così capita: una lettura scolastica (livello B1) tradotta da lingua germanica a lingua germanica, tedesco-inglese. perché? chiamatele, se volete, affinità elettive.
il motivo principale è l’atto di traduzione in sé stessa, una pratigmatica*; c’è del patriarcato medievale in questa saga, una lettura che da un punto di vista femminista e di parità di genere nuoce gravemente all’educazione deə adolescentə. epperò è l’esercizio di traduzione che mi interessava fare, perché certo di educativo in quest’epica non v’è quasi nulla: semmai è un modello negativo – tanto il protagonista (maschio) quanto gli altri (maschi per la maggior parte). L’unica personaggia che non mi abbia fatto cringiare forte invece è Brünhild. Se ardirete addentrarvi nella lettura sarà chiaro il perché 👸🏼
avvertenza: è una lettura lunghetta. il tomo originale impiega 156 pagine (essendo inframmezzato da esercizi da svolgere), mentre la traduzione in gughel docs richiede appena 45 pagine. eccole qui:
Siegfried: son of the king of Xanten, later also king of the Nibelungen
Gunther, Gernot, Giselher: three brothers, kings of Burgundy
Hagen: vassal of the burgundian kings
Dankwart: Hagen’s brother
Kriemhild: sister of the three Burgundian kings, Siegfried’s and then Etzel’s wife.
Brünhild: queen of … Iceland?, Gunther’s wife
Etzel: king of the Huns
Rüdiger, Dietrich: Etzel’s vassals
Alberich: Little man (dwarf) with long beard, watches over the Nibelungen treasure
Schildung, Nibelung: Nibelungen kings, killed by Siegfried
Siegfried’s First Adventure
Siegfried’s father is king in Xanten on the Rhine.
Siegfried is a handsome young man, blond and athletic.
His parents love Siegfried very much.
He has the best teachers, the best horses, the best weapons. But he doesn’t like to stay at home.
“I’m not a child any more”, he says, “I want to become a knight.”
Again and again he rides away from home alone.
One day he sees many people on a mountain.
Siegfried does not know them.
“Hey! You! Aren’t you Siegfried from Xanten?” a young man calls out, “can you help two sons of kings?”
“Why not”, replies Siegfried.
“We are Schildung and Nibelung. Do you see the treasure here?”
In front of them lie gold, precious stones, golden vases…
“This is our treasure, the treasure of the Nibelungen. We want to divide it, but we don’t know how. Can you do it for us?”
“Oh no”, says Siegfried, “that’s not for me. In the end there will only be quarrels.”
“Please help us. We’ll give you the sword Balmung as a payment.”
The sword is really very beautiful.
Siegfried takes it in his hand.
He divides the treasure, piece by piece.
“If I give one the golden vase,” says Siegfried, “I give the other … a diamond?”
Nibelung says nothing, but Schildung looks at him critically.
“Two golden vases for one diamond?”
Now Schildung says nothing, but Nibelung gets angry.
“It won’t work,” says Siegfried. “I can’t split your treasure.”
“Oh, you can’t? Then we’ll help you!”
They call their people. There must be seven hundred men.
There are also twelve giants. But Siegfried has Balmung in his hand.
“Come on, come on!” he calls. He strikes around himself.
In the end he stands there alone.
All the others are dead, including Nibelung and Schildung.
Then he feels a blow on his leg. Siegfried looks around.
There is no one there.
“Hello!” he calls. Then he gets another blow.
He has to do something. There must be someone, but he can’t see anyone.
Siegfried lashes out with his sword.
“Ouch”, someone shouts. Siegfried also uses his free hand to help.
“What is that?” He has something in his hand. A coat. And now he sees a man standing in front of him, a very small man.
“Good day,” he says, “I am Alberich. Nibelung and Schildung, my masters, are dead. Now you are my master. The treasure, too, is now yours.”
“And this?” asks Siegfried, pointing to the cloak in his hand, “is a camouflage cloak?”
“Bravo”, replies Alberich, “whoever wears this cloak cannot be seen. What shall I do now?”
“I cannot take the treasure with me, nor do I need it at the moment.”
“I can take it back to the mountain and watch over it there, as I have done for many hundreds of years. There are also a thousand knights sleeping in the mountain. You can get them later.”
“Good”, says Siegfried. He takes with him only the camouflage cloak. He rides back home.
He is rich now.
There are many forests near Xanten. They are often very large.
You don’t meet any people there.
Siegfried rides through one of these forests.
He hears something hissing. It must be a very large animal, but what?
He gets off his horse and ties it to a tree.
Slowly he goes on, his sword in his hand. Then he hears it again.
At a small lake he sees it: it is a big dragon.
The dragon comes closer. Siegfried waits.
At the last moment he leaps forward and strikes the dragon with his sword.
“Clang” – nothing, the beast has a hard shell.
Siegfried quickly jumps back, then runs around the animal, jumps onto its back. Up there, at the neck, the shell must be thinner.
A blow, blood comes out of the dragon’s neck. Lots of blood. More and more. Slowly the dragon falls to the ground. He closes his eyes. It no longer hisses. The animal is dead.
Tired, Siegfried sits down by the lake. The blood of the dragon runs into the lake.
“Wait a minute”, thinks Siegfried, “there is an old legend, isn’t there?”
He undresses and goes into the lake, he swims in the blood, also submerges his head.
“The blood” he knows, “forms a hard armour. No sword can get through it.
Too late he sees the little green leaf on his shoulder. The armour is not complete on the shoulder.
“Never mind,” thinks Siegfried and rides home.
One day his father comes to him: “I hear you have learned everything a knight must know. I think it’s time. We want to make you a knight.
There is a big party. Knights come to Xanten from many countries, and of course there is also a big tournament.
After the tournament, Siegfried goes to the cathedral with other young men. At a great ceremony in front of many people, the king gives them their swords. This is a great moment in a man’s life. Now he is free, a knight. The other young knights get land from the king. So they become Siegfried’s vassals. Siegfried’s mother gives gold to many. Generosity is important. The whole country talks about the feast, the beautiful knights, the wealth and the king’s generosity.
Siegfried rides off to Worms
Many women are interested in Siegfried. And him?
“You are handsome, you are rich” say the other men: “A knight must love a woman.”
“First I have to find the right one,” Siegfried explains.
“Kriemhild in Burgundy, that’s the one for you”, says a knight. “The sister of the three kings of the land is the fairest and noblest princess in all the realm. Many knights want to marry her, but to this day…”
“A king’s daughter,” thinks Siegfried: “the most beautiful in the whole realm!” and he says: “Kriemhild? I’ll marry her!”
His father hears what Siegfried says.
“You want to go to Worms?” he asks. “You don’t know the people of Worms. The three kings there certainly won’t give you their sister. Hagen lives with them too, he fights well and gladly. That’s trouble, Sigfried. This is no game!”
“Father, do you think they won’t give me their sister? Then I will fight with them and take their land too.”
“Don’t say that, Siegfried. You want Kriemhild’s love. But well, just ride to Worms. I will give you my best knights.”
“I don’t need your knights. I can fight alone. I only want to take twelve men with me. Good horses we need, and splendidly dressed we must be, of course.”
Day and night they work on the clothes for Siegfried and his men. When they leave for Worms, Siegfried’s mother weeps. Many girls in Xanten are also crying.
They know Siegfried’s journey is dangerous.
They ride along the Rhine. After seven days Siegfried arrives in Worms. The knights in Worms see the strange man who is so well and splendidly dressed.
“It must be a king. But who is he?” they ask each other.
King Gunther and his brothers stand at the window and call Hagen, for Hagen knows many lands and many knights.
“I’ve never seen him before”, says Hagen, “but the way he stands there, so regal and sure – I think it’s Siegfried from Xanten. Siegfried with us in Worms! He has killed the Nibelungs and slain a dragon. He is not afraid of anything.”
Hagen tells the others what he knows.
“We want to go to him,” says King Gunther, “I want to get to know him.”
Together with Hagen, Gunther, Gernot and Giselher, the three brothers, go to Siegfried.
“Welcome to Burgundy, Siegfried,” says Gunther. “We are pleased about your visit. But it’s a long way from Xanten to Worms. What brings you to us?”
“This is what I want to tell you. They say you are good fighters. I want to see which of us fights better. If you win, you shall have my land. If I win, I am king in Worms.”
“Take it easy,” says Gernot. “Our country is rich, the people are doing well. Why do you want to take it from us?”
“What? You are still talking?” cries Otwin of Metz, a knight of the Worms kings. “Does he want to fight? He shall fight with me!” Already he has his sword in his hand.
“I will not fight with you,” says Siegfried. “You are a king’s man, I am a king’s son. Even twelve men like you have no chance against me.”
“Siegfried, you are our guest” says Gernot diplomatically. “Let us be friends.”
But Hagen does not wait for Siegfried’s answer. Wickedly he asks: “What do you want? Why do you come to us and bring strife?”
“Yes, Hagen,” Siegfried replies, “you don’t like it, do you? And how do you like this?” He holds the sword under his nose.
“Speak no more now, Hagen”, says Gernot. “I don’t want a fight. And you, Siegfried, you are welcome here. Be our guest. All that you see here shall be yours.”
Siegfried lives in Worms for a year. Time passes with knights’ games, tournaments and hunting. Whatever the others want to do, Siegfried is always there. The knights in Worms are good fighters, especially Hagen. But Siegfried is the best in all sporting disciplines. He throws stones and spears further than the others. He rides better and wields the sword more confidently. Everyone thinks it’s nice to have such a knight in Worms.
Siegfried knows that Kriemhild lives in the citadel too. But he never meets her. For a whole year he does not see her once.
But she sees him. She is standing in her room by the window. Every day she stands there. She has loved him for a long time. She would like to tell him herself, but she is not allowed to meet him.
Siegfried knows nothing of Kriemhild’s love. He often wonders how he can get to her, get to know her. But he is never alone. He is also always taken along on the hunt.
3. The Saxon War
One day, two foreign knights come to Worms. They go straight to King Gunther.
They are messengers from the north.
“We bring feud to your land,” they reply, “Lüdiger and Lüdegast are our kings. They want to be here in twelve weeks. They have many thousands of knights with them. If you still want to negotiate, tell us. Otherwise there will be war.”
He calls his brothers and Hagen to him.
“The kings of Saxony and Denmark want war. What do you think? What shall we do?”
“Let them come!” says Gernot. “If God is with us, they will find death here.”
“That’s not a good idea,” says Hagen. “We have too few men here, and little time. Why don’t you tell Siegfried to help us?”
Gunther does not know what to do.
He does not want war in his country.
Siegfried sees him and asks: “What is Gunther? So sad today?”
“Siegfried, it’s about politics. I can only tell the best of friends.”
Siegfried first turns white, then red. “Am I not your friend? I’ll help you. To the death I am your friend. Don’t you know that?”
“That’s fine, Siegfried, I thank you. Two kings from the north want war with us. In a short time they can be here.”
“Unfortunately, I only have my twelve knights here,” Siegfried replies. “If you give me a thousand men, including Hagen and his men, then the knights from the north will never come to Burgundy. We will then bring war to their land.”
Gunther thanks him and calls the messengers from the north to him.
“Tell your kings we fight!”
He gives them many gifts and lets them ride away.
Hagen and Siegfried ride with their thousand men through Hesse to Saxony. At the border, Siegfried says: “I will ride on alone and spy out the enemies. You wait here. Hagen, you lead the command.
He then rides alone through the Saxon countryside.
He comes near the camp of the enemies. It is the Danes. The camp is very large.
“There must be 40,000 men,” thinks Siegfried. “That makes things interesting.”
He quickly wants to return to his troop.
Then he sees another knight.
“Well, well,” he thinks, “a Dane scout.”
He rides towards him.
They come closer and closer to each other.
They hit each other with their spears, but neither knight falls. They jump off their horses, draw their swords.
They fight for a long time. Three times Siegfried hits the Dane with his sword. He bleeds. You can see he is at the end.
“Let me live,” says the Dane there. “I am Lüdegast, king of the Danes.”
Siegfried rides back with King Lüdegast.
Hagen is pleased. But he and Siegfried know: this is only the beginning.
“Quickly,” says Siegfried.
“I will lead you to Lüdiger’s people. Today is a great day for us. A sad day for Danes and Saxons. They won’t start another war.”
After a short ride, the Burgundians meet the Saxon and Danish armies.
Immediately the battle begins. Soon many Danish and Saxon knights lie dead on the ground. But there are more than a hundred thousand men against a thousand on the Burgundian side, and the battle lasts a long time.
Siegfried, his twelve knights from Xanten behind him, fights his way forward.
On and on Siegfried rides, lashing out.
Dead and wounded knights fall from their horses. Everything is red with blood. Finally Siegfried comes to the end of the enemy army and fights his way back to the army of the Burgundians. This happens three times. Then Hagen can ride forward with him. This time they come close to Lüdiger.
Lüdiger sees Siegfried’s shield. “Siegfried,” he thinks, “the dragon slayer, the lord of Alberich!”
“It’s no use any more!” he calls to his people. He rides to Siegfried and gives him his sword.
The war is over.
Lüdiger and Lüdegast have to come with him to Worms.
Siegfried is introduced to Kriemhild
When all the knights are back in Worms, Gunther sends for the best doctors for the wounded.
“In six weeks,” he says, “everyone should be back on their feet. Then I’ll have a big party. Lüdiger and Lüdegast will also stay with us until the festival.”
Later he speaks alone with his brothers and Hagen.
“Siegfried has done so much for our country,” he says, “we have to give him something, but what?”
Gernot has a better idea.
“Dear brother,” he says, “what do you mean? Why has Siegfried, the king’s son from Xanten, been here in Worms for a year?”
“He is our friend.”
“That too. But I think he has a better reason. Our dear sister…”
“He has never seen Kriemhild,” says Gunther.
“That’s right, dear brother. Don’t you think now is the moment? At our feast he shall meet Kriemhild. We have not yet introduced her to any man. Let us introduce her to Siegfried, then he will be our friend forever.”
The great festival begins. Knights from all over Europe are there, dressed in their most splendid clothes. There is a lot of gold, even jewels.
But for the time being, you only see men.
Suddenly a door opens. Kriemhild comes into the hall with her mother and the other ladies of the court.
“Kriemhild! At last I am allowed to see you! How beautiful you are!” he thinks. “I must get to know you, love you. Love you or die!”
Then Gernot calls him over and says in front of everyone:
“Siegfried, you have done much for us and for Burgundy. We want to introduce you to our sister.
Siegfried cannot believe it.
Slowly he goes to her.
“Welcome, Siegfried, noble hero,” she says to him.
He thanks her. She takes him by the hand.
Together they walk among the others.
“They say that only your help saved our Burgundy from the men from the north. I hope God thanks you for your help,” says Kriemhild.
“What I do, I do only for you,” Siegfried replies.
The festival lasts twelve days.
Siegfried and Kriemhild are always seen together.
On the day after the festival, Gunther calls Lüdiger and Lüdegast to him. They have to promise him never to start another war. Then he gives them presents and sends them home.
On the same day, most of the other knights also ride away. The castle is empty.
Siegfried also says: “It is time. I must return to Xanten.”
Giselher, the youngest of the three royal brothers of Worms, asks him:
“Siegfried, stay with us. You have many friends in Worms. There are also many beautiful women here. You know you are welcome to them.”
Siegfried doesn’t have to be asked for long. Now he can and may see Kriemhild every day.
Gunther is not yet married. He thinks it is time.
“I know of one,” says one of the knights, “who is particularly beautiful, tall and has a good figure. Her name is Brünhild and she lives on an island in the sea, far from here. But -“
“If you want to marry her, you have to be stronger than her in competition. Many have tried, but none have been allowed to marry her!”
“This is the right woman for me! I want to try,” says Gunther.
“But perhaps she is stronger, my lord!”
“Then she kills you.”
“Then I die for her and for my love for her,” replies Gunther.
“Watch out!” says Siegfried. “Brünhild has killed many noble knights. You’d better stay here, Gunther!”
Hagen has an idea: “Take Siegfried with you on the journey.
He can help you against Brünhild.”
Gunther asks: “Will you help me, noble Siegfried? If I get her through your help, I am yours with honour and body.”
“I don’t want your thanks”, Siegfried replies. “I want only one thing: your sister’s hand!”
“It’s a deal! If I marry Brünhild, you get Kriemhild. When do we leave?”
“Not so fast!” says Siegfried. “Our clothes are not splendid enough for Brünhild’s court. We must have something made.”
“I’m sure Kriemhild likes to do that,” says Gunther.
Thirty beautiful girls work on the robes for the knights under Kriemhild’s guidance. They use only the most precious material: white Arabian silk and green damask from the Orient, ermine, gold and precious stones.
They need seven weeks. Then the ship is ready, too. “I beg you, Lord Siegfried,” says Kriemhild as they leave, “do what you can. I want to see my brother again alive and unharmed.”
“My life I give for the life of your brother, Madam.”
Then the knights depart. Siegfried also takes his camouflage cloak with him. Whoever wears Alberich’s cloak cannot be seen by the others, and he is twelve times stronger than usual.
Battle with Brünhild
They sail across the sea for twelve days.
Then they see land.
“This is Brünhild’s land,” Siegfried knows. “Now it’s getting serious. Above all, one thing must be clear to Brünhild: Gunther is our lord. All of us, myself included, are his servants.”
Dankwart and Hagen agree.
“I’m not doing this for you”, Siegfried says to Gunther, “but for your sister.”
Already you can see many beautiful girls standing at the windows above.
Siegfried only answers: “Take a good look at them. Then tell me which one you like best.”
“I’d like to do that,” says Gunther: “I see someone back there in a white dress. That’s the most beautiful one. I would like her to be my wife!”
“You see”, says Siegfried, “that is Brünhild.”
Siegfried leads a horse to the beach and holds it for Gunther. Gunther mounts.
Never before has Siegfried done this service for another. “It is for Kriemhild,” he thinks. Then he leads his horse off the ship too and sits up.
Brünhild’s castle is very large. Eighty-six turrets are the men’s count. Three palaces there are in the castle. One is made entirely of green marble.
Brünhild is still standing up at the window. “Who are these people?” she asks.
“One of these knights, it must be Siegfried,” says one of her knights. “The second, I think, is the king of a great country. The other two I don’t know.”
Quickly she puts on her most magnificent dress.
“The strong Siegfried has come to my land! He wants to marry me! That is his death!”
Followed by a hundred girls and five hundred knights, she goes to the guests.
Brünhild says: “Be welcome, Siegfried, here in this land. What brings you to me?”
“I thank you, my lady. But you have saluted me before this noble knight. He is my lord, I beseech you, greet him first. Gunther is his name and he is king of a great land on the Rhine. What does he want? To marry you. That is why we are here.”
“So he is your master and you are his man! That’ s good, too. Three times he has to be better than me in the competition. Then I will be his wife. If I win, you must die!”
Hagen looks at her: “What kind of games are these?”
“First we throw the spear, then a stone and jump after the stone. Everything is at stake for you here! Do you still want me as your wife?”
” Lady!” says Gunther to her, “I would gladly risk my life for your beauty.”
Hagen and Dankwart look at each other. They are afraid for their king.
Siegfried quickly runs back to the ship, where he puts on the camouflage cloak. Now he can no longer be seen. He goes back to the castle.
Brünhild wears a golden battle dress and a golden shield. The shield is very large and heavy. Then one brings Brünhild’s spear. Three men have to carry it, it’s that heavy.
“God help our king,” says Hagen quietly, “this is the devil’s wife!”
Twelve men bring a large stone together. She wants to throw it?
“The devil is at play here”, the Burgundians think.
Then someone lays a hand on Gunther’s arm. But who? He sees no one.
It is Siegfried in his camouflage cloak. He now says quietly to Gunther: “It’s me, your friend Siegfried. Do not be afraid of Brünhild! Just do as I tell you: I’ll carry the shield for you, and do everything else too, you just imitate the movement.”
With all her strength Brünhild now throws her spear. Siegfried holds up the shield, but it goes to pieces under the spear. Only the cloak of invisibility keeps it away from the bodies of Siegfried and Gunther. Both stagger for a moment. Siegfried takes the spear in his hand, but he does not want to hurt Brünhild and takes the spear at the wrong end. Then he throws, and Gunther’s arm imitates the gesture of throwing. The spear hits her and she too staggers.
“A good throw, Gunther,” she says and walks to the stone. She throws it twelve metres. Then she jumps, leaps over the stone.
Siegfried stands next to Gunther, throws the stone even further than Brünhild and then jumps after it, holding Gunther in his arms. Everyone, including Brünhild, believes: Gunther did all this alone.
Brünhild becomes very angry.
She stands there red.
Gunther has won.
“Come to me, all of you!” she cries. “King Gunther is now our lord.” Her knights come and lay down their swords before Gunther.
Brünhild is now Gunther’s wife.
Again Siegfried runs quickly to the ship. There he takes off his camouflage cloak.
Back in the castle, he asks Gunther aloud: “And the competition, my lord? Do you want to wait any longer?”
Brünhild looks at him and says: “The battle is over, Siegfried. Where have you been?”
“Down at the ship, so I saw nothing and heard nothing. I only hear now that our king has won. Now you must come with us to the Rhine, noble lady.”
“First I must hear what my knights, my friends, the important families of the land say. I can’t leave like this overnight.”
She sends messengers all over the country and asks her friends to come to her. She also asks them to bring her people with them.
Hagen is getting restless. More and more knights are arriving.
“This will not end well. Why is the queen calling so many people here? Does she want to have us killed? What shall we do?”
“Let me get help,” says Siegfried. “In the Mountain of the Nibelungs my knights are waiting for me!”
“But quickly, Siegfried.”
Only Siegfried’s three friends know about the journey to Nibelungenland.
Alone, he sails across the sea in the small ship.
There is a castle on the mountain of the Nibelungen. It is night. Siegfried knocks on the gate.
“Who’s knocking?” someone asks. It must be Alberich.
“Open the gate, I am a knight!” cries Siegfried. “I want to fight with you today. Or would you rather sleep on?”
That’s when the gate opens.
“Let the people sleep!” shouts Alberich and strikes Siegfried with a stick.
Siegfried holds up his shield, but it goes to pieces.
Then Siegfried takes his sword. He does not want to kill Alberich.
In the end he is able to grab him by his long grey beard and holds him tight.
“Ouch,” cries Alberich there, “let me live, noble knight.”
“Look at me!” says Siegfried.
“Do I know you?” asks Alberich.
“That’s exactly what I mean! Siegfried is my name.”
“Bless me!” cries Alberich. “My lord! Let me live, now I will do what you will!”
“Go into the mountain and bring the best knights to me. A thousand Nibelungs I need.”
In the mountain, a thousand knights jump out of their beds. They are dressed splendidly and fetch the best horses.
The next day Brünhild sees Siegfried’s magnificent knights coming ashore.
“Who are these people?” she asks Gunther.
“Oh”, Gunther answers her, “they are my people. I had them waiting nearby. Come, let us go to them.
In front of the gate they greet Siegfried. His people go into the castle, where they are given space.
“I think the moment has come, they are waiting for us at home,” says Gunther.
Brünhild takes with her two thousand knights, eighty-six women and a hundred pretty girls.
With music and games, the journey does not seem long.
Brünhild and Gunther’s first night?
Gunther still wants to wait.
First he wants to be at home.
In Worms, people have been waiting for a long time.
“Listen, King, shall we not send a messenger to Worms?” asks Hegen. “We are so slow.”
Gunther has Siegfried called to him.
“It’s not far home now. But my sister and my mother haven’t heard from us for a long time. They must be restless. Perhaps you can act as a messenger…”
Siegfried looks at him.
“It is not for me that I ask you, but for my sister. I am sure she is very grateful to you.”
“For Kriemhild I will gladly be a messenger,” answers Siegfried.
“So tell her, my mother and all the others: Gunther is coming home with his beloved wife and many guests.”
Siegfried rides to the Rhine with twenty-four knights.
The knights in Worms see him from afar.
“Siegfried is coming back without Gunther,” Giselher says to Gernot.
“You mean our brother…?” Gernot does not speak any further.
Here comes Siegfried at last. He jumps off the horse.
Gunther sends you his greetings,” he exclaims. “He will arrive here in a few days. With Brünhild!”
“Thank God!” says Giselher. “Just go at once to Kriemhild and our mother.”
Kriemhild in her room has also already heard of Siegfried’s arrival.
“Do you think that awful woman has Gunther… killed?” asks the mother.
Then a servant comes and announces Siegfried to them.
They quickly put on more elegant clothes. Then they invite Siegfried in.
“Welcome to us, Siegfried, noble knight. Tell us: where is my brother?”
“O beautiful women, weep no more. Gunther is well. He and his wife send you their heartfelt greetings! They must be here in a few days.”
Now Kriemhild is really crying.
“Gunther asks you very much,” Siegfried then says, “receive the guests and Brünhild well. You had better ride to the Rhine and prepare the reception there. That is Gunther’s wish.”
The women would like to have everything prepared.
Kriemhild would like to give Siegfried a kiss.
But that is not possible.
Work in the castle is now non-stop. The rooms are being decorated. Chairs are being brought into the large banqueting hall. A long table is being set up.
Tents are set up along the Rhine.
The women pick out their best dresses, or have new, gorgeous dresses made from Arabic fabrics. “There are many foreign knights coming,” Kriemhild has told them, “they shall see your beauty.”
The guests have already been seen on the Rhine, they say. It is time.
The ladies ride out of the castle. Their horses are led by the knights.
Kriemhild rides in front, Siegfried holds her horse.
It is a long procession. To the right and left there are already games of arms. It is a day of celebration.
Arriving at the Rhine, they see Gunther and Brünhild standing on the other side of the river.
The two of them let themselves be driven across the river.
Gunther helps Brünhild ashore.
Kriemhild walks towards them. She kisses Brünhild in greeting.
“You are welcome in our family and in our land!”
Brunhild thanks her.
Kriemhild’s mother kisses her too. The women embrace each other again and again.
Soon weapons are heard hitting the shields in competition.
The women and girls watch.
In the evening they ride to the castle.
Everything is prepared in the banqueting hall.
The beautiful Brünhild stands next to Gunther at the table. She wears a crown.
Already the water basins are being brought.
Siegfried does not want to wait any longer: “Gunther, did I not go with you to Brünhild? Is not Brünhild your wife now? You know I did not want to make this journey, and I did not make it for you. Your word…”
“You are right, Siegfried. I have given you my word.”
He sends for Kriemhild.
She comes into the hall with her girls.
“We don’t need the girls here, Kriemhild.
You must know, I have given my word to a noble knight: back in Worms, should he get you as his wife. Will you marry this knight for me?”
“You, dear brother, shall not ask me. What you tell me, I will do”, Kriemhild answers. She looks at Siegfried and blushes.
Siegfried thanks her and goes to her.
Around her stand the other knights.
In front of them Gunther declares Siegfried and Kriemhild husband and wife.
Now they are kissing.
Then they take a seat at the table.
But Brünhild weeps.
“Why do you weep on such a day, Brünhild?” asks Gunther. “You have been queen here since today. My sister too has -“
“You give your sister to this man as a wife! To your servant! The poor girl!” cries Brünhild.
“I cannot explain that to you here and now, Brünhild. You must believe me, Kriemhild has found the right man. A great king he is, like myself.”
But Brünhild doesn’t want to hear anything.
Gunther is still getting restless at dinner. He looks at Brünhild and thinks: “I would rather lie next to you than sit, my beauty!”
Both couples retire to their rooms.
How Siegfried takes Kriemhild in his arms, kisses her – I don’t want to tell you about their happiness in love.
But Gunther, I must tell you, has lain warmer with other women.
Brünhild lies down on the bed.
“At last,” he thinks.
He lies down next to her.
In the light of a candle, he lovingly puts his arm around her.
Brünhild looks at him.
“You don’t think…? Take your arm away and keep a little more distance!”
Gunther thinks he didn’t hear right.
“I want to remain a maiden. Leave me!”
“What?” asks Gunther crossly. “You are my wife!”
Then Brünhild takes her belt and binds his hands and feet.
She carries him up to the wall. There she hangs poor Gunther on a nail.
“Brünhild” he now says sweetly. “Dearest Brünhild. Get me off the wall and untie me. I pray you. I also want to lie next to you in a well-behaved way. Brünhild! Please!”
But Brünhild is already asleep and does not hear him.
Only in the early morning, in the first sunshine, does she wake up.
His husband is still hanging there. Poor Gunther has certainly not slept.
“Brünhild, the servants must come soon. Shall they see their king like this? Can you, the queen, want that?”
Brünhild stands up and unties him.
He lies down next to her again.
But he keeps away from her.
Siegfried helps Gunther once more
The next morning the servants come into the rooms.
It is the day of the mass.
In church, Brünhild and Gunther, Siegfried and Kriemhild wear royal crowns.
The bishop declares the two couples married before God.
On this day, 600 young men also receive the knight’s sword.
It is a great day of joy for the whole country.
Only Gunther cannot rejoice.
Siegfried sees him walking alone.
“What have you got, Gunther? You don’t look happy. May I ask: how was the night? Did you win Brünhild’s love?
“Love? Brünhild? A devil have I brought into my house! First she bound me…” Siegfried looks at him.
“… and then hung me on the wall. She left me hanging there all night. This stays between us!”
“Listen, Gunther. Our night was quite different. More than my life I love Kriemhild. You are her brother, my friend. I want to help you!”
“But how, Siegfried?”
“Tonight I will come with you. In my cloak of invisibility no one can see me. You turn out the light. I am stronger than she is. If she lies on the bed, I’ll let you have her.
“But … You really let me have her! You may kill the she-devil for all I care, but there is one thing you may not do. She is my wife. If she lies on the bed, your business is done.
“You have my word, Gunther. I love only Kriemhild. Other women no longer interest me.”
“So tonight in my room, Siegfried!”
Gunther is also very restless at the second festive dinner.
The day seems to last him thirty days.
He thinks only of Brünhild.
Finally, dinner is over.
The ladies are led to their rooms.
“Where is Siegfried?” Kriemhild wants to know. No one can tell her.
He stands in his camouflage cloak in Gunther’s room.
Gunther locks the door twice.
With a candle, he goes behind a curtain. You can see almost nothing.
Siegfried lies down by Brünhild and lays a hand on her arm.
“Haven’t you had enough yet, Gunther?” asks Brünhild. “Leave me alone!”
Siegfried does not answer. He comes closer to Brünhild.
Gunther cannot see anything. “What is Siegfried doing?” he asks himself.
Then he hears a blow. Siegfried flies out of bed, hits his head on a bench.
Slowly he gets up and goes back to the bed.
“Man! Hands off!” says Brünhild loudly.
You can hear it crack.
She holds Siegfried in her arms, then presses him against the wall with a bench.
Siegfried is already bleeding.
“Is this to be the end of me?” he thinks. “Killed by a woman! And tomorrow no woman will do what her husband says! This must not be!”
With the last of his strength he pulls himself free, grabs Brünhild by the arms and turns her around.
Gunther hears her scream.
Siegfried can carry her to the bed.
She wants to take her belt and tie him, but Siegfried is able to take it from her.
Again Gunther hears it crack.
She is now lying on the bed.
“Let me live, Gunther! You are the strongest, I am your wife. Forever.”
Siegfried takes the belt, also pulls a small gold ring from her finger.
Then he leaves them and stands up like someone who just wants to undress quickly.
He walks out of the room.
Now Gunther lies down next to Brünhild.
They make love until the early morning.
She is no stronger than other women.
The next morning Gunther finally shows himself to be a perfect host.
He talks to the guests, watches the weapons games.
You can see that he is happy.
The feast lasts two weeks. Then it is time for many guests to return home.
No one leaves without gifts.
“It’s time for us too,” says Siegfried after the feast.
“I just need to talk to my brothers” she says.
“They still have to give me my share of the land”.
Siegfried doesn’t like to hear that.
Soon the three brothers come to him.
“We also want to give you and Kriemhild a part of the land,” says Giselher, the youngest of the brothers.
“I thank you very much, but my dear wife will let you have the land. He who wears the crown in my country can wish for nothing else. But if you need me, I am always there for you.”
“All right, you don’t want my land,” says Kriemhild. “But I want to take some of our knights with me. A knight from Burgundy is an honour for everyone.”
Gernot answers: “Take whoever you want. I’m sure many people like to ride with you. We have three thousand here, you can take a thousand knights with you.”
“Hagen I want to take with me, Dankwart and Ortwin.”
But Hagen is standing nearby and has heard everything.
“We are not coming. We serve the kings in Worms, no one else!”
Kriemhild does not want to argue with Hagen.
In the end, thirty-two girls and five hundred knights go with her.
The quarrel of the queens
Ten years later, Siegfried is now king in Xanten, Kriemhild bears a son.
They name him Gunther, after his uncle, the king of Worms.
Siegfried’s mother also dies during this time.
Kriemhild is now queen alone.
Gunther also becomes the father of a son.
They name him Siegfried, in honour of the knight from Xanten.
Siegfried is often spoken of in Worms.
His kingdom is great, greater than the old kingdom of Xanten, for the Nibelungen land with its knights and great treasure also belongs to him.
One has respect for him, fear of his strength.
Brünhild is not happy with all this.
“Siegfried is our knight, after all,” she thinks. “Why doesn’t he send us a tribute? No gold? No knights?”
She goes to Gunther.
“I would so like to see the beautiful Kriemhild once more. Can’t we invite her?”
Gunther is not enthusiastic: “You know they no longer live in Xanten, but in Norway. The way is too far.”
“He is a great king, but he is your servant. If you call him, he must come!”
Gunther laughs. Siegfried a servant? Does she really believe that?
Brünhild does not let go.
“Do me this favour! Let’s invite them!”
In the end, Gunther says yes. “All right, let’s send them messengers and ask them to join us. I’ll send thirty knights north. But we have to dress them first.”
“That’s done quickly,” says Brünhild, and a short time later the messengers are already standing in front of them.
“Tell my dear sister and her noble husband that no one thinks of them as often and as fondly as we do, and kindly invite them to join us on the Rhine. Tell Siegfried they may come before the solstice.”
After six weeks, the messengers return from Norway.
“Siegfried wants to come,” she says. “Kriemhild and Siegfried’s father are also coming with him.” Only their little son is left at home.
Nor do they think they will see him again soon.
Kriemhild, Siegfried and his father arrive in Worms with a thousand knights.
They are warmly welcomed.
Kriemhild and Brünhild embrace and kiss each other.
There is a banquet. 1200 knights are there.
The feast continues the next morning.
Even before mass, there is a tournament.
The best knights fight here in the first sunshine.
The women and girls sit at the windows and watch.
In the end, Gunther and Siegfried also ride onto the showground.
“Just look at my husband,” Kriemhild says to Brünhild. “Is he not born to be a king?”
“But you are not alone in the world,” Brünhild replies. “Gunther is king here and stands over Siegfried.”
“Is he supposed to be above Siegfried? Look how Siegfried stands before the others, like the moon over the stars!”
“Do not be angry, Kriemhild. But Siegfried told me himself that he is Gunther’s servant. He held his horse for him!”
“What, you mean my brothers gave me to a servant as a wife? You don’t believe that yourself. I beg you, do not say that again.”
“Oh, I shouldn’t say that? And Siegfried shall serve us no more?” asks Brünhild crossly.
“You have no right to Siegfried’s service. Has he ever paid you tribute? Why not? Because he is a lord! No more of these stories!”
“We shall see who is the Mistress here!”
“Before you, I want to go into the cathedral! Free am I and noble, and my husband is above yours!”
“A servant woman you are!”
The women disperse.
Kriemhild asks her wives to dress as splendidly as possible.
Brünhild does the same, but she is not as rich.
The two women meet in front of the entrance gate of the cathedral.
“I’ll go first” says Brünhild loudly. “The handmaiden comes after the mistress!”
“You would have me be a servant woman? And you say that? So you have been in bed with a servant!”
“What are you talking about?” asks Gunther’s wife.
“Before Gunther, Siegfried was embracing your beautiful body! Look here, the belt, and there, the ring on my finger. Who took it from you? – Siegfried made you his wife, not my brother! And you now call your bedfellow a servant?”
Kriemhild goes into the church.
Brünhild is still standing in front of the gate and weeps. “What did Kriemhild say? In front of everyone! Can it be?”
After mass, she sends for Gunther and tells him everything.
She points to Kriemhild: “There, she is wearing my belt and my ring! Do something, lest my honour is lost!”
Gunther asks the servants to fetch Siegfried.
“Siegfried, our honour and yours is at stake. Your wife wants to hear from you that you have made Brünhild your wife. Give us an explanation, or we must battle!”
“If she said that,” Siegfried answers, “I want to punish her. She did not get it from me, I swear to you here in front of all the knights.”
Siegfried raises his hand, but Gunther says: “Don’t swear, Siegfried, I believe you.”
“Our women must learn to think first and then speak. Tell that to yours too, I’m still punishing mine today,” says Siegfried.
Hagen goes to Brünhild. She weeps.
“He shall pay me for this!” says Brünhild. “I beg you, Hagen, help me to avenge myself!”
Hagen swears to her. “Siegfried must die” he says.
Gunther and his brothers also join them.
Giselher says: “What are you saying? Should Siegfried die because two women have quarreled here?”
“It’s about our honour”, Hagen replies.
“I don’t want Siegfried dead either”, says Gunther. “Is he not our friend? Has he not always been faithful to us?”
But Hagen does not let up.
Again and again he explains to the king why Siegfried’s death is only good for him.
“Think only of Siegfried’s land and the treasure of the Nibelungen.”
“Hagen stop with these stories,” Gunther replies. “Also remember how strong Siegfried is. Think of his armour of dragon’s blood. Do you want to fight him?”
“I already have a plan. Let false messengers come to our country to declare war on us. Siegfried will help you immediately, of course, and that will be the end of him. For his wife herself will tell me where he can be hurt.”
A few days later, knights arrive in Worms who have never been seen there before.
They go to the king and explain that they are messengers of Lüdiger, the Saxon king.
“We bring you feud in the land,” they say. “Our knights will soon be here in Burgundy.”
Gunther sends them off.
“Now you must ask Siegfried for help!” says Hagen.
But Siegfried sees that his friends are upset and comes of his own accord.
“Gunther, may I ask…”
“It’s the Saxons and Danes again, Siegfried. They want war again.”
“This is too much! They have to be punished. You stay on the Rhine. I want to ride into Saxony with my knights. We will destroy their castles and towns. They will never come again!”
Gunther thanks him.
Everything is being prepared for the war campaign.
So Hagen goes to Kriemhild. “Tomorrow it starts,” he says. “I just wanted to say goodbye to you.”
“Ah, Hagen,” says Kriemhild, “I don’t want you to make Siegfried pay for my quarrel with Brünhild. He was very angry with me and hit me to punish me.”
“Dear mistress,” says Hagen. “If there is anything I can do for your Siegfried, I will gladly do it.”
“I’m always scared when he goes into battle. He has a carapace, but …”
“But? Tell me, and I will protect your Siegfried!”
“Dear Hagen, you are practically part of the family, I can tell you. You know he has bathed in the blood of the dragon and cannot be easily hurt. But between Siegfried’s shoulders there is a point where you can hit him. That’s why I often fear for him.”
“Put a small black cross on his robe. Then I know where not to hit him and can protect him.”
“Good,” she says, “a little cross that you can only see up close. You’ll have to protect him in battle!”
“You know I like to do that, dearest mistress,” Hagen replies and walks away satisfied.
When Hagen sees the small cross on Siegfried’s dress the next morning, he rides away briefly.
He sends two messengers to Siegfried and Gunther.
“Lüdiger sent us,” they say. “He doesn’t want war now after all and asks you: keep the peace.”
“Thank God” says Gunther. “But after all these preparations, we should at least go hunting. There are wild boars and bears in the Vosges forest.”
“If you give me a hunting helper and hounds,” Siegfried answers, “I will gladly come with you.”
“I’ll be back in a few days, dearest,” Siegfried says to Kriemhild the next morning. “Do not be afraid. We’re just going hunting.”
“Oh Siegfried, don’t go, I beg you. I have had bad dreams all night. In my dream I saw two wild boars. They were running through the forest and everything was red, blood-red. I am afraid. The others, Siegfried, have not forgiven us. Stay at home.”
“You mean they hate us? That cannot be, Kriemhild. We have been friends for a long time.”
“Then I had another dream. I saw two mountains falling on you. Do not ride, Siegfried!”
“These are just dreams,” he says. He embraces his beautiful wife once more. Then he goes.
The servants have ridden ahead early and set up tents on the campsite.
Everything is ready for the hunters. When they arrive at the camp, the hunt can begin immediately.
Each knight, with only his hunting assistants and hounds with him, hunts for himself.
Siegfried is quick with the weapons. He kills one animal after another.
He hits a large wild boar with his spear, a lion with his lance. The helpers have to pack more and more wild animals onto the horses.
“Stop, Siegfried, I beg you, leave us some animals for the next hunt!” one of them calls.
They all laugh.
Then they ride back to camp, meal time.
The food is very good, as always, but – the wine is missing, there is nothing to drink.
“I think I sent the servants into the wrong forest with the wine,” Hagen says apologetically. “The next time…”
“The next time doesn’t interest us much at the moment, Hagen. We have nothing to drink! The Rhine is far!” says Siegfried nastily.
“There is fresh spring water nearby”, Hagen knows.
“Let’s go together,” Gunther suggests.
At the spring Siegfried first lets King Gunther drink. He places his weapons against a tree. Then Siegfried kneels down at the spring.
Hagen quickly takes the weapons and carries them away.
He leaves only the shield and the spear.
Quickly he returns. Siegfried is still drinking.
Hagen takes the spear and thrusts it, through the small black cross on Siegfried’s robe, straight into Siegfried’s heart.
Blood splatters on Hagen’s shirt.
Siegfried jumps up, the spear in his heart, and looks for his sword. But only his shield is left on the tree. He takes the shield and strikes Hagen with it.
It’s too late, he’s already weakening.
Siegfried turns all white, he staggers. Then he falls to the ground.
“You murderers!” he still says. “Is this how you reward my loyalty? Shame on you and all your family.”
“Why are you crying now, Gunther? You wanted me dead. I ask only one thing of you: protect my wife.”
The grass and all the plants are already red from Siegfried’s brood. He no longer speaks. Siegfried is dead.
When Kriemhild wants to go to church the next morning, her servant says: “Wait a moment, mistress. There lies a dead knight in front of the door.”
She knows immediately: it is her Siegfried, they have murdered him!
She goes to the door, opens it.
Everything is covered in blood, but she sees immediately: it is Siegfried, her beloved husband.
“Your shield,” she says, “is not shattered. No battle has taken place here. You were murdered from behind. When I know for certain who has done this, the murderer must die!”
The Gold of the Nibelungs
In the evening, Siegfried’s thousand knights stand before the palace, armed.
“Revenge we want for our noble king!” they cry.
But they don’t know who to fight with. With Gunther and his knights? With Hagen? Or are the murderers really others whom no one here knows, as Hagen tells us?
Kriemhild goes to Siegmund.
“Gunther is stronger than you with your men! Do not start a fight in his castle! The time of vengeance will come. Our noble Siegfried must first be buried.”
Siegmund and the knights put away their weapons.
Now everyone is thinking about the burial.
The coffin is made of gold and silver.
Early in the morning he is taken to the cathedral.
The funeral mass is sung.
Gunther and Hagen go to Kriemhild, who is standing by the coffin.
“I can’t tell you how sad I am, dear sister,” says Gunther.
“First you have him murdered,” Kriemhild replies, “then you weep!”
“What are you saying?” asks Gunther.
“Look! The dead man’s wound is beginning to bleed again because you and Hagen have come near. God shows us the murderers!”
Everyone can see it now: since Hagen and Gunther are standing next to the coffin, Siegfried is bleeding again.
“No”, exclaims Gunther. “Hagen didn’t do it. I tell you, it was robbers!”
“I know the robbers,” Kriemhild answers.
Siegfried’s knights become restless.
Then Gernot and Giselher also come into the church.
They both cry.
“I can believe you”, Kriemhild says to them.
The mass goes on.
The day after the funeral, Siegfried’s father wants to leave.
“Nothing can keep us in this terrible country anymore,” he says.
Everything is quickly packed. The horses stand in front of the palace.
Only Kriemhild is not yet here. She is in her room.
Siegfried’s father goes to her.
“It’s time to go home, Kriemhild!” says the old king.
“I’m not coming,” Kriemhild says quietly.
“How? In the land of your husband’s murderers you want to stay? Without you I shall return to the land of the Nibelungs, old and alone?”
“You are not alone, Gunther, Siegfried’s and my son is there, he needs you, I stay with my family. I have no one in Nibelungenland. This is where my mother lives, my brothers Gernot and Giselher live, they have nothing to do with the murder.”
Sadly, Siegfried’s father says goodbye and goes to his people.
Gernot and Giselher have come.
“We all cry for Siegfried,” says Gernot, “and hope to find the murderer.”
“I thank you,” replies Siegfried’s father. “But after all, I no longer know what to believe. One thing is certain: we will never come back to Burgundy again.”
But among Siegfried’s people there are many who say: “If we have the name of the murderer, we will come back!”
Then they ride away.
Brünhild is standing at the top of her window.
Next to the cathedral, a large house for Siegfried’s widow is built.
Often her mother comes, Gernot and Giselher come to her.
She doesn’t talk to Gunther and Hagen anymore.
“It’s not good,” says Hagen to Gunther one day, “that your sister hates us.”
“You say that?”
“Yes,” says Hagen. “Just think of the Nibelungen gold! Ever since she married Siegfried, it’s Kriemhild’s treasure. If she doesn’t hate us anymore, we can get the gold!”
“You’re right”, says Gunther, “we want to try.”
He sends Giselher and Gernot to her.
“You have been crying for too long about Siegfried, and your hatred has blinded you. Gunther is our brother, he has not murdered Siegfried,” says Gernot.
“I never said that, Hagen is the killer.”
“But Gunther…?” asks Giselher.
“Let him come if he wants.”
A short time later, Gunther stands in front of her.
His sister kisses him.
Then she says, “No more words of revenge, no more hatred between brother and sister.”
After a few days Gernot and Giselher ride off.
They want to get the gold of the Nibelungs.
Eight thousand men take them on the journey to Norway, so great is the treasure.
Back in Worms, the men carry everything to Kriemhild’s house.
They fill towers and chambers with it.
Kriemhild now gives the poor and rich what they need.
Knights come into the country to serve this generous queen.
Hagen sees how more and more knights are at her service.
“We have to do something about that,” he says to Gunther.
“She has so many knights in her entourage that she can be dangerous to us.”
”It’s her treasure,” Gunther says, “what she does with it is her business.”
But Hagen sees it differently: “A woman with so much gold, that doesn’t go well. We have to do something immediately.”
“She is my sister,” says Gunther. “Only a short time ago she forgave me. Should I do something against her again?”
“Don’t worry about it, I’ll do what needs to be done.”
The next day, it is not known how or whence, Hagen has all the keys to the treasure chambers. Kriemhild can no longer access her gold.
“My dear brother,” she asks Gernot. “Protect me and my gold from this person!”
“I give you my word, dear Kriemhild. When we are back here, I will do what I can. But now we must go away for a few days.”
With his brothers and many other knights, King Gunther rides away.
Only Hagen remains.
When the brothers return to Worms, Hagen has already taken Kriemhild’s treasure.
He sank it in the Rhine, near Lochheim.
Hagen swears to the three royal brothers not to tell anyone where the treasure is for the rest of their lives.
Kriemhild marries again
Far in the east lives Etzel, king of the Huns. His wife has died. He loved her very much. But his land is great and he needs a queen at his side.
He has to find a wife again.
Again and again he hears people speak of Kriemhild.
“Noble she is and beautiful,” they say, “your people will love her. She is the widow of Siegfried, the king of the Nibelungs.
“But she is a Christian,” says Etzel, “and I am not! She can’t marry me.”
“Every child knows your name, and you are king of a vast empire. No woman will say no so easily.”
“Do any of you perhaps know these Burgundians?”
Then Rüdiger, Count of Bechelar, comes forward. He says: “I’ve known them all since we were kids. They come from a very old family of noble knights. And Kriemhild? Never have I seen a more beautiful queen.”
“Then ride to her”, Etzel replies. “Ask her for her hand in my name. From my treasury let me give you everything you need for the journey. Also robes and horses.”
“I thank you, King. But I only want to take with me on this journey what is mine.”
Eight days later Rüdiger is in Vienna with his men. They have robes made.
At home in Bechelar, his wife Gotelind and their daughter are already waiting for him.
Rüdiger chooses the men he wants to take with him. His wife gives them expensive fabrics and furs.
After seven days, the men ride on.
When they arrive in Worms, they are greeted by Hagen.
“Be welcome, Lord of Bechelaren and you other knights.”
Together they go to Gunther in the king’s hall.
Giselher and Gernot also join them. They drink mead and wine.
“How are your master and his wife?” asks Gunther.
“My lord sends you his best regards. But he is ill, and his people are without joy, for our Mistress is dead.”
“The death of your mistress hits us all very hard,” says Gernot. “We knew her as a noble and good woman.”
Rüdiger continues to speak. “My lord is still in mourning. But he has been told of Kriemhild, and if you permit, she shall wear our crown.”
“I will ask her myself,” Gunther answers, “and in three days you shall hear what she means. Until then, I beg you, be our guest.” Rüdiger and his knights leave.
“It is a great honour for her and for us if she marries Etzel. What do you think?” Gunther asks his brothers and Hagen.
Hagen is against the marriage. “If she marries Etzel, she will be dangerous for us again. You know how many knights are in Etzel’s service!”
“Etzel’s country is far away. If we stay here, she can hardly take revenge on us,” says Gernot.
Then they call Kriemhild.
“Stop your joking, I beg you,” she replies. “Let him find someone else, someone who can love him.”
“At least talk to the messenger,” says Gunther. “It’s Count Rüdiger from Bechelar.”
“Rüdiger? Sure, send him to me.”
She greets him in a friendly manner.
“Count Rüdiger,” she then says, “don’t you know that they took away from me the best a woman could marry?”
“Only one thing can help you in your pain: love, noble Kriemhild. Mistress of twelve kingdoms and thirty lands you shall be.”
“Since the death of my noble knight, my life has been without joy. I do not want to marry again,” she tells him.
“Madam, this is not right. Such a beautiful woman must make a man happy.”
But this doesn’t help.
Only when Rüdiger gives her his word that he will protect her at all times does she listen to him again.
“You swear to serve me, to help me faithfully and to avenge me if need be?” she asks.
“So I shall find the friends after all,” thinks the faithful Kriemhild, “who will avenge me and my Siegfried.”
Her brothers also come into the room now. “Say yes, sister. Think no more of your pain!” they say.
At the end Kriemhild says: “I follow you, Rüdiger, into the land of the Huns. Know also, I still have some gold. I’ll take that with me.”
Hagen is standing in the doorway.
“The gold stays here,” he says, “you only want to spend it on your revenge!”
Kriemhild asks her brothers for help. But they do nothing.
“You no longer need this gold, Kriemhild. You do not know how rich Etzel is. And the journey is long and dangerous.”
“At least this one”, Kriemhild says, pointing to a small mountain of gold on the floor.
It’s packed up. She then donates a large sum to the church. People should have prayers for Siegfried.
Then it is time.
“If you need me, dear sister”, Giselher says as we say goodbye, “I’ll be right there.”
They kiss and hug each other.
With an entourage of more than five hundred knights and with one hundred and four beautiful maidens, Kriemhild and Rüdiger ride via Passau and Bechelar to Vienna.
After a fortnight Kriemhild meets Etzel’s first knights.
They all speak Polish and Russian, Danish and Greek. Knights from all over the world are in Etzel’s service.
Etzel himself is waiting for them outside the city.
When he sees her coming, he gets off his horse and walks towards Kriemhild.
“She really is as beautiful as I was told,” he thinks.
Around him stand the most important men of his kingdom, kings and counts. His brother is there, also Dietrich of Bern, an older but strong and brave knight.
Kriemhild kisses Etzel kindly.
A grandstand has been erected next to the tournament field.
Etzel sits next to her, her hand in his.
German and Hun knights meet at the tournament. Shields break, lances fly. Kriemhild has never seen so many brave knights at a tournament. Siegfried was very rich, but no one has more knights in his service than King Etzel.
The next day they ride to Vienna.
There they marry. The feast lasts seventeen days. At the wedding there are gifts for guests and knights. Rüdiger and Dietrich von Bern generously give away expensive cloaks and gold.
Kriemhild seems to have returned to her old self, giving away gold and clothes. But she often thinks of her wedding to Siegfried here and has to weep. The others do not see this.
On the eighteenth morning they ride away from Vienna. The next day the journey continues on ships.
Kriemhild’s new maidens are already waiting for her at the river. Twelve of them are daughters of the king. They are all happy that their new, beautiful mistress has arrived. Soon Kriemhild has no more gold, for she also gives many gifts here. But now she is the queen of the vast Hun country.
After seven years of marriage, Kriemhild has a son by Etzel. Etzel is happier than ever. One thing above all is important to Kriemhild: the boy is baptised.
Generous and popular as she is, she has great power as Queen of the Huns.
She often thinks of Siegfried and all that Hagen and her brothers have taken from her. She cannot let go of her hatred for the people of Worms.
“If I get them into my power, no one can help them,” she thinks. “But I can’t go to them, they have to come to me!”
One night, as he embraces her lovingly, she asks her husband: “You know I am often sad because my brothers never visit me here. Can’t we invite them once?”
“Dear mistress,” Etzel replies. “I would like to invite them. You know how far it is from the Rhine. But if you wish, I will send messengers to them.”
The next morning he calls two knights to him.
“As messengers you ride into the land of Burgundy. You will receive clothing from me, and I will give you twenty-four knights to accompany you. You shall invite Gunther and his men. Tell them Etzel sends his greetings and asks them to come to his summer feast on the day of the solstice.”
Kriemhild also has the two called to her. But Etzel knows nothing of this.
“I also give you gold and precious garments, but listen well: tell Giselher and Gernot, I love them very much. They shall not be afraid. If Hagen will not come along, you must ask who shall lead them to the Hun country, which only he knows well.”
Why she asks them for all this, the two men cannot know. When they have received splendid clothes and gold for the journey, they leave.
After twelve days, the two messengers arrive in Worms.
Hagen is the first to greet them: “How is Etzel, your noble king?”
“Never has he been better, never has our land been better.”
“Welcome”, says Gunther too.
“Our king and your sister Kriemhild send you their best regards. They live in happiness and honour and rule our Hun land. Kriemhild asks you to remember the love and loyalty you have always given to your sister. She would like to see you again. Kriemhild has lived there for thirteen years, and this year Etzel asks you to visit her. He invites you to his summer festival on the day of the solstice.”
“Let us have seven days,” Gunther replies. “Then you will get our answer. You are our guests, rest.”
“Of course we’re staying here,” Hagen says to Gunther. “You know what we have done. Kriemhild wants to take revenge on us, that’s obvious!”
“It is certainly better for you to stay here, Hagen. But Kriemhild has forgiven me,” says Gunther. “The rest of us need have no fear.”
“You know Kriemhild and think she no longer thinks of revenge? Honour and life may cost you this journey!”
Giselher also wants to accept the invitation: “Hagen, you stay at home. We are travelling.”
Then Hagen jumps up: “You want me to stay at home? And who will lead you to the land of the Huns? If you must travel, I will come with you. I am not afraid. But call your knights together. Among them I will choose the thousand best knights. Then we will be safe from Kriemhild. Second: Let the messengers ride back as late as possible. Then Kriemhild will have no time to prepare any evil against us.”
Only when Hagen has gathered the thousand knights does Gernot summon the messengers.
“We gladly accept your master’s invitation. Tell him so.”
When the messengers have left, the people of Worms are also ready for the journey. Hagen comes along and so does Dankwart, his brother.
“Do not ride”, the mother of the three royal brothers asks them on the morning of the journey.
“I dreamt tonight that all the birds in our country were lying dead on the ground. This will not end well.”
“Dreams!” says Hagen, “for a man only one thing is important: honour.”
Journey to Hun Country
It takes them twelve days to reach the Danube.
There is high water. No ship is to be seen.
“I want to look for the ferryman,” says Hagen and walks along the river.
There he sees women swimming in the river.
They are mermaids.
“Hagen,” they say, “you are travelling to Etzel. Know that only one of you will return home.”
“Your chaplain,” they reply, “but if you want to travel further, you need a ferryman. Be kind to him and pay him well, then he might help you.”
Hagen thanks the mermaids and continues along the shore until he sees the ferryman.
“Good man, put me over please! I will pay you well!”
Hagen holds up a golden arm ring.
“You stay where you are! My master does not want me to ferry strangers into our country,” the ferryman replies.
But Hagen already has one foot on the ship.
Then the ferryman takes his big oar and strikes at Hagen.
That is too much for Hagen. He takes his sword and strikes back.
The ferryman’s head flies into the water.
Hagen jumps onto the ship and rows with all his might until he sees his friends standing on the shore.
“Come to the ship!” calls Hagen.
Gunther sees the blood on the ship.
“No ferryman, Hagen? Have you…?”
“No, no,” Hagen replies. “No one was on the ship.”
Then he puts the first group across.
The chaplain is also there.
Hagen sees him, grabs him, lifts him up.
“Help!” shouts the priest, then he flies into the water.
He tries to get back on the ship.
“Help me”, he shouts, “I can’t swim!”
But Hagen gives him a blow on the head.
He has no choice, must try to get ashore.
“With God’s help it will be all right!” Hagen calls after him.
The priest really does get to the shore alive.
“Hagen! Why did you do that?” asks Gunther.
“That was just a test. I’ll explain it to you later, my lord.”
A thousand knights Hagen has to bring to the other shore in small groups. The day is long for Hagen.
Only when everyone is standing on the other shore does Hagen tell the men what the mermaids told him.
“You saw it,” he concludes, “The mermaids were right, the chaplain can’t be killed.”
The knights are listening.
“Shall we die in Hun country?” they ask.
“Don’t think so much!” shouts Hagen. “We have to go on! We are in Bavaria! The Bavarians don’t like visitors!”
They ride all night.
Again and again Gunther asks: “Where should we set up camp?”
And always Hagen answers: “Not yet, Lord, we must go on!”
At last they come to Bechelar.
Rüdiger has already been waiting for them.
He rides out to meet the Burgundians.
When he returns to his castle with them, his wife and daughter are standing outside the gate.
“At last a beautiful woman,” say the knights when they see Gotelind.
Only her daughter is more beautiful than she is.
At dinner, everyone only looks at her.
Hagen says to Rüdiger: “That’s a beautiful little daughter you have there”.
“Tell me,” he asks aloud, “wasn’t Giselher planning to get married?”
Giselher blushes. He has been looking at the girl all evening.
Everything is quickly settled: she gets land and castles from Giselher, Giselher gets gold from Rüdiger.
Together with Giselher, the girl places herself in the circle of knights.
“Do you want to marry Giselher?” they ask her.
“Say yes, my child,” her father calls to her.
“Yes,” she says, and Giselher embraces her.
They are now husband and wife, but the first night…
“When you come back, I’ll give her to you to take back to Worms,” her father says.
The Burgundians cannot stay long.
Etzel is not made to wait.
Rüdiger accompanies them with five hundred knights to his lord’s castle.
A cool welcome
Dietrich of Bern rides out to meet them.
“You gentlemen from Worms,” he greets them, “you are welcome to me. But you know that Kriemhild still weeps for Siegfried?”
“Let her cry,” Hagen replies. “Dead is dead.”
“She will take revenge on you,” Dietrich says.
“We can’t go back, we’ve been invited. Let’s ride to Etzel’s castle and see for ourselves,” says Dankwart.
When they arrive at the castle, Kriemhild is already waiting for them.
Her greeting is cool. She only kisses Giselher and takes him by the hand.
“Oho,” says Hagen, “not everyone is welcomed here!”
“You know yourself why I do not greet you. Or have you brought me something from Worms? The treasure of the Nibelungen, perhaps?”
“It has been in the Rhine for a long time, Queen. There it shall remain.”
“Nothing you bring. That’s a bit little, don’t you think?”
“The devil I bring you! I carry my weapons with me. Nothing else!”
“Right, the weapons! No weapons are carried in the King’s Hall. You had best give me your weapons.”
“Like a servant, you want to take away our weapons? Too much of an honour!”
“You will not give me your weapons? Are you afraid of me? Why?”
“I warned you, Queen!” cries Dietrich von Bern.
Kriemhild says nothing. She looks at him briefly, then leaves without a greeting.
Hagen shakes Dietrich’s hand.
Etzel stands at the window and sees the two knights.
“Isn’t that Hagen?” he asks his knights.
“He lived here as a child, served me for a few years, and how nice to see him again.”
Behind the palace, Dankwart sees the people of Kriemhild in arms.
He sits next to Hagen and tells him.
“She wants my blood,” explains Hagen. “Look, they’re coming.”
“The queen and her knights? Let’s get up!”
“No,” says Hagen, “then they think Hagen is afraid of them.”
Demonstratively he puts his sword over his legs. It is Balmung, Siegfried’s sword.
Kriemhild recognizes it immediately.
“Why did you come to me, Hagen? You murdered Siegfried, my beloved husband.”
“My masters are here, I follow them. But you are right, I am Hagen, the man who killed the strong Siegfried. You know why.”
“Have you heard?” Kriemhild asks her knights. “And you’re still waiting?”
But the men do nothing, they are afraid.
One of them had known Hagen as a child.
“We’d better go,” says Hagen. They go to their kings.
The king brothers are standing in front of the palace.
“Still here? Let’s go to Etzel,” says Hagen.” Maybe he’s friendlier.”
Dietrich von Bern accompanies the kings and their knights.
Etzel jumps from his chair. “Welcome, Gernot and Gunther, and welcome to us all your knights! Hagen, I’m happy, after such a long time…”
If you drink mead and wine, you tell a lot.
“I often wondered why you didn’t visit us, but now you are finally here.”
The Burgundians are tired from the journey and retire early.
In front of Etzel’s palace are many Hun knights.
They are blocking the way of the people of Worms.
“What are you doing?” they ask.
“If you want a blow to the head, just say it!” says Dankwart loudly and looks around.
“Do the knights fight here at night?” asks Hagen, “Come back tomorrow morning if you want something!”
The Huns make room for them.
The Burgundians go to the room where they are supposed to sleep.
“I want to sleep,” says Giselher, “but I also want to wake up alive.”
“Go to sleep,” says Hagen, “I’ll keep watch.”
“Me too.” It’s Denkwart.
Everyone thanks them, they are really very tired.
Soon in the hall everyone is sleeping.
Around midnight, Dankwart sees something: the light is reflected on one, then on several helmets. He calls Hagen to himself.
“Let the others sleep,” says Hagen, “we wait here until they come.”
But the Hun knights have already seen them and are leaving.
“Hello!” cries Dankwart after them. “What are you walking in arms, noble knights?”
No one answers.
“But they are afraid!” says Dankwart. “They wanted to kill us in our sleep. Yuk!”
The tournament begins after early mass.
Etzel and Kriemhild sit on their grandstand.
The Burgundian squires have the horses ready.
Immediately the fights begin.
Dietrich doesn’t let his knights fight.
“Not against the Burgundians,” he says.
Rüdiger also withdraws with his knights.
But then thousands of knights come from Thuringia, from Denmark, from the Hunland. Spears and shields go to pieces, knights fall from the horse.
There Dankwart sees a particularly splendidly dressed Hun knight.
“Look! That womanizer there is for me.”
Spears and lances fly again.
The fight is short. Then the Hun falls from the horse. He’s dead.
“They killed Nudung! Revenge!” you can hear the Huns calling. More and more are coming.
They want to kill Dankwart.
But Etzel saw everything from above.
“The Burgundian didn’t kill our knight Nudung on purpose. Don’t hurt him, he’s our guest. And now I ask you to dine.”
Etzel leads the guests to the banquet hall.
The squires eat in another hall. Dankwart, Hagen’s brother, is with them.
A bloody feast
Etzel and his guests wash their hands.
The meal does not start yet, because Kriemhild keeps them waiting.
She is still standing outside the door talking to Dietrich von Bern.
She asks him for help.
“Murder your brothers?” asks Dietrich. “Think of your honour, Kriemhild.”
He goes. There comes Etzel’s brother.
“Dear Lord, can’t you help me? Avenge me, I beg you!”
“Dear Kriemhild, they are guests of Etzel!”
“Not even for silver and gold? No? I have seen that you like the widow of Nudung. A beautiful girl. Do you want her? I’ll give her to you! I’ll give you Nudung’s land too. Well?”
He thinks about the girl: “Good. Now go into the hall. You shall have Hagen.”
He calls his men.
“To arms! It’s a matter of life and death!”
Kriemhild goes into the hall and sits down next to Etzel.
“Still no fight!” she thinks. “I have to do something.”
She sends for her son Ortlieb.
Etzel rejoices: “Look at my son, your sister’s son! Beautiful and strong as he is, he will become a brave knight. He will be your friend.”
Hagen replies: “A knight? I don’t think so! And I’m certainly not going to visit him!”
Etzel looks at him. “What have I done to him?” he asks himself. “Why is he saying that?”
He doesn’t know anything yet.
A thousand of his brother’s knights are already standing in front of the palace. But they do not go into the banqueting hall.
Their master leads them to another hall where Dankwart is sitting with the squires.
“Welcome”, says Denkwart, “what brings you to us?”
“You need not greet me, for my coming is your end. Your brother has killed Siegfried. For him you must die.”
“If you want to fight…” says Dankwart, jumping up and striking with his sword – “please.”
The other’s head falls at his feet.
“Oops,” says Dankwart. “A present for Nudung’s widow!”
Now the other Hun knights go after the squires with swords.
Most of the squires do not have swords.
They beat the Huns with chairs.
But more and more knights are coming into the hall.
There are too many. In the end, none of the nine thousand squires are alive.
Dankwart stands in the middle of the hall. The friends are dead. But he fights on. His robe is full of blood, the blood of the Huns. Slowly he fights his way to the door. More Huns are waiting for him outside the door. He strikes out.
Slowly he moves forward. Where he has been standing, there is blood everywhere.
The knights in the banqueting hall know nothing yet.
Dankwart walks in.
“Are you sitting well, Brother Hagen?” he calls. “Our squires are dead. All of them!”
“Who did this?” asks Hagen.
“The king’s brother did it. Now he’s a head shorter.”
“Never mind,” Hagen replies. “But why are you so red? Has someone wounded you? I will help him!”
“It’s not my blood.”
“So close the door and let no one out of the hall!”
The Huns become restless.
“Our little feast does not please you? Let us drink wine together. The king’s son shall be the first.”
With these words Hagen takes his sword and cuts off the head of Etzel’s son.
The head flies onto the table and remains lying in front of Kriemhild.
The battle begins.
More and more Hun knights fall to the ground, hit to death.
King Etzel also gets scared. Kriemhild cries.
“Dear Lord, help me!” she begs the faithful Dietrich von Bern.
Dietrich jumps onto a table and calls Gunther.
“With your peace I would go out, with all my knights. Open the door for us. I will thank you.”
“Good” replies Gunther. “Go and take whoever you want with you.”
Dietrich puts one arm around the queen, the other around the king and goes to the door. His six hundred knights follow him.
Rüdiger von Bechelar is also allowed to leave the hall with his people.
Behind Dietrich, a Hun knight is also trying to get through the door.
But Dankwart is faster. Again a head flies.
None of the Huns are alive when the Wormsers lay down their swords.
They sit down.
“What are you sitting there for?” calls Giselher. “Do something. There are so many dead Huns lying around here. You can’t walk any more. Out of the hall with them!”
They open all the windows and throw out one Hun after the other.
Etzel, Kriemhild and their men stand outside the house and have to watch as seven thousand of their knights are thrown out through the door and window.
“There’s Etzel!” they hear Hagen call. “You want to avenge Siegfried, eh? He lay with Kriemhild before your time. These are family ties!”
Etzel wants to fight with him.
“Don’t go, my lord”, says Kriemhild. “Hagen will kill you.”
His knights hold him, do not let him go.
“You knights! Who will bring Hagen’s head to his queen?” asks Kriemhild.
The Danes want to try.
Dankwart hears them coming and opens the hall door.
A thousand and five Danish knights storm into the hall.
Behind the door, the Burgundians are waiting for them.
No Dane gets out alive.
Dankwart goes out the door.
“Anyone else?” he calls out.
He sees Etzel, and women and girls weeping for their husbands.
But this summer day is long.
Etzel was still able to summon twenty thousand Hunnic knights.
They come in the early evening, and they fight into the night.
Then Giselher and Gernot go outside the door.
Kriemhild sees them. “Listen, Burgundians!” she cries, “If you give me Hagen, you can go home!”
“We’d rather die!” Gernot and Giselher reply.
“Die, you shall!” says Kriemhild, and calls a few knights to her.
“Set fire. On all sides of the house.”
It is windy. Soon the whole house is on fire.
Burning pieces of wood are already falling down on the knights.
“Stand against the wall, it won’t hit you there!” says Hagen.
They do. But the smoke and the heat, it’s too much.
“Nothing left to drink there, Hagen, and it’s so hot!”
“Then drink the blood of the dead! You will see that it helps!”
One kneels next to a dead knight and drinks blood from an open wound.
“You are right! No wine has ever tasted so good!”
Now everyone is drinking.
The last day
In the morning, Etzel’s men see that the knights are not yet dead.
“They must be dead tired,” Etzel thinks. Once again he sends twelve hundred men.
They are his best knights. One by one they fall under the blows of the Burgundians.
“Where will it end?” wonders Etzel.
Then Kriemhild sees Count Rüdiger. He is crying.
“Why are you crying like an old woman, Rüdiger? Why do you not fight?”
“Mistress, the Burgundians are my friends.”
“You wanted to give honour and life for Etzel. That is what you swore! Land and castles you have received from Etzel.”
“Mistress, to Giselher I have given my daughter. What shall I say to my daughter? I beg you, take everything from me, land, gold, castles, even life, but…”
Rüdiger calls his men.
Hagen and Gunther see him coming.
“A friend!” they shout.
“No, a knight of Etzel!” replies Rüdiger.
Burgundians can’t believe it.
“Your wife gave me a shield,” exclaims Hagen. “It went to pieces in the battle.”
“Take my shield,” Rüdiger replies, throwing it to him.
Then he raises his sword and storms the hall with his knights.
Hagen and Dankwart get out of his way.
Rüdiger fights well. He kills first one, then more and more Burgundian knights.
Gernot fights against him. Rüdiger hits him in the head.
With his last ounce of strength, Gernot raises his sword once more. He hits Rüdiger. Then he falls down dead. Hit to death, Rüdiger also falls.
Etzel and Kriemhild are waiting outside the hall.
Dankwart opens the hall door. He holds the dead Rüdiger in his arms.
That is too much for Etzel. He is not crying, he is now bawling like an animal.
Dietrich of Bern hears Etzel’s yell.
“My God,” he asks, “what is that?” He has never heard such a scream in his life.
One of his knights comes to him. He is weeping.
“Rüdiger is dead, slain by the Wormsers.”
Dietrich can’t believe it.
“Let’s go!” he then says.
They stop in front of the hall.
“What have you done with Rüdiger?” asks Dietrich.
“He fell in battle with us, now we weep for him,” Hagen replies.
“Then give us out our friend. We want to bury him.”
“We cannot give him to you.”
“Then let’s get him!” one of Dietrich’s knights shouts and rushes towards the door.
It comes to a fight again.
Dietrich kills Dankwart.
Giselher also falls.
Of the Wormsers, only Gunther and Hagen are still alive. Dietrich’s knights are also dead.
“Put down your weapons and come with me. I will do what I can for you,” says Dietrich.
“We will not lay down our arms, noble Dietrich, not in Kriemhild’s castle.”
“Then let us fight, man to man.”
With Hagen he goes outside the door.
Dietrich is able to wound him.
“Tired are you, strong knight,” he thinks. He throws his sword and shield to the ground and grabs Hagen with both hands. Hagen is really tired. Dietrich is able to bind him and leads him to Kriemhild.
“Let him live, Queen!” begs Dietrich.
Kriemhild has Hagen thrown into the dungeon.
Dietrich goes back to Gunther.
You can hear them fighting all over the castle.
Dietrich is also able to bind Gunther.
Gunther is taken to the dungeon, alone in a cell.
Then Kriemhild sends for Hagen.
“Now tell me where my treasure lies. Then I will let you go.”
“Queen, I must not tell you this. I have sworn to your brothers: I will not tell anyone for the rest of their lives.”
“If that’s the problem…”, Kriemhild says.
She has Gunther’s head cut off and carries it herself by the hair to Hagen.
“Well?” she asks.
“Kriemhild, God and I alone now know where the treasure lies. You will never know!”
“You see this?” she asks. “This is the sword of my beloved.”
She raises the sword.
Etzel and Dietrich see Hagen’s head fall.
“My God!” says Etzel. “Killed by a woman, the noblest of knights!”
Dietrich is already standing in front of her: “Woman of the devil! This death must be avenged!”
With one blow he kills Kriemhild, his queen.