The Fall of the Niebelungs
Part 1 out of 5
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Transcribed by John Bursey (Mordaunt@aol.com)
The Fall of the Niebelungs
Translated by Margaret Armour
Concerning the Niebelungs
In old tales they tell us many wonders of heroes and of high courage, of
glad feasting, of wine and of mourning; and herein ye shall read of the
marvellous deeds and of the strife of brave men.
There grew up in Burgundy a noble maiden, in no land was a fairer.
Kriemhild was her name. Well favoured was the damsel, and by reason of
her died many warriors. Doughty knights in plenty wooed her, as was
meet, for of her body she was exceeding comely, and her virtues were an
adornment to all women.
Three kings noble and rich guarded her, Gunther and Gernot, warriors of
fame, and Giselher the youth, a chosen knight. The damsel was their
sister, and the care of her fell on them. These lords were courteous and
of high lineage, bold and very strong, each of them the pick of knights.
The name of their country was Burgundy, and they did great deeds, after,
in Etzel's land. At Worms, by the Rhine, they dwelled in might with many
a proud lord for vassal.
Their mother was a rich queen and hight Uta, and the name of their father
was Dankrat, who, when his life was ended, left them his lands. A strong
man was he in his time, and one that in his youth won great worship.
These three princes, as I have said, were valiant men, overlords of the
best knights that folk have praised, strong and bold and undismayed in
strife. There were Hagen of Trony, and also his brother Dankwart the
swift; and Ortwin of Metz; the two Margraves, Gary and Eckewart; Volker
of Alzeia, strong of body; Rumolt, the steward, a chosen knight; Sindolt
and Hunolt. These last three served at court and pursued honour. And
other knights were there, more than I can name. Dankwart was the
marshal; the nephew of Ortwin of Metz carved at the board; Sindolt was
the butler, a worthy warrior: each did his part as a good knight.
The splendour of this court and its might, the high valour and chivalry
of its lords, were a tale without end.
Now it so fell that Kriemhild, the pure maid, dreamed a dream that she
fondled a wild falcon, and eagles wrested it from her; the which to see
grieved her more than any ill that had happened to her heretofore.
This dream she told to Uta, her mother, who interpreted it on this wise.
"The falcon that thou sawest is a noble man; yet if God keep him not, he
is a lost man to thee."
"What speakest thou to me of a man, mother mine? Without their love
would I still abide, that I may remain fair till my death, nor suffer
dole from any man's love."
Said her mother then, "Be not so sure; for wouldst thou ever on this
earth have heart's gladness, it cometh from the love of a man. And a
fair wife wilt thou be, if God but lead hither to thee a true and trust
"Say not so, mother mine," answered the maiden, "for on many a woman, and
oft hath it been proven, that the meed of love is sorrow. From both I
will keep me, that evil betide not."
Long in such wise abode the high, pure maiden, nor thought to love any.
Nevertheless, at the last, she wedded a brave man; that was the falcon
she dreamed of erstwhile, as her mother foretold it. Yea, bitter was her
vengeance on her kinsmen that slew him, and by reason of his death died
many a mother's son.
There grew up in the Netherland a rich king's child, whose father hight
Siegmund and his mother Sieglind, in a castle high and famous called
Xanten, down by the Rhine's side. Goodly was this knight, by my troth,
his body without blemish, a strong and valiant man of great worship;
abroad, through the whole earth, went his fame. The hero hight
Siegfried, and he rode boldly into many lands. Ha! in Burgundy, I trow,
he found warriors to his liking. Or he was a man grown he had done
marvels with his hand, as is said and sung, albeit now there is no time
for more word thereof.
Of his best days there were many wonders to tell, how he waxed in
goodliness and honour; his, too, was the love of women.
As was seemly for such an one, his breeding was well seen to, and of his
nature, likewise, he was virtuous. His father's land was famed for his
worth, for in all things he was right noble.
When he was of an age to ride to the court, the people saw him gladly,
and wedded wives and maids were alike fain that he should tarry there.
By order of Siegmund and Sieglind he was richly clad, and without guards
he was suffered not to ride abroad. They that had him in charge were
wise men versed in honour, to the end that he might win thereby liegemen
Now was he grown a stark youth, of stature and strength to bear weapons;
he lacked nothing needful thereto, and inclined him already to the wooing
of women. Nor did these find the fair youth amiss.
So Siegmund his father cried a hightide, and word thereof came to the
kingdoms that were round about. To strangers and to friends alike he
gave horses and apparel, and wheresoever they found one of knightly
birth, that youth they bade to the hightide, to be dubbed a knight with
Many wonders might one tell of that hightide, and rightly Siegmund and
Sieglind won glory from the gifts of their hand, by reason whereof a
multitude rode into the land. To four hundred sworded knights and to
Siegfried was given rich apparel. Full many a fair damsel ceased not
from working with her needle for his sake. Precious stones without stint
they set in gold, and embroidered them with silk on the vest of the proud
youth. He was little loth thereto. And the king bade them set places
for many a hero the mid-summer that Siegfried became a knight.
The rich squires and great knights drew to the minster. Meet is it that
the old help the young, even as they in their day were holpen.
The time sped in merriment and sports. First, God to honour, they sang
mass. Then the people pressed in hard to behold the youths dubbed
knights with such pomp and high observance as we see not the like of
Then they ran where they found saddled horses. And the noise of tourney
was so great at Siegmund's court that palace and hall echoed therewith,
for there was a mighty din of heroes. From old and young came the noise
of hurtling and of broken shafts whizzing in the air; and from warring
hands flew splintered lances as far as the castle; men and women looked
on at the sport. Then the king bade stay the tilting. And they led off
the horses. Many shields lay broken, and, strewed on the grass, were
jewels from shining bucklers, fallen in the fray.
The guests went in and sat down as they were bidden, and over the choice
meats and good wine, drunk to the full, they parted from their
weariness. Friends and strangers were entreated with equal honour.
Albeit they ceased not from tilting all the day, the mummers and the
minstrels took no rest, but sang for gold and got it; wherefore they
praised the land of Siegmund. The king enfeoffed Siegfried with lands
and castles, as in his youth his father had enfeoffed him, and to his
sword-fellows he gave with full hand, that it rejoiced them to be come
into that country.
The hightide endured seven days. Sieglind, the wealthy queen, did
according to old custom. She divided red gold among her guests for love
of her son, that she might win their hearts to him.
Among the minstrels none were needy. Horses and raiment were as free as
if they that gave had but a day to live. Never company gave readier.
So the hightide ended with glory, and the rich lords were well minded to
have Siegfried to their prince. While Siegmund and Sieglind lived, their
son, that loved them, desired not to wear the crown, but only, as a brave
man, to excel in strength and might. Greatly was he feared in the land;
nor durst any chide him, for from the day he bare arms he rested not from
strife. Yea, in far countries and for all time, his strong hand won him
How Siegfried Came to Worms
Little recked Siegfried of heart's dole till that the news reached him of
a fair maid of Burgundy, than whom none could wish a fairer; by reason of
her, joy befell him, and sorrow.
Her beauty was rumoured far and wide, and the fame of her virtues,
joined thereto, brought many strangers into Gunther's land. Yet, though
many wooed her, Kriemhild was firm-minded to wed none.
Thereupon Siegmund's son yearned to her with true love. Weighed with him
all other suitors were as wind, for he was meet to be chosen of fair
women; and, or long, Kriemhild the high maiden was bold Sir Siegfried's
His kinsmen and his liegemen counselled him to woo a fitting mate, if he
meant to love in earnest, whereto Siegfried answered, "It shall be
Kriemhild. So measureless fair is the maiden of Burgundy, that the
greatest emperor, were he minded to wed, were none too good for her."
The tidings came to Siegmund's ear. His knights told him Siegfried's
intent, and it irked him that his son should woo the royal maiden. To
Sieglind, the king's wife, they told it also, and she feared for his
life, for she knew Gunther and his men.
They would have turned him from his quest.
Spake bold Siegfried then, "Dearest father mine, either I will think no
more on women at all, or I will woo where my heart's desire is." And for
all they could say, he changed not his purpose.
Then said the king, "If thou wilt not yield in this, i'faith, I approve
thy choice, and will further thee therein as I best can. Nevertheless,
Gunther hath many mighty men, were it none other than Hagen, an arrogant
and overweening knight. I fear both thou and I must rue that thou goest
after this king's daughter."
"What harm can come thereof?" answered Siegfried. "What I win not for
the friendly asking, I will take by the prowess of my hand. I doubt not
but I shall strip him of both liegemen and lands."
But Siegmund said, "I am grieved at thy word. If it were heard at the
Rhine, thou durst not ride at all into Gunther's country. Both Gunther
and Gernot are known to me from aforetime, and by force shall none win
the maiden. That have I often heard. But if thou wilt ride thither with
warriors, I will summon my friends. They will follow thee nothing loth."
Siegfried answered, "I will not ride with an army of warriors to the
Rhine; it would shame me so to win the maiden by force. I would win her
with mine own hand. One of twelve I will forth to Gunther's land, and to
this shalt thou help me, my father Siegmund."
They gave to his knights cloaks of fur, some grey and some striped.
Sieglind his mother heard it, and sorrowed for her dear son, for fear she
might lose him by the hand of Gunther's men. The noble queen wept sore.
Siegfried went where she sat, and spake comfortably to her. "Weep not,
mother, for my sake, for I shall be without scathe among foemen. Help me
rather to the journey that I make into Burgundy, that I and my fellows
may have raiment beseeming proud knights. For this shalt thou have much
"Since thou wilt not be turned," spake Sieglind, "I will give to thee, my
only child, the best apparel that ever knight did on, and to thy
companions, for thy journey. Thou shalt receive without stint."
The youth bowed before the queen and said, "Twelve strong we ride forth,
no more. I would have raiment for so many; for I would see with mine
eyes how it standeth with Kriemhild."
The women sat night and day, nor rested till Siegfried's mantle was
ready; for none could dissuade him from his quest. His father let forge
for him a coat of mail that might do honour to his land. Bright were the
breastplates and the helmet, and the bucklers fair and massy.
Now the time was come to ride forth, and all the folk, men and women,
made dole, lest they should return never more. The hero bade load the
sumpters with the arms and apparel. The horses were goodly, and their
equipment of ruddy gold. None had more cause for pride than Siegfried
and his knights. He asked leave to set out for Burgundy, and the king
and the queen gave it sorrowing. But he spake comfortably to both of
them, and said, "Weep not for my sake; nor fear aught for my life."
The knights were downcast, and the maidens wept. Their hearts told them,
I ween, that by reason of this day's doings, many a dear one would lie
dead. Needs made they dole, for they were sorrowful.
On the seventh morning after this, the fearless band drew towards Worms
on the Rhine. Their garments were woven of ruddy gold, and their riding-
gear was to match. Smooth paced the horses, deftly managed by
Siegfried's bold warriors. Their shields were new, bright and massy, and
their helmets goodly, as Siegfried the hero and his following rode into
Gunther's country to the court. Never knights were in seemlier trim.
Their sword-points clanged on their spurs, and in their hands they bare
sharp spears; the one that Siegfried carried was broad two spans or more,
of the sort that maketh grim wounds. Gold-hued were their bridles, their
poitrels of silk; so they rode through the land.
Everywhere the folk marvelled, gazing at them, and Gunther's men ran to
meet them; proud warriors, knights and squires, went toward the
strangers, as was meet, and welcomed the guests to the court of their
king, taking horse and shield from their hands. They would have put the
horses in the stalls, but Siegfried spake in haste, "Let our horses
stand, for I am minded to depart again speedily. Where I may find
Gunther, the great king of Burgundy, let whoso knoweth tell me."
One answered him that knew, "Thou mayest see the king if thou wilt. I
saw him amidst of his men in yonder wide hall. Go in to him. Thou shalt
find there many brave warriors."
They told the king that a valiant knight, fair equipped and apparelled,
that knew none in Burgundy, was come thither. And the king marvelled
where those proud knights in shining harness, with their shields new and
massy, might hie from . It irked him that none knew it.
Ortwin of Metz, a goodly man of high courage, spake to the king then,
"Since we know naught thereof, bid to thee Hagen mine uncle, and show
them to him. For he hath knowledge of the mighty men of all lands; and
what he knoweth he will tell us."
The king summoned Hagen with his vassals, and he drew night with proud
step, and asked the king his will.
"Strange knights are come to my court that none knoweth. If thou hast
ever seen them afore, tell me thereof truly."
"That will I," spake Hagen, and went to the window, and looked down on
the strangers below. The show of them and their equipment pleased him,
but he had not seen them afore in Burgundy. And he said, "From
wheresoever they be come, they must be princes, or princes' envoys.
Their horses are good, and wonderly rich their vesture. From whatso
quarter they hie, they be seemly men. But for this I vouch, that, though
I never saw Siegfried, yonder knight that goeth so proud is, of a surety,
none but he. New adventures he bringeth hither. By this hero's hand
fell the brave Nibelungs, Shilbung and Nibelung, the high princes.
Wonders hath he wrought by his prowess. I have heard tell that on a day
when he rode alone, he came to a mountain, and chanced on a company of
brave men that guarded the Nibelung's hoard, whereof he knew naught. The
Nibelung men had, at that moment, made an end of bringing it forth from a
hole in the hill, and oddly enow, they were about to share it. Siegfried
saw them and marvelled thereat. He drew so close that they were ware of
him, and he of them. Whereupon one said, 'Here cometh Siegfried, the
hero of the Netherland!' Strange adventure met he amidst of them.
Shilbung and Nibelung welcomed him, and with one accord the princely
youths asked him to divide the treasure atween them, and begged this so
eagerly that he could not say them nay. The tale goeth that he saw there
more precious stones than an hundred double waggons had sufficed to
carry, and of the red Nibelung gold yet more. This must bold Siegfried
divide. In guerdon therefor they gave him the sword of the Nibelungs,
and were ill paid by Siegfried for the service. He strove vainly to end
the task, whereat they were wroth. And when he could not bear it
through, the kings, with their men, fell upon him. But with their
father's sword, that hight Balmung, he wrested from them both hoard and
land. The princes had twelve champions - stark giants, yet little it
bested them. Siegfried slew them wrathfully with his hand, and, with
Balmung, vanquished seven hundred knights; and many youths there, afraid
of the man and his sword, did homage for castles and land. He smote the
two kings dead. Then he, himself, came in scathe by Albric, that would
have avenged the death of his masters then and there, till that he felt
Siegfried's exceeding might. When the dwarf could not overcome him, they
ran like lions to the mountain, where Siegfried won from Albric the cloud-
cloak that hight _Tarnkappe_. Then was Siegfried, the terrible man,
master of the hoard. They that had dared the combat lay slain; and he
bade carry the treasure back whence the Nibelungs had brought it forth;
and he made Albric the keeper thereof, after that he had sworn an oath to
serve him as his man, and to do all that he commanded him."
"These are his deeds," said Hagen; "bolder knight there never was. Yet
more I might tell of him. With his hand he slew a dragon, and bathed him
in its blood, that his skin is as horn, and no weapon can cut him, as
hath been proven on him ofttimes."
"Let us welcome the young lord, that we come not in his hate. So fair is
he of his body that one may not look unfriendly thereon; with his
strength he hath done great deeds."
Then spake the great king, "Belike thou sayest sooth. Knightly he
standeth there as for the onset - he and his warriors with him. We will
go down to him and greet him."
"Thou mayest do that with honour," answered Hagen; "for he is of high
birth, even a great king's son. By Christ, there is somewhat in his
bearing that showeth he hath ridden hither on no slight matter."
The king of the land said, "He is right welcome, for I perceive that he
is brave and noble, the which shall profit him in Burgundy."
Gunther went out to Siegfried. The king and his men gave the strangers
courteous welcome, and the valiant man bowed before them because they
greeted him so fair.
"I would know," said the king, "whence noble Siegfried cometh, and what
he seeketh at Worms by the Rhine."
The guest answered him, "I will tell thee that readily. Word hath
reached me in the land of my father, that, hereby thee, dwell the prowest
ever sworn to king. I have heard much of these, and would know them; for
this I am come hither. Thy knightliness also I hear praised, and am told
that nowhere is a better king. So say the folk throughout the land; and,
till I have proven it, I will not depart hence. I also am a king that
shall wear a crown, and I would have men say of me that the country and
the people are rightly mine. Thereto I pledge both honour and life. If
thou art valiant, as they say, I care not whom it liketh or irketh, I
will take from thee all thou hast, land and castles, and they shall be
The king and his men marvelled when they heard this strange saying, that
he would take their land; when the warriors understood it they were wroth.
"Wherein have I wronged thee," said Gunther the knight, "that I should
yield to the might of any man what my father ruled so long with honour?
We will show thee to thy hurt that we also are brave knights."
"I will abide by my purpose," said the doughty man. "If thou canst not
hold they land in peace, I will rule it. Also what I have in fee, if
thou overcome, shall be thine. With thy country be it even as with
mine. To the one of us twain that overcometh shall the whole belong,
people and land."
But Hagen and Gernot answered him back straightway. "We desire not,"
said Gernot, "to win new kingdoms at the cost of dead heroes. Our land
is rich, and we are the rightful lords. The folk desire none better."
Grim and angered stood Gunther's kinsmen. Amidst of them was Ortwin of
Metz, who said, "This bargain pleaseth me little. Bold Siegfried hath
challenged thee wrongfully. Were thou and thy brothers naked, and he
with a whole king's army at his back, I would undertake to show the
overweening man he did well to abate his pride."
Whereat the knight of the Netherland was wroth and said, "Not such as
thou art shall raise a hand against me, for I am a great king; thou art
but a king's man. Twelve of thy sort could not withstand me."
Then Ortwin of Metz, the sister's son of Hagen of Trony, cried aloud for
his sword. It grieved the king that he had kept silence so long, but
Gernot, a warrior bold and keen, came betwixt them.
He said to Ortwin, "Calm thyself. Siegfried hath done naught to us,
that we should not end this matter peaceably. I counsel that we take
him to friend. That were more to our honour."
Then said Hagen the stark man, "It may well irk thy knights that he
rideth hither as a foeman. Better had he refrained. My masters had
never done the like by him."
Brave Siegfried answered, "If thou like not my words, I will show thee
here, in Burgundy, the deeds of my hand."
"That I will hinder," said Gernot, and he forbade to his knights their
overweening words, for they irked him. Siegfried also thought on the
"Wherefore should we fight with thee?" said Gernot. "Though every knight
lay dead thereby, small were our glory and little thine adventure."
Whereto Siegfried, King Siegmund's son, answered, "Why do Hagen and
Ortwin hang back, and their friends, whereof they have enow in Burgundy?"
But these must needs hold their peace, as Gernot commanded them.
"Thou art welcome," said Uta's son; "thou and they comrades that are with
thee. We will serve thee gladly, I and my kinsmen."
They let pour for them Gunther's wine, and the host of that land, even
Gunther the king, said, "All that is ours, and whatsoever thou mayest
with honour desire, is thine to share with us, body and goods."
Then Siegfried was milder of his mood.
What he and his men had with them was seen to; they gave Siegfried's
knights good quarters and fair lodging; and they rejoiced to see the
stranger in Burgundy.
They did him honour many days: more than I can tell. This he won, I
trow, by his valour. Few looked on him sourly.
The king and his men busied them with sports, and in each undertaking
Siegfried still approved him the best. Whether they threw the stone or
shot with the shaft, none came near him by reason of his great strength.
Held the doughty warriors tourney before the women, then looked these
all with favour on the knight of the Netherland. But, as for him, he
thought only on his high love. The fair women of the court demanded who
the proud stranger was. "He is so goodly," they said, "and so rich his
And there answered them folk enow, "It is the king of the Netherland."
Whatsoever sport they followed, he was ready. In his heart he bare the
beautiful maiden that as yet he had not seen: the which spake in secret
kind words also of him. When the youths tilted in the courtyard,
Kriemhild, the high princess, looked down at them from her window; nor,
at that time, desired she better pastime. Neither had he asked better,
had he known that his heart's dear one gazed upon him: the fairest thing
on earth had he deemed it to behold her eyes. When he stood there amidst
of the heroes in the tilt-yard, as the custom is, to rest at the tourney,
so graceful the son of Sieglind bare him, that the hearts of many maidens
yearned toward him. And ofttimes would he think, "How shall I attain to
behold the noble lady that I have loved long and dearly? She is still a
stranger. For this reason I am downcast."
When the rich kings rode abroad, it behoved the knights to go with them,
wherefore Siegfried also rode forth, the which irked the damsel sore; and
likewise, for love of her, he was heavy enow of his cheer.
So in a year (I say sooth) he abode by these princes, nor in all that
time had once seen his dear one, that afterward brought him so much
gladness and dole.
How Siegfried Fought with the Saxons
Now there were brought into Gunther's land strange tidings by envoys sent
from afar by foreign princes that hated him; and when they heard the
message they were troubled. The kings were as I will tell you: Ludger of
the Saxons, a high and might prince; and Ludgast of Denmark, and many
bold warriors with them.
These envoys, sent by his foemen, came into Gunther's land, and the
strangers were asked their business, and brought before the king.
The king greeted them fair, and said, "I know not who hath sent you
hither, and would hear it." So spake the good king, and they greatly
feared his wrath.
"If thou wilt have our message, O king, we will tell it plain, and name
thee the princes that have sent us. They are Ludgast and Ludger, and
will come against thee into they land. Thou are fallen in their
displeasure, and we know that they bear thee bitter hate. They come
hither with an armed force to Worms by the Rhine - they and their
warriors. Wherefore be warned. Inside of twelve days they will ride.
If thou hast truly friends, let it appear now; let them help thee to keep
thy castles and they country, for, or long, there will be smiting of
helmets and shields here. Or wouldst thou treat with them, then declare
it straightway, that thy foemen come not night thee to thy hurt, and that
goodly knights perish not thereby."
"Tarry a while - ye shall have answer betimes - that I may bethink me,"
said the good king. "If I have true liegemen, I will not hide it from
them, but will take counsel with them on this hard matter."
Heavy enow of his cheer was Gunther. He pondered the message secretly in
his heart, and summoned Hagen, and others of his men, and sent to the
court in haste for Gernot. His best knights drew round him, and he said,
"Without cause, and with a mighty army, foemen come hither against us
into our land."
Thereto answered Gernot, a hardy and bold warrior, "We shall hinder that
with our swords. They only perish that fate dooms. Let them die. They
shall not turn from honour. Our foemen are welcome."
Spake Hagen of Trony then, "Methinketh that were unwise. Ludgast and
Ludger are proud men withal, and we can hardly in so few days muster our
men." Therefore the bold knight said, "Tell Siegfried."
They bade lodge the envoys in town. Albeit they were his foemen,
Gunther, the great king, commanded the folk to entreat them well -
rightly he did so - till that he knew the friends that would stand by him.
The king was heavy of his cheer, and Siegfried, the good knight, saw that
he was downcast, but wist not the reason, and asked King Gunther what
ailed him. "I marvel much," said Siegfried, "that thou takest no part in
our sports as heretofore." And Gunther, the doughty knight, answered
him, "Not to every man may I declare the secret heaviness of my heart;
only unto true friends shall the heart tell its dole."
Siegfried changed colour, and grew red and white, and he said to the
king, "I have denied thee naught, and now I would help thee. If thou
seekest friends, I will be one of them, and stand to it truly to my
"Now God requite thee, Sir Siegfried, for I like thy word; and albeit thy
might availed me nothing, I would rejoice none the less that thou art
well-minded toward me; as much and more will I do to thee if I live. I
will tell thee the cause of my trouble. Envoys from my foemen have
brought a message that with an army they will come against me; such
inroad of warriors hath not been aforetime in this country."
"Be not sorrowful for that," answered Siegfried; "be of good cheer, and
do now as I say. I will win for thee honour and profit or ever thy
foemen reach this land. Had they stark adversaries thirty thousand
warriors at their back, and I but one thousand, I would withstand them -
trust me for that."
King Gunther answered, "Thou shalt be well paid for this."
"Give me a thousand of thy knights, since of mine own I have but twelve
here with me, and I will keep thy land for thee. The hand of Siegfried
will serve thee truly. Hagen shall help us in this, and also Ortwin,
Dankwart, and Sindolt, thy loving knights, and eke Folker, the bold man,
who shall bear the standard: better knight thou wilt not find. Bid the
envoys return to their country; tell them they shall see us there soon
enow. So shall our castles go scatheless."
The king let summon his kinsmen and his liegemen, and Ludger's messengers
went to the court. They were glad to be gone. Gunther, the good king,
gave them gifts and an escort, whereat they were well content.
Spake Gunther, "Thou shalt say on this wise to my haughty foemen: They
did wisely to turn from their journey, for if my friends fail me not, and
they seek me here in my land, they will find work enow."
They brought out rich gifts for the envoys, whereof Gunther had to spare,
and these said not "nay." Then they took their leave, and departed
When the messengers were come again to Denmark, and told Ludgast how that
the Rhine-men would ride thither, he was wroth at their boldness. They
made report to him of the many brave men Gunther had, and how that they
had seen a knight there amidst of them that hight Siegfried, a hero from
the Netherland, the which was heavy news for Ludgast.
When they of Denmark heard it, they hastened the more to summon their
friends, till that Ludgast had ready for the onset twenty thousand
On like manner Ludger of Saxony summoned his men to the number of forty
thousand, ready to march into Burgundy.
The same also did King Gunther to his liegemen, and to his brothers with
their vassals, and to Hagen and his knights. These were sorry enow at
the news; and by reason thereof many a knight looked on death.
They hasted and made ready for the journey. Brave Folker bare the
standard. They purposed to cross the Rhine from Worms. Hagen of Trony
led the force. Sindolt and bold Hunolt were there, that they might
deserve King Gunther's gold; also Hagen's brother, Dankwart, and Ortwin,
fit men and worthy for the undertaking.
"Sit thou at home, O King," spake Siegfried. "Since thy knights are
willing to follow me, stay here by the women and be of good cheer; for,
by my troth, I will guard for thee both goods and honour. I will see to
it, that they that seek thee here at Worms by the Rhine bide where they
are; we will pierce deep into their country, till their vaunting is
turned to sorrow."
They passed from the Rhine through Hesse against Saxony, where the battle
was fought afterward. With plunder and with fire they laid waste to the
land, the which both the princes found to their cost.
When they were come to the marches, the warriors hasted forward, and
Siegfried began to ask them, "Which of us shall guard the rest from
surprise?" More to their hurt the Saxons never took the field.
They answered, "Let bold Dankwart guard the younger knights. He is a
good warrior. So shall we come in less scathe by Ludger's men. He and
Ortwin shall guard the rear."
"I will myself ride forward," said Siegfried, "and spy out the foe, that
I may know rightly who the warriors be."
Fair Sieglind's son did on his armour in haste. He gave his knights in
charge to Hagen and bold Gernot when he set out. He rode into Saxony all
alone, and won honour by his quest. He perceived a great host encamped
on a field, that loomed mightily against him, beyond the strength of one
man: forty thousand or more. And the high heart of Siegfried rejoiced.
One of the enemy's knights kept watch warily, and perceived Siegfried,
and Siegfried him, and they glared fiercely on each other. I will tell
you who he was that kept watch. On his arm he bare a glittering shield
of gold. It was King Ludgast that kept ward over his host.
The noble stranger pricked toward him fiercely. Ludgast dressed him
also. They put spurs to their horses and smote with all their strength
on the shields with their spears, that it was like to go hard with the
king. On their horses, pricked forward with the spur, the princes bare
down on each other like the wind. Then they wheeled round deftly - these
two fierce men - and fell to hacking with their swords. Sir Siegfried
smote, that the field rang therewith; the hero with his mighty blade
struck sparks from Ludgast's helmet. Fiercely fought the prince of the
Netherland, and Ludgast, likewise, dealt many a grim blow. Each drave
with all his might at the other's shield. The combat was spied by thirty
of Ludgast's men, but Siegfried, by means of three deep wounds and grisly
that he dealt Ludgast through his white harness, overcame the king or
these knights came up. His sword drew blood with each stroke, that King
Ludgast came in evil plight, and begged for his life, offering his land
as the price thereof, and said that his name was Ludgast.
His knights hastened to his rescue, for they had seen the encounter at
the ward-post. Siegfried would have led him thence, but thirty of
Ludgast's men rode at him. With mighty blows the stark warrior kept his
rich captive; and soon his hands did even deadlier deeds. He smote the
thirty men dead in his defence, save one that fled and told what
happened, the truth whereof was proven by his bloody helmet.
They of Denmark were aghast when they heard their king was taken captive;
they told it to his brother, who fell in a great fury by reason of the
So the mighty Ludgast was taken by Siegfried's prowess, and given in
charge to Hagen. When that good knight heard that it was Ludgast he was
They bade raise the standard of Burgundy. "Forward!" cried Siegfried,
"More shall be done or the day end, if I lose not my life. The Saxon
women shall rue it. Hearken now, ye men of the Rhine. I can lead you
to Ludger's army. There ye will see helmets hewn by the good hands of
heroes. They shall be in evil case or we turn again."
Then Gernot and his men sprang to horse. The banner was unfurled by
Folker, the minstrel knight. He rode before the host, and they all made
them ready for battle. They numbered not more than a thousand men, and
thereto the twelve strangers. The dust rose from their path, and they
rode through the land, their shields flashing.
The Saxons, also, were come up, bearing well-sharpened swords. So hath
the story been told me. The swords in the heroes' hands dealt grim blows
in defence of their castles and their lands.
The marshal led the army, and Siegfried was come forward with the twelve
men that he had with him from the Netherland. Many a hand was bloody
that day in the battle. Sindolt and Hunolt and eke Gernot smote many
heroes dead in the fight, that were bold enow till they felt their
prowess. For their sake sorrowed women not a few. Folker and Hagen and
Ortwin, the fierce warriors, quenched the flash of many helmets with
blood. Dankwart, also, did wonders. The Danes proved their mettle, and
loud were heard the hurtling of shields and the clash of sharp swords
swung mightily. The Saxons, bold in strife, made havoc enow. Wide were
the wounds hewn by the men of Burgundy when they rushed to the
encounter. Blood ran down the saddles. So was the honour wooed of these
knights bold and swift. Loud rang the keen swords in the hands of the
heroes of the Netherland, when they rode with their lord into the fray.
They rode with Siegfried like good knights. None from the Rhine kept
pace with him. By reason of Siegfried's hand streams of blood ran from
bright helmets, till that he lit on Ludgast amidst of his men. Thrice he
pierced through the army of the Saxons, and thrice returned. Hagen, by
this time, was come up with him, that helped him in his quest. They slew
many a brave knight.
When bold Ludger found Siegfried with Balmung, the good sword, swung
aloft, wherewith he made a mighty slaughter, he was wroth, and of his
mood full grim. With a fierce rush and clash of swords the warriors
came together. So exceeding furious was their onset that the host gave
way. Terrible was their hate. The Saxon king knew well that his brother
was taken captive, and he was wroth thereat; but he knew it not for
Siegfried's work till now. They had blamed Gernot. Now he found out the
truth. Ludger smote so hard that Siegfried's horse reeled under him.
But when he was come to, Siegfried was more terrible than afore. Hagen
and Gernot, Dankwart and Folker, stood by him. The dead lay in heaps.
Sindolt and Hunolt and Ortwin the knight slew many in the strife. The
princes held together in the fray. Bright spears in the hands of heroes
flashed above the helmets, that clave the shining bucklers in twain.
Many a massy shield was red with blood. In the fierce encounter many men
fell from their horses. Bold Siegfried and King Ludger strove together,
and lances whizzed, and sharp spears. Ludger's shield-plate flew off
through the strength of Siegfried's hand. Then the hero of the
Netherland thought to have gotten the victory over the Saxons that were
hard pressed. Ha! what polished bucklers doughty Dankwart brake!
Of a sudden Ludger espied a crown that was painted on Siegfried's shield,
and he knew the mighty man, and cried aloud to his friends, "Forbear, my
men all. I have seen the son of Siegmund, even bold Siegfried. The
Devil hath sent him hither into Saxony." He bade lower the standard, and
sued for peace. They granted this, yet he was compelled by Siegfried to
go captive into Gunther's land.
With one accord they ceased from the strife. They threw down their
shivered helmets and shields. Blood-red were they all by the hands of
the Burgundians. They took captive whom they listed, for they had the
Gernot and Hagen gave order to convey the wounded on litters. They led
five hundred noble knights as prisoners to the Rhine.
The vanquished warriors rode back to Denmark. Nor had the Saxons fought
so as to win them honour, and they were downcast. The dead were mourned
by their friends.
They sent the weapons to the Rhine on sumpters. So wondrously had
Siegfried done, that all Gunther's men praised him.
Sir Gernot sent word to Worms, and throughout the whole land, to their
friends, how it had sped with them; for as bold knights and honourable
they had fought. The pages hasted and told it, and the glad news
rejoiced the loving ones that had sorrowed. The noble women ceased not
from questioning how it had fared with the great king's men.
Kriemhild bade a messenger to her in secret; publicly she durst not, for
to one of them she bare dear heart's love.
When the messenger was come to her chamber, Kriemhild, the beautiful
maiden, spake him fair. "Now tell me glad tidings; thou shalt have gold
therefor; and, sayest thou sooth, I will ever be beholden to thee. How
sped my brother Gernot in the battle, and the rest of my friends? Are
there many dead? Who did most valiantly? Now tell me."
Whereto the messenger answered truthfully, "We had no coward among us.
Yet since thou wilt hear it, noble princess, none rode in the thick of
the fight like the knight of the Netherland. Marvellous was the work of
Siegfried's hand. All that the knights did in battle - Dankwart and
Hagen and the rest - though with honour fought they all, was but as a
wind matched with the prowess of Siegfried, the son of Siegmund. Many
heroes have they slain, yet of the deeds of Siegfried, done in battle,
none shall tell to the end. By reason of him many maidens mourn for
their kin. Low lieth the dear one of many a bride. Loud smote he on the
helmets, that they ran blood. In all things he is a knight bold and
"Ortwin of Metz, also, won worship. Whoso came within range of his sword
lieth wounded or dead. Thy brother, too, made fierce havoc in the
battle. To his prowess must all testify. The proud Burgundians have so
fought that none my question their honour. For many a saddle was emptied
by them when the field rang loud with gleaming swords. On such wise
fought the knights of the Rhine that their foemen had done better to
flee. The brave men of Trony rode fiercely in the strife. Hagen with
his hand slew many, whereof Burgundy shall hear. So valiantly fought
Sindolt and Hunolt, Gernot's men, and eke Rumolt, that Ludger may well
rue that he ever met thy kinsmen by the Rhine. But the mightiest deeds,
first and last, were done by Siegfried. He bringeth rich captives into
Gunther's land, that his strength hath conquered, by reason whereof King
Ludgast and his brother, Ludger of Saxony, suffer dole. For list to the
marvel, noble queen: both these princes hath Siegfried's hand taken.
Never have so many captives been led into this land, as come hither now
through his prowess."
The maiden was glad at the tale.
"Of unwounded men they bring five hundred or more, and eighty red biers
(I say sooth) of the wounded, fallen, the most part, by Siegfried's
might. They that arrogantly withstood the knights of the Rhine are now
Gunther's captives. Our men lead them hither rejoicing."
When she had heard the news aright, her fair cheek reddened, and her
lovely face was the colour of the rose, because it had gone well with
young and noble Siegfried, and he was come with glory out of peril. She
joyed for her kinsmen also, as in duty bound. And she said, "Thou hast
spoken well; for guerdon thereof thou shalt have costly raiment, and ten
golden marks, that I will bid them bear to thee." It is good to tell
glad tidings to rich women.
He got his envoy's fee of gold and vesture, and the fair maids hasted to
the window and looked down the road, where the high-hearted warriors rode
home. They drew nigh, whole and wounded, and heard the greeting of
friends unashamed. Light of heart Gunther rode to meet them, for now his
grim care was turned to joy. He received his own men well and also the
strangers. Not to have thanked them that were come to his court, for
that they had done valiantly in battle, would have been unseemly in so
great a king. And he asked tidings of his friends, and who was slain.
None were lost to him save sixty only, and these were mourned as many a
hero hath been mourned since.
They that were unhurt brought many battered shields and shivered helmets
back to Gunther's land. The warriors sprang down from their horses
before the place, and there was a joyful noise of welcome.
Order was given to lodge the knights in the town, and the king commanded
that his guests should be courteously entreated, and that the wounded
should be see to and given good chambers. So he approved himself
generous to his foes. He said to Ludger, "Thou are welcome! Much scathe
have I suffered through thee; yet, if I prosper henceforth, I will
consider myself well paid. God reward my warriors, for well have they
"Thou has cause to thank them," answered Ludger, "for nobler captives
were never won for a king; and gold without stint shall be thine, if thou
do well by me and my friends."
Said Gunther, "Ye shall both go free. Yet I must have a pledge that my
foemen quit not my land till peace be sealed betwixt us." And they
promised it, and gave their hand thereon. They led them to their
quarters to rest, and saw the wounded men laid softly in their beds.
They set before them that were whole meat and good wine, and never were
men merrier. They are the battered shields away into safe keeping; and
the bloody saddles, of which there were enow, they hid, that the women
might not grieve thereat. Many a weary knight was there.
The king entreated his guests right royally, and the land was full of
friends and of strangers. He bade see to the sore wounded ones whose
pride was brought low. To them that were skilled in leech craft they
offered a rich fee of unweighed sliver and yellow gold, that they might
heal the heroes of their wounds gotten in battle; the king sent also
precious gifts to his guests. They that thought to ride home were bidden
stay as friends. And the king took counsel how he might reward his
liegemen that had done valiantly for his sake.
Sir Gernot said, "Let them go hence for the present, and summon them
after six weeks to a hightide. Many will then be whole that now lie
sick of their wounds."
Siegfried of the Netherland would have taken leave also, but when King
Gunther knew his intent, he besought him lovingly to tarry, the which
Siegfried had not done but for Gunther's sister's sake. He was too rich
to take money, albeit he well deserved it; the king loved him, and also
the king's kinsmen that had seen the deeds wrought by his hand in
battle. So, for love of the maiden, he agreed to tarry, that haply he
might win to see her, the which, or long, came to pass; for he knew her
to his heart's desire, and rode home joyfully afterward to his father's
The young knights obeyed the king's command willingly, and practised
daily at the tourney. Seats were raised on the stand before Worms for
the guests that were coming into Burgundy.
When it was time for them to arrive, fair Kriemhild heard the news, that
they were about to hold a hightide with their friends. Then the
beautiful women busied them with their kirtles and their headgear that
they were to wear.
Uta, the great queen, heard of the proud knights that were coming, and
gorgeous robes were taken from their wrapping-cloths. For love of her
children she bade them bring forth the garments. Many women and maidens
were adorned therewith, and, of the young knights of Burgundy, not a
few. To many of the strangers, also, she gave goodly apparel.
How Siegfried First Saw Kriemhild
A vast multitude of them that would attend the hightide drew daily to the
Rhine; and unto those that came for love of the king horses were given
and goodly raiment, and to each his place, even unto two and thirty
princes of the highest and the best. So they tell us.
And the women vied with one another in their attire. Giselher, the
youth, and Gernot, and their two squires, rested not from welcoming both
friends and strangers. They gave courtly greeting unto the warriors.
The guests brought with them to the Rhine, to the tourney, saddles worked
in ruddy gold, and finely-wrought shields, and knightly apparel. And the
sick rejoiced, and they that lay on their beds sore wounded forgot that
death is an hard thing. When the rumour of the festival was noised
abroad, no man took heed more of them that groaned, for each thought only
how he might sojourn there as a guest. Joy without measure had all they
that were found there, and gladness and rejoicing were in Gunther's land.
On Whitsun morning there drew toward the hightide a goodly company of
brave men, fairly clad: five thousand or more, and they made merry far
and wide, and strove with one another in friendly combat.
Now Gunther knew well how, truly and from his heart, the hero of the
Netherland loved his sister whom he had not yet seen, and whose beauty
the people praised before that of all other maidens.
And he said, "Now counsel me, my kinsmen and my lieges, how we may order
this hightide, that none may blame us in aught; for only unto such deeds
as are good, pertaineth lasting fame."
Then answered Ortwin, the knight, to the king, "If thou wilt win for
thyself glory from the hightide, let now the maidens that dwell with
honour in our midst appear before us. For what shall pleasure or glad a
man more than to behold beautiful damsels and fair women? Bid thy sister
come forth and show herself to thy guests."
And this word pleased the knights.
"That will I gladly do," said the king; and they that heard him
rejoiced. He sent a messenger to Queen Uta, and besought her that she
would come to the court with her daughter and her women-folk.
And these took from the presses rich apparel, and what lay therein in
wrapping-cloths; they took also brooches, and their silken girdles worked
with gold, and attired themselves in haste. Many a noble maiden adorned
herself with care, and the youths longed exceedingly to find favour in
their eyes, and had not taken a rich king's land in lieu thereof. And
they that knew not one another before looked each upon each right gladly.
The rich king commanded an hundred men of his household, his kinsmen and
hers, to escort his sister, their swords in their hand. Uta, with an
hundred and more of her women, gorgeously attired, came forth from the
female apartments, and many noble damsels followed after her daughter.
The knights pressed in upon them, thinking thereby to behold the
And lo! the fair one appeared, like the dawn from out the dark clouds.
And he that had borne her so long in his heart was no more aweary, for
the beloved one, his sweet lady, stood before him in her beauty. Bright
jewels sparkled on her garments, and bright was the rose-red of her hue,
and all they that saw her proclaimed her peerless among maidens.
As the moon excelleth in light the stars shining clear from the clouds,
so stood she, fair before the other women, and the hearts of the warriors
were uplifted. The chamberlains made way for her through them that
pressed in to behold her. And Siegfried joyed, and sorrowed likewise,
for he said in his heart, "How should I woo such as thee? Surely it was
a vain dream; yet I were liefer dead than a stranger to thee."
Thinking thus he waxed oft white and red; yea, graceful and proud stood
the son of Sieglind, goodliest of heroes to behold, as he were drawn on
parchment by the skill of a cunning master. And the knights fell back as
the escort commanded, and made way for the high-hearted women, and gazed
on them with glad eyes. Many a dame of high degree was there.
Said bold Sir Gernot, the Burgundian, then, "Gunther, dear brother, unto
the gentle knight, that hath done thee service, show honour now before
thy lieges. Of this counsel I shall never shame me. Bid Siegfried go
before my sister, that the maiden greet him. Let her, that never greeted
knight, go toward him. For this shall advantage us, and we shall win the
good warrior for ours."
Then Gunther's kinsmen went to the knight of the Netherland, and said to
him, "The king bids thee to the court that his sister may greet thee, for
he would do thee honour."
It rejoiced Siegfried that he was to look upon Uta's fair child, and he
forgot his sorrow.
She greeted him mild and maidenly, and her colour was kindled when she
saw before her the high-minded man, and she said, "Welcome, Sir
Siegfried, noble knight and good." His courage rose at her words, and
graceful, as beseemed a knight, he bowed himself before her and thanked
her. And love that is mighty constrained them, and they yearned with
their eyes in secret. I know not whether, from his great love, the youth
pressed her white hand, but two love-desirous hearts, I trow, had else
Nevermore, in summer or in May, bore Siegfried in his heart such high
joy, as when he went by the side of her whom he coveted for his dear
one. And many a knight thought, "Had it been my hap to walk with her, as
I have seen him do, or to lie by her side, certes, I had suffered it
gladly! Yet never, truly, hath warrior served better to win a queen."
From what land soever the guests came, they were ware only of these two.
And she was bidden kiss the hero. He had never had like joy before in
Said the King of Denmark then, "By reason of this high greeting many good
men lie low, slain by the hand of Siegfried, the which hath been proven
to my cost. God grant he return not to Denmark!"
Then they ordered to make way for fair Kriemhild. Valiant knights in
stately array escorted her to the minster, where she was parted from
Siegfried. She went thither followed by her maidens; and so rich was
her apparel that the other women, for all their striving, were as naught
beside her, for to glad the eyes of heroes she was born.
Scarce could Siegfried tarry till they had sung mass, he yearned so to
thank her for his gladness, and that she whom he bore in his heart had
inclined her desire toward him, even as his was to her, which was meet.
Now when Kriemhild was come forth to the front of the minster, they bade
the warrior go to her again, and the damsel began to thank him, that
before all others he had done valiantly. And she said, "Now, God requite
thee, Sir Siegfried, for they tell me thou hast won praise and honour
from all knights."
He looked on the maid right sweetly, and he said, "I will not cease to
serve them. Never, while I live, will I lay head on pillow, till I have
brought their desire to pass. For love of thee, dear lady, I will do
And every day of twelve, in the sight of all the people, the youth walked
by the side of the maiden as she went to the court. So they showed their
love to the knight.
And there was merriment and gladness and delight in the hall of Gunther,
without and within, among the valiant men. Ortwin and Hagen did many
wonderful deeds, and if any devised a sport, warriors, joyous in strife,
welcomed it straightway. So were the knights proven before the guests,
and they of Gunther's land won glory. The wounded also came forth to
take part with their comrades, to skirmish with the buckler, and to shoot
the shaft, and waxed strong thereby, and increased their might.
Gunther gave order that, for the term of the hightide, they should set
before them meats of the daintiest, that he might fail in naught as a
king, nor the people blame him.
And he came to his guests, and said, "Receive my gifts ere you go hence,
and refuse not the treasure that I would share with you."
The Danes made answer, "Ere we turn again to our land, make thou a
lasting peace with us. We have need of such, that have many dear friends
dead, slain by thy warriors."
Ludgast and eke the Saxon were healed of their wounds gotten in battle,
but many tarried behind, dead.
Then Gunther sought Siegfried and said, "Now counsel me in this. On the
morrow our guests ride forth, and they desire of me and mine a lasting
covenant. What they offer I will tell thee: as much gold as five hundred
horses may carry, they will give me to go free."
And Siegfried answered, "That were ill done. Send them forth without
ransom, that they ride no more hither as foemen. And they shall five
thee the hand thereon for surety."
And they told it to his enemies; also that none desired their gold. They
said it to the war-tired men, by reason of whom the dear ones of their
own land sorrowed.
And the king took shields full of treasure, and divided it among them
without weighing it, five hundred marks and more. Gernot, the brave
knight, counselled him thereto. And they took their leave, for they were
aweary for home. And they passed before Kriemhild and Queen Uta; never
were knights dismissed more courteously.
The chambers were void when they left, nevertheless the king abode there
still with his lieges and his vassals and knights. And these ceased not
to go before Kriemhild.
Then Siegfried, the hero, had also taken leave, for he thought not to
attain his desire. But the king heard of it, and Giselher the youth
turned him back. "Whither ridest thou, Sir Siegfried? Prithee yield to
me in this. Go not from among our knights, and Gunther, and his men.
Here are fair maidens enow that thou mayest behold at will."
Said bold Sir Siegfried, "Let stand the horses, bear hence the shields.
I would have ridden forth and turned again to my land, but Giselher hath
changed my intent."
So he abode among them through love, nor in any land had it been sweeter
for him. And Kriemhild, the fair maiden, he saw daily, by reason of
whose beauty he tarried.
They passed the time in sports and feats of chivalry. But his heart was
weary with love; yea, for love he sorrowed then, and, after, died
How Gunther Went to Issland to Woo Brunhild
A fresh rumour spread beyond the Rhine. It was reported that many
maidens dwelt there; and Gunther was minded to woo one of them, whereat
his knights and his liegemen were well pleased.
There was a queen high throned across the sea, that had not her like,
beyond measure fair and of mickle strength, and her love was for that
knight only that could pass her at the spear. She hurled the stone and
leapt after it to the mark. Any that desired the noble damsel's love
must first win boldly in these three games. If he failed but in one, he
lost his head.
And oft had this happened already, when the rumour thereof reached the
noble warrior by the Rhine, who fixed his desire upon the maiden, the
which, or all was done, cost the life of many heroes.
On a day that the king sat with his men, and they cast to and fro whom
their prince might best take to wife for his own comfort and the good of
his land, the lord of Rhineland said, "I will hence across the sea to
Brunhild, let what will betide. For her sake I will peril my body, for
I lose it if I win her not to wife."
"Do so not," said Siegfried. "Cruel is the queen, and he that would woo
her playeth too high a stake. Make not this journey."
But King Gunther answered, "Never yet was woman born so stark and bold,
that, with this single hand, I could not vanquish her in strife."
But Siegfried said, "Peace! Thou knowest her not. Wert thou four men,
thou wert no match for her grim wrath. In good faith I counsel thee to
let the matter be. If thou lovest thy life, come not in such straits for
"Nay, now, I care not how stark she be; I will journey, even as I have
said, to Brunhild, and take my chance. For her great beauty I must
adventure this. What if God prosper me, and she follow me to the Rhine?"
"Then I counsel thee," said Hagen, "to ask Siegfried to share with thee
this hard emprise. It were well, since he knoweth so much of Brunhild."
So the king spake, "Wilt thou help me, most noble Siegfried, to woo the
damsel? Grant me this, and if I win the royal maiden for my dear one, I
will adventure honour and life for thy sake."
Siegfried, the son of Siegmund, made answer, "Give me thy sister
Kriemhild, the high princess, and I will do it. Other meed I ask not."
Said Gunther, "I swear it, Siegfried, on thy hand. If Brunhild come
hither, I will give thee my sister to wife; and mayest thou live joyfully
with her to thy life's end."
The noble warriors sware an oath; and travail enow they endured, or they
led back the fair one to the Rhine; yea, ofttimes they were straightened
I have heard tell of wild dwarfs: how that they dwell in hollow
mountains, and wear wonderful cloaks called _Tarnkappes_. And whoso hath
this on his body cometh not in scathe by blows or spear-thrusts; nor is
he seen of any man so long as he weareth it, but may spy and hearken at
his will. His strength also waxeth thereby; so runneth the tale.
Siegfried took the _Tarnkappe_ with him that he had wrested from Albric
the dwarf. And these high and noble knights made ready for the journey.
When stark Siegfried did on the _Tarnkappe_, he was strong with the
strength of twelve men, and with these cunning devices he won the royal
maiden; for the cloak of cloud was fashioned on such wise, that who wore
it did what him listed, none seeing; and he won Brunhild thereby, that
after brought him dole.
"Now tell me, Siegfried, or we depart, how we may cross the sea with
honour? Shall we take warriors with us to Brunhild's land? It were easy
to summon thirty thousand knights."
But Siegfried answered, "Howsoever great a host we led thither, the
cruelty of the queen is such, that every mother's son of them must
perish. A better plan is mine, most noble king. Let us down to the
Rhine as simple knights, even these friends that I name. Thou and I,
and, further, only two. So shall we woo the damsel, let the issue be as
it may. I shall be one, and thou shalt be another. Let the third be
Hagen, and the fourth Dankwart, the doughty man. A thousand shall not
prevail against us."
"Fain would I know," said the king then, "what manner of raiment we
should wear before Brunhild. Prithee, counsel me in this matter,
"In the land of Brunhild they wear naught but the beast, wherefore let us
appear before the women in goodly apparel, that none may cry shame on us
Then said the knight, "I will go, myself, to my dear mother, and beseech
her that she let her damsels make ready for us such garments as may bring
us honour before the royal maiden."
But Hagen said courteously, "Wherefore beg this service of thy mother?
Tell thy sister of thy intent. She is skilled, and will provide thee
with goodly raiment."
And Gunther prayed his sister to receive him and Siegfried. The which
she did after she had robed her in her best apparel. She was little
grieved at the coming of the knights. Her attendants were fitly adorned,
and the knights went in. When she saw them, she rose from her seat, and
hasted, and received the noble guest and her brother courteously. She
said, "Thou are welcome, my brother: thou and they friend. I would know
what hath brought you to the court. Tell me, I pray you, noble knights,
how it standeth with you."
The king answered, "Lady, I will tell thee. An hard adventure is before
us, the which we must bear boldly through. We ride a-wooing into a far
and a strange land, and have need of rich apparel."
"Now sit, dear brother," said the king's child, "and tell me plainly who
the women are that ye would woo in other kings' lands." The maiden took
both the chosen knights by the hand, and led them to the rich cushion
whereon she had sat, and on the which were wrought (for this I know) fair
pictures raised with gold. They wearied not, certes, among the women.
Of kind glances and soft looks there was no stint. Siegfried bore her in
his heart, and loved her as his life, and won her for his wife by noble
The great king said, "Dearest sister mine, we need thy help. We go to
sojourn in the land of Brunhild, and must have rich apparel to wear
before the women."
The princess answered, "If I can aid thee in any wise, believe me, I will
do it; sad were Kriemhild if aught were denied thee. Ask of me, nothing
doubting, noble knight, and, as a master, command me; all that thou
desirest I will readily perform."
"We would have goodly raiment, dear sister, and therein thy white hand
shall help us. Let thy maids bestir them, that we be fair equipped,
since none shall turn us from this journey."
Said the damsel, "Now mark what I say. We have silk of our own; bid them
bring us hither, on the shields, precious stones to work the robes
withal, that unashamed ye may wear them before the royal maiden." The
princess asked, "Who are they that shall follow thee in rich array to the
And he answered, "We be four. My two liegemen, Dankwart and Hagen, ride
with us. And what I tell thee, mark well. For each of four days thou
shalt provide us with three changes of good raiment, that we be not
scorned in Brunhild's land!"
She promised this to the knights, and they took their leave.
Then Princess Kriemhild summoned from their chambers thirty of her
maidens that had great skill in such work.
Silk from Araby, white as snow, and from Zazamanc, green like clover,
they embroidered with precious stones. The royal maiden cut them
herself. In sooth, they were goodly robes. Linings finely fashioned
from fishes' skins, rarely seen then, they covered, as many as they had,
with silk, and wrought them with gold. Many a marvel could one tell of
these garments. For they had, in plenty, the finest silks from Morocco
and Libya that the children of kings ever wore. It was not hard to see
that Kriemhild loved the warriors. And because they desired rich
apparel, the black-spotted ermine was not spared, the which good knights
covet still for hightides.
Precious stones sparkled on gold of Araby. Certes, the women were not
idle. Inside of seven weeks the clothes were ready, and also weapons for
Now when all was done, a stout ship lay waiting on the Rhine to bear them
down to the sea. Ill paid were the maidens, after, for their toil.
When they told the knights that the rich vesture they were to wear was
ready, and that all they had asked was accomplished, they were eager to
quit the Rhine. A messenger was sent to them, that they might try on
their new apparel, lest haply it might be too short or too long for any.
But the measure was exact, wherefore they thanked the maidens. All that
saw it owned that, in the whole world, none was better. They wore it
proudly at the court, and none were praised above them for their attire.
The maidens had sweet thanks, and the doughty warriors took their leave
right courteously, and bright eyes were dim and wet with tears.
Kriemhild said, "Dear brother, thou didst better to stay here and woo
other women without risk to thy body. It were easy to find, night at
hand, a wife of as high lineage."
I ween her heart told her the dole that was to come. And they wept all
together, and refused to be comforted, till the gold on their breasts was
wet with the tears that rolled down from their eyes.
She spake further, "Sir Siegfried, to thy care and good faith I commend
my dear brother, that no evil betide him in Brunhild's land." The knight
gave his hand thereon, and promised it. He said, "Fear not, lady; if I
live, I will bring him back safe to the Rhine. I swear it by mine own
And the fair maiden thanked him.
They carried down the shields of ruddy gold to the strand, and stowed
their armour in the vessel, and let fetch their horses, for they were
eager to be gone. The women made mickle dole. Fair damsels stood at
the windows. The fresh wind caught the sail, and lo! the good knights
sat on the Rhine.
Then said Gunther, "Who shall be steersman?"
"That will I be," answered Siegfried. "Trust me, ye heroes, and I will
pilot you hence, for I know the currents." So with stout hearts they
left Burgundy. Siegfried took hold of the pole and pushed from the
strand. Gunther himself took an oar, and they fell away from the shore.
They had rich meats with them, and Rhine wine of the best. Their horses
stood easy and quiet; their boat flew light, and misadventure they had
none. Their strong sails filled, and they made twenty miles or night
fell, for the wind favoured them. But their high emprise brought many
women dole. They say that by the twelfth morning the wind had blown them
afar to Isenstein in Brunhild's land, the which none had seen before
that, save Siegfried. When King Gunther beheld so many towers and
broad marches, he cried out, "Now say, friend Siegfried; knowest thou
whose are these castles and these fair lands? By my troth, I have never
in my life seen castles so many and so goodly as stand there before us.
A mighty man he must be that hath builded them."
Whereto Siegfried made answer, "Yea, I know well. They are all
Brunhild's - towers and lands, and the castle of Isenstein. I say sooth;
and many fair women shall ye behold this day. Now I counsel you, O
knights, for so it seemeth good to me, that ye be all of one mind and one
word; we must stand warily before Brunhild the queen. And when we see
the fair one amidst of her folk, be sure that ye tell all the same story:
that Gunther is my lord, and I his liegeman. So shall he win to his
desire. Yet this I do less for love of thee than for the fair maid, thy
sister, that is to me as my soul and mine own body, and for whom I gladly
serve, that I may win her to wife."
They promised with one accord, and none gainsayed him through pride, the
which stood them in good stead when the king came to stand before
How Gunther Won Brunhild
Meanwhile the ship was come nigh to the castle, and the king saw many
fair maidens that stood above at the windows. It irked him that he knew
them not, and he said to Siegfried, his friend, "Knowest thou aught of
these maidens that look down at us on the sea? Howso their lord hight,
they are, certes, right noble."
Bold Siegfried answered, "Spy secretly among them, and say which thou
wouldst have chosen, if thou hadst had the choice." And Gunther said, "I
will. I see one standing at yonder window in show-white robe. Goodly is
she, and for her fair body's sake, mine eyes choose her. If I had the
power, she should be my wife."
"Thine eyes have led thee aright. That is the noble Brunhild, the
beautiful lady that thou desirest with thy heart and thy soul." Gunther
found no fault in her.
The queen bade her damsels void the windows, nor stand in the gaze of the
strangers. They obeyed; but what they did after hath been told us. They
adorned them for the warriors, as is the manner of fair women; then they
stole to the loopholes and looked curiously at the heroes.
These came only four strong into the land. Bold Siegfried held a horse
on the strand, and, by reason thereof, the women that spied through the
windows deemed King Gunther of the more worship. He held the good horse,
by the bridle; stately it was and sleek, mickle and stark, and King
Gunther sat in the saddle, and Siegfried served him; but Gunther forgot
Then Siegfried took his own horse from the ship. Seldom before had he
held the stirrup for a warrior to mount. And all this the fair women
marked through the loopholes. The heroes were clad alike; both their
horses and their apparel were snow-white, and the shields were goodly
that shone in their hands. Their saddles were set with precious stones,
their poitrels small, and hung with bells of burnished gold. So they
rode proudly into Brunhild's courtyard, and came into the land as
befitted their might, with new-sharpened spears, and finely-tempered
swords, keen and massy, that reached to their spurs. All this Brunhild,
the royal maiden, saw.
Dankwart rode with them, and Hagen. These knights, they say, wore
clothes of raven-black, and their shields were mickle, broad and goodly.
Stones from India shone on their apparel. They left the vessel unguarded
on the beach, and rode up to the castle. There they saw eighty and six
towers, three great palaces, and a stately hall of costly marble, green
like grass, wherein the queen sat with her courtiers.
Brunhild's men unlocked the castle gate and threw it wide, and ran toward
them, and welcomed the guests to their queen's land. They bade hold the
horses, and take the shields from their hands. And the chamberlain said,
"Do off your swords now, and your bright armour." "Not so," answered
Hagen of Trony; "we will bear these ourselves."
But Siegfried told them the custom of the court. "It is the law here
that no guest shall bear arms. Wherefore ye did well to give them up."
Gunther's men obeyed, much loth. They bade pour out the wine for the
guests, and see that they were well lodged. Willing knights in princely
attire ran to and fro to serve them, spying with many glances at the
They brought word to Brunhild that unknown warriors in rich apparel were
come thither, sailing on the sea, and the beautiful maiden questioned
them. "Tell me," said the queen, "who these strangers be that stand
yonder so proudly, and for whose sake they be come." And one of the
courtiers made answer. "In sooth, Lady, albeit I never yet set eyes on
them, one among them much resembleth Siegfried, and him I counsel thee to
welcome. The second of the company hath so lofty a mien that, if his
power be equal thereto, he might well be a great king and a ruler of wide
lands, for he standeth right proudly before the others. The third, O
Queen, is grim, yet a goodly man withal. His glance is swift and dark;
he is fierce-tempered, I ween. The youngest pleaseth me well. Maidenly
and modest he standeth, yet it went hard, methinketh, with any that
fashioned daintily, if his wrath were once kindled, many a woman might
weep, for he is a bold and virtuous knight, and right worshipful."
The queen said, "Bring me my robe. If stark Siegfried be come into my
land to woo me, he shall pay for it with his life. I fear him not so
greatly that I should yield me to be his wife."
Then Brunhild attired her in haste. An hundred or more of her damsels
went with her, richly adorned, whom the guests beheld gladly. Brunhild's
knights of Issland gave them escort, to the number of five hundred or
thereabout, their swords in their hands, the which irked the bold
strangers. They stood up from their seats; and the queen spake
courteously to them when she saw Siegfried. "Thou art welcome,
Siegfried, to this land. To what end art thou come? I prithee tell me."
"I thank thee, O Brunhild, fair daughter of a king, that thou greetest me
before this worshipful knight. Thou showest Siegfried too much honour,
for he is my lord, and the king of the Rhineland. What boots it to say
more? For thy sake we are come hither, for he would woo thee at all
hazards. Weigh the matter betimes, for of a surety he will win thee.
His name is Gunther; he is a great and mighty king, and he desireth
naught save thy love. To this end I have followed him, nor had done it,
but that he is my master."
She answered, "If he be thy lord, and thou be his man, let him withstand
me at the games. If he have the mastery, then I am his wife, but let him
fail in one of them, and ye be all dead men."
Then said Hagen of Trony, "Lady, show us the games that thou proposest.
It will go hard with Gunther or he yield thee the mastery, for he troweth
well to win so fair a maiden."
"He must put the stone, and leap after it, and throw the spear with me.
Ye may easily forfeit honour and life; wherefore be not so confident, but
bethink you well."
Then bold Siegfried went to the king, and bade him fear naught, but speak
freely to the queen. "For," said he, "I will aid thee with cunning
And King Gunther said, "Command me, great queen, and were it more yet, I
would risk it for thy sake. I will lose my head, or win thee to wife."
When the queen heard this word, she bade haste to the sports, as was
meet, and let them bring her harness, a golden buckler and a goodly
shield. She did on a surcoat of silk from Libya, that had never been
pierced in combat, cunningly fashioned and embroidered, and shining with
precious stones. Her pride greatly angered the knights, and Dankwart and
Hagen were downcast, for they feared for their lord, and thought, "Ill-
starred was this journey."
Meanwhile, Siegfried, the cunning man, went, when none spied him, to the
ship, where he found the _Tarnkappe_, and he did it on swiftly, that none
knew. Then he hastened back to the crowd of knights, where the queen
gave order for the sports, and, by his magic, he stole in among them,
that no man was ware of him. The ring was marked out in the presence of
armed knights to the number of seven hundred. These were the umpires,
that should tell truly who won in the sports.
Then came Brunhild. She stood armed, as she had meant to do battle with
all the kings of all the world. The silk was covered with gold spangles
that showed her white skin. Her attendants brought her, for the strife,
a shield of ruddy gold with iron studs, mickle and broad. The maid's
thong was an embroidered band, whereon lay stones green like grass, that
sparkled among the gold. The knight must, certes, be bold that won such
a lady. They say the shield the maiden bore was three spans thick under
the folds, rich with steel and gold, that four of her chamberlains scarce
could carry it.
When stark Hagen saw them drag the shield forward, the hero of Trony was
wroth, and cried, "How now, King Gunther? We be dead men, for thou
wooest the Devil's wife!"
Yet more must ye hear of her vesture. Her coat of mail was covered with
silk from Azagouc, costly and rich, and the stones thereof sparkled on
the queen's body. They brought her the spear, heavy and big and sharp,
that she was wont to throw. Stark and huge it was, mickle and broad, and
made grim wounds with its edges. And hear, now, the marvel of its
heaviness. Three weights and a half of iron were welded for it. Three
of Brunhild's lords scarce could carry it. A woeful man was King
Gunther, and he thought, "Lo! now not the Devil in Hell could escape
her. Were I in Burgundy with my life, she might wait long enough for my
wooing." He stood dismayed. Then they brought him his armour, and he
did it on.
Hagen came nigh to lose his wits for sorrow, and Dankwart, his brother,
said, "By my troth, I rue this adventure. Once we hight warriors, and
shall we perish in this country by the hand of a woman? Alack! that we
ever came hither! Had my brother Hagen but his sword, and I mine,
Brunhild's men would abate their pride; I ween they would walk softer.
If I had sworn peace with a thousand oaths, that maid should die sooner
than that my lord should lose his life."
"It were easy to quit this land," said Hagen, his brother, "if we had our
harness for the strife, and our good swords. This dame would be milder,
The noble maiden heard him plain, and, with smiling mouth, she looked
over her shoulder. "Since he deemeth him so bold, bring his harness, and
give to the heroes their sharp weapons. It is all one to me whether they
be armed or naked. I never feared the might of any man, and doubt not
but I shall overcome this king."
When they had brought the weapons, as the maid commanded, bold Dankwart
grew red with joy. "Now let them drive what sport they like," he said;
"Gunther is safe, since we have our swords."
Brunhild's great strength appeared. They brought her a stone into the
circle, heavy and huge, round also, and broad. Twelve strong knights
scarce sufficed thereto. And this she threw when she had hurled the
spear. Whereat the Burgundians were sore troubled, and Hagen cried, "Who
is this that Gunther wooeth? Would she were the Devil's bride in Hell!"
Then she turned back the sleeves from her white arms, and seized the
shield, and brandished the spear above her head, and the contest began.
Gunther was sore dismayed. If Siegfried had not helped him, certes he
had lost his life; but Siegfried went up to him secretly, and touched his
hand. Gunther fell in fear by reason of his magic, and he thought, "Who
touched me?" He looked round and saw no man. But Siegfried said, "It is
I, Siegfried, thy friend. Fear naught from the queen. Give me the
shield from thy hands, and let me carry it, and give heed to what I say.
Make thou the gestures, and I will do the work." And Gunther was glad
when he knew him. "Guard well the secret of my magic, for all our sakes,
lest the queen slay thee. See how boldly she challengeth thee."
Thereupon the royal maiden hurled her speak against the mickle and broad
shield of Sieglind's child, that sparks flew from it, as before a wind.
The stark spear pierced through the shield, and struck fire from the coat
of mail below. And the mighty man fell, and had perished but for the
_Tarnkappe_. The blood gushed from Siegfried's mouth. But he sprang up
swiftly, and took the spear that she had shot through his buckler, and
threw it back again with a great force. He thought, "I will not slay so
fair a maiden," and he turned the spear, and hurled it wit the haft loud
against her harness. From her mail, also, the sparks flew as on the
wind, for Siegmund's child threw mightily; and her strength failed before
the blow. King Gunther, I ween, had never done it alone.
Brunhild sprang to her feet again, and cried, "I thank thee, Gunther, for
that blow." For she thought he had done it with his own strength, nor
guessed that a far mightier man had felled her.
Then, greatly wroth, she hasted and lifted the stone on high; she flung
it far from her, and leaped after it with loud-ringing armour. The stone
landed twenty and four paces off; but the maid sprang further. Then
Siegfried went swiftly where the stone lay. Gunther lifted it, but it
was the man they saw not that threw it. Siegfried was mighty, bold and
big. He hurled the stone further, and he leaped further; moreover,
through his magic, he had strength enow to bear King Gunther with him.
The spring was made, the stone lay on the ground, and none was seen there
but Gunther, the knight. Fair Brunhild was red with anger.
So Siegfried saved Gunther from death.
Then Brunhild said aloud to her folk, when she saw the hero at the far
end of the ring unhurt. "Come hither at once, my kinsmen and my lieges.
Ye are subject henceforth to King Gunther."
The bold men laid the weapons from their hands at the feet of great
Gunther of Burgundy. For they deemed he had won the game by his own
He greeted them fair, for he was a courteous man, and he took the
beautiful maiden by the hand. She gave him power in her kingdom, whereat
bold Hagen rejoiced.
She bade the noble knight to the hall, where a multitude was assembled,
that showed much observance through fear of his prowess. So, by
Siegfried's might, they were delivered from all peril.
But Siegfried was wise, and stowed away his _Tarnkappe_ with care; then
he went back where the women sat, and said feigningly to Gunther,
"Wherefore delayest thou to begin the sports that the queen proposed, let
us now behold the issue thereof" - as if the cunning man knew naught of
The queen answered, "How cometh it to pass, Sir Siegfried, that thou
sawest not the game whereat Gunther hath won?"
Said Hagen of Burgundy, "While we were downcast by reason of thee, O
Queen, and afterward, when the king of Rhineland had beaten thee at the
sports, Siegfried was at the ship, and knoweth naught of what hath
"Right glad am I," said Siegfried, "that thy wooing hath prospered, and
that none is thy master. Now must thou follow us, noble Lady, to the
But Brunhild answered, "Not yet; I must first summon my friends and my
liegemen. Not so lightly can I quit my land. Certes, I will send for my
kinsfolk afore I go."
She dispatched envoys over all, and bade her friends and her lieges haste
to Isenstein. She gave to each princely apparel.
All day long, late and early, troops of knights rode into Brunhild's
castle, till Hagen said, "Alack! What have we done? Some hurt will
befall us from Brunhild's men. We know not her real intent. What if she
spurn us when her forces are gathered together? Then were we all dead
men, and this maiden were born to our woe!"
But stark Siegfried said, "I will see to that, and hinder what thou
fearest. I will bring to your help a body of chosen knights that thou
knowest not yet. Ask me no further, for I will hence, and God guard you
meanwhile. I will return shortly, and bring with me a thousand knights,
than whom the world holdeth none better."
"Only tarry not too long," said the king, "for we are right glad of thy
He answered, "I will come again in a few days. Tell the queen I left by
How Siegfried Journeyed to the Nibelungs
Siegfried hasted thence in his _Tarnkappe_ to the haven on the shore,
where he found a ship, the which he boarded secretly, and rowed it
swiftly, as it had been blown by the wind. None saw the boatman. He
made it fly with his great strength. Any that marked it deemed it driven
by a tempest, but it was by Siegfried, fair Sieglind's child.
A day and a night brought him to a great country that an hundred days'
journey could not compass; this hight the Nibelung land, where he had his
The hero landed alone on a broad meadow, and moored the ship. Then he
went to a mountain, whereon a castle stood, and asked for lodging, as he
had been a way-weary man. He went up to the door, that stood locked
before him. For folk guarded their honour then, even as now. The
stranger began to knock at the bolted door, and encountered within a huge
giant that kept watch, and that had his weapons ever by him. And this
giant said, "Who knocketh so loud on that door?"
Siegfried answered with a feigned voice, "I am a knight. Open to me,
else I will rouse some within that had willingly lain soft abed."
The porter was wroth at Siegfried's word. He did on his armour, and put
his helmet on his head, and grasped his shield, and swung open the door.
Then he ran grimly at Siegfried, saying, "How durst thou waken so many
brave men?" And he smote him hard and swift. The noble stranger made
wary fence, but the porter lifted an iron bar and brake his shield-band.
Then the hero came in scathe, and began to fear grim death when the
porter smote so hard. Yet his master loved him the more for his daring.
They strove so fiercely that the castle rang, and the din thereof was
heard in the hall of the Nibelungs. But Siegfried overcame the porter at
last, and bound him. And the news spread through the Nibelung land.
Albric, a bold and savage dwarf, heard their strife from far off through
the mountain. He did on his armour straightway, and ran where he found
the stranger, that had made an end of binding the giant. Now Albric was
bold and stout, and on his body he had a helmet and coat of mail, and in
his hand a heavy scourge of gold. He hasted and fell on Siegfried. The
scourge had seven heavy knobs hanging from it, wherewith he smote so
heavily to the left upon the shield that he well night brake it. Then
the noble guest came in peril. He threw away the broken shield and stuck
his long sword into the sheath, for he would not slay his chamberlain,
but ever spared his own folk; wherein he did honourably. With his strong
hands he ran at Albric, and grasped the age-hoary man by the beard, and
shook him sore, that he yelled aloud. Certes, the young hero's handling
was dolorous enow to Albric, who cried out, "Spare me. Had I not sworn
fealty to a knight already, I would serve thee till I died." This he
spake craftily. Siegfried bound Albric as he had done to the giant, and
the dwarf was in evil case through Siegfried's strength, and asked, "What
is thy name?"
Siegfried answered, "Siegfried is my name. Methought thou hadst known
"Right glad am I to hear it," said Albric the dwarf, "for now I know, by
thy prowess, that thou art worthy to be the lord of this land, and I will
do all thy behest, if thou spare my life."
Said Siegfried then, "Haste and bring me a thousand Nibelung knights, of
the best we have. I would see them here before me. Thou hast naught to
fear at my hand." He loosed the giant and Albric, and Albric ran to the
knights, and waked them eagerly, and said, "Rouse ye, O heroes, and go to
They sprang from their beds and were ready on the instant, a thousand
good knights and rich attired. They went where Siegfried stood, and he
greeted them fair. They lit many tapers, and poured for him the spiced
draught. And he thanked them that they had not lingered, and said, "Ye
shall follow me hence across the sea;" whereto he found the good knights
Full thirty thousand warriors were come at his bidding, and from these he
chose a thousand of the best. And some brought them their helmets, and
some their coats of mail, for they had to follow Siegfried into
Brunhild's land. He said then, "Hearken, good knights; ye go to court,
and must have rich apparel, for ye shall be seen of fair women.
Wherefore array you in your best."
Now a fool might say, "Thou liest. How could so many knights dwell
together? Where find the meat, and where the vesture? It were not
possible, if Siegfried had thirty lands." But ye have heard that
Siegfried was rich, for the kingdom and the hoard of the Nibelungs were
his. Wherefore his knights had enow and to spare, for the hoard grew
never less for all that he took from it.
They rose up early in the morning (doughty followers had Siegfried won!),
and took good horses with them, and sumptuous apparel, and departed
proudly for Brunhild's land.
Many beautiful maidens gazed from the windows there, and the queen said,
"Do any of you know who they be, that I behold yonder, afar off on the
waves? Their sails are rich and whiter than the snow."
The King of Rhineland answered, "They are my men, that I left some little
way behind when I journeyed hither. I summoned them, and now, Queen,
they are here."
They welcomed the noble guests courteously. Siegfried stood in the prow
of the vessel, richly clad, and many warriors beside him.
The queen said, "Tell me, O King, shall I greet the guests, or no?"
He answered, "Go out now before the castle. So shall they see that they
are welcome." And the queen did as he counselled her, and greeted
Siegfried before any. And they lodged them, and took their arms in
Now so many guests were in the land that they were pressed for room, and
the Burgundians were eager to be home.
Then said the queen, "I would thank him that would distribute for me,
among mine and the king's guests, the gold and silver that I have in
Dankwart, bold Giselher's man, answered, "Noble Queen, give me the key,
and I will so divide it that, if there be any shame, it shall be mine
None could deny that he gave freely. When Hagen's brother held the key,
he bestowed costly gifts without stint. Whoso desired a mark received so
much that the poorest was rich his life long. Pounds, by the hundred, he
gave uncounted, and many an one went forth from the hall richly dight,
that never afore had worn so fair vesture.
They told it to the queen, who was wroth, and said, "I would know, King,
wherefore thy chamberlain leaveth me naught of my apparel, and spendeth
all my gold. I would thank him that stayed his hand. He giveth as he
thought I had summoned Death hither. But I trust to live yet a while,
and can spend for myself, I trow, what my father left me."
Never had queen so lavished a chamberlain.
But Hagen of Trony made answer, "Know, Lady, that the King of the Rhine
hath gold and raiment to give in plenty, nor needeth to bear aught of
"Nay, if thou lovest me," said the queen, "let me fill twenty travelling
chests with gold and with silk, that my hand may have somewhat to bestow
when we get home to the land of Burgundy."
They filled the chests with precious stones. Her own chamberlain saw to
it, for she would not trust Giselher's man. And Gunther and Hagen began
Then the queen said, "To whom shall I leave my kingdom? Thy hand and
mine must establish that or we depart."
The king answered, "Call forth whom thou wilt, and he shall be regent."
The lady saw her nearest of kin standing night her - her mother's brother
- and to him she said, "Take my castles and land in charge, till that
King Gunther's own hand holdeth rule here."
She chose from among her knights two thousand men to follow her to the
Rhine, and the thousand Nibelung warriors. Then she made ready for the
journey, and rode down to the shore. She took with her six and eighty
women, and an hundred fair damsels, and they tarried not longer, but set
out. They that were left behind wept sore! Graciously and sweetly the
lady quitted her land. She kissed her nearest of kin that stood round.
With loving farewells they reached the sea. To the land of her fathers
the maiden returned nevermore.
Many hands made music during the voyage, and they had all manner of
pastime, and a favouring wind. And so they sailed away; and many a
mother's son wept for it.
Brunhild wedded not the king on the voyage, but waited for a hightide
that was to be held in the castle of Worms; and thither they speeded
merrily with their knights.
How Siegfried Was Sent to Worms
When they had journeyed full nine days, Hagen of Trony said, "Hearken to
my word. We have delayed too long to send the news to Worms on the
Rhine. The envoys should have been in Burgundy or now."
King Gunther answered, "Thou sayest sooth. And none were better for this
business than thyself, friend Hagen. Ride now into my land, for thou art
the fittest to tell of our coming."
"Nay, certes, dear master, I am but a bad envoy. Let me stay here at sea
and act the chamberlain. I will look to the women's wardrobe, till we
bring them to Burgundy. Bid Siegfried rather carry the message; by
reason of his great strength he will bear it through well. If he deny
thee, urge him with friendly words, that he do it for thy sister's sake."
So Gunther sent for the knight, who came when they had found him. And
the king said, "We are well night home in my land. It is time I sent a
messenger to tell my dear sister and my mother that we draw near.
Undertake thou the journey, and I will owe thee much thank."
But Siegfried would not do it till that Gunther had begged him and said,
"Ride not for my sake only, but for fair Kriemhild's, that the royal
maiden requite it, even as I." And when Siegfried heard that, he yielded.
"Command what thou wilt, I will not gainsay it. I will do it for the
sake of my beautiful lady. How should I deny aught to her that I bear in
my heart? Because of her, I will perform all that thou askest."
"Tell Uta, then, the great queen, that we have prospered in our
adventure; and let my brothers hear how that it hath fared well with us.
Tell the same news to our friends. And hide nothing from my sister.
Greet her from Brunhild and me; greet also the courtiers and all my men.
Say to them that I have gotten the desire of my heart. And bid Ortwin,
my dear nephew, raise seats by the Rhine. Make it known also to the
other knights that I will hold a great hightide with Brunhild; and bid my
sister, when she heareth I am at hand with my guests, prepare a fair
welcome for my bride; for the which I shall ever be beholden to her."
So Siegfried took leave of Brunhild, as was meet, and rode to the Rhine.
In the whole world was no better envoy.
With twenty and four knights he rode to Worms. And when it was noised
abroad that he was come without the king, Gunther's servants were heavy
of their cheer, for they feared that their lord had tarried behind, dead.
The messengers sprang gaily from their horses, and Giselher, the young
king, ran to them, and Gernot, his brother, who cried quickly, when he
saw not King Gunther with Siegfried, "Thou art welcome, Sir Siegfried.
Tell me, now, what thou hast done with my brother the king. If the
strength of Brunhild hath reft him from us, a bitter wooing hath it been."
"Fear naught. Thee and his kinsmen my friend greeteth by me, for he hath
sent me hither to you with news. Contrive now that I come to the queen
and thy sister. For I am charged with the same message to them as to
thee, from Gunther and Brunhild: that it standeth well with the twain."
Giselher said, "Go in to them straightway, and it will please my sister.
She feareth for my brother; by my troth, she will see thee gladly."
Siegfried answered, "If I can serve her in aught, it shall be done.
Where are now the ladies, that I may go to them?"
Giselher, the brave youth, bare the message; he said to his mother and
his sister, "Siegfried is come to us, the hero of the Netherland. My
brother Gunther hath sent him hither to the Rhine. He bringeth us word
how it standeth with the king. Allow him to come to the court, for he
bringeth news from Issland."
The noble women were heavy of their cheer. They ran for their robes, and
arrayed them, and bade Siegfried to the court; and he went gladly, for he
yearned to see them. Kriemhild, the noble maiden, greeted him fair.
"Thou art welcome, Sir Siegfried, valiant knight. Where is my brother
Gunther, the noble king? I fear we have lost him by Brunhild's
strength. Alack! that ever I was born!"
But the warrior answered, "Give me the guerdon of good news, for, fair
women, ye weep without cause. I left him safe and sound - I say sooth -
and he hath charged me with a message. He and his wife commend them
lovingly to thee, O Queen. Dry thine eyes, for they will be here
Kriemhild had not heard such good news for many a day. She wiped her
bright eyes with her snow-white apron, and began to thank the envoy for
So ended her sorrow and her tears.
She bade Siegfried sit, whereto he was nothing loth, and said sweetly, "I
would fain give thee the envoy's guerdon, wert thou not too rich to
receive it. Take my good will in lieu thereof."
"Though I had thirty lands," answered Siegfried, "I were proud to take a
gift from thy hand."
Kriemhild said, "Be it so." And she bade the chamberlain fetch the
envoy's meed. She gave him four and twenty bracelets with precious
stones for his fee. The hero would not keep them: he was too rich a
prince, but gave them to the maidens that were in the chamber.
Uta, also, greeted him fair, and he said, "I must tell thee further what
the king would have thee do when he cometh to the Rhine; for the which,
if thou grant it, he will ever be beholden to thee. He would have thee
receive his noble guests kindly, and ride out from Worms to the shore to
meet them. He begged this of thee with true heart."
The beautiful maiden answered, "I will do it gladly. I will deny him no
service. Faithfully and truly will I do it." And she grew red from love.
Never was prince's envoy better entreated. If she had durst kiss him,
she had done it readily. On loving wise he took leave of the maiden.
Then did the Burgundians as Siegfried told them. Sindolt, and Hunolt,
and Rumolt the knight, hasted and raised seats on the strand before
Worms. The king's servants rested not. And Ortwin and Gary sent
messengers out straightway to Gunther's liegemen over all, with news of
the hightide. The maidens looked to their apparel. The palace and all
the walls were decked out for the guests, and adorned cunningly for the
All the roads were thronged with the kinsmen of the three kings, that had
been summoned to welcome Gunther and Brunhild, and many a rich vest was
taken from its wrapping-cloth. Then the news spread, that Brunhild's
friends had been spied on the way. And great was the press in Burgundy.
Bold knights, enow, I ween, were there on both sides!
Fair Kriemhild said, "Go now, you of my maidens that will forth with me
to the welcome, and seek out your best clothes from the chests, that we
may have honour and praise from the guests."
The knights also bade bring out rich saddles, all of red gold, for the
women to ride from Worms down to the Rhine. Better riding gear there
could not be. Ha! how bright the gold shone on the horses, and the
precious stones on the bridles! They brought out gilded side-saddles and
goodly trappings for the women. And they were all merry of their cheer.
The horses stood ready in the court for the noble maidens, as I have told
you, and the poitrals were of the finest silk that was ever spun. Eighty
and six dames in head-coifs, fair, and dight in rich apparel, came to
Kriemhild, and thereto, featly adorned, many a beautiful damsel; fifty
and four, the fairest in Burgundy, with glittering lace over their yellow
hair. All that the king had desired of them they did with good will.
Fair robes of goodly stuffs that matched their white skins they wore
before the stranger knights. None but a fool had found any of them
amiss. Some had mantles of sable and ermine, and their arms and wrists
had bracelets over the silk; none might tell all the goodly show to the
end. With girdles cunningly fashioned, rich and long, they bound their
gorgeous robes made of silk of Araby. The world held no fairer damsels.
In their tightened bodices they laced them deftly. Certes, they had been
grieved if their red cheeks had not outshone their vesture. Never queen
had lovelier maidens.
When now the women had done on their apparel, the proud warriors that
were to lead them out drew nigh, a mighty force, bearing shields and
How Brunhild Was Received at Worms
On the far bank of the Rhine appeared a mighty host - the king with his
guests - and they drew nigh to the strand, where damsels, led by the
bridle, stood ready with welcome. When they from Issland, and
Siegfried's men of the Nibelung, saw that the ships were come, they
hasted to the beach and laid hold, for they spied the king's friends that
waited on the other side.
It is told of Uta, the rich queen, that she brought her damsels from the
castle to ride with her, so that knights and maidens won knowledge of one
another. The Margrave Gary held Kriemhild's bridle till they were out
from the fortress; then Siegfried hasted to serve her, for the which he
was after requited.
Ortwin the bold went by dame Uta's side, and, paired meetly and in sweet
fellowship, knights and maidens rode together. Never, in sooth, at such
meeting were so many women gathered. The men held tourney in the
presence of Kriemhild and the rest, until the ships were landed, and did
valiant deeds, that had been ill left undone at such a season.
Then they lifted the rich-attired women from their horses. Ha! what
splintering of lances, what din of shields, what noise and clash of
wrought bucklers, when the king and his guests were come over to the fair
ones that stood by the haven!
Gunther, with his friends, went down from the ships; he led Brunhild by
the hand; garments and precious stones shone bright and sparkled. And
Kriemhild went eagerly toward them, and greeted Brunhild and her
following. They drew back their head-bands with white fingers, and
kissed one another through love. Then Kriemhild, the maid, spake
courteously, "Thou art right welcome in this land, to me and to my
mother, and to our friends." And they courtsied and embraced. Never, I
ween, was any greeted fairer than the bride, by Uta and her daughter, for
they ceased not to kiss her sweet mouth.
When Brunhild's women were all gotten to land, the knights led them
before the queen, where welcome was not stinted them, and, where many a
red mouth was kissed. The rich kings' daughters stood long side by side,
and the warriors gazed on them. What these had heard tell they saw with
their eyes, that none surpassed those two women in beauty, neither was
any blemish found in them. They that esteem women for the comeliness of
the body and what the eye beholdeth, extolled King Gunther's wife, but
the wise that look deeper said, "Praised shall Kriemhild be before
Brunhild." And the bright-attired women drew together where the silken
canopies were spread, and the goodly tents, in the field before Worms.
The king's kinsmen pressed forward to see them. They prayed the two
queens to go with their women where the shade was, and the Burgundian
knights led them thither.
The guests also were now gotten to horse, and there was din of tilting
against shields. The dust swirled up from the plain, as the land had
been on fire, and the valour of many knights was proven, while the
maidens beheld their prowess. Siegfried, I ween, rode many a course
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