead Siegfried , 1817

The murderers return to Worms across the Rhine at night. Hagen has Siegfried's body thrown in front of Kriemhild's chamber door. She thinks she knows who the killer was, but she has no legal evidence. During the ' Bahrprobe ', Siegfried's wounds begin to bleed when Hagen approaches. It was common belief that a dead man's wounds bleed when the killer steps up to the grave. But Gunther takes a cleaning oath for Hagen that he is innocent and that Siegfried was slain by robbers.

Siegmund returns to his country and offers Kriemhild to come with him. Ute, Giselher and Gernot persuade her to stay, however, because she only has the protection of one person in Niderland, the old Siegmund. Her blood relatives could give her better protection than the relatives of the murdered husband.

Kriemhild spends several years mourning and prayer. Brünhild, on the other hand, rules proudly and unchallenged, with overconfident ('arrogance'). She is indifferent to Kriemhild's crying. Hagen persuades the kings to persuade Kriemhild to let the Nibelungenhort come to Worms. But she uses the treasure (her morning gift, hence her property) to bind foreign warriors to her by giving them gifts from which she can derive an obligation. Hagen suspects that she could make friends who could avenge the murder and pose a threat to him. He therefore steals the treasure from Kriemhild and sinks it in the Rhine with the intention of using it on occasion. The three kings tolerate his action and thereby again become complicit. This ends the first part.

Second part

20.-23. Âventiure

Kriemhild's plans for revenge were given a chance to be implemented when, 13 years after Siegfried's death, the Hun king Etzel , the most powerful ruler in the world, wanted to marry her. At first she refuses and wants to spend the rest of her life mourning Siegfried; but her brothers advise her to marry. Giselher in particular hopes to delight her with this marriage, which will restore her honor and reputation, that is, to atone for the guilt (Siegfried's death). Only Hagen recognizes the danger that, as Etzel's wife, she would have great power. The recruiter, Margrave Rüdiger von Bechelaren ( Pöchlarn on the Danube), promises her absolute loyalty; then she accepts. Kriemhild moves to the land of the Huns ( Hungary ) with a large retinue ; Etzel approaches her; the wedding takes place in Vienna . Kriemhild becomes a powerful ruler at Etzel's side and with him has a son, Ortlieb.

Another 13 years later, in a tactically clever “bed talk”, she got Etzel to invite her brothers and Hagen, whom she never forgave for the murder of Siegfried and the steal of the Nibelung treasure, to a court festival in the land of the Huns.

24.-27. Âventiure

The invitees suspect a trap. The warners include Hagen, the master chef Rumold, whose humorous words are famous ("Rumold's advice"), and old Ute. Rumold not only reminds of Kriemhild's plans for revenge, but also of the fact that Etzel had for a time claimed supremacy over the Burgundian Empire and that Hagen had been a hostage at the Hunnenhof for a while in his youth. Precisely because of the warnings not to be considered a coward, Hagen now supports the trip, although he was the first to warn against it. The Burgundians finally accepted the invitation and set out on the journey along the Danube, because they were of the opinion that by taking 1,000 warriors (with 9,000 servants) with them, they would be sufficiently protected against Kriemhild's plans for revenge or Etzel's plans for rule. As a farewell, Gunther once again holds the supplement with Brünhild. This is her last appearance in the Nibelungenlied. From here on, the Burgundians also adopted the name “Nibelungen”, which is a reminder that they now feel that they are the owners of the hoard. During the trip to Etzel's court, Hagen is warned by two prophetic water women that their downfall is imminent and that only the chaplain will return to Worms alive. Hagen wants to kill him at once so that the prophecy will not come true, and he throws him, who cannot swim, into the flood of the Danube during the crossing and pushes him to the bottom of the river with the ferry rod; but the chaplain can save himself to the shore by a miracle of God. With this, Hagen knows: the prophecy is true. Therefore, until the end, he does everything to challenge fate. Along the way, in addition to various ominous omens, they experience pleasant and comforting hospitality: from Rüdiger von Bechelaren, to whose daughter Giselher is finally engaged. As a result, Rüdiger has committed himself to both sides; unaware that a conflict could break out between Kriemhild and her brothers.

28-30 Âventiure

Dietrich von Bern , who, expelled from his inherited kingdom in Northern Italy, is in exile at Etzel's court with his loyal followers, rides towards the Burgundians to warn them that Kriemhild is still crying for Siegfried every day. Hagen openly mocks Kriemhild immediately after arriving at Etzel's farm. He refuses to lay down his weapons at Etzel's court: a grave insult to the host. He demonstratively shows that he is carrying Siegfried's sword with him. However, Kriemhild does not dare to intervene for fear of Dietrich's anger. She tries to incite Hunnic warriors to start a fight with Hagen. But these fear the strength of Hagen and his companions people; Kriemhild has to drop the plan. Etzel has no inkling of his wife's plans for revenge. However, he shows his primacy by making the Burgundians wait a long time in the courtyard before they enter the king's hall and only rises from his seat to meet Gunther when he enters the hall.

The Burgundians fear that a secret attack could take place during the night, since they feared their strength during the day. Hagen and Volker keep watch together. Volker, who, besides being a fighter, has above all a wonderful talent as a musician, plays calming melodies on the fiddle, which take away the fear of the Burgundians and let them fall asleep. The aggressively funny sayings and actions of Volker, however, contribute to the escalation of the conflict, so that a peaceful settlement becomes impossible. The 30th Âventiure with the description of the moving effect of the music forms a particularly lyrical section of the work.

31.-33. Âventiure

The next day, Hagen and Volker provoke the Huns because they suspect that there will be a fight and want to bring it about as quickly as possible. On the other hand, Kriemhild wants to get Etzel's brother Blödel to kill Hagen by offering generous gifts. However, this initially refuses. Likewise, Kriemhild cannot persuade her brothers Gernot and Giselher to turn away from Hagen. Etzel is friendly towards the guests and wants to give Ortlieb, the six-year-old son of Kriemhilds and Etzel, who was baptized Christian, to the Burgundians as a link between the two realms for their education in Worms. Hagen suspects Etzel's claim to supremacy in this offer and predicts the death of the child.

In view of Kriemhild's generous offers, Blödel feels compelled to challenge at least Dankwart, Hagen's brother, who oversees the servants, to a duel. Dankwart kills Blödel and a crowd of Huns in turn kills the defenseless servants of the Burgundians.

Dankwart fights his way through the Huns to the knight's hall and reports the incident to Hagen. Hagen then kills Ortlieb and calls on the Burgundians to kill the Huns. The bloodbath ensues. Among the Burgundians, besides Hagen and the kings, especially people stand out. Etzel and Kriemhild can only leave the hall under Dietrich's protection. Dietrich feels sympathy for the Burgundians, but remains loyal to Etzel and Kriemhild. At first he and Rüdiger try to remain neutral.

34-38 Âventiure

In the course of the fighting, the heroes of both sides perish; a change occurs when Etzel and Kriemhild beg Rüdiger to prove his loyalty to them. In the conflict between feudal loyalty and loyalty to future relatives, Rüdiger decides for duty and fights with all his men against the Burgundians. In Pöchlarn, Hagen had received a sign from Rüdiger's wife as a present; In a symbolic demand he now demands Rüdiger's shield, since it had broken. With the willingness to leave his shield to Hagen, Rüdiger symbolically recognizes his obligation to protect the Burgundians, but does not give up the fight. Hagen admires Rüdiger's ethical attitude; he and Volker do not attack Rudiger. However, a slaughter unfolds between Rüdiger's troops and the rest of the Burgundians, in which Gernot and Rüdiger kill each other.

The immeasurable complaint of the Huns about the popular Rüdiger also reaches Dietrich's ear. When he found out the cause, he sent Hildebrand , the old armorer Dietrichs, to ask the Burgundians for the body of Rüdiger so that he could be buried with honor. Against Dietrich's will, however, the young hotspurs from Dietrich's followers accompany Hildebrand. When Volker mocked them that it was cowardice to ask for the corpse instead of fetching it in battle, they, especially Hildebrand's nephew Wolfhart, lose their patience, and against Dietrich's orders they storm into battle. Wolfhart and Giselher kill each other; Hildebrand kills Volker. Only Gunther and Hagen now live from the Burgundians. Of Dietrich's people, only Hildebrand gets away with life; he reports to Dietrich the death of all his followers.

39. Âventiure

Kriemhild appears with Gunther's severed head in front of Dietrich von Bern and the prisoner Hagen. (Hundeshagen Codex, Ms. germ. Fol. 855, sheet 158v)

Dietrich von Bern laments the death of his followers; he regains heroism through the lawsuit. With Hildebrand he steps in front of Gunther and Hagen and demands satisfaction for the slain. He would be ready to give Gunther and Hagen their lives if they surrendered to him. Hagen, in particular, is unwilling to go into that. Dietrich fights against both of them, defeats them and hands them over to Kriemhild, bound and demanding that she give them their lives if they are ready to compensate for the suffering they have suffered. Dietrich takes the position that a fine can also be paid for murder. Kriemhild demands the treasure from Hagen in order to fulfill Dietrich's condition - but without expecting that Hagen will accept it. He tells her not to reveal the hiding place as long as one of his masters is still alive. Kriemhild has Gunther's head cut off. When she steps in front of Hagen with her brother's head, he explains that only he and God now know where the hoard is. Provocatively, he had taken Siegfried's sword, which he had illegally appropriated after the murder, by robbery, to the Etzelshof. Kriemhild now seizes this and, after the men she instigated failed to avenge her, she cuts off Hagen's head with Siegfried's sword in memory of her dead lover. The men are horrified, Etzel too; not about Hagen's death, which he himself wished, but that the greatest hero died at the hand of a woman. In revenge for this, Hildebrand kills Kriemhild; because as a woman she dared to kill a hero. In the end, Dietrich von Bern, Hildebrand , Etzel and the knightly society stand crying in front of the balance of unspeakable misery, and the narrator also takes leave of mourning. The words of the inexperienced Kriemhild from the opening event, "It has been shown in many women that love can be rewarded with suffering in the end", are varied by the narrator in the penultimate verse to: "How love always leads to suffering in the end". This suffering affects not only the act of love, but the whole courtly society with its striving for joy, both collective joy, which is to be realized in the festival, as well as individual joy. In order to be able to feel joy, the courtly individual needs two things above all: individual love happiness with a self-chosen partner (in contrast to court society, in which one was happy if one was married well, as Kriemhild's mother Ute put it in Str. B 14 ), and also honor, that is the respect you enjoy with others. The man is honored primarily for heroic struggle. This striving of the individual and of court society for joy failed in the end.

Knowledge of the Nibelungs in the Middle Ages

The fabric of the Nibelung in the High Middle Ages

The material of the Nibelungen saga was well known and widespread in the German, Nordic and English-speaking areas throughout the Middle Ages. Poets and historians occasionally mention figures or constellations from the legend; However, one cannot always decide whether the knowledge goes back to the Nibelungenlied (or one of its preliminary stages) or to one of the numerous other versions (partial versions) of this material.

In the 10th century, for example, a south German (presumably Bavarian) monk told Waltharius Hagens and Gunther's prehistory in the Latin school epic , which is echoed several times in the Nibelungenlied in the 28th and 39th Aventures. In Waltharius , Gunther and Hagen are Franconians, in Worms on the Rhine, but not Burgundy as in the Nibelungenlied. There, too, Gunther is greedy for treasure and, with Hagen's help, steals a treasure in a cowardly raid in the Vosges Mountains, but neither Siegfried nor any other dragon slayer occurs, instead the two rob Walther of Aquitaine, who with his bride Hildegund von Attila's court (in Hungary) fled, taking Attila's treasure chest with her and crossing the Rhine near Worms.

The Latin Ruodlieb of the 11th century has been said to have been inspired by the Siegfried saga. Around 1165–1175 the cleric Metellus von Tegernsee (Ode 30) mentioned that a song famous among the Teutones was about the deeds of Roger (Rüdiger) and Tetrix (Dietrich) on the Erlaf (today Erlauf; river that flows into the Danube at Pöchlarn) flows). About a hundred years earlier, Bishop Gunther von Bamberg had to be reprimanded by his cathedral scholaster Meinhart for always dealing only with Attila and the Amelungen ( Dietrich von Bern ) - that addresses the heroic epic as a whole. The poet Herger (second half of the 12th century) compares Wernhart von Steinsberg (near Sinsheim) with Rüedeger von Bechelaeren (26.2). At that time the Nibelung fabric was well known in aristocratic circles on the Middle / Upper Rhine. The Danish historian Saxo Grammaticus reported around 1200, albeit anecdotally, that a German cantor (musician, singer) wanted to warn Duke Knut, who was murdered in 1131, by speciosissimi carminis contextu notissimam Grimilde erga fratres perfidiam de industria memorare adorsus (“by deliberately began to recite the well-known betrayal of Kriemhild of her brothers in the context of an excellent poem ”). The sinking of the Nibelungenhort in the Rhine was proverbial. The minstrel Otto von Botenlauben alludes to this in one of his songs (ze loche in dem rine) . The Nibelungenlied has significant literary cross-references, particularly with the Parzival novel by Wolframs von Eschenbach, which was probably written almost simultaneously .

In the middle of the 13th century, the learned traveling poet Marner Kriemhild mentions the betrayal of her brothers, Siegfried's death and the Nibelungenhort as popular hits, which he despises and does not have in his program. Hugo von Trimberg speaks in his courtly text, Renner, in a similar list of popular stories from Kriemhild's "mort", Siegfried's dragon fight and the Nibelungenhort (v. 16183 ff.).

In Sweden and Norway, parts of the Nibelung saga were known as early as 1000. In England it appears in Beowulf (10th century at the latest), but in a completely different form: the dragon slayer is called Sigmund there (in the Nibelungenlied: Siegfried's father), and he only kills the dragon when he already has a grown son. Also in Scandinavia, where the figure corresponding to the German Siegfried is called Sigurd , the story of his father Sigmund is told in detail and is perhaps older than the Sigurd legend. Sigmund's son, who is named in Beowulf, is Sigurd's half-brother in the north.

The Nibelung fabric in the late Middle Ages

Versions of the Nibelungenlied date from the 15th century, which basically rework it into new texts. In general, there is a tendency in the handwritten tradition to integrate the material into the life of Dietrich von Bern . In these versions, for example, the first part is greatly reduced (for example handwriting n ) or new motifs are sought (for example in the Heldenbuch -Prosa around 1480: Burgundy end as Kriemhild's revenge on Dietrich for the murder of Siegfried in the rose garden in Worms ).

In the 16th and 17th centuries, the strophic song vom Hürnen Seyfried (Vom verhornten Siegfried) was printed, the details of which probably go back to the 13th century and some features that are otherwise only known from Nordic tradition. Kriemhild's father is called Gybich (Nordic: Gjuki); Günther, Hagen and Gyrnot are brothers.

In 1557 Hans Sachs dramatized the song in his “Tragedj with 17 people: Der Huernen Sewfrid”. The material remained popular in the 17th to 19th centuries, as can be seen in the multiple editions of the popular book entitled A Wonderful History of the Horned Siegfried . The oldest known (but not preserved) print of this prose revision appeared in Hamburg in 1657. In keeping with contemporary tastes, Kriemhild is called Florimunda (Florigunda?).

Reception history

Heinrich Gudehus as Siegfried, forging the sword Nothung on the anvil

After the rediscovery of the manuscripts of the Nibelungenlied by Jacob Hermann Obereit (1755) and the first complete edition in an anthology by Christoph Heinrich Myller (1782), the Enlightenment initially had little to do with medieval poetry. This is not only due to the “enlightening” attitude of the readers, but also to the fact that Myller's edition is so flawed that one very often does not understand the meaning of the poetry. On February 22, 1784, Frederick the Great wrote the following to Myller, who had dedicated his collection of German poetry from the Middle Ages (which included the Nibelungenlied and Wolframs Parzival, among others) to the king:

Well-versed, dear faithful!
You judge much too advantageous of those poems from the 12th, 13th and 14th Seculo, the printing of which you promoted and which you consider useful for the enrichment of the German language. To my understanding such are not worth a shot of powder; and didn't deserve to be pulled from the dust of oblivion. In my book collection at least I would not tolerate such wretched stuff; but throw it out. The copy sent to me may therefore await its fate in the large library there. But does not promise much demand
Your otherwise gracious King Frch.

Goethe read the whole Nibelungenlied (from the von der Hagens edition) to the Weimar ladies in a series of several evenings and made several detailed comments on it (that after his death there was an uncut, i.e. unread, copy of the Myller in his library. so does not mean that he has not read the Nibelungenlied). It was only after Goethe's friendly judgment of the “delicious work” and his demand to bring the hero song into an epic form that numerous efforts were made to dramatically re-form it in Romanticism. Since then, two paths have been taken: Partly the material of the Nibelungenlied has been worked on, partly the authors reverted to the Sigurd-Brünhild version, the Wölsungen saga from the middle of the 13th century , or in some songs of the Edda .

In 1827 Karl Joseph Simrock published a popularly very successful New High German translation of the Nibelungenlied on the basis of Lachmann's critical edition. a. was valued by Goethe . Of the numerous arrangements made in the nineteenth century, only three works are of interest today: the trilogy Der Held des Nordens , a dramatic arrangement of Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué , and Friedrich Hebbel's drama The Nibelungs. A German tragedy in three sections and Richard Wagner's opera cycle Der Ring des Nibelungen .

Friedrich de la Motte Fouqué's dramatic poem follows in the first part Sigurd, the snake-killer of the Nordic tradition: Sigurd frees Brynhild from the Waberlohe , but after a forgettable drink he marries Gunnar's sister Gudrun, helps Gunnar to advertise Brynhild, who after his murder by a brother Gunnar commits suicide. In the second part of Sigurd's Vengeance , Gudrun marries the Hun king Atli - again under the influence of her mother's magic potion. He wants to take possession of the hoard and invites the brothers to his country. After their murder, Gudrun kills her own children and serves them as food for Atli. Eventually Atli is murdered and Gudrun, like Brynhild, chooses suicide. The third part of Aslauga tells, based on a fragment from the Edda, the fate of the daughter of Sigurd and Brynhild: She grows up as a shepherd girl with shepherds, but because of her beauty is married by the King of Denmark, which is followed by the usual entanglements. But the story goes well.

Fouqué had great success with the work with the public and received great praise from other poets of the time such as Jean Paul , Adelbert von Chamisso and Rahel Varnhagen . Heinrich Heine, on the other hand, criticized the lack of characterization of the characters and the lack of dramatic tension. This opinion prevailed, and there has been no edition of the work for almost 100 years. From today's perspective, more important than the work itself is its effect on Richard Wagner, who took over a lot from Fouqué in the Ring of the Nibelung , and can even be regarded as a pupil of Fouqué in terms of verse structure and the rhythm of speech. (Such a stylistic-literary assertion absolutely needs a source.)

Friedrich Hebbel "The Nibelungs" (school edition around 1900, Vienna / Brno)
Siegfried forging the imperial sword at the Bismarck National Monument (1901), Berlin

In contrast to Fouqué, Friedrich Hebbel adheres to the Nibelungenlied in the course of his trilogy and largely ignores the mythological background of the prehistory. His characters are types and individuals at the same time in various forms and therefore without consistent motivation. Brunhild is degraded to a thing, to an object of exchange, and in the end Kriemhild is slain almost without comment as in the Nibelungenlied. Because of the closing remarks, a historical-philosophical concern was sometimes interpreted into the piece (replacement of the mythical world of giants by Christianity), but Hebbel's utterances gave no evidence of this. Hebbel's play found a favorable reception in the theater and almost completely displaced the other dramatic arrangements from the German stages - including the version by Emanuel Geibel , who transformed the material into a bourgeois tragedy.

In contrast to Goethe, Heinrich Heine expressed himself fascinated, but at the same time alienated by the tone of the Nibelungenlied: “It is a language of stone, and the verses are, as it were, rhyming blocks. Here and there, from the crevices, red flowers well up like drops of blood or the long Epheu pulls itself down like green tears. "

Hegel came to a similar conclusion in his lectures on aesthetics published in 1838:

“The Burgundians, Kriemhilde's revenge, Siegfried's deeds, the whole state of life, the fate of the entire declining race, the Nordic being, King Etzel, etc. - none of this has anything to do with our domestic, civil, legal life, our institutions and constitutions living context. The history of Christ, Jerusalem, Bethlehem, Roman law, even the Trojan War, have far more present for us than the incidents of the Nibelungs, which for the national consciousness are only a past history that has been swept away with a broom. Wanting to make something national and even a people's book into the same thing now has been the most trivial, flattest idea. In days of apparently new enthusiasm for young people, it was a sign of the old age of a time that had become childish again with the approach of death, which relieved itself on the dead and then had the feeling of having its presence on others. "

- Hegel

Arthur Schopenhauer too , it seemed to be a "right blasphemy " to compare the Nibelungen with the Iliad, and warned to put the "German patriots" in the place of the Greek and Roman classics in the grammar schools, one would only be " bearskins ". bring up. Despite this criticism, the material achieved the rank of a German national epic in the 19th century , a term that is to be understood as testimony to the attitudes of the time, but is in no way applicable to the zeitgeist around 1200. In addition to the theatrical versions, there were many editions, some of which were illustrated (for example by Alfred Rethel , 1840, and by Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld , 1843).

The Nibelungen. Retold to the German people with a text by Franz Keim appeared in 1908 as number 22 in Gerlach's youth library of the Viennese publisher Gerlach & Wiedling . The text was a new version of the Nibelungenlied aimed at children and in this respect differs from the other volumes from Gerlach's youth library. The pictures and furnishings were done by the commercial artist Carl Otto Czeschka . According to Hans Ries, Czeschka's Nibelungs are among the top works in book illustration.

In the first half of the 20th century, the Nibelungenlied was reinterpreted in several novels to become a work of "German heroism" with a nationalistic tendency. Werner Jansen made it in 1916 in “Das Buch Treue. Nibelungenroman "to an alleged" testimony to the German greatness of humanity ", although among other things neither Burgundy nor Nibelungen can be called" German ". His play The Nibelunge Not tied Max Mell to at Wölsungen variant Wagner mythologizing and the Valkyrie theme. He concentrated the action on the highlights on the stage. In the first part: Siegfried's arrival in Worms, the quarrel of the queens, Siegfried's murder, Brünhild's suicide in the flames and her return to the realm of the gods. In the second part: Reception of the Burgundians at Etzel's court, Kriemhild's vengeance, downfall of the Burgundians, Kriemhild's murder and an ending taken from the Dietrich saga (Dietrich rides away on his horse).

During National Socialism, the return of Germanic greatness and heroism, Germanic allegiance and male chivalry was celebrated, and the idea of ​​German nationality was underlaid with these "Germanic virtues". The creative powers of the Germanic peoples were appealed to, to whom the Third Reich gave life again. The Nibelungenlied was instrumentalized and abused as a vehicle for national ideas, for example by Hermann Göring , who compared the situation of the German soldiers in the Stalingrad pocket with the situation of the Nibelungs in the burning hall ("We know a huge heroic song ...") .

Franz Fühmann (1922–1984) published a remarkable retelling of the Nibelungenlied in 1971. Fühmann's conclusion: "The (se) quintessence of the Nibelungenlied now seems to me to be the statement that governance and the exercise of power have their objective, highly complex and difficult laws, their violation anachronisms and subjective arbitrariness must lead to severe disruption of the state and ultimately to a catastrophe for the whole of society.It is, in a final formula, the question of freedom and commitment in history, which is dealt with, whereby history is neither blind Acting fate still appears as an arbitrarily malleable raw material, but rather as a process governed by objective, but therefore also exploitable and to a certain extent influenceable laws. " Fühmann vehemently opposed any ethnic appropriation of the text. His retelling is strictly based on the original. Fühmann created a film scenario for DEFA . A film adaptation (one with Heiner Carow as director; Fühmann and Carow worked out a script) did not materialize, although the contract had already been signed.

Since fantasy elements flowed into the literary entertainment literature - already in JRR Tolkien's works ( Lord of the Rings ) several elements of the Nibelungen saga (the ring motif!) Can be found - several novels dealt with the topic from different angles. For example, Rheingold by Stephan Grundy follows the Wölsungen line, Siegfried and Krimhild by Jürgen Lodemann, on the other hand, the Nibelungenlied, in three other novels either Kriemhild (novel by Sabina Trooger ), Hagen (see Wolfgang Hohlbein's novel Hagen von Tronje or Joachim Fernaus Disteln for Hagen ) or Brünhild take center stage. The novel Sigfried's Daughter by Eric Gutzler links the Wölsungen saga with the Nibelungenlied to a continuous storyline and expands the material into a historical fantasy novel in which Sigfried's daughter is the focus. Baal Müller's Die Nibelungen - retold from old sources tells the story of the fall of the Burgundy from the perspective of old Hildebrand.

In the 1980s, Ulrich Müller and the Austrian concert singer Eberhard Kummer began to study historical performance practices and apply them to the Nibelungenlied. The song of the Nibelungs was sung in concerts and recorded. Kummer used the Hildebrand sound as the melody , which he also applies to the Kudrun song. Because of the length of the work, excerpts are usually performed in evening events, but Kummer performed the entire Nibelungenlied at least three times. Kummer sang the epic in front of an audience in five performances of six hours each.

In the Walhalla in Donaustauf a plaque commemorates the poet of the Nibelungenlied . In 2009, the Nibelungenlied with the three oldest manuscripts A, B and C in the register of UNESCO - world cultural heritage added.

See also


Film adaptations

The Nibelungenlied was filmed for the cinema in 1924, 1957 and 1967 and in 2004 for television. The most successful and historically significant is the two-part silent film version from 1924, directed by Fritz Lang .


  • Kummer, E. The Nibelungenlied . Pan-Verlag, Vienna. 1984. LP and Extraplatte, Vienna. 1998. (New recording: CD, Stereo 93415).
  • Kummer, E., Nibelungenlied, Complete Recording. The Chaucer Studio, Adelaide. 2006.
  • Seckel, Knud, Nibelungenlied Publishing House of the Minstrels, Reichelsheim 2009.

Recent literary adaptations

  • Viola Alvarez: The Mists of the Morning. (Hist. Roman, from Brynhild's perspective). Verlagsgruppe Lübbe, Bergisch Gladbach 2006, ISBN 3-7857-1580-3 .
  • Albrecht Behmel : The Nibelungenlied. Translation from Middle High German, Stuttgart 2001.
  • Franz Fühmann : The Nibelungenlied. Rostock 1971.
  • Wolfgang Hohlbein : Hagen von Tronje. Heyne, 1986, ISBN 3-453-53024-1 .
  • Jürgen Lodemann : The murder. The true people's book from the Germans. Book guild Gutenberg, Frankfurt am Main 1995, ISBN 3-7632-4317-8 .
  • Jürgen Lodemann: Siegfried and Krimhild. Novel. Klett-Cotta, Stuttgart 2002, ISBN 3-608-93548-7 . Unchanged also as a paperback at dtv, Munich 2005, ISBN 3-423-13359-7 .
  • Moritz Rinke: The Nibelungs. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 2002, ISBN 3-499-23202-2 . (WP: Nibelungen Festival Worms 2002)
    • Revised and expanded new edition: The Nibelungs: Siegfried's Women / The Last Days of Burgundy. Rowohlt, Reinbek near Hamburg 2007, ISBN 978-3-499-24514-5 . (WP: Nibelungen Festival Worms 2006 [Part I] / 2007 [Part II])
  • Helmut Krausser: Our song. Song of the fall of Burgundy - Nibelung distillate -. In: Helmut Krausser: Pieces 93–03. Fischer, Frankfurt am Main 2003, pp. 325-375. ISBN 3-596-15979-2 . (Premiere: Theater Bonn 2005)
  • Markus Bothe (production): The Nibelungs. A German heroic epic. (Author project; premier: Theater Aachen 2007) - consisting of:
    • John von Düffel: Best of Nibelungen (Die Out-Takes). The adventures of Gernot and Giselher. In three failures. Rowohlt (theater rental), Reinbek near Hamburg 2007.
    • Sigrid Behrens: Fire! or: I bring you debt and take over, my heart.
    • Katharina Gericke: Götterdämmerung.
  • John von Düffel: The life of Siegfried. Rowohlt (theater rental), Reinbek near Hamburg 2009 (premiere: Nibelungen Festival Worms 2009).
  • Christopher Tolkien (Edited by): JRR Tolkien : The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún . HarperCollins, London 2009, ISBN 978-0-00-731723-3 .
  • Ulrike Draesner : Nibelungen : The Infestation with the illustrations by Carl Otto Czeschka , Reclam-Verlag 2016, ISBN 978-3-15-011005-8 .


This article largely uses the interpretation given to the edition of the Nibelungenlied based on the main manuscript B (St. Gallen manuscript) by Hermann Reichert, and the linguistic explanations in the Nibelungenlied textbook by Hermann Reichert.

Text output

  • The Nibelungenlied. Parallel printing of the manuscripts A, B and C together with the readings of the other manuscripts. Edited by Michael S. Batts. Niemeyer, Tübingen 1971, ISBN 3-484-10149-0 .
  • The Nibelungenlied. After the edition by Karl Bartsch. Edited by Helmut de Boor, supplemented by Roswitha Wisniewski (= German classics of the Middle Ages ). 22nd edition. Brockhaus, Mannheim 1988, ISBN 3-7653-0373-9 (Middle High German text with extensive annotation apparatus).
  • The Nibelungenlied. Bilingual. Mhd.-Nhd. Edited and transmitted by Helmut De Boor. 4th edition. Dieterich Collection, Leipzig 1992, ISBN 3-7350-0104-1 .
  • The Nibelungenlied. Mhd./Nhd. Translated into New High German from the text by Karl Bartsch and Helmut de Boor and commented on by Siegfried Grosse (= Reclam Universal Library. Volume 644). Reclam, Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-15-000644-9 .
  • The Nibelungenlied. Middle High German text and translation. Edited, translated and appended by Helmut Brackert. Volume 1 (= Fischer Klassik. 90131). 5th edition. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-596-90131-9 . Volume 2 (= Fischer Classic. 90132). 5th edition. Fischer Taschenbuch Verlag, Frankfurt am Main 2008, ISBN 978-3-596-90132-6 .
  • The Nibelungenlied. Mhd.-Nhd. After the manuscript C of the Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe. Edited and translated by Ursula Schulze. Artemis & Winkler, Düsseldorf – Zurich 2005, ISBN 3-538-06990-5 .
  • The Nibelungenlied and the Lament. Based on manuscript 857 in the St. Gallen Abbey Library. Middle High German text, translation and commentary. Edited by Joachim Heinzle (= Library of German Classics. 196). Deutscher Klassiker Verlag, Berlin 2013, ISBN 978-3-618-66120-7 .
  • The Nibelungenlied. Text and introduction. Edited from the St. Gallen manuscript and explained by Hermann Reichert. 2nd, revised and supplemented edition. Walter de Gruyter, Berlin 2017, ISBN 978-3-11-052421-5 (PDF). E- ISBN 978-3-11-052654-7 . (Normalized Middle High German text and easily readable introduction). In addition: Hermann Reichert: Nibelungenlied textbook. Linguistic commentary, Middle High German grammar, dictionary. Matches the text of the St. Gallen version ("B"). 2nd, newly edited and expanded edition, Praesens Verlag, Vienna 2019, ISBN 978-3-7069-1051-4 . E-book (PDF) ISBN 978-3-7069-3010-9 .
  • Johann August Zeune : The Nibelungenlied. The original revised according to the best readings, and provided with an introductory text and a dictionary for use in schools . With a woodcut by Gubitz. Maurer, Berlin 1815 ( e-copy ).

Issues important to the history of research (reprints)


On March 8, 1926, Austria issued six postage stamps for the Nibelung saga ( Michel catalog no. 488–493).

For the 100th birthday of Wilhelm Dachauer , a postage stamp was issued by the Austrian Post on April 6, 1981 (Michel catalog no. 1666). The postage stamp shows a design by Wilhelm Dachauer for the Nibelungen saga series from 1926.

Special stamps and machine advertising stamps for the Nibelungen saga exist u. a. from Worms, Xanten, Alzey, Grasellenbach (Siegfriedsbrunnen), Odenheim, Passau, Plattling, Eferding, Pöchlarn and Vienna.

Web links

Commons : Nibelungenlied  - collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Nibelungenlied  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Lothar Voetz : Introduction to the “Nibelungenlied”. In: Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe and Badisches Landesmuseum Karlsruhe (Hrsg.): "Us is in old mars ..." - the Nibelungenlied and its world . Primus Verlag, Darmstadt 2003, ISBN 3-923132-95-6 , pp. 12-19.
  2. ^ Badische Landesbibliothek Karlsruhe: Nibelungen manuscript C - Donaueschingen 63
  3. Otfrid Ehrismann: Nibelungenlied. Epoch - Werk - Klage , 2002 2 ^ Munich.
  4. The Song of the Nibelungs. [Text and introduction]. Edited from the St. Gallen manuscript. and explained by Hermann Reichert. P. 360 f.
  5. ^ Walter Kofler: Nibelungen and complaint. Editor I. Hirzel, 2011.
  6. Walter Hansen: The track of the singer. 1987, ISBN 3-7857-0455-0 .
  7. Berta Lösel-Wieland-Engelmann: Do we owe the Nibelungenlied to a nun from Niedernburg? , “Monthly Books,” Vol. 72, No. 1, Madison, Wisconsin, 1980.
  8. ^ Emil Ploß: Precious fabrics and wonderful weapons. To determine the “courtly” elements in the Nibelungenlied. In: Ostbairische Grenzmarken 2, 1958, pp. 125–132.
  9. The terms for freedom / unfreedom (libertas, servitus) could mean very different things: “Despite all the meaning of these terms, one cannot claim that they were unambiguous and unchanged.” The ministerials also belong to the unfree, who are only higher Duties are required (court, war and administrative service). After: W. Rösener: "Unfreedom" in: Lexicon of the Middle Ages. Metzler, Stuttgart 1977-1999, Vol. 8, Column 1219 f.
  10. Leading the horse by the reins (officium stratoris), demanded the popes from the Frankish and German kings and emperors. Cf. S. Kreiker, "Marschall" in: Lexikon des Mittelalter. Metzler, Stuttgart 1977-1999, Vol. 6, Col. 324 f. In König Rother , King Rother does strator service to a subordinate (Berhter) in order to honor him (v. 5098 ff.).
  11. ↑ On this Peter Wapnewski, Rüdigers Schild. For the 37th ventiure of the Nibelungenlied. In: Euphorion 54 (1960), p. 380.
  12. Hs. B Str. 15
  13. Hs. B Str. 2375
  14. ^ Digital Library - Munich Digitization Center. Retrieved May 17, 2019 .
  15. GWF Hegel: Aesthetics Volume 2 1966, p. 418f.
  16. Joachim Heinzle : Immortal Heldengesang: The Nibelungs as a national myth of the Germans. In: Reinhard Brandt , Steffen Schmid: Myth and Mythology. Akademie Verlag, Berlin 2004, ISBN 3-05-003775-X , pp. 185–202, here: p. 193.
  17. Röhsska museet | Museum databas | The Nibelungen. Retrieved October 21, 2019 .
  18. Hans Ries: Illustration and Illustrators of Children's and Young People's Books in German-Speaking Areas 1871-1914. H. Th. Wenner, Osnabrück 1992, ISBN 3-87898-329-8 .
  19. Prof. Peter Glaser, quoted by Ebba Hagenberg-Miliu in Das Nibelungenlied, Racist Abused , General-Anzeiger December 6, 2018, p. 10.
  20. ^ And also Margarete Springeth (both University of Salzburg) and Ingrid Bennewitz (University of Bamberg)
  21. ^ 1986 Donaufestspiele in Krems, 1987 Wiener Festwochen and 2006 in the cultural area in Vienna 19; A recording from 2006 is available
  22. A. Schindler: Short report on Eberhard Kummer's complete recording of the Nibelungenlied. In: Yearbook of the Oswald von Wolkenstein Society. 17 (2008/2009), pp. 493-494.
  23. See in detail U. Müller: (2009), ‹Nibelungenlied›, Heldenepik, Höfische Epik - Gesungen. The performance attempts of Eberhard Kummer. In: J. Keller, F. Kragl (Hrsg.): Myth - Sage - Story: Commemorative document for Alfred Ebenbauer. V & R Unipress GmbH, Vienna 2009.
  24. Press release of the German UNESCO Commission of July 30, 2009, accessed on July 30, 2009, as well as the committee's letter of motivation ( Memento from January 17, 2012 in the Internet Archive ) ( RTF ; 63 kB) accessed on October 29, 2009
  25. Excerpts, also contain: Ich stuont mir nehtint spate / Der von Kürenberg. - Owe had disappeared / Walther von der Vogelweide; Recording 1983; DNB - Link to this dataset: German National Library ; Scope: 2 sound pl. in cassette: 33 / min; 30 cm + accessories
  26. Title: Das Nibelungenlied. enth. Walther von der Vogelweide, Kürenberger.
  27. Two MP3 CDs, total duration approx. 26 hours; s. a .:
  28. CD, total duration 76 min. Live concert recording of Aventiuren 1–19 with 24-page booklet; s. a .:
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on April 14, 2006 .