Legends of the Middle Ages
H.A. Guerber

Part 1 out of 8

Produced by Ted Garvin, Robert Morse and PG Distributed Proofreaders





"Saddle the Hippogriffs, ye Muses nine,
And straight we'll ride to the land of old Romance"



"Men lykyn jestis for to here,
And romans rede in diuers manere

"Of Brute that baron bold of hond,
The first conqueroure of Englond;
Of kyng Artour that was so riche,
Was non in his tyme him liche.

"How kyng Charlis and Rowlond fawght
With sarzyns nold they be cawght;
Of Tristrem and of Ysoude the swete,
How they with love first gan mete;

"Stories of diuerce thynggis,
Of pryncis, prelatis, and of kynggis;
Many songgis of diuers ryme,
As english, frensh, and latyne."
_Curser Mundi_.


The object of this work is to familiarize young students with the legends
which form the staple of mediaeval literature.

While they may owe more than is apparent at first sight to the classical
writings of the palmy days of Greece and Rome, these legends are very
characteristic of the people who told them, and they are the best exponents
of the customs, manners, and beliefs of the time to which they belong. They
have been repeated in poetry and prose with endless variations, and some of
our greatest modern writers have deemed them worthy of a new dress, as is
seen in Tennyson's "Idyls of the King," Goethe's "Reineke Fuchs," Tegner's
"Frithiof Saga," Wieland's "Oberon," Morris's "Story of Sigurd," and many
shorter works by these and less noted writers.

These mediaeval legends form a sort of literary quarry, from which,
consciously or unconsciously, each writer takes some stones wherewith to
build his own edifice. Many allusions in the literature of our own day lose
much of their force simply because these legends are not available to the
general reader.

It is the aim of this volume to bring them within reach of all, and to
condense them so that they may readily be understood. Of course in so
limited a space only an outline of each legend can be given, with a few
short quotations from ancient and modern writings to illustrate the style
of the poem in which they are embodied, or to lend additional force to some
point in the story.

This book is, therefore, not a manual of mediaeval literature, or a series
of critical essays, but rather a synopsis of some of the epics and romances
which formed the main part of the culture of those days. Very little
prominence has been given to the obscure early versions, all disquisitions
have been carefully avoided, and explanations have been given only where
they seemed essential.

The wealth and variety of imagination displayed in these legends will, I
hope, prove that the epoch to which they belong has been greatly maligned
by the term "dark ages," often applied to it. Such was the favor which the
legendary style of composition enjoyed with our ancestors that several of
the poems analyzed in this volume were among the first books printed for
general circulation in Europe.

Previous to the invention of printing, however, they were familiar to rich
and poor, thanks to the scalds, bards, trouveres, troubadours, minstrels,
and minnesingers, who, like the rhapsodists of Greece, spent their lives in
wandering from place to place, relating or reciting these tales to all they
met in castle, cottage, and inn.

A chapter on the Romance literature of the period in the different
countries of Europe, and a complete index, will, it is hoped, fit this
volume for handy reference in schools and libraries, where the author
trusts it may soon find its own place and win a warm welcome.
















































"List! we have learnt a tale of other years,
Of kings and warrior Danes, a wondrous tale,
How aethelings bore them in the brunt of war."
_Beowulf_ (Conybeare's tr.).

The most ancient relic of literature of the spoken languages of modern
Europe is undoubtedly the epic poem "Beowulf," which is supposed to have
been composed by the Anglo-Saxons previous to their invasion of England.
Although the poem probably belongs to the fifth century, the only existing
manuscript is said to date from the ninth or tenth century.

This curious work, in rude alliterative verse (for rhyme was introduced in
England only after the Norman Conquest), is the most valuable old English
manuscript in the British Museum. Although much damaged by fire, it has
been carefully studied by learned men. They have patiently restored the
poem, the story of which is as follows:

[Sidenote: Origin of the Skioldungs.] Hrothgar (the modern Roger), King of
Denmark, was a descendant of Odin, being the third monarch of the
celebrated dynasty of the Skioldungs. They proudly traced their ancestry to
Skeaf, or Skiold, Odin's son, who mysteriously drifted to their shores. He
was then but an infant, and lay in the middle of a boat, on a sheaf of ripe
wheat, surrounded by priceless weapons and jewels. As the people were
seeking for a ruler, they immediately recognized the hand of Odin in this
mysterious advent, proclaimed the child king, and obeyed him loyally as
long as he lived. When he felt death draw near, Skeaf, or Skiold, ordered a
vessel to be prepared, lay down in the midst on a sheaf of grain or on a
funeral pyre, and drifted out into the wide ocean, disappearing as
mysteriously as he had come.

[Sidenote: Construction of Heorot.] Such being his lineage, it is no wonder
that Hrothgar became a mighty chief; and as he had amassed much wealth in
the course of a long life of warfare, he resolved to devote part of it to
the construction of a magnificent hall, called Heorot, where he might feast
his retainers and listen to the heroic lays of the scalds during the long
winter evenings.

"A hall of mead, such as for space and state
The elder time ne'er boasted; there with free
And princely hand he might dispense to all
(Save the rude crowd and men of evil minds)
The good he held from Heaven. That gallant work,
Full well I wot, through many a land was known
Of festal halls the brightest and the best."
_Beowulf_ (Conybeare's tr.).
The inauguration of this hall was celebrated by a sumptuous entertainment;
and when all the guests had retired, the king's bodyguard, composed of
thirty-two dauntless warriors, lay down in the hall to rest. When morning
dawned, and the servants appeared to remove the couches, they beheld with
horror the floor and walls all stained with blood, the only trace of the
knights who had gone to rest there in full armor.

[Sidenote: The monster Grendel.] Gigantic, blood-stained footsteps, leading
directly from the festive hall to the sluggish waters of a deep mountain
lake, or fiord, furnished the only clew to their disappearance. Hrothgar,
the king, beholding these, declared that they had been made by Grendel, a
descendant of the giants, whom a magician had driven out of the country,
but who had evidently returned to renew his former depredations.

"A haunter of marshes, a holder of moors.
. . . . . Secret
The land he inhabits; dark, wolf-haunted ways
Of the windy hillside, by the treacherous tarn;
Or where, covered up in its mist, the hill stream
Downward flows."
_Beowulf_ (Keary's tr.).

As Hrothgar was now too old to wield a sword with his former skill, his
first impulse was, of course, to offer a princely reward to any man brave
enough to free the country of this terrible scourge. As soon as this was
known ten of his doughtiest knights volunteered to camp in the hall on the
following night, and attack the monster Grendel should he venture to

But in spite of the valor of these experienced warriors, and of the
efficacy of their oft-tried weapons, they too succumbed. A minstrel, hiding
in a dark corner of the hall, was the only one who escaped Grendel's fury,
and after shudderingly describing the massacre he had witnessed, he fled in
terror to the kingdom of the Geates (Jutes or Goths). There he sang his
lays in the presence of Hygelac, the king, and of his nephew Beowulf (the
Bee Hunter), and roused their deepest interest by describing the visit of
Grendel and the vain but heroic defense of the brave knights. Beowulf,
having listened intently, eagerly questioned the scald, and, learning from
him that the monster still haunted those regions, impetuously declared his
intention to visit Hrothgar's kingdom, and show his valor by fighting and,
if possible, slaying Grendel.

"He was of mankind
In might the strongest,
At that day
Of this life,
Noble and stalwart.
He bade him a sea ship,
A goodly one, prepare.
Quoth he, the war king,
Over the swan's road,
Seek he would
The mighty monarch,
Since he wanted men."
_Beowulf_ (Longfellow's tr.).

[Sidenote: Beowulf and Breka.] Although very young, Beowulf was quite
distinguished, and had already won great honors in a battle against the
Swedes. He had also proved his endurance by entering into a swimming match
with Breka, one of the lords at his uncle's court. The two champions had
started out, sword in hand and fully armed, and, after swimming in concert
for five whole days, they were parted by a great tempest.

"Then were we twain there on the sea
Space of five nights, till the floods severed us,
The welling waves. Coldest of weathers,
Shadowy night, and the north wind
Battelous shocked on us; wild were the waters,
And were the mere-fishes stirred up in mind."

Breka was driven ashore, but the current bore Beowulf toward some jagged
cliffs, where he desperately clung, trying to resist the fury of the waves,
and using his sword to ward off the attacks of hostile mermaids, nicors
(nixies), and other sea monsters. The gashed bodies of these slain foes
soon drifted ashore, to Hygelac's amazement; but when Beowulf suddenly
reappeared and explained that they had fallen by his hand, his joy knew no
bounds. As Breka had returned first, he received the prize for swimming;
but the king gave Beowulf his treasured sword, Naegeling, and praised him
publicly for his valor.

Beowulf had successfully encountered these monsters of the deep in the
roaring tide, so he now expressed a hope that he might prevail against
Grendel also; and embarking with fourteen chosen men, he sailed to Denmark,
where he was challenged by the coast guard and warmly welcomed as soon as
he had made his purpose known.

"'What men are ye,
War gear wearing,
Host in harness,
Who thus the brown keel
Over the water street
Leading, come
Hither over the sea?'"
_Beowulf_ (Longfellow's tr.).

Hrothgar received Beowulf most hospitably, but vainly tried to dissuade him
from his perilous undertaking. Then, after a sumptuous banquet, where the
mead flowed with true northern lavishness, Hrothgar and his suite sadly
left the hall Heorot in charge of the brave band of strangers, whom they
never expected to see again.

[Sidenote: Beowulf and Grendel.] As soon as the king had departed, Beowulf
bade his companions lie down and sleep in peace, promising to watch over
them, yet laying aside both armor and sword; for he knew that weapons were
of no avail against the monster, whom he intended to grapple with hand to
hand should it really appear.

"'I have heard
That that foul miscreant's dark and stubborn flesh
Recks not the force of arms:--such I forswear,
Nor sword nor burnish'd shield of ample round
Ask for the war; all weaponless, hand to hand
(So may great Higelac's smile repay my toil)
Beowulf will grapple with the mighty foe.'"
_Beowulf_ (Conybeare's tr.).

The warriors had no sooner stretched themselves out upon the benches in the
hall than, overcome by the oppressive air as well as by mead, they sank
into a profound sleep. Beowulf alone remained awake, watching for Grendel's
coming. In the early morning, when all was very still, the giant appeared,
tore asunder the iron bolts and bars which secured the door, and striding
into the hall, enveloped in a long, damp mantle of clammy mist, he pounced
upon one of the sleepers. He tore him limb from limb, greedily drank his
blood, and devoured his flesh, leaving naught but the head, hands, and feet
of his unhappy victim. This ghastly repast only whetted the fiend's
ravenous appetite, however, so he eagerly stretched out his hands in the
darkness to seize and devour another warrior. Imagine his surprise and
dismay when he suddenly found his hand caught in so powerful a grasp that
all his efforts could not wrench it free!

Grendel and Beowulf struggled in the darkness, overturning tables and
couches, shaking the great hall to its very foundations, and causing the
walls to creak and groan under the violence of their furious blows. But in
spite of Grendel's gigantic stature, Beowulf clung so fast to the hand and
arm he had grasped that Grendel, making a desperate effort to free himself
by a jerk, tore the whole limb out of its socket! Bleeding and mortally
wounded, he then beat a hasty retreat to his marshy den, leaving a long,
bloody trail behind him.

"Soon the dark wanderer's ample shoulder bore
A gaping wound, each starting sinew crack'd,
And from its socket loosed the strong-knit joint.--
The victory was with Beowulf, and the foe,
Howling and sick at heart, fled as he might,
To seek beneath the mountain shroud of mist
His joyless home; for well he knew the day
Of death was on him, and his doom was seal'd."
_Beowulf_ (Conybeare's tr.).

As for Beowulf, exhausted but triumphant, he stood in the middle of the
hall, where his companions crowded around him, gazing in speechless awe at
the mighty hand and limb, and the clawlike fingers, far harder than steel,
which no power had hitherto been able to resist.

At dawn Hrothgar and his subjects also appeared. They heard with wonder a
graphic account of the night's adventures, and gazed their fill upon the
monster's limb, which hung like a trophy from the ceiling of Heorot. After
the king had warmly congratulated Beowulf, and bestowed upon him many rich
gifts, he gave orders to cleanse the hall, to hang it with tapestry, and to
prepare a banquet in honor of the conquering hero.

[Sidenote: Beowulf honored by the queen.] While the men were feasting,
listening to the lays of the scalds, and carrying the usual toasts,
Wealtheow, Hrothgar's beautiful wife, the Queen of Denmark, appeared. She
pledged Beowulf in a cup of wine, which he gallantly drained after she had
touched it to her lips. Then she bestowed upon him a costly necklace (the
famous Brisinga-men, according to some authorities)[1] and a ring of the
finest gold. [Footnote 1: See Guerber's Myths of Northern Lands, p. 127.]

"'Wear these,' she cried, 'since thou hast in the fight
So borne thyself, that wide as ocean rolls
Round our wind-beaten cliffs his brimming waves,
All gallant souls shall speak thy eulogy.'"
_Beowulf_ (Conybeare's tr.).

When the banquet was ended, Hrothgar escorted his guests to more pleasant
sleeping apartments than they had occupied the night before, leaving his
own men to guard the hall, where Grendel would never again appear. The
warriors, fearing no danger, slept in peace; but in the dead of night the
mother of the giant, as grewsome and uncanny a monster as he, glided into
the hall, secured the bloody trophy still hanging from the ceiling, and
carried it away, together with Aeschere (Askher), the king's bosom friend.

When Hrothgar learned this new loss at early dawn he was overcome with
grief; and when Beowulf, attracted by the sound of weeping, appeared at his
side, he mournfully told him of his irretrievable loss.

"'Ask not after happiness;
Sorrow is renewed
To the Danes' people.
Aeschere is dead,
Elder brother,
The partaker of my secrets
And my counselor,
Who stood at my elbow
When we in battle
Our mail hoods defended,
When troops rushed together
And boar crests crashed.'"
_Beowulf_ (Metcalfe's tr.).

[Sidenote: Beowulf and Grendel's mother.] The young hero immediately
volunteered to finish his work and avenge Aeschere by seeking and attacking
Grendel's mother in her own retreat; but as he knew the perils of this
expedition, Beowulf first gave explicit directions for the disposal of his
personal property in case he never returned. Then, escorted by the Danes
and Geates, he followed the bloody track until he came to a cliff
overhanging the waters of the mountain pool. There the bloody traces
ceased, but Aeschere's gory head was placed aloft as a trophy.

"Now paused they sudden where the pine grove clad
The hoar rock's brow, a dark and joyless shade.
Troublous and blood-stain'd roll'd the stream below.
Sorrow and dread were on the Scylding's host,
In each man's breast deep working; for they saw
On that rude cliff young Aeschere's mangled head."
_Beowulf_ (Conybeare's tr.).

Beowulf gazed down into the deep waters, saw that they also were darkly
dyed with the monster's blood, and, after taking leave of Hrothgar, bade
his men await his return for two whole days and nights ere they definitely
gave him up for lost. He then plunged bravely into the bloody waters, swam
about seeking for the monster's retreat, and dived deep. At last, descrying
a phosphorescent gleam in the depths, he quickly made his way thither,
shrewdly conjecturing that it must be Grendel's hiding place. But on his
way thither he was repeatedly obliged to have recourse to his sword to
defend himself against the clutches of countless hideous sea monsters which
came rushing toward him on all sides.

"While thro' crystal gulfs were gleaming
Ocean depths, with wonders teeming;
Shapes of terror, huge, unsightly,
Loom'd thro' vaulted roof translucent."
J.C. JONES, _Valhalla_.

A strong current seized Beowulf, and swept him irresistibly along into the
slimy retreat of Grendel's mother. She clutched him fast, wrestled with
him, deprived him of his sword, flung him down, and finally tried to pierce
his armor with her trenchant knife. Fortunately, however, the hero's armor
was weapon-proof, and his muscles were so strong that before she could do
him any harm he had freed himself from her grasp. Seizing a large sword
hanging upon a projection of rock near by, he dealt her a mighty blow,
severing her head from the trunk at a single stroke. The blood pouring out
of the cave mingled with the waters without, and turned them to such a
lurid hue that Hrothgar and his men sorrowfully departed, leaving the
Geates alone to watch for the return of the hero, whom they feared they
would never see again.

Beowulf, in the mean while, had rushed to the rear of the cave, where,
finding Grendel in the last throes, he cut off his head also. He seized
this ghastly trophy and rapidly made his way up through the tainted waters,
which the fiery blood of the two monsters had so overheated that his sword
melted in its scabbard and naught but the hilt remained.

"That stout sword of proof,
Its warrior task fulfill'd, dropp'd to the ground
(So work'd the venom of the felon's blood)
A molten mass."
_Beowulf_ (Conybeare's tr.).

The Geates were about to depart in sorrow, notwithstanding the orders they
had received, when they suddenly beheld their beloved chief safe and sound,
and bearing the evidences of his success. Then their cries of joy echoed
and reechoed from the neighboring hills, and Beowulf was escorted back to
Heorot, where he was almost overwhelmed with gifts by the grateful Danes. A
few days later Beowulf and his companions returned home, where the story of
their adventures, and an exhibition of all the treasures they had won,
formed the principal topics of conversation.

[Sidenote: Death of Hygelac.] Several years of comparative peace ensued,
ere the land was invaded by the Friesians, who raided the coast, burning
and plundering all in their way, and retreated into their ships before
Hygelac or Beowulf could overtake and punish them. The immediate result of
this invasion was a counter-movement on Hygelac's part. But although he
successfully harried Friesland, he fell into an ambush just as he was about
to leave the country, and was cruelly slain, his nephew Beowulf barely
escaping a similar untoward fate.

When the little army of the Geates reached home once more, they either
buried or consumed Hygelac's remains, with his weapons and battle steed, as
was customary in the North. This ceremony ended, Queen Hygd, overwhelmed
with grief, and fearing the almost inevitable dissensions arising during
the long minority of an infant king, convened the popular assembly known as
the Thing, and bade the people set her own child's claims aside in favor of
Beowulf. This proposal was hailed with enthusiasm; but Beowulf refused to
usurp his kinsman's throne, and raising Hardred, Hygelac's infant son, upon
his shield, he declared that he would protect and uphold him as long as he
lived. The people, following his example, swore fealty to the new king, and
faithfully kept this oath until he died.

Hardred, having attained his majority, ruled wisely and well; but his
career was cut short by the sons of Othere, the discoverer of the North
Cape. These youths had rebelled against their father's authority and taken
refuge at Hardred's court; but when the latter advised a reconciliation,
the eldest youth angrily drew his sword and slew him.

[Illustration: FUNERAL OF A NORTHERN CHIEF.--Cormon.]

[Sidenote: Beowulf made king.] This crime was avenged, with true northern
promptitude, by Wiglaf, one of the king's followers; and while the second
youth effected an escape, Beowulf was summoned by the Thing to accept the
now vacant throne. As there were none to dispute his claims, the hero no
longer refused to rule, and he bravely defended his kingdom against
Eadgils, Othere's second son. Eadgils was now king of Sweden, and came with
an armed host to avenge his brother's death; but he only succeeded in
losing his own life.

A reign of forty years of comparative peace brought Beowulf to extreme old
age. He had naturally lost much of his former vigor, and was therefore
somewhat dismayed when a terrible, fire-breathing dragon took up its abode
in the mountains near by, where it gloated over a hoard of glittering gold.

"The ranger of the darksome night,
The Firedrake, came."
_Beowulf_ (Conybeare's tr.)

[Sidenote: The Firedrake.] A fugitive slave, having made his way unseen
into the monster's den during one of its temporary absences, bore away a
small portion of this gold. On its return the Firedrake discovered the
theft, and became so furious that its howling and writhing shook the
mountain like an earthquake. When night came on its rage was still
unappeased, and it flew all over the land, vomiting venom and flames,
setting houses and crops afire, and causing so much damage that the people
were almost beside themselves with terror. Seeing that all their attempts
to appease the dragon were utterly fruitless, and being afraid to attack it
in its lair, they finally implored Beowulf to deliver them as he had
delivered the Danes, and to slay this oppressor, which was even worse than
the terrible Grendel.

Such an appeal could not be disregarded, and in spite of his advanced years
Beowulf donned his armor once more. Accompanied by Wiglaf and eleven of his
bravest men, he then went out to seek the monster in its lair. At the
entrance of the mountain gorge Beowulf bade his followers pause, and
advancing alone to the monster's den, he boldly challenged it to come forth
and begin the fray. A moment later the mountain shook as the monster rushed
out breathing fire and flame, and Beowulf felt the first gust of its hot
breath, even through his massive shield.

"First from his lair
Shaking firm earth, and vomiting as he strode
A foul and fiery blast, the monster came."
_Beowulf_ (Conybeare's tr.).

A desperate struggle followed, in the course of which Beowulf's sword and
strength both failed him. The Firedrake coiled its long, scaly folds about
the aged hero, and was about to crush him to death when the faithful
Wiglaf, perceiving his master's imminent danger, sprang forward and
attacked the monster so fiercely as to cause a diversion and make it drop
Beowulf to concentrate its attention upon him.

Beowulf, recovering, then drew his dagger and soon put an end to the
dragon's life; but even as it breathed its last the hero sank fainting to
the ground. Feeling that his end was near, he warmly thanked Wiglaf for his
timely aid, rejoiced in the death of the monster, and bade his faithful
follower bring out the concealed treasure and lay it at his feet, that he
might feast his eyes upon the glittering gold he had won for his people's

"Saw then the bold thane
Treasure jewels many,
Glittering gold
Heavy on the ground,
Wonders in the mound
And the worm's den,
The old twilight flier's,
Bowls standing;
Vessels of men of yore,
With the mountings fall'n off.
There was many a helm
Old and rusty,
Armlets many
Cunningly fastened.
He also saw hang heavily
An ensign all golden
High o'er the hoard,
Of hand wonders greatest,
Wrought by spells of song,
From which shot a light
So that he the ground surface
Might perceive,
The wonders overscan."
_Beowulf_ (Metcalfe's tr.).

[Sidenote: Death of Beowulf.] The mighty treasure was all brought forth to
the light of day, and the followers, seeing that all danger was over,
crowded round their dying chief. He addressed them affectionately, and,
after recapitulating the main events his career, expressed a desire to be
buried in a mighty mound on a projecting headland, which could be seen far
out at sea, and would be called by his name.

"'And now,
Short while I tarry here--when I am gone,
Bid them upon yon headland's summit rear
A lofty mound, by Rona's seagirt cliff;
So shall my people hold to after times
Their chieftain's memory, and the mariners
That drive afar to sea, oft as they pass,
Shall point to Beowulf's tomb.'"
_Beowulf_(Conybeare's tr.).

These directions were all piously carried out by a mourning people, who
decked his mound with the gold he had won, and erected above it a Bauta, or
memorial stone, to show how dearly they had loved their brave king Beowulf,
who had died to save them from the fury of the dragon.



Maximilian I., Emperor of Germany, rendered a great service to posterity by
ordering that copies of many of the ancient national manuscripts should be
made. These copies were placed in the imperial library at Vienna, where,
after several centuries of almost complete neglect, they were discovered by
lovers of early literature, in a very satisfactory state of preservation.
These manuscripts then excited the interest of learned men, who not only
found therein a record of the past, but gems of literature which are only
now beginning to receive the appreciation they deserve.

[Sidenote: Origin of poem of Gudrun.] Among these manuscripts is the poem
"Gudrun," belonging to the twelfth or thirteenth century. It is evidently
compiled from two or more much older lays which are now lost, which are
alluded to in the Nibelungenlied. The original poem was probably Norse, and
not German like the only existing manuscript, for there is an undoubted
parallel to the story of the kidnaping of Hilde in the Edda. In the Edda,
Hilde, the daughter of Hoegni, escapes from home with her lover Hedin, and
is pursued by her irate father. He overtakes the fugitives on an island,
where a bloody conflict takes place, in which many of the bravest warriors
die. Every night, however, a sorceress recalls the dead to life to renew
the strife, and to exterminate one another afresh.

The poem "Gudrun," which is probably as old as the Nibelungenlied, and
almost rivals it in interest, is one of the most valuable remains of
ancient German literature. It consists of thirty-two songs, in which are
related the adventures of three generations of the heroic family of the
Hegelings. Hence it is often termed the "Hegeling Legend."

[Sidenote: Kidnaping of Hagen.] The poem opens by telling us that Hagen was
the son of Sigeband, King of Ireland, which was evidently a place in
Holland, and not the well-known Emerald Isle. During a great feast, when
countless guests were assembled around his father's hospitable board, this
prince, who was then but seven years of age, was seized by a griffin and
rapidly borne away.

"Young Hagen, loudly crying, was filled with dire dismay;
The bird with mighty pinions soared high with him away."
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

The cries of the child, and the arrows of Sigeband's men at arms, were
equally ineffectual in checking the griffin, which flew over land and sea,
and finally deposited its prey in its nest on the top of a great cliff on a
desert island. One of the little griffins, wishing to reserve this delicate
morsel for its own delectation, caught the boy up in its talons and flew
away to a neighboring tree. The branch upon which it perched was too weak
to support a double load, however, and as it broke the frightened griffin
dropped Hagen into a thicket. Undismayed by the sharp thorns, Hagen quickly
crept out of the griffin's reach and took refuge in a cave, where he found
three little girls who had escaped from the griffins in the same way.

[Sidenote: The three maidens.] One of these children was Hilde, an Indian
princess; the second, Hildburg, daughter of the King of Portugal; and the
third belonged to the royal family of Isenland. Hagen immediately became
the protector of these little maidens, spending several years in the cave
with them. He ventured out only when the griffins were away, to seek
berries or shoot small game with a bow which he had made in imitation of
those he had seen in his father's hall.

Years passed by before Hagen found the corpse of an armed warrior, which
had been washed ashore during a storm. To appropriate the armor and weapons
for which he had so long and vainly sighed was the youth's first impulse;
his second was to go forth and slay the griffins which had terrorized him
and his little companions for so many years. The griffins being disposed
of, the young people roamed about the island at will, keeping a sharp
lookout for any passing vessel which might convey them home. At last a sail
came in sight! Hagen, the first to see it, climbed up on a rock and shouted
with all his young strength to attract the crew's attention.

"With might young Hagen shouted, and did not cease to shout,
Howe'er the roaring tempest the wild waves tossed about."
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

The sailors reluctantly drew near, gazing fearfully upon the three maidens,
who, clad in furs and moss, resembled mermaids or wood nymphs. But when
they heard their story they gladly took them on board. It was only when the
island was out of sight, and when they were in mid-ocean, that Hagen
discovered that he had fallen into the hands of Count Garadie, his father's
inveterate enemy, who now proposed to use his power to treat the young
prince as a slave. But Hagen's rude fare, and the constant exposure of the
past few years, had so developed his strength and courage that he now flew
into a Berserker rage,[1] flung thirty men one after another into the sea,
and so terrified his would-be master that he promised to bear him and the
three maidens in safety to his father's court. [Footnote 1: See Guerber's
Myths of Northern Lands, p. 29.]

[Sidenote: Hagen made king.] As Sigeband had died without leaving any other
heir, Hagen was warmly welcomed home, and ascending the vacant throne, he
took to wife Hilde, the fair maiden with whom he had shared his game and
berries for so many years. The royal couple were very happy, and Hagen
ruled so wisely that he became a terror to his enemies and a blessing to
his own subjects. Even when engaged in warfare he proved himself an upright
and generous man, never attacking the poor and weak.

"On warlike enterprises into his enemies' land
He spared the poor from ravage of fire with powerful hand;
Whenever he encountered a warrior overbearing,
He broke his burgs and slew him with dire revenge unsparing."
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

[Sidenote: Hilde's suitors.] Hagen and Hilde eventually became the parents
of an only daughter, who was called by her mother's name, and grew up so
beautiful that many suitors soon came to Ireland to ask for her hand.
Hagen, who loved his daughter dearly and was in no haste to part from her,
first replied that she was far too young to think of marriage; but when
this plea was disputed he declared that Hilde should only marry a man who
would defeat her father in single fight.

As Hagen was unusually tall and strong, as well as uncommonly brave, he was
considered well-nigh invincible. The suitors, dismayed at this declaration,
reluctantly withdrew, even though they were all valiant men. In those days
Hettel (who corresponds to Hedin in the Edda story) was king of northern
Germany and of the Hegelings. He too heard marvelous accounts of Hilde's
beauty, and, as he was still unmarried, longed to secure her as wife. But
knowing that Hagen, in his anger, was likely to slay any ambassador who
came to his court with a proposal of marriage, Hettel vowed that he would
rather forego the alliance than run the risk of losing any of his tried
friends and faithful servants.

"Then said the royal Hetel: 'The people all relate
That whosoe'er will woo her incurs her father's hate,
And for the maid has perished full many a noble knight;
My friends shall never suffer for me such woeful plight.'"
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

[Sidenote: Strategy of Hettel's followers.] His faithful followers, Wat,
Horant, and Frute, perceiving that his heart was set upon the maiden,
finally volunteered to go and get her, saying that they could easily bear
her away by stratagem, although they did not dare to ask for her openly. So
they loaded their vessel with merchandise, hid their weapons, so that they
should be taken for the traders they professed to be, and sailed boldly
into Hagen's port, where, spreading out their wares, they invited all the
people to buy.

Attracted by the extraordinary bargains they offered, the people came in
crowds, and soon all the inhabitants of Balian were busy talking about the
strange peddlers and praising their wares. These stories soon came to the
ears of both queen and princess, who, summoning the merchants into their
presence, asked who they were and whence they came.

All three replied that they were warriors, and that, being banished from
Hettel's court, they had been forced to take up their present occupation to
make a living. To prove the truth of their assertions, Wat exhibited his
skill in athletic sports, while Horant delighted all the ladies by his
proficiency in the art of minstrelsy.

"When now the night was ended and there drew near the dawn,
Horant began his singing, so that in grove and lawn
The birds became all silent, because he sang so sweetly;
The people who were sleeping sprang from their couches fleetly.

"The cattle in the forests forsook their pasture ground;
The creeping creatures playing among the grass around,
The fishes in the water,--all in their sports were ceasing.
The minstrel might most truly rejoice in art so pleasing.

"Whate'er he might be singing, to no one seemed it long;
Forgotten in the minster were priest and choral song,
Church bells no longer sounded so sweetly as before,
And every one who heard him longed for the minstrel sore."
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

These soft strains so pleased the younger Hilde that she soon sent for the
minstrel again, and Horant, finding her alone, made use of this opportunity
to tell her of Hettel's love and longing. She was so touched by this
declaration of love that he easily won from her a promise to flee with him
and his companions as soon as a suitable opportunity occurred.

The pretended merchants, having now achieved the real object of their
journey, disposed of their remaining wares. They then invited the king and
his family to visit their ship, and cleverly managing to separate the
willing princess from her parents and train, they sailed rapidly away,
leaving the angry father to hurl equally ineffectual spears, curses, and
threats after them.

[Sidenote: Marriage of Hettel and Hilde.] The Hegelings sailed with their
prize direct to Waleis, in Holland (near the river Waal), where the
impatient Hettel came to meet them, and tenderly embraced his beautiful
young bride. There their hasty nuptials were celebrated; but, as they were
about to sail away on the morrow, Hettel became aware of the rapid approach
of a large fleet. Of course the foremost vessel was commanded by Hagen, who
had immediately started out in pursuit of his kidnaped daughter. Landing,
with all his forces, he challenged his new-made son-in-law to fight.

"King Hagen, full of anger, leaped forward in the sea.
Unto the shore he waded; no braver knight than he!
Full many pointed arrows against him were seen flying,
Like flakes of snow, from warriors of Hetel's host defying."
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

The result of this battle was that Hettel was wounded by Hagen, who, in his
turn, was injured by Wat, and that the distracted Hilde suddenly flung
herself between the contending parties, and by her tears and prayers soon
brought about a reconciliation. Hagen, who had tested the courage of his
new son-in-law and had not found it wanting, now permitted his daughter to
accompany her husband home to Matelan, where she became the mother of a
son, Ortwine, and of a daughter, Gudrun, who was even fairer than herself.

[Sidenote: Gudrun's suitors.] Ortwine was fostered by Wat, the dauntless
hero, who taught him to fight with consummate skill; while Hilde herself
presided over the education of Gudrun, and made her so charming that many
suitors soon came, hoping to find favor in her eyes. These were Siegfried,
King of Moorland, a pagan of dark complexion; Hartmut, son of Ludwig, King
of Normandy; and, lastly, Herwig of Zealand. Although the latter fancied
that he had won some favor in the fair Gudrun's sight, Hettel dismissed him
as well as the others, with the answer that his daughter was yet too young
to leave the parental roof.

Herwig, who was not ready to give the maiden up, then remembered that
Hettel had won his own bride only after he had measured his strength with
her father's; so he collected an army, invaded Matelan, and proved his
courage by encountering Hettel himself in the fray. Gudrun, who stood
watching the battle from the palace window, seeing them face to face,
loudly implored them to spare each other, an entreaty to which they both
lent a willing ear.

"Fair Gudrun saw the combat, and heard the martial sound.
Like to a ball is fortune, and ever turns around.

"Then from the castle chamber the royal maid cried out:
'King Hetel, noble father, the blood flows all about
Athwart the mighty hauberks. With gore from warlike labor
The walls are sprinkled. Herwig is a most dreadful neighbor.'"
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

Herwig had in this encounter proved himself no despicable foe; so Hettel,
preferring to have him as a friend, no longer opposed his betrothal, but
even promised that the wedding festivities should be celebrated within a
year. Herwig tarried in Matelan with his betrothed until he heard that
Siegfried, King of Moorland, jealous of his successful wooing of Gudrun,
had invaded his kingdom and was raiding his unprotected lands.

[Sidenote: Gudrun kidnaped by Hartmut.] These tidings caused the brave
young warrior to bid Gudrun a hasty farewell and sail home as quickly as
possible, Hettel promising to follow him soon and help him repel the
invaders, who were far superior in number to his small but oft-tried host.
While Herwig and Hettel were thus occupied in warring against one of the
disappointed suitors, Hartmut, the other, hearing that they were both away,
invaded Matelan and carried off Gudrun and all her attendants to Normandy.
He paused only once on his way thither to rest for a short time on an
island called Wuelpensand, at the mouth of the Scheldt.

The bereaved Hilde, who had seen her beloved daughter thus carried away,
promptly sent messengers to warn Hettel and Herwig of Gudrun's capture.
These tidings put an immediate stop to their warfare with Siegfried, who,
joining forces with them, sailed in pursuit of the Normans in the vessels
of a party of pilgrims, for they had none of their own ready for instant

[Sidenote: The Wuelpensand battle.] Hettel, Herwig, and Siegfried reached
Wuelpensand before the Normans had left it, and there took place a frightful
conflict, in the course of which King Ludwig slew the aged Hettel. The
conflict raged until nightfall, and although there were now but few
Hegelings left, they were all ready to renew the struggle on the morrow.
What was not their chagrin, therefore, on discovering that the Normans had
sailed away with their captives during the night, and were already out of

It was useless to pursue them with so small an army; so the Hegelings
sorrowfully returned home, bearing Hettel's lifeless body back to the
disconsolate Hilde. Then they took counsel, and discovered that so many
able fighting men had perished during the last war that they would be
obliged to wait until the rising generation was able to bear arms before
they could invade Normandy with any hope of success.

"Then spoke old Wat, the hero: 'It never can befall
Before this country's children have grown to manhood all.'"
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

Gudrun, in the mean while, had arrived in Normandy, where she persisted in
refusing to marry Hartmut. On her way thither the haughty princess had even
ventured to remind King Ludwig that he had once been her father's vassal,
and so roused his anger that he threw her overboard. But Hartmut
immediately plunged into the water after her, rescued her from drowning,
and when he had again seen her safe in the boat, angrily reproved his
father for his hasty conduct.

"He said: 'Why would you drown her who is to be my wife,
The fair and charming Gudrun? I love her as my life.
Another than my father, if he had shown such daring,
Would lose his life and honor from wrath of mine unsparing.'"
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

[Sidenote: Gudrun a captive.] After this declaration on the part of the
young heir, none dared at first treat Gudrun with any disrespect; and
Gerlinda and Ortrun, the mother and sister of Hartmut, welcomed her as she
landed on their shores. Gerlinda's friendliness was a mere pretense,
however, for she hated the proud maiden who scorned her son's proffered
love. She therefore soon persuaded her son to give the gentle captive
entirely into her charge, saying that she would make her consent to become
his bride. Hartmut, who was about to depart for the war, and who little
suspected his mother's cruel intentions, bade her do as she pleased; and he
was no sooner out of sight than poor Gudrun was degraded to the rank of a
servant, and treated with much harshness and often with actual violence.

During three whole years Gudrun endured this cruelty in silence; but when
Hartmut returned she was restored to her former state, although she still
persisted in refusing his passionate suit. Discouraged by her obstinacy,
the young man weakly consented to abandon her again to Gerlinda's tender
mercies. The princess was now made to labor harder than ever, and she and
Hildburg, her favorite companion and fellow captive, were daily sent down
to the shore to wash the royal linen.

[Illustration: GUDRUN AND THE SWAN.--Kepler.]

It was winter, the snow lay thick on the ground, and Gudrun and her
companion, barefooted and miserably clad, suffered untold agonies from the
cold. Besides, they were nearly exhausted, and the hope of rescue, which
had sustained them during the past twelve years, had almost forsaken them.
Their deliverance was near, however, and while Gudrun was washing on the
shore, a mermaid, in the guise of a swan, came gently near her and bade her
be of good cheer, for her sufferings would soon be at an end.

"'Rejoice in hope,' then answered the messenger divine;
'Thou poor and homeless maiden, great joy shall yet be thine.
If thou wilt ask for tidings from thy dear native land,
To comfort thee, great Heaven has sent me to this strand.'"
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

The swan maiden then informed her that her brother Ortwine had grown up,
and that he would soon come with brave old Wat and the longing Herwig to
deliver her.

The next day, in spite of the increased cold, Gerlinda again roughly bade
the maidens go down to the shore and wash, refusing to allow them any
covering except one rough linen garment.

"They then took up the garments and went upon their way.
'May God let me,' said Gudrun, 'remind you of this day.'
With naked feet they waded there through the ice and snow:
The noble maids, all homeless, were filled with pain and woe."
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's

[Sidenote: Gudrun's deliverance.] Gudrun and Hildburg had barely begun
their usual task, however, ere a small boat drew near, in which they
recognized Herwig and Ortwine. All unconscious of their identity at first,
the young men inquired about Gudrun. She herself, to test their affection,
replied that the princess was dead, and did not allow them to catch a
glimpse of her face until she beheld Herwig's emotion at these tidings, and
heard him protest that he would be faithful to her unto death.

"There spoke the royal Herwig: 'As long as lasts my life,
I'll mourn for her; the maiden was to become my wife.'"
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

The lovers, who had been equally true, now fell into each other's arms.
Ortwine was overjoyed at finding his sister and her companion, having long
secretly loved the latter, so he poured out an avowal of his passion, and
won from Hildburg a promise to be his wife. The first moments of joyful
reunion over, Herwig would fain have carried Gudrun and Hildburg back to
camp with him; but Ortwine proudly declared that he had come to claim them
openly, and would bear them away from Normandy honorably, in the guise of
princesses, rather than by stealth.

Promising to rescue them on the morrow, the young men took leave of the
maidens. Hildburg conscientiously finished her task, but Gudrun proudly
flung the linen into the sea and returned to the palace empty-handed,
saying that it did not become her to do any more menial labor, since she
had been kissed by two kings. Gerlinda, hearing her confess that she had
flung the linen into the sea, ordered her to be scourged; but when Gudrun
turned upon her and proudly announced that she would take her revenge on
the morrow, when she would preside over the banquet hall as queen, Gerlinda
concluded that she had decided to accept Hartmut.

The mother, therefore, flew to him to impart the joyful tidings. In his
delight he would fain have embraced Gudrun, who, however, haughtily bade
him refrain from saluting a mere washerwoman. Becoming aware only then of
her sorry plight, the prince withdrew, sternly ordering that her maidens
should again be restored to her, that her every command should be fulfilled
as if she were already queen, and that all should treat her with the utmost
respect. These orders were executed without delay, and while Hartmut was
preparing for his wedding on the morrow, Gudrun, again clad in royal
attire, with her maidens around her, whispered the tidings of their coming
deliverance. Morning had barely dawned when Hildburg, gazing out of the
window, saw the castle entirely surrounded by the Hegelings' forces; and at
cockcrow old Wat's horn pealed forth a loud defiance, rousing the Normans
from pleasant dreams, and calling them to battle instead of to the
anticipated wedding.

"The morning star had risen upon the heavens high,
When to the castle window a beauteous maid drew nigh,
In order to espy there and watch the break of day,
Whereby from royal Gudrun she would obtain rich pay.

"There looked the noble maiden and saw the morning glow.
Reflected in the water, as it might well be so,
Were seen the shining helmets and many bucklers beaming.
The castle was surrounded; with arms the fields were gleaming."
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

The battle was very fierce, and the poem enumerates many of the cuts and
thrusts given and received. Clashing swords and streams of gore now
monopolize the reader's attention. In the fray Herwig slew King Ludwig.
Gudrun was rescued by Hartmut from the hands of Gerlinda, who had just
bidden her servants put her to death, so that her friends should not take
her alive. Next the Norman prince met his rival and fought bravely. He was
about to succumb, however, when his sister Ortrun, who throughout had been
gentle and loving to Gudrun, implored her to save her brother's life.
Gudrun, touched by this request, called out of the casement to Herwig, who,
at a word from her, sheathed his sword, and contented himself with taking
Hartmut prisoner.

[Sidenote: Death of Gerlinda.] The castle was duly plundered, the whole
town sacked, and Wat, bursting into the palace, began to slay all he met.
The women, in terror, then crowded around Gudrun, imploring her protection.
Among these were Ortrun and Gerlinda; but while Gudrun would have protected
the former at the cost of her life, she allowed Wat to kill the latter, who
had deserved such a death in punishment for all her cruelty.

When the massacre was over, the victors celebrated their triumph by a grand
banquet, at which Gudrun, fulfilling her boast, actually presided as queen.

"Now from the bitter contest the warriors rested all.
There came the royal Herwig into King Ludwig's hall,
Together with his champions, their gear with blood yet streaming.
Dame Gudrun well received him; her heart with love was teeming."
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's tr.).

When the banquet was over, the Hegelings set sail, taking with them the
recovered maidens, all the spoil they had won, and their captives, Hartmut
and Ortrun; and on reaching Matelan they were warmly welcomed by Hilde, who
was especially rejoiced to see her daughter once more.

"The queen drew near to Gudrun. Could any one outweigh
The joy they felt together, with any wealth or treasure?
When they had kissed each other their grief was changed to pleasure."
_Gudrun_ (Dippold's

[Sidenote: A fourfold wedding.] Shortly after their return home a fourfold
wedding took place. Gudrun married her faithful Herwig, Ortwine espoused
Hildburg, Siegfried consoled himself for Gudrun's loss by taking the fair
Ortrun to wife, and Hartmut received with the hand of Hergart, Herwig's
sister, the restitution not only of his freedom but also of his kingdom.

At the wedding banquet Horant, who, in spite of his advanced years, had
lost none of his musical skill, played the wedding march with such success
that the queens simultaneously flung their crowns at his feet,--an offering
which he smilingly refused, telling them that crowns were perishable, but
that the poet's song was immortal.

"The aged minstrel drew his harp still closer to his breast,
Gazed at the jeweled coronets as this thought he expressed:
'Fair queens, I bid you wear them until your locks turn gray;
Those crowns, alas! are fleeting, but song will live alway.'"
NIENDORF (H.A.G.'s tr.).



Among primitive races, as with children, animal stories are much enjoyed,
and form one of the first stages in literature. The oldest of these tales
current in the middle ages is the epic of Reineke Fuchs, or Reynard the
Fox. This poem was carried by the ancient Franks across the Rhine, became
fully acclimated in France, and then returned to Germany by way of
Flanders, where it was localized.

After circulating from mouth to mouth almost all over Europe, during many
centuries, it was first committed to writing in the Netherlands, where the
earliest manuscript, dating from the eleventh or twelfth century, gives a
Latin version of the tale.

[Sidenote: Origin of animal epics.] "The root of this saga lies in the
harmless natural simplicity of a primeval people. We see described the
delight which the rude child of nature takes in all animals,--in their slim
forms, their gleaming eyes, their fierceness, their nimbleness and cunning.
Such sagas would naturally have their origin in an age when the ideas of
shepherd and hunter occupied a great portion of the intellectual horizon of
the people; when the herdman saw in the ravenous bear one who was his
equal, and more than his equal, in force and adroitness, the champion of
the woods and wilds; when the hunter, in his lonely ramble through the
depths of the forest, beheld in the hoary wolf and red fox, as they stole
along,--hunters like himself,--mates, so to say, and companions, and whom
he therefore addressed as such.... So that originally this kind of poetry
was the exponent of a peculiar sort of feeling prevailing among the people,
and had nothing whatever to do with the didactic or satiric, although at a
later period satiric allusions began to be interwoven with it."

The story has been rewritten by many poets and prose writers. It has been
translated into almost every European language, and was remodeled from one
of the old mediaeval poems by Goethe, who has given it the form in which it
will doubtless henceforth be known. His poem "Reineke Fuchs" has been
commented upon by Carlyle and translated by Rogers, from whose version all
the following quotations have been extracted.

[Sidenote: The animals' assembly.] As was the custom among the Franks under
their old Merovingian rulers, the animals all assembled at Whitsuntide
around their king, Nobel the lion, who ruled over all the forest. This
assembly, like the Champ de Mars, its prototype, was convened not only for
the purpose of deciding upon the undertakings for the following year, but
also as a special tribunal, where all accusations were made, all complaints
heard, and justice meted out to all. The animals were all present, all
except Reynard the fox, who, it soon became apparent, was accused of many a
dark deed. Every beast present testified to some crime committed by him,
and all accused him loudly except his nephew, Grimbart the badger.

"And yet there was one who was absent,
Reineke Fox, the rascal! who, deeply given to mischief,
Held aloof from half the Court. As shuns a bad conscience
Light and day, so the fox fought shy of the nobles assembled.
One and all had complaints to make, he had all of them injured;
Grimbart the badger, his brother's son, alone was excepted."

[Sidenote: Complaints against Reynard.] The complaint was voiced by Isegrim
the wolf, who told with much feeling how cruelly Reynard had blinded three
of his beloved children, and how shamefully he had insulted his wife, the
fair lady Gieremund. This accusation had no sooner been formulated than
Wackerlos the dog came forward, and, speaking French, pathetically
described the finding of a little sausage in a thicket, and its purloining
by Reynard, who seemed to have no regard whatever for his famished

The tomcat Hintze, who at the mere mention of a sausage had listened more
attentively, now angrily cried out that the sausage which Wackerlos had
lost belonged by right to him, as he had concealed it in the thicket after
stealing it from the miller's wife. He added that he too had had much to
suffer from Reynard, and was supported by the panther, who described how he
had once found the miscreant cruelly beating poor Lampe the hare.

"Lampe he held by the collar,
Yes, and had certainly taken his life, if I by good fortune
Had not happened to pass by the road. There standing you see him.
Look and see the wounds of the gentle creature, whom no one
Ever would think of ill treating."

[Sidenote: Vindication of Reynard.] The king, Nobel, was beginning to look
very stern as one after another rose to accuse the absent Reynard, when
Grimbart the badger courageously began to defend him, and artfully turned
the tables upon the accusers. Taking up their complaints one by one, he
described how Reynard, his uncle, once entered into partnership with
Isegrim. To obtain some fish which a carter was conveying to market, the
fox had lain as if dead in the middle of the road. He had been picked up by
the man for the sake of his fur, and tossed up on top of the load of fish.
But no sooner had the carter's back been turned than the fox sprang up,
threw all the fish down into the road to the expectant wolf, and only
sprang down himself when the cart was empty. The wolf, ravenous as ever,
devoured the fish as fast as they were thrown down, and when the fox
claimed his share of the booty he had secured, Isegrim gave him only the
bones.[1] [Footnote 1: For Russian version see Guerber's Contes et
Legendes, vol. i., p. 93.]

Not content with cheating his ally once, the wolf had induced the fox to
steal a suckling pig from the larder of a sleeping peasant. With much
exertion the cunning Reynard had thrown the prize out of the window to the
waiting wolf; but when he asked for a portion of the meat as reward, he was
dismissed with nothing but the piece of wood upon which it had been hung.

The badger further proceeded to relate that Reynard had wooed Gieremund
seven years before, when she was still unmated, and that if Isegrim chose
to consider that an insult, it was only on a par with the rest of his
accusations, for the king could readily see that Reynard was sorely injured
instead of being guilty.

Then, encouraged by the favorable impression he had produced, Grimbart
airily disposed of the cases of Wackerlos and Hintze by proving that they
had both stolen the disputed sausage, after which he went on to say that
Reynard had undertaken to instruct Lampe the hare in psalmody, and that the
ill treatment which the panther had described was only a little wholesome
castigation inflicted by the teacher upon a lazy and refractory pupil.

"Should not the master his pupil
Sometimes chastise when he will not observe, and is stubborn in evil?
If boys were never punished, were thoughtlessness always passed over,
Were bad behavior allowed, how would our juveniles grow up?"

These plausible explanations were not without their effect, and when
Grimbart went on to declare that, ever since Nobel proclaimed a general
truce and amnesty among all the animals of the forest, Reynard had turned
hermit and spent all his time in fasting, almsgiving, and prayer, the
complaint was about to be dismissed.

[Sidenote: Story of Henning and the Cock.] Suddenly, however, Henning the
cock appeared, followed by his two sons, Kryant and Kantart, bearing the
mangled remains of a hen upon a bier. In broken accents the bereaved father
related how happily he had dwelt in a convent henyard, with the ten sons
and fourteen daughters which his excellent consort had hatched and brought
up in a single summer. His only anxiety had been caused by the constant
prowling of Reynard, who, however, had been successfully at a distance by
the watchdogs. But when the general truce had been proclaimed, the dogs
were dismissed. Reynard, in the garb of a monk, had made his way into the
henyard to show Henning the royal proclamation with the attached seal, and
to assure him of his altered mode of living.

Thus reassured, Henning had led his family out into the forest, where,
alas! Reynard was lurking, and where he killed all but five of Henning's
promising brood. They had not only been killed, but devoured, with the
exception of Scratch-foot, whose mangled remains were laid at the monarch's
feet in proof of the crime, as was customary in the mediaeval courts of

The king, angry that his truce should thus have been broken, and sorry for
the evident grief of the father, ordered a sumptuous funeral for the
deceased, and commanded that a stone should be placed upon her grave,
bearing the epitaph:

"'Scratch-foot, daughter of Henning, the cock, the best of the hen
Many an egg did she lay in her nest, and was skillful in scratching.
Here she lies, lost, alas! to her friends, by Reineke murdered.
All the world should know of his false and cruel behavior,
As for the dead they lament.' Thus ran the words that were

[Sidenote: Reynard and the Bear.] Then the king, having taken advice with
his council, solemnly bade Brown the bear proceed immediately to
Malepartus, Reynard's home, and summon him to appear at Reynard and court
forthwith, to answer the grave charges which had been made against him. But
he warned his messenger to behave circumspectly and to beware of the wiles
of the crafty fox. The bear rather resented these well-meant
recommendations, and, confidently asserting his ability to take care of
himself, set out for Reynard's abode.

On his way to the mountains he was obliged to pass through an arid, sandy
waste, and reached Malepartus weary and overheated. Standing before the
fortress, which rejoiced in many labyrinthine passages, he loudly made
known his errand; and when Reynard, peeping cautiously out, had ascertained
that Brown was alone, he hastened out to welcome him.

With great volubility the fox commiserated his long journey, and excused
the delay in admitting him under plea of an indisposition caused by eating
too much honey, a diet which he abhorred.

At the mere mention of honey the bear forgot all his fatigue, and when his
host lamented the fact that he had nothing else to offer him, he joyfully
declared no food could suit him better, and that he could never get enough
of it.

"'If that is so,' continued the Red one, 'I really can serve you,
For the peasant Ruesteviel lives at the foot of the mountain.
Honey he has, indeed, such that you and all of your kindred
Never so much together have seen.'"

Oblivious of everything else at the thought of such a treat, Brown the bear
immediately set out in Reynard's company, and they soon came to the
peasant's yard, where a half-split tree trunk lay in full view. Reynard
then bade his companion thrust his nose well down into the hollow and eat
his fill of honey. As soon as he saw that the bear had thrust not only his
nose, but both fore paws, into the crack, Reynard cleverly removed the
wedges, the tree clapped together, and he left the bear a prisoner and
howling with pain.

These sounds soon attracted the peasant's attention, and he and his
companions all fell upon the captive bear with every imaginable weapon, and
proceeded to give him a sound beating. Frantic with pain and terror, the
unfortunate bear finally succeeded in wrenching himself free, at the cost
of the skin on his nose and fore paws, and, after tumbling the fat cook
into the water, swam down the stream and landed in a thicket to bewail his
misfortunes. Here he was found by the fox, who added insult to injury by
making fun of him, and reproved him for his gluttony, until the bear again
plunged into the stream and swam away.

[Illustration: BROWN THE BEAR CAUGHT IN THE LOG.--Wagner.]

Then, painfully making his way back to Nobel, Brown presented himself at
court all bleeding and travel-stained, and poured forth a doleful account
of his mission.

[Sidenote: Reynard and the cat.] The king, after consulting with his
principal courtiers, declared it the right of any man to be thrice
summoned, and, conceding that the bear's manners were not of a conciliatory
nature, selected Hintze the cat to bear his message to Malepartus. The cat,
disheartened by unfavorable omens, was nevertheless compelled to go on this
unwelcome journey.

Reynard welcomed him cordially, promised to accompany him to court on the
morrow, and then asked what kind of refreshment he could offer. When Hintze
had confessed his preference for mice, the fox replied that it was very
fortunate, as there were plenty of them in the parson's barn. Hintze
immediately asked to be led thither, that he might eat his fill.

"'Pray do me the kindness
Hence to lead and show me the mice, for far above wild game
Give me a mouse for delicate flavor.'"

Reynard then conducted Hintze to the parson's barn, and pointed out a
little opening through which he had passed to steal chickens, and where he
knew that Martin, the parson's son, had laid a trap to catch any intruder.
Hintze at first demurred, but, urged by Reynard, crept in and found himself
caught in a noose. Reynard, pretending to take the cat's moans for cries of
joy, banteringly inquired whether that was the way they sang at court, as
the caterwauling grew louder.

These sounds finally reached the ears of little Martin, who, accompanied by
his father, came into the barn to catch the intruder. Poor Hintze,
frightened at the sight of the bludgeon the parson carried, flew at his
legs, scratching and biting him, until the saintly man fainted. Then,
taking advantage of the confusion, Hintze managed to slip out of the noose
and effect his escape. He returned to court minus one eye, and there poured
out the story of his wrongs.

[Sidenote: Reynard and the badger.] The wrath of the king was now terrible
to behold, and assembling his council, he bade them decide how he should
punish the wretch who had twice ill treated his messengers. Grimbart the
badger, seeing that public opinion was decidedly against his relative, now
begged that a third summons should be sent, and offered to carry the
message himself. He furthermore declared that, even according to their own
showing, the cat and bear had come to grief through their greediness; and
then he promptly departed.

Grimbart found Reynard in the bosom of his family, delivered his message,
and frankly advised the fox to obey the king's summons and appear at court,
where, perchance, he might yet manage to save himself; while if he remained
at home the king would besiege his fortress and slay him and all his
family. Reynard listened favorably to this advice, and, after bidding his
wife a tender farewell, and committing his beloved children to her care, he
set out with Grimbart to go to court.

On the way the recollection of his many transgressions began to lie very
heavily upon his heart. The fear of death quickened his conscience, and,
longing to make his peace with Heaven, he expressed a great wish to confess
his sins and receive absolution. As no priest was near at hand, he begged
Grimbart the badger to listen to him, and penitently confessed all the
misdeeds we have already recounted. He also added that he once bound
Isegrim to the rope of the convent bell at Elkinar, where his frantic
tugging rang the bell, until the monks, crowding around him, cudgeled him
severely. Reynard related, too, how he once induced Isegrim to enter the
priests' house through a window and crawl along some beams in search of ham
and bacon. As the wolf was carefully feeling his way, however, the
mischievous fox pushed him and made him fall on the sleeping people below,
who, awakening with a start, fell upon him and beat him. These and sundry
other sins having duly been confessed, the badger bade the fox chastise
himself with a switch plucked from the hedge, lay it down in the road, jump
over it thrice, and then meekly kiss that rod in token of obedience. Then
he pronounced Reynard absolved from his former sins, and admonished him to
lead an altered life in future.

"'My uncle, take care that your future amendment
In good works be visible. Psalms you should read, and should visit
Churches with diligence; fast at the seasons duly appointed;
Him who asks you point out the way to; give to the needy
Willingly; swear to forsake all evil habits of living,
All kinds of theft and robbing, deceit and evil behavior.
Thus can you make quite sure that you will attain unto mercy!'"

The fox solemnly promised amendment, and with sanctimonious mien continued
his journey. But as he and the badger passed a convent, and some plump hens
crossed their path, Reynard forgot all his promises and began to chase the
chickens. Sharply recalled to a sense of duty by Grimbart, Reynard
reluctantly gave up the chase, and the two proceeded without further
drawback to the court, where Reynard's arrival created a great sensation.

"When at the Court it was known that Reineke really was coming,
Ev'ry one thronged out of doors to see him, the great and the little.
Few with friendly intent; for almost all were complaining.
This, however, in Reineke's mind was of little importance;
Thus he pretended, at least, as he with Grimbart the badger,
Boldly enough and with elegant mien now walked up the high street.
Jauntily swung he along at his ease, as if he were truly
Son of the king, and free and quit of ev'ry transgression.
Thus he came before Nobel the king, and stood in the palace
In the midst of the lords; he knew how to pose as unruffled."

[Sidenote: Reynard at court.] With consummate skill and unparalleled
eloquence and impudence, Reynard addressed the king, lauding himself as a
faithful servant, and commiserating the fact that so many envious and
backbiting people were ready to accuse him. Nobel the king, in whose mind
the recollection of the treatment inflicted upon Brown the bear and Hintze
the cat was still very vivid, answered him sternly, and told him that it
would be difficult for him to acquit himself of those two charges, to say
nothing of the many others brought against him. Reynard, still undismayed,
demanded with well-feigned indignation whether he was to be held
responsible for the sins of those messengers whose misfortunes were
attributable to their gluttonous and thievish propensities only.

[Sidenote: Reynard condemned to death.] But in spite of this specious
pleading, all the other animals came crowding around with so many grievous
charges that matters began to look very dark indeed for the fox. In spite
of all Reynard's eloquence, and of the fluent excuses ever on his tongue,
the council pronounced him guilty, and condemned him to die an ignominious
death. Reynard's enemies rejoiced at this sentence, and dragged him off
with cheerful alacrity to the gallows, where all the animals assembled to
witness his execution.

On the way to the place of punishment Reynard tried to think of some plan
by means of which he could save himself even at the eleventh hour; and
knowing that some scheme would occur to him if he could only gain a little
time, he humbly implored permission to make a public confession of his
manifold sins ere he paid the penalty of his crimes. Anxious to hear all he
might have to say, the king granted him permission to speak; and the fox
began to relate at length the story of his early and innocent childhood,
his meeting and alliance with Isegrim the wolf, and his gradual induction
by him into crooked paths and evil ways. He told, too, how the cruel wolf,
presuming on his strength, had ever made use of it to deprive him, the fox,
of his rightful share of plunder; and concluded by saying that he would
often have suffered from hunger had it not been for the possession of a
great treasure of gold, which had sufficed for all his wants.

"Thanks be to God, however, I never suffered from hunger;
Secretly have I fed well by means of that excellent treasure,
All of silver and gold in a secret place that securely
Hidden I keep; with this I've enough. And, I say it in earnest,
Not a wagon could carry it off, though sevenfold loaded."

At the word "treasure" Nobel pricked up his ears and bade Reynard relate
how this hoard was obtained and where it was concealed. The artful fox,
seeing the king's evident interest, rapidly prepared more lies, and,
speaking to the king and queen, declared that ere he died it would be
better for him to reveal the carefully guarded secret of a conspiracy which
would have resulted in the king's death had it not been for his devotion.

The queen, shuddering at the mere thought of the danger her royal consort
had run, now begged that Reynard might step down from the scaffold and
speak privately to her and to Nobel. In this interview Reynard, still
pretending to prepare for immediate death, told how he discovered a
conspiracy formed by his father, Isegrim the wolf, Brown the bear, and many
others, to slay the king and seize the scepter. He described the various
secret conferences, the measures taken, and his father's promise to defray
all the expenses of the enterprise and to subsidize mercenary troops by
means of the hoard of King Ermenrich, which he had discovered and concealed
for his own use.

Reynard then continued to describe his loyal fears for his beloved
sovereign, his resolve to outwit the conspirators, and his efforts to
deprive them of the sinews of war by discovering and abstracting the
treasure. Thanks to his ceaseless vigilance, he saw his father steal forth
one night, uncover his hoard, gloat over the gold, and then efface the
traces of his search with the utmost skill.

"'Nor could one,
Not having seen, have possibly known. And ere he went onwards
Well he understood at the place where his feet had been planted,
Cleverly backwards and forwards to draw his tail, and to smooth it,
And to efface the trace with the aid of his mouth.'"

Reynard then told the king how diligently he and his wife, Ermelyn, labored
to remove the gold and conceal it elsewhere, and how the conspiracy came to
naught when no gold was found to pay the troops. He mournfully added that
his loyalty further deprived him of a loving father, for the latter had
hung himself in despair when he found his treasure gone and all his plans
frustrated. With hypocritical tears he then bewailed his own fate, saying
that, although ready to risk all for another, there was no one near him to
speak a good word for him in his time of bitterest need.

[Sidenote: Reynard Pardoned.] The queen's soft heart was so touched by
this display of feeling that she soon pleaded for and obtained Reynard's
pardon from Nobel, who freely granted it when the fox promised to give him
his treasure. Most accurately now he described its place of concealment,
but said that he could not remain at court, as his presence there was an
insult to royalty, seeing that he was under the Pope's ban and must make a
pilgrimage ere it could be removed.

The king, after imprisoning Isegrim, Brown, and Hintze (the chief
conspirators according to Reynard's tale), and ascertaining that the place
the fox so accurately described really existed, bade Reynard depart, and at
his request procured for him a fragment of Brown's hide to make a wallet,
and a pair of socks from Isegrim and his wife, who were very loath to part
with their foot covering. The king, queen, and court then accompanied
Reynard a short way on the first stage of his journey, and turned back,
leaving Bellyn the ram and Lampe the hare to escort him a little farther.
These innocent companions accompanied Reynard to Malepartus, and while
Bellyn waited patiently without, Lampe entered the house with Reynard. Lady
Ermelyn and her two young sons greeted Reynard with joy, listened
breathlessly to the account of his adventures, and then helped him to slay
and eat Lampe, who, he declared, had brought all these evils upon him.

Reynard and his family feasted upon the body of poor Lampe the hare, whose
head was then securely fastened in the wallet made of Brown's skin. This
the fox carefully carried out and placed upon Bellyn's back, assuring him
volubly the while that it contained important dispatches, and that in order
to insure him a suitable reward for his good offices he had told Nobel the
king that the ram had given him valuable assistance in preparing the
contents of the wallet.

"'Yet, as soon as you see the king, and to still better favor
Wish to attain with him, 'twere well to bring to his notice
That you have sagely given advice in composing the letters,
Yea, and the writer have help'd.'"

Thus instructed, and reassured concerning the absence of Lampe, whom
Reynard described as enjoying a chat with Ermelyn, Bellyn bounded off to
court, where he did not fail to vaunt that he had helped Reynard prepare
the contents of the wallet. Nobel publicly opened it, and when he drew out
Lampe's bleeding head his anger knew no bounds. Following the advice of his
courtiers, Bellyn, in spite of all his protestations, was given in
atonement to the bear and the wolf, who the king now feared had been
unjustly treated. They were then released from imprisonment and reinstated
to royal favor, and twelve days of festivity ensued.

[Sidenote: Reynard again in disgrace.] In the midst of the dance and
revelry a bloody rabbit appeared to accuse Reynard of tearing off one of
his ears, while the garrulous crow, Merkinau, related how the same
unscrupulous wretch had pretended death merely to befool Sharfenebbe, his
wife, and induce her to come near enough for him to bite off her head.
Nobel the king, upon hearing these complaints, immediately swore that
within six days he would besiege Reynard in his castle, would take him
prisoner, and would make him suffer the penalty of his crimes.

Isegrim the wolf and Brown the bear rejoiced at these tidings, while
Grimbart the badger, seeing the peril his uncle had incurred, hastened off
secretly to Malepartus to warn him of his danger and support him by his
advice. He found Reynard sitting complacently in front of his house,
contemplating two young doves which he had just secured as they were making
their first attempt to fly. Grimbart breathlessly related the arrival of
Bellyn, the royal indignation at the sight of Lampe's head, and the plan
for surrounding and capturing Reynard in his safe retreat.

[Sidenote: Grimbart's advice.] In spite of this disquieting news Reynard's
composure did not desert him; but after vowing that he could easily acquit
himself of these crimes if he could only win the king's ear for a moment,
he invited his kinsman to share his meal and taste the delicate morsels he
had secured. Grimbart the badger, seeing that the fox was not inclined to
flee, now advised him not to await the king's coming and expose his wife
and children to the horrors of a siege, but boldly to return to court.

"'Go with assurance before the lords, and put the best face on
Your affairs. They will give you a hearing. Lupardus was also
Willing you should not be punish'd before you had fully
Made your defense, and the queen herself was not otherwise minded.
Mark this fact, and try to make use of it.'"

Once more Reynard bade a tender farewell to his wife and sons, resisting
all the former's entreaties to seek safety in flight, and, relying upon his
cunning, set out with Grimbart to visit the court. On his way he again
pretended repentance for his former sins, and resuming his confession at
the point where he had broken off, he told how maliciously he had secured a
piece of the bear's hide for a wallet, and socks from Isegrim and his wife.
He then went on to relate just how he had murdered Lampe, charged the
innocent Bellyn with the ambiguous message which had cost him his life,
torn off one of the rabbit's ears, and eaten the crow's wife. Lastly, he
confessed how he had gone out in company with the wolf, who, being hungry
and seeing a mare with a little foal, had bidden Reynard inquire at what
price she would sell it. The mare retorted that the price was written on
her hoof. The sly fox, understanding her meaning, yet longing to get his
companion into trouble, pretended not to know how to read, and sent the
wolf to ascertain the price. The result was, of course, disastrous, for the
mare kicked so hard that the wolf lay almost dead for several hours after.

"So he went and asked the lady, 'What price is the filly?
Make it cheap.' Whereupon she replied, 'You've only to read it;
There you will find the sum inscribed on one of my hind feet.'
'Let me look,' continued the wolf; and she answered, 'With

"Then she lifted upwards her foot from the grass; it was studded
With six nails. She struck straight out, and not by a hair's
Missed she her mark. She struck on his head, and straightway he
fell down,
Lying as dumb as the dead."

Waxing more and more eloquent as they drew nearer court and his fears
increased, Reynard began to moralize. He excused himself for Lampe's murder
on the plea of the latter's aggravating behavior, said that the king
himself was nothing but a robber living by rapine, and proceeded to show
how even the priests were guilty of manifold sins, which he enumerated with
much gusto.

They had scarcely finished this edifying conversation when they came across
Martin the ape, on his way to Rome; and Reynard hastened to implore him to
secure his release from the Pope's ban, through the intercession of the
ape's uncle, the cardinal, whose interest it was to serve him. Martin the
ape not only promised his good offices at the papal court, but bade Reynard
not hesitate to consult his wife should he find himself in any predicament
at court.

[Sidenote: Reynard at court.] Thus supported, Reynard again made his
appearance at court, to the utter amazement and surprise of all; and
although, he was well aware that his situation was more dangerous than
ever, his assurance did not seem at all impaired. Kneeling with pretended
humility before the king, he artfully began his address by lamenting the
fact that there were so many unscrupulous people ever ready to accuse the
innocent; and when the king angrily interrupted him to accuse him of
maiming the rabbit and devouring the crow, he began his defense.

First Reynard explained that since Martin the ape had undertaken to free
him from his ban, his journey to Rome was of course unnecessary. Then he
related how the rabbit, dining at his house, had insulted and quarreled
with his children, from whose clutches he had had much trouble to save him.
The crow's death was caused by a fish bone she had swallowed. Bellyn, the
traitor, had slain Lampe himself, and evidently put his head in the wallet
instead of some treasures which Reynard had intrusted to their care for the
king and queen.

[Sidenote: The ape's intercession.] The king, who had listened impatiently
to all this discourse, angrily retired, refusing to believe a word, while
Reynard sought the ape's wife, Frau Rueckenau, and bade her intercede for
him. She entered the royal tent, reminded the king of her former services,
and seeing his mood somewhat softened, ventured to mention how cleverly
Reynard once helped him to judge between the rival claims of a shepherd and
a serpent. The latter, caught in a noose and about to die, had implored a
passing shepherd to set it free. The peasant had done so after exacting a
solemn oath from the serpent to do him no harm. But the serpent, once
released, and suffering from the pangs of hunger, threatened to devour the
peasant. The latter called the raven, wolf, and bear, whom he met by the
way, to his aid; but as they all hoped to get a share of him, they all
decided in favor of the serpent's claim to eat him.

The case by this time had become so intricate that it was laid before the
king, who, unable to judge wisely, called Reynard to his aid. The fox
declared that he could only settle so difficult a matter when plaintiff and
defendant had assumed the relative positions which they occupied at the
time of dispute. Then when the snake was safely in the noose once more,
Reynard decided that, knowing the serpent's treachery, the peasant might
again set him loose, but need not do so unless he chose.

"'Here now is each of the parties
Once again in his former state, nor has either the contest
Won or lost. The right, I think, of itself is apparent.
For if it pleases the man, he again can deliver the serpent
Out of the noose; if not, he may let her remain and be hang'd there.
Free he may go on his way with honor and see to his business,
Since she has proved herself false, when she had accepted his kindness;
Fairly the man has the choice. This seems to me to be justice,
True to the spirit. Let him who understands better declare it.'"

[Illustration: REYNARD PREPARING FOR BATTLE.--Kaulbach.]

The king, remembering this celebrated judgment, and skillfully reminded by
Frau Rueckenau of the bear's and the wolf's rapacity, consented at last to
give Reynard a second hearing. The fox now minutely described the treasures
he sent to court,--a magic ring for the king, and a comb and mirror for the
queen. Not only was the fable of the judgment of Paris engraved on the
latter, but also that of the jealous donkey, who, imitating his master's
lapdog, and trying to climb into his lap, received nothing but blows. There
was also the story of the cat and the fox, of the wolf and the crane, and,
lastly, the account of the miraculous way in which his father, a noted
leech, had saved Nobel's sire by making him eat the flesh of a wolf just
seven years old.

The pleader then reminded the king of a noted hunting party, where Isegrim,
having secured a boar, gave the king one quarter, the queen another,
reserved a half for himself, and gave the fox nothing but the head. This
division was of course very disloyal, and the fox showed that he thought so
by dividing a calf more equitably; i.e., giving the queen one half, the
king the other, the heart and liver to the princes, the head to the wolf,
and reserving only the feet for himself.

[Sidenote: Duel between the fox and the wolf.] Reynard prided himself upon
these tokens of loyalty, and then, seeing that he had made a favorable
impression, he volunteered, in spite of his small size, to meet the wolf in
battle and leave the vindication of his claims to the judgment of God. This
magnanimous behavior filled the king with admiration, and the trial was
appointed for the following day, the intervening hours being granted to
both combatants for preparation. Reynard, still advised by Frau Rueckenau,
was shaved smooth, rubbed with butter until he was as slippery as could be,
and instructed to feign fear and run fleetly in front of the wolf, kicking
up as much sand as possible, and using his brush to dash it into his
opponent's eyes and thus blind him.

The combat took place. The wolf, blinded by the sand in his eyes, was so
infuriated that he finally pounced upon the fox, who, however, managed yet
to get the upper hand and come off victor, generously granting life to his
foe, whom he had nearly torn and scratched to pieces. Reynard, having thus
won the victory, enjoyed the plaudits of the crowd, while the wolf, being
vanquished, was publicly derided, and borne off by his few remaining
friends to be nursed back to health, if possible.

"Such is ever the way of the world. They say to the lucky,
'Long may you live in good health,' and friends he finds in abundance.
When, however, ill fortune befalls him, alone he must bear it.
Even so was it here; each one of them wish'd to the victor
Nearest to be, to show himself off."

[Sidenote: Reynard's acquittal.] The king pronounced Reynard guiltless of
all charges, and made him one of his privy councilors. But the fox, after
thanking the king for his favors, humbly besought permission to return
home, where his wife was awaiting him, and departed, escorted by a
deputation of his friends.

According to some versions of the tale, Reynard contented himself with
blinding the wolf and maiming him for life; according to others, he bided
his time, and when the king was ill, told him that nothing could save him
short of the heart of a wolf just seven years old. Of course no wolf of the
exact age could be found but Isegrim, so he was sacrificed to save the
king, who recovered. As for Reynard, he enjoyed great honor as long as he
lived, and his adventures have long been the delight of the people, whom
his tricks never failed to amuse.

"Highly honor'd is Reineke now! To wisdom let all men
Quickly apply them, and flee what is evil, and reverence virtue!
This is the end and aim of the song, and in it the poet
Fable and truth hath mixed, whereby the good from the evil
Ye may discern, and wisdom esteem; and thereby the buyers
Of this book in the ways of the world may be daily instructed.
For it was so created of old, and will ever remain so.
Thus is our poem of Reineke's deeds and character ended.
May God bring us all to eternal happiness. Amen!"



[Sidenote: Origin of Poem.] Germany's greatest epic is, without doubt, the
ancient poem entitled "Nibelungenlied," or the "Lay," "Fall," or "Calamity
of the Nibelungs." Although nothing certain is known concerning the real
authorship of this beautiful work, it is supposed to have been put into its
present form either by the Austrian minstrel von Kuerenberg or by the German
poet von Ofterdingen, some time previous to the year 1210, the date
inscribed on the oldest manuscript of that poem now extant.

According to the best authorities on ancient German literature, the
"Nibelungenlied" is compiled from preexisting songs and rhapsodies, forming
five distinct cycles of myths, but all referring in some way to the great
treasure of the Nibelungs. One of these cycles is the northern Volsunga
Saga,[1] where Sigurd, Gudrun, Gunnar, Hoegni, and Atli, the principal
characters, correspond to Siegfried, Kriemhild, Gunther, Hagen, and Etzel
of the "Nibelungenlied." The story of the German poem, which can be given
only in outline, is as follows: [Footnote 1: See Guerber's Myths of
Northern Lands, p. 225.]

Dankrat and Ute, King and Queen of Burgundy, were the fortunate parents of
four children: three sons, Gunther, Gernot, and Giselher; and one beautiful
daughter, Kriemhild. When the king died, his eldest son, Gunther, succeeded
him, and reigned wisely and well, residing at Worms on the Rhine, his
capital and favorite city.

[Sidenote: Kriemhild's dream.] As was customary in those days, Kriemhild
lived a peaceful and secluded life, rarely leaving her mother's palace and
protection. But one night her slumbers, which were usually very peaceful,
were disturbed by a tormenting dream, which, upon awaking, she hastened to
confide to her mother, thinking that, as Ute was skilled in magic and
dreams, she might give a favorable interpretation and thus rid her of her
haunting fears.

"A dream was dreamt by Kriemhild, the virtuous and the gay,
How a wild young falcon she train'd for many a day,
Till two fierce eagles tore it."
_Nibelungenlied_ (Lettsom's tr.).

Ute declared that the falcon her daughter had seen in her dream must be
some noble prince, whom she would love and marry; while the two eagles were
base murderers, who would eventually slay her beloved. Instead of
reassuring Kriemhild, this interpretation only saddened her the more, and
made her loudly protest that she would rather forego all the joys of
married estate than have to mourn for a beloved husband.

[Sidenote: Siegfried's home.] In those days there flourished farther down
the Rhine the kingdom of the Netherlands, governed by Siegmund and
Siegelind. They were very proud of their only son and heir, young
Siegfried, who had already reached man's estate. To celebrate his
knighthood a great tournament was held at Xanten on the Rhine, and in the
jousting the young prince won all the laurels, although great and tried
warriors matched their skill against his in the lists.

The festivities continued for seven whole days, and when the guests
departed they were all heavily laden with the costly gifts which the king
and queen had lavished upon them.

"The gorgeous feast it lasted till the seventh day was o'er.
Siegelind, the wealthy, did as they did of yore;
She won for valiant Siegfried the hearts of young and old,
When for his sake among them she shower'd the ruddy gold.

"You scarce could find one needy in all the minstrel band;
Horses and robes were scatter'd with ever-open hand.
They gave as though they had not another day to live;
None were to take so ready as they inclin'd to give."
_Nibelungenlied_ (Lettsom's tr.).

After the departure of all these guests, young Siegfried sought his
parents' presence, told them that he had heard rumors of the beauty and
attractions of Kriemhild of Burgundy, and declared his wish to journey
thither to secure her as his wife.

In vain the fond parents tried to prevail upon him to remain quietly at
home; the young hero insisted so strongly that he finally won their consent
to his immediate departure. With eleven companions, all decked out in the
richest garments that the queen's chests could furnish, the young prince
rode down the Rhine, and reached Worms on the seventh day.

[Sidenote: Siegfried's arrival in Burgundy.] The arrival of the gallant
little troop was soon noted by Gunther's subjects, who hastened out to meet
the strangers and help them dismount. Siegfried immediately requested to be
brought into the presence of their king, who, in the mean while, had
inquired of his uncle, Hagen, the names and standing of the newcomers.
Glancing down from the great hall window, Hagen said that the leader must
be Siegfried, the knight who had slain the owners of the Nibelungen hoard
and appropriated it for his own use, as well as the magic cloud-cloak, or
Tarnkappe, which rendered its wearer invisible to mortal eyes.[1] He added
that this same Siegfried was ruler of the Nibelungen land, and the slayer
of a terrible dragon, whose blood had made him invulnerable, and he
concluded by advising Gunther to receive him most courteously. [Footnote 1:
For various legends of this cycle see Guerber's Legends of the Rhine,
article Xanten.]

"Yet more I know of Siegfried, that well your ear may hold:
A poison-spitting dragon he slew with courage bold,
And in the blood then bath'd him; thus turn'd to horn his skin,
And now no weapons harm him, as often proved has been.

"Receive then this young hero with all becoming state;
'Twere ill advis'd to merit so fierce a champion's hate.
So lovely is his presence, at once all hearts are won,
And then his strength and courage such wondrous deeds have done."
_Nibelungenlied_ (Lettsom's

In obedience to this advice, Gunther went to meet Siegfried and politely
inquired the cause of his visit. Imagine his dismay, therefore, when
Siegfried replied that he had come to test the Burgundian's vaunted
strength, and to propose a single combat, in which the victor might claim
the lands and allegiance of the vanquished. Gunther recoiled from such a
proposal, and as none of his warriors seemed inclined to accept the
challenge, he and his brother hastened to disarm Siegfried's haughty mood
by their proffers of unbounded hospitality.

Siegfried sojourned for nearly a year at Gunther's court, displaying his
skill in all martial exercises; and although he never caught a glimpse of
the fair maiden Kriemhild, she often admired his strength and manly beauty
from behind the palace lattice.

[Sidenote: War with the Saxons and Danes.] One day the games were
interrupted by the arrival of a herald announcing that Ludeger, King of the
Saxons, and Ludegast, King of Denmark, were about to invade Burgundy. These
tidings filled Gunther's heart with terror, for the enemy were very
numerous and their valor was beyond all question. But when Hagen hinted
that perhaps Siegfried would lend them a helping hand, the King of Burgundy
seized the suggestion with joy.

As soon as Siegfried was made aware of the threatened invasion he declared
that if Gunther would only give him one thousand brave men he would repel
the foe. This offer was too good to refuse; so Gunther hastily assembled a
chosen corps, in which were his brothers Gernot and Giselher, Hagen and his
brother Dankwart, Ortwine, Sindolt, and Volker,--all men of remarkable

"'Sir king,' said noble Siegfried, 'here sit at home and play,
While I and your vassals are fighting far away;
Here frolic with the ladies and many a merry mate,
And trust to me for guarding your honor and estate.'"
_Nibelungenlied_ (Lettsom's tr.).

This little force, only one thousand strong, then marched bravely out of
Worms, passed through Hesse, and entered Saxony, where it encountered the
enemy numbering no less than twenty thousand valiant fighting men. The
battle was immediately begun; and while all fought bravely, none did such
wonders as Siegfried, who made both kings prisoners, routed their host, and
returned triumphant to Worms, with much spoil and many captives.

A messenger had preceded him thither to announce the success of the
expedition, and he was secretly summoned and questioned by Kriemhild, who,
in her joy at hearing that Siegfried was unharmed and victorious, gave the
messenger a large reward.

"Then spake she midst her blushes, 'Well hast thou earn'd thy meed,
Well hast thou told thy story, so take thee costliest weed,
And straight I'll bid be brought thee ten marks of ruddy gold.'
No wonder, to rich ladies glad news are gladly told."
_Nibelungenlied_ (Lettsom's

[Sidenote: Celebration of Siegfried's victory.] Kriemhild then hastened to
her window, from whence she witnessed her hero's triumphant entrance, and
heard the people's acclamations of joy. The wounded were cared for, the
captive kings hospitably entertained and duly released, and great
festivities were held to celebrate the glorious victory. Among other
entertainments the knights tilted in the tournaments, and, by Gernot's
advice, Ute, Kriemhild, and all the court ladies were invited to view the
prowess of the men at arms. It was thus that Siegfried first beheld
Kriemhild, and as soon as he saw her he gladly acknowledged that she was
fairer than he could ever have supposed.

"As the moon arising outglitters every star
That through the clouds so purely glimmers from afar,
E'en so love-breathing Kriemhild dimm'd every beauty nigh.
Well might at such a vision many a bold heart beat high."
_Nibelungenlied_ {Lettsom's tr.}.

Siegfried's happiness was complete, however, when he was appointed the
escort of this peerless maiden; and on the way to and from the tournament
and mass he made good use of his opportunity to whisper pretty speeches to
Kriemhild, who timidly expressed her gratitude for the service he had
rendered her brother, and begged that he would continue to befriend him.
These words made Siegfried blush with pride, and then and there he
registered a solemn vow to fulfill her request.

"'Ever,' said he, 'your brethren I'll serve as best I may,
Nor once, while I have being, will head on pillow lay
Till I have done to please them whate'er they bid me do;
And this, my Lady Kriemhild, is all for love of you.'"
_Nibelungenlied_ (Lettsom's tr.).

The festivities being ended, Gunther bestowed many gifts on the departing
guests; but when Siegfried would also have departed he entreated him to
remain at Worms. This the young hero was not at all loath to do, as he had
fallen deeply in love with the fair Kriemhild, whom he was now privileged
to see every day.

[Sidenote: Brunhild.] The excitement consequent on the festivities had not
entirely subsided in Worms when King Gunther declared his desire to win for
his wife Brunhild, a princess of Issland, who had vowed to marry none but
the man who could surpass her in casting a spear, in throwing a stone, and
in jumping.

"Then spake the lord of Rhineland: 'Straight will I hence to sea,
And seek the fiery Brunhild, howe'er it go with me.
For love of the stern maiden I'll frankly risk my life;
Ready am I to lose it, if I win her not to wife.'"
_Nibelungenlied_ (Lettsom's

In vain Siegfried, who knew all about Brunhild, tried to dissuade him;
Gunther insisted upon departing, but proposed to Siegfried to accompany
him, promising him as reward for his assistance Kriemhild's hand as soon as
the princess of Issland was won. Such an offer was not to be refused, and
Siegfried immediately accepted it, advising Gunther to take only Hagen and
Dankwart as his attendants.

[Sidenote: The expedition to Issland.] After seeking the aid of Kriemhild
for a supply of rich clothing suitable for a prince going a-wooing, Gunther
and the three knights embarked on a small vessel, whose sails soon filled,
and which rapidly bore them flown the Rhine and over the sea to Issland.
When within sight of its shores, Siegfried bade his companions all
carefully agree in representing him to the strangers as Gunther's vassal
only. Their arrival was seen by some inquisitive damsels peering out of the
windows of the castle, and reported to Brunhild, who immediately and
joyfully concluded that Siegfried had come to seek her hand in marriage.
But when she heard that he held another man's stirrup to enable him to
mount, she angrily frowned, wondering why he came as a menial instead of as


Back to Full Books