The Fall of the Niebelungs
Part 3 out of 5
And Gernot said, "Sooner than be troubled with this gold, let us sink it
in the Rhine. Then it were no man's."
She went wailing to Giselher, and said, "Dear brother, forsake me not,
but be my kind and good steward."
He answered her, "I will, when we win home again. For the present we
ride on a journey."
The king and his kinsmen left the land. He took the best he had with
him. Only Hagen tarried behind through the hate he bare Kriemhild, and
that he might work her ill.
Or the great king came back, Hagen had seized all the treasure and sunk
it in the Rhine at Lochheim. He thought to profit thereby, but did not.
Or Hagen hid the treasure, they had sworn a mighty oath that it should
remain a secret so long as they lived. Neither could they take it
themselves nor give it to another.
The princes returned, and with them many knights. Thereupon Kriemhild,
with her women and her maidens, began to bewail her wrong bitterly. She
was right woeful. And the knights made as to slay Hagen, and said with
one accord, "He hath done evilly." So he fled from before their anger
till they took him in favour again. They let him live, but Kriemhild
hated him with deadly hate.
Her heart was heavy with new grief for her husband's murder, and that
they had stolen her treasure, and till her last day she ceased not to
After Siegfried's death (I say sooth) she mourned till the thirteenth
year, nor could she forget the hero. She was ever true to him, and for
this folk have praised her.
Uta founded a rich abbey with her wealth after Dankrat's death, and
endowed it with great revenue, the which it draweth still. It is the
Abbey of Lorsch, renowned to this day. Kriemhild also gave no little
part thereto, for Siegfried's soul, and for the souls of all the dead.
She gave gold and precious stones with willing hand. Seldom have we
known a truer wife.
After that Kriemhild forgave Gunther, and yet, through his fault, lost
her great treasure, her heart's dole was a thousand times worse than
afore, and she was fain to be gone. A rich palace was built for Uta fast
by the cloister of Lorsch. She left her children and went thither, and
there she lieth still, buried in her coffin.
Then said the queen, "Dearest daughter mine, since thou canst not tarry
here, dwell with me in my house at Lorsch, and cease from weeping."
But Kriemhild answered, "To whom then should I leave my husband?"
"Leave him here," said Uta.
"God in Heaven forbid!" said the good wife. "That could I never do,
dearest mother; he must go with me."
The sorrowful one had his body taken up, and his noble bones were buried
again at Lorsch beside the minster with great honour; and there the bold
hero lieth in a long coffin.
But when Kriemhild would have journeyed thither with her mother, the
which she was fain to do, she was forced to tarry, by reason of news that
came from far beyond the Rhine.
How King Etzel Sent to Burgundy for Kriemhild
It was in the days when Queen Helca died, and King Etzel wooed other
women, that his friends commended to him a proud widow in the land of
Burgundy, that hight Queen Kriemhild.
Seeing fair Helca was dead, they said, "If thou wouldst win a noble wife,
the highest and the best that ever a king won, take this woman. Stark
Siegfried was her husband."
The great king answered, "How could that be, since I am a heathen, and
have not received baptism? The woman is a Christian - she will not
consent. It were a wonder, truly, if it came to pass."
But the good knights said, "What if she do it gladly, for thy high name's
sake, and thy great possessions? One can ask her at the least; she were
a fitting and comely mate for thee."
Then the noble king answered, "Which among ye knoweth the folk by the
Rhine, and their land?"
Said good Rudeger of Bechlaren, "From a child I have known the high and
noble kings, Gunther and Gernot, good knights both. The third hight
Giselher; each of these doeth whatso goeth best with honour and virtue.
The like did their fathers."
But Etzel said, "Friend, tell me now, is she meet to wear the crown in my
land? If her body be so fair as they say, my best friends shall never
"She resembleth great Helca, my mistress, for beauty. No king's wife in
the world could be fairer. Whom she taketh to friend may well be
He said, "Then woo her, Rudeger, in my name and for my sake. And come I
ever to wed Kriemhild, I will reward thee as I best can. Thereto, thou
wilt have done my will faithfully. From my store I will bid them give
thee what thou requirest of horses and apparel, that thou and thy fellows
may live merrily. They shall give thee therefrom without stint for thine
Rudeger, the rich Margrave, answered, "I were much to blame if I took
from thy store. I will gladly ride, an envoy to the Rhine, at mine own
cost, and with what I have received from thy hand."
Then the rich king said, "When thinkest thou to set out for the fair
one? God guard thine honour by the way, and also my wife, if kind
fortune help us to her favour."
Said Rudeger, "Or we quit this land, we must let fashion weapons and
apparel, that we may win worship when we come before the princes. I will
lead to the Rhine five hundred valiant men, that when they see me and
mine at Burgundy, they may say that never king sent so many men so far as
thou hast sent to us, to the Rhine. And know, great king, if thou art
set on this, that she belonged to Siegfried, a right goodly man, the son
of Siegmund. Thou hast seen him here. Soothly, much worship might be
said of him."
King Etzel answered, "If she was that knight's wife, the noble prince was
of so high renown, that I may not scorn his queen. By reason of her
great beauty she pleaseth me well."
Then the Margrave said, "I promise thee that we will ride hence in four
and twenty days. I will send word to Gotelind, my dear wife, that I,
myself, go as envoy to Kriemhild." So Rudeger sent messengers to
Bechlaren to his wife, the high-born Margravine, and told her that he
would go wooing for the king.
The Margravine still thought lovingly on good Helca, and when she heard
the message, she was one part sorry, and began to weep, lest she might
not win such a mistress as afore. When she thought on Helca she was
heavy of her cheer.
Rudeger rode out of Hungary in seven days, whereat King Etzel rejoiced.
They made ready his equipment at the town of Vienna, and he delayed his
journey no longer.
Gotelind awaited him at Bechlaren, and the young Margravine, Rudeger's
daughter, saw her father and his men gladly. They got a fair greeting
from beautiful women.
Or noble Rudeger rode to Bechlaren from the town of Vienna, the clothes,
whereof there were enow, came on the sumpters. So strong they rode, that
little was stolen from them by the way.
When they were come into the town of Bechlaren, the host bade lodge his
comrades, and give them good quarters. Wealthy Gotelind rejoiced to see
her husband, the like did also his dear daughter, the young Margravine,
that was as merry as could be at his coming. Right gladly she saw the
heroes from Hungary. The noble maiden said, with laughing mouth, "Ye be
very welcome, my father and his men."
And the good knights were not slow to thank her.
Well Gotelind knew the mind of Rudeger. When she lay by him at night,
she asked him sweetly whither the king of the Huns had sent him.
He answered, "I will tell thee gladly, my wife Gotelind. I go to woo a
wife for my master, now that fair Helca is dead. I go to Kriemhild, on
the Rhine, that shall become a great queen here among the Huns."
"God grant it fall so, for much good have we heard of her. Haply she
will make up to us for our mistress of aforetime. We might well rejoice
to have her wear the crown here."
Said the Margrave, "To them that ride with me to the Rhine, thou shalt
give graciously of thy goods, dear wife. When heroes go richly attired,
they be of high courage."
She answered, "There is none, if he will take it, but shall have what
suiteth him well, or thou and thy men depart."
And the Margrave said, "Thou wilt please me well thereby."
Ha! what rich stuffs they took from their chambers! They hasted and
provided the noble warriors with vesture enow from neck to spur. What
pleased him the beast, Rudeger chose for himself.
On the seventh morning the host rode from Bechlaren with his knights.
They took a goodly store of weapons and raiment through Bavaria, and were
seldom fallen upon by robbers on the way.
Within twelve days they came to the Rhine. The news was not slow to
spread. They told the king and his men that stranger guests had
arrived. Then the king began to ask that, if any knew them, he might
declare it. They perceived that their sumpters were heavy laden, and saw
that they were rich; and they gave them lodging in the wide city
When the stranger were arrived, the folk spied at them curiously. They
wondered whence they had journeyed to the Rhine.
The king asked Hagen who the knights were, and the hero of Trony
answered, "I have not seen them aright. When we meet them, I will tell
thee whence they have ridden into this land. They be strangers indeed if
I know them not straightway."
The guests had been to their lodging. The envoy and his train were
richly arrayed. Their clothes were good, and cunningly fashioned; and
they rode to the court.
Then said bold Hagen, "So far as I know, for it is long since I saw the
knights, they ride like the men of Rudeger, a bold warrior from the land
of the Huns."
"How could I believe," said the king, "that he of Bechlaren should come
into this land?" King Gunther had scarcely made an end of speaking, when
bold Hagen saw the good Rudeger.
He and all his friends ran to him. Five hundred knights sprang from
their horses. The Huns were well received; never were envoys so richly
Then cried Hagen of Trony, "Welcome, in God's name, is this knight, the
prince of Bechlaren, and all his men." Worshipful greeting got the
Huns. The nearest of kin to the king pressed forward, and Ortwin of Metz
said to Rudeger, "We have not, for long, seen guests so gladly. I speak
They thanked the heroes for their welcome. Then they went with the
warriors into the hall, where they found the king amidst of many bold men.
Gunther rose from his seat out of courtesy. On what friendly wise he
went toward the envoys! He and Gernot hasted to meet the guests and his
men, as beseemed them, and Gunther took Rudeger by the hand. He led him
to the highseat where he sat himself, and bade his men set before the
strangers goodly meats, and the best wine that was to be found in all the
land round about the Rhine; the which was done gladly.
Giselher and Gary, Dankwart and Folker, came in, for they had heard of
the worthy guests. They rejoiced to see them, and welcomed, in the
presence of the king, the noble knights and good.
Then said Hagen of Trony to his master, "Thy knights are greatly beholden
for what the Margrave hath done for our sake. The husband of fair
Gotelind should be well requited."
King Gunther said, "I pray thee tell me, for I would know, how it
standeth with Etzel and Helca in the land of the Huns."
The Margrave answered, "I will tell thee gladly."
Then he rose from his seat with all his men, and said to the king, "Give
me leave to deliver the message that King Etzel hath sent me with, here
Gunther answered, "I will hear the message wherewith thou art charged,
without taking counsel with my friends. Speak it before me and my men,
for with all honour shall thy suit be heard."
Then said the faithful envoy, "My great lord commendeth his true service
to thee at the Rhine, and to all the friends thou hast. This he doth
with true heart. The noble king biddeth thee mourn for his loss. His
people are joyless, for my mistress, great Helca, my lord's wife, is
dead; whereby many high-born maidens, children of great princes, that she
hath reared, are orphaned. By reason thereof the land is full of sorrow,
for these, alack! have none now to care for them. The king also ceaseth
not to make dole."
"Now God requite him," said Gunther, "that he commendeth his service so
fair to me and to my men. I have hearkened gladly to his greeting. My
kinsmen and my liegemen will repay him."
Then said Gernot of Burgundy, "The world may well rue beautiful Helca's
death, for the sake of her many virtues."
Hagen and many another knight said the same.
But Rudeger, the noble envoy, went on: "If thou allow it, O king, I will
tell thee further what my dear master hath charged me with. Dolefully
hath he lived since Helca's death. And it hath been told him that
Kriemhild is without a husband, for that Siegfried is dead. If that be
so, and thou grant it, she shall wear the crown before Etzel's knights.
This hath my lord bidden me say."
Then the great king spoke courteously, "If she be willing, she followeth
my desire therein. In three days I will let thee know. If she say not
nay to Etzel, wherefore should I?"
Meanwhile they gave the guests good lodging. On such wise were the
entreated that Rudeger was fain to confess he had friends among Gunther's
men. Hagen served him gladly, the which Rudeger had done to Hagen
So Rudeger tarried there till the third day. The king did prudently, and
called a counsel, to ask his friends whether it seemed good to them that
Kriemhild should take King Etzel to husband.
And they all counselled it save Hagen, that said to Gunther, the bold
knight, "If thou be wise, thou wilt see to it that she do it not, even
if she desire it."
"Why should I hinder it?" said Gunther. "If any good fall to the queen,
I may well grant it. She is my sister. If it be to her honour, we
ourselves should seek the alliance."
But Hagen answered, "Say not so. Didst thou know Etzel as I do, thou
wouldst see that thou, first of all, must suffer if she wedded him as
"How so?" answered Gunther. "Were she his wife, I need not come so nigh
him that I must feel his hate."
But Hagen said, "I will never approve it."
They summoned Gernot and Giselher, and asked whether it seemed good to
them that Kriemhild should take the great king. And none save Hagen was
Then said Giselher, the knight of Burgundy, "Do fairly by her for once,
friend Hagen. Make good to her the hurt thou hast done her. Let her
prosper without grudging it. Thou hast caused her much sorrow, and well
might she hate thee. Never was woman bereft by any man of more joy."
"Trow me, I know that well. And were she to take Etzel, and to live long
enow, she would do us all the hurt she could. She will have many valiant
men to serve her."
But bold Gernot answered Hagen, "Belike we shall never come into Etzel's
land till they both be dead. Let us do truly by her, and it will be to
Said Hagen, "None need tell me that. If Kriemhild wear Helca's crown,
she will do us all the hurt she can. Let the thing alone; it were better
for you knights."
Then Giselher, fair Uta's son, spake angrily, "We will not all do
basely. If aught good befall her, we shall be glad. For all thou canst
say, Hagen, I will serve her truly."
When Hagen heard that, he was wroth. Gernot and Giselher, the proud
knights and good, and Gunther, the great king, agreed in the end, that
they would allow it gladly, if Kriemhild were so minded.
Then Prince Gary said, "I will tell the lady, that she may incline her
heart to King Etzel, for many a knight is his vassal. He may make good
to her the wrong she hath suffered."
The good knight went to Kriemhild. She welcomed him kindly, and he said
without ado, "Greet me gladly, and give me the envoy's meed, for good
fortune parteth thee from all thy dole. One of the best men that ever
ruled a king's land with honour, or wore a crown, hath sent hither to sue
for thy love. Noble knights are come wooing for him; thy brother bade
tell thee this."
But the sorrowful one said, "God forbid that thou and all my friends
should mock my misery. What could I be to a man that hath known the
heart's love of a good wife?"
She would none of it. But Gernot, her brother, and Giselher the youth,
came to her, and lovingly they bade her be comforted, for, if she took
the king, it were truly to her profit.
But none could prevail on the lady to wed with any man. Then the knights
prayed her, saying, "Receive the envoys, at the least, if thou wilt not
"That I will do," said the queen; "I am fain to see Rudeger, by reason of
his many virtues. Were it not he, but another envoy, I had remained a
stranger to him." She said, "Send him hither to my chamber to-morrow
early, and I will tell him my mind on this matter."
Then her bitter weeping began afresh.
Rudeger desired nothing better than to see the queen. He knew himself so
skilful in speech that, could it be at all, he must prevail with her.
Early the next morning when they were singing the mass, the noble envoys
came. The press was great, and the valiant men that were bound for the
court with Rudeger were richly arrayed.
Poor Kriemhild, the sad-hearted one, waited for Rudeger, the noble
envoy. He found her in the clothes that she wore every day, albeit her
attendants were in rich raiment enow. She went to the door to meet him,
and received Etzel's man kindly. With twelve knights only he came before
her. They were well entreated, for never were better envoys. They bade
the warrior and his men sit down. The two Margraves, Eckewart and Gary
stood before her, but all were sad of their countenance by reason of the
sorrowful queen; many fair women sat round her, and Kriemhild did nothing
but weep; that her robe on the bosom was wet with hot tears.
The Margrave saw this, and rose from his seat and spake courteously,
"Most noble king's daughter, grant to me and my friends that are with me,
to stand before thee and tell thee the message we bring hither."
"Thou hast permission," said the queen; "say what thou wilt, and I will
hear it gladly, for thou art a good envoy."
The others perceived her unwilling mind, but Prince Rudeger of Bechlaren
said, "Etzel, a great king, commendeth his true love to thee, here in
this land. He hath sent many good knights to sue for thy love. Love
without sorrow he offereth thee, and the like firm affection that he
showed erstwhile to Queen Helca, that lay upon his heart. Thou shalt
wear the crown, even as my mistress did aforetime."
Then said the queen, "Margrave Rudeger, none that knew my bitter woe
would counsel me to wed another man, for I lost one of the best that ever
"What comforteth more in grief," said the bold man, "than true love? He
that chooseth to his heart's desire findeth that naught healeth sorrow
like love. If thou consent to wed my noble master, twelve royal crowns
shall be thine; thereto, my lord will give thee thirty princes' lands
that his strong hand hath overcome. And thou shalt be mistress of many
worshipful men, that were subject to my lady Helca, and of many beautiful
maidens, the kin of kings, that she ruled over. My master bade me say
that, if thou wilt wear the crown with him, he will give thee all the
high power that Helca had. Mightily shalt thou wield it over Etzel's
But the queen answered, "How could I incline my heart again to be a
hero's wife? Death hath wrought me such a woe through one, that I must
stand joyless till my life's end."
The Huns answered, "Great queen, thy life by Etzel will be so glad that
thou wilt know nothing save delight, if thou consent. For the king hath
many a peerless knight. Helca's maidens, and thine together, shall be
thy attendants, by reason whereof many warriors shall rejoice. Be
counselled, O queen, for thy good."
She said courteously, "Let the matter stand till to-morrow morning. Come
to me then; and I will answer you concerning your business." To the
which the bold knights agreed.
When they were all gone to their lodging, the lady sent for Giselher and
her mother. To both she said that weeping beseemed her better than aught
But her brother Giselher said, "Sister, something telleth me, and I trow
it, that King Etzel will end all thy dole. It seemeth good to me that
thou take him to husband, whatso any other may counsel. He may give thee
again all that thou hast lost. From the Rhone to the Rhine, from the
Elbe to the sea, no king is so mighty as he is. Thou mayest well rejoice
that he chooseth thee for his queen."
She answered, "Dear brother, wherefore counsel me thus? Mourning and
weeping suit me better. How could I appear before the knights at court?
Had my body ever beauty, it hath lost it."
Then said queen Uta to her dear daughter, "Dear child, do what thy
brother saith. Be counselled by thy friends, and good will betide thee.
Too long have I seen thee mourning bitterly."
Then she asked mighty God to guide her. Albeit she might have gold and
silver and apparel to give, as aforetime, when her husband lived, never
again could she have the happy hours.
She thought to herself, "Shall I give myself to a heathen? I am a
Christian woman. I should be shamed before the world. Though he gave me
the riches of the whole earth, it could never be."
At that point she left it; and all night long, till the day, the woman
lay on her bed full of thoughts. Her bright eyes were never dry till she
went to mass in the morning.
The kings also came at the hour of mass, and took their sister by the
hand. They counselled her to wed the king of the Huns. But the lady was
no merrier of her cheer.
Then they bade Etzel's men come before her, that were fain to be gone
with her answer, whether it was a "yea" or a "nay." So Rudeger came to
the court. His comrades urged him to learn the princes' mind without
delay. This seemed good to them all, for it was a far way back to their
They brought Rudeger to Kriemhild. And the knight asked the queen gently
to let him hear the message she sent to Etzel. He won nothing from her
but denial, for never could she love another man.
Then said the Margrave, "That were ill done. Wherefore ruin so fair a
body? Still mayest thou with honour become a good man's wife." Yet all
their entreaty availed not, till that Rudeger said secretly to the queen
that he would make good to her any hurt that might befall her. At that,
her grief abated somewhat.
He said to the queen, "Weep no more. If thou hadst none among the Huns
save me, my faithful kinsmen, and my men, sore must he pay for it that
did thee wrong."
Much milder was the lady's mood, and she said, "Swear me an oath that,
should any do aught against me, thou wilt be the first to avenge it."
The Margrave answered, "I will swear it."
So Rudeger swore with all his men always to serve her truly, and to deny
her nothing in Etzel's land that her honour called for, and he confirmed
it with his hand.
Then thought the faithful woman, "Since I, a forlorn woman, can win so
many friends, I will let the folk say what they please. Haply I may yet
avenge my dear husband's death. Etzel hath so many knights that, were
they mine to command, I could do what I would. Thereto, he is so wealthy
that I shall have wherewith to bestow gifts. Cruel Hagen hath taken my
treasure from me."
She said to Rudeger, "Had I not heard he was a heathen, I would go gladly
at his bidding, and take him to husband."
The Margrave answered, "Say no more of that, Lady. He is not quite a
heathen, be assured, for my dear master hath been christened; albeit he
hath turned again. Haply he will think better of it shouldst thou wed
him. He hath so many Christian knights that no ill could betide thee.
And thou mightst easily win back the good prince, heart and soul, to God."
Her brothers said, "Promise it, sister, and give over grieving."
They begged it so long that at the last the sorrowful woman promised,
before the warriors, to become Etzel's wife.
She said, "Poor queen that I am, I will follow you! I will go to the
Huns, if I find friends to lead me thither." Fair Kriemhild gave her
hand on it before the knights.
Then said the Margrave, "Thou hast two knights for thy liegemen, and I
have more. Thou canst fare across the Rhine with honour. I will not
leave thee longer here among the Burgundians. I have five hundred men
and also my kinsmen. These shall serve thee here, and at home likewise,
and do thy bidding. I will do it also, and will never shame me when thou
mindest me on my word. Bid them fetch thee forth thy horse-gear, for
thou wilt never rue Rudeger's counsel, and tell it to the maidens that
thou takest with thee. Many a chosen knight will meet us on the road."
They had still the trappings that they rode with in Siegfried's time, so
that she could take many maidens with her in fitting pomp when she
departed. Ha! what goodly saddles they brought out for the fair women!
All the rich clothes they had ever worn were made ready for the journey,
for they had heard much of the king. They opened the chests that had
stood shut, and busied them for five days and a half, and took from the
presses the store of things that lay therein. Kriemhild unlocked her
chambers, that she might make Rudeger's men rich. She had still some
gold from the Nibelung hoard, that she purposed to divide with her hand
among the Huns. An hundred mules scarce carried it.
Hagen heard the news, and said, "Since Kriemhild will never forgive me,
Siegfried's gold shall stay here. Wherefore should I let my foemen get
so much wealth. Well I know what Kriemhild will do with this treasure.
If she took it hence, she would divide it, certes, to my hurt. Tell her
that Hagen will keep it."
When she heard this, her anger was grim. They told it to the three
knights, that would gladly have put it right; when they could not, noble
Rudeger said joyfully, "Great Queen, why weep for thy gold? King Etzel's
love is not small. When his eyes behold thee, he will give thee more
than thou canst ever spend. Take my word for it, lady."
But the queen said, "Most noble Rudeger, never had a king's daughter more
wealth than Hagen hath taken from me."
Then came her brother Gernot to her chamber, and, with his kingly might,
stuck a key into the door, that they got Kriemhild's gold out - thirty
marks or more. He bade the guests take it, the which pleased Gunther.
But Gotelind's husband of Bechlaren said, "Had my mistress all that was
ever brought from the Nibelung land, neither mine nor the queen's hand
would touch it. Bid them keep it, for I will none of it. I brought with
me so much from my home that we can lightly dispense with it, and yet
live merrily by the way."
But her maidens had filled twelve chests of the best gold that could be;
they took that with them, and many women's trinkets for the journey. But
even in this thing she feared grim Hagen's might. She had still a
thousand gold marks for masses, and this she gave for the soul for her
dear husband; the which Rudeger thought well done.
Then said the weeping queen, "Where are now the friends that will leave
their home for my sake? Lt them ride with me into the land of the Huns,
and take of my treasure to buy them horses and apparel."
The Margrave Gary spoke at once, "From the day I was first given to thee
for thine attendant, I have served thee faithfully," said the knight,
"and will do the same to my life's end. I will take with me also five
hundred men; these, with true heart, I make over to thee. Only death
shall part us." Kriemhild thanked the knight for his word and for his
Then they brought round the horses, for they were ready to start. There
was bitter weeping of friends. Great Uta and many a fair maiden showed
their grief for the loss of Kriemhild.
She took with her an hundred high-born maidens, arrayed as beseemed
them. The tears ran down from bright eyes. But at Etzel's court they
had joyful days again.
Then Giselher and Gernot came with their followers, as courtesy bade
them, and escorted their dear sister. Brave Gary came, and Ortwin.
Rumolt the cook had also to go. They prepared the night-quarters for the
women on the way. Folker was the marshal, and saw to their lodging.
After the kisses there was loud weeping, or they came from the castle to
the plain. Many rode and followed on foot unbidden, but Gunther went
only a little way from the town.
Or they left the Rhine, they had sent forward swift messengers to the
land of the Huns, that told the king how Rudeger had won the noble queen
for his wife.
They envoys sped fast; needs must they haste, for honour's sake and the
guerdon of good news. When they and their horses got home, King Etzel
had never heard such welcome tidings. The king bade give the envoys so
much for their message that they could live merrily ever after, till
their death. For love had chased away the king's trouble and his dole.
How Kriemhild Journeyed to the Huns
Let the envoys ride, and list rather while we tell you how the queen
journeyed through the land, and where Giselher and Gernot parted from
her. They had served her well as honour bade them. They rode as far as
the Danube at Bergen; then they took their leave, that they might return
to the Rhine. Among friends so good, this could not be done without
Bold Giselher said to his sister, "If thou hast need of me at any time,
sister, or standest in any peril, let me know it, and I will ride to thy
succour into Etzel's land."
She kissed all her kinsmen on the mouth, and on friendly wise the bold
Burgundians took leave of Rudeger's men. With the queen went many fair
maidens, an hundred and four, richly clad in gay and costly stuffs; and
they that followed Kriemhild bare broad shields enow. Then Folker, the
goodly knight, turned back also.
When they were come over the Danube into Bavaria, the news was noised
abroad that unknown guests were advancing. Where a cloister still
standeth, and the Inn floweth into the Danube, a bishop dwelled in the
town of Passau. The houses were emptied of the folk, and also the
prince's palace, and they hasted to meet the strangers in Bavaria, where
Bishop Pilgerin found fair Kriemhild.
The knights of the country were not sorry when they saw so many beautiful
maidens following her, and they wooed the heroes' daughters with their
eyes. Good lodging was given to the strangers, and they rested at
Pledelingen. The folk rode from all quarters toward them, and they got
freely all they needed. Both there and elsewhere they took it, nor lost
The bishop rode with his niece to Passau. When the burghers of the town
got word that Kriemhild, the child of their prince's sister, came
thither, she was received with great worship by the merchants.
The bishop thought she would tarry there, but Eckewart said, "It cannot
be, for we must down into Rudeger's land. Many knights await us that
know of our coming."
Fair Gotelind also had heard the news. She and her high-born child made
them ready in haste, for Rudeger had bidden her cheer the queen by riding
to meet her with all his men, as far as the Enns. This was no sooner
done than the roads were thronged with folk riding and running afoot to
meet the guests.
The queen was now come to Efferding. There many a Bavarian robber had
gladly plundered them on the road, as their custom is, and had easily
done them a hurt. But noble Rudeger had guarded against this; he had
with him a thousand knights or more. Rudeger's wife, Gotelind, too, was
come thither, and with her many bold warriors. When they had crossed the
Traun at Enns, they found booths and tents pitched for them on the plain
where they were to sleep. Rudeger took all the charges on himself.
Gotelind set out from her quarters, and many horses with jingling bridles
took the road. It was a fair welcome, and done for Rudeger's sake. The
knights, from both sides, pricked gallantly to the greeting, and showed
their horsemanship in the presence of the maidens, that saw it gladly
enow. When Rudeger's men rode up to the strangers, many a splinter flew
into the air from the hands of the heroes, that tilted on knightly wise.
They rode to win praise from the women. When the tourney was ended, the
men greeted each other, and fair Gotelind was led up to Kriemhild. There
was little rest for any skilled to wait upon women.
The Margrave rode to meet his wife, that was not sorry to see him come
back safe from the Rhine. In her joy she forgot her long dole. When she
had welcomed him, he bade her alight on the grass with her attendants.
The knights hasted to serve them.
When Kriemhild saw the Margravine standing with her train, she went no
further, but stayed her horse and bade them lift her quickly from the
saddle. The bishop led his sister's child, he and Eckewart, to Gotelind,
and all that stood in the way fell back. Then the stranger kissed the
Margravine on the mouth, and Rudeger's wife said sweetly, "Well for me,
dear lady, that I have seen with mine eyes thy fair body here in this
land! Naught so welcome hath, for long, befallen me." "God reward thee,
noble Gotelind," answered Kriemhild. "If I be spared alive to live with
Botlung's child, it may indeed be well for thee that thou hast seen me."
Neither of them knew that which was to be.
The maidens, attended by the knights, advanced and greeted each other
courteously; then they sat down on the clover, and many that had been
strangers became acquainted. They bade pour out the wine for the women;
and, seeing it was already noon, they rested there no longer, but rode
till they came to broad pavilions, where they were well served. They
stayed there the night through, till the early morning.
The folk of Bechlaren had not failed to make them ready for the many
worshipful guests, and Rudeger had so ordered it that these wanted for
little. The windows in the walls were thrown wide, the Castle of
Bechlaren stood open, and the welcome guests rode in. The noble host
bade provide good lodging for them all. Rudeger's daughter advanced with
her attendants and received the queen right sweetly, and her mother, the
Margravine, was there also. Many a maiden was lovingly greeted. They
took hands and went together into a wide and goodly hall, below which
flowed the Danube. There they sat merrily, and the breeze blew upon them.
What they did further, I cannot say. Kriemhild's knights were heard
mourning that they must away so soon; it irked them sore. Ha! what
good warriors rode with them from Bechlaren.
Rudeger did them right loving service. They queen gave Gotelind's
daughter twelve red armlets, and, thereto, goodly raiment of the best
that she had brought with her into Etzel's land. Albeit she was bereft
of the Nibelung gold, she won to her all that saw her with the small
store that remained to her. Goodly were the gifts she bestowed on the
followers of the host. In return, the lady Gotelind did the guests from
the Rhine such honour that it had been hard to find any among them
without jewels or rich apparel from her hand.
When they had eaten, and it was time to be gone, the hostess commended
her true service to Etzel's wife, who, from her side, embraced the fair
Margravine lovingly. And the maiden said to the queen, "Well I know, if
it seem good to thee, that my father would gladly send me into the land
of the Huns to be with thee." Kriemhild found her true indeed!
The horses stood ready before Bechlaren; the noble queen had taken leave
of Rudeger's wife and daughter, and, with many a sweet farewell, the
maidens parted; seldom did they meet again.
The folk of Medilick brought out in their hands rich golden vessels, and
offered them, full of wine, to the guests on the road, and bade them
welcome. The host of the place hight Astolt, that showed them the way
into Austria, by Mautern down below on the Danube; and here, again, the
great queen was paid much worship.
At that point the bishop parted lovingly from his niece, after that he
had prayed earnestly that she might prosper, and win herself honour even
as Helca had done. Ha! what fame was hers after, among the Huns!
So the strangers fared on to the Traisem, diligently waited on by
Rudeger's men, till that the Huns were seen riding across the land.
Mickle worship was done there to the queen.
Fast by the Traisem the King of the Huns had a goodly castle and a
famous, called Traisenmauer. There Helca had dwelled and ruled more
mildly than any hath done since, save Kriemhild, who likewise gave freely
of her goods. Well might she live happily after her mourning, and win
praise from Etzel's men, the which the heroes soon gave her to the full.
So famed was Etzel's rule that the boldest knights ever heard of among
Christians or heathens drew ceaselessly to his court; and all these were
come with him. One saw there what one never sees now - Christian and
heathen together. Howso divers their beliefs were, the king gave with
such free hand that all had plenty.
How She Was Received Among the Huns
She tarried at Traisenmauer till the fourth day, during which time the
dust on the road was never still, but rose like flame from all sides.
And King Etzel's men rode thither through Austria.
When it was told to the king how proudly Kriemhild advanced through the
land, his old sorrow vanished clean from his mind, and he set out to meet
the fair one. In front of him on the way rode many a bold knight - a
vast host of Christians and heathens of many divers tongues. When they
spied the queen, they came on in stately array. Russians and Greeks were
there. Polacks and Wallachians spurred along, deftly managing their good
horses, displaying themselves each according to the custom of his own
land. From Kiow came many a knight. Savage Petschenegers were there
also, that shot with their bows at the birds that flew by, and drew their
arrow-heads strongly to the utmost stretch of the bow.
In Austria, by the Danube, is a town that hight Tulna. There Kriemhild
learned many a strange custom that she had not seen afore, and was
welcomed by not a few that, after, suffered dole through her.
The men of King Etzel's household rode before him, merry and rich-
attired, fair accoutred and courtly: full four and twenty princes, great
and noble. To behold their queen was all they sought. Duke Ramung of
Wallachia spurred up to her with seven hundred men. Then came Prince
Gibek with a gallant host. Hornbog, the swift, pricked forward from the
king's side to his mistress with echoing shouts, after the fashion of his
country. Etzel's kinsmen, likewise, spurred hotly toward her. Next came
bold Hawart of Denmark, and swift Iring, free from guile; and Irnfried of
Thuringia, a brave man. These, with the twelve hundred men that made up
their host, received Kriemhild with all worship. Then came Sir Bloedel,
King Etzel's brother, from the land of the Huns; with great pomp, he drew
nigh to the queen. The next was King Etzel, with Sir Dietrich and all
his knights, among the which were many good warriors faithful and true;
whereat the heart of Queen Kriemhild was uplifted.
Then Sir Rudeger said to the queen, "Lady, the king would welcome thee
here. Kiss them that I bid thee kiss. It is not meet that all Etzel's
men be greeted on like manner."
So they lifted the queen down from her palfrey. Etzel, the great
monarch, tarried no longer, but sprang from his horse with many a bold
knight, and hasted joyfully toward Kriemhild. Two mighty princes, they
tell us, walked by the queen and carried her train when King Etzel went
toward her, and she received him sweetly with kisses. She pushed back
her head-band, and her bright skin shone from out the gold, till many a
man vowed that queen Helca could not have been fairer. Bloedel, the
king's brother, stood close at hand, whom Rudeger, the wealthy Margrave,
bade her kiss; also King Gibek, and Dietrich likewise. Twelve knights
were kissed by her, and many others were kindly greeted.
All the time that Etzel stood by Kriemhild, the youths did as the custom
is still. Christian knights and heathen jousted, each after his own
fashion. Dietrich's men, as beseemed good warriors, hurled the whizzing
shafts high above the shields, with undaunted hand. Bucklers enow were
pierced before the German guests. Mickle din was there of splintered
lances. All the knights of the land were gathered together, and the
king's guests also, among the which were many noble men. Then the great
king went with the queen into a stately pavilion. The field round about
was full of tents, that they might rest after their labour. Thither the
heroes led the beautiful maidens after the queen, who sat down therein on
a rich couch. The Margrave had so ordered it, that they found it all
goodly and fair. High beat the heart of Etzel.
What they said to each other I know not. Kriemhild's white hand lay in
the king's. They sat lovingly together, but Rudeger allowed not the king
to caress his bride in secret.
They bade stay the tourney. The din of the fray ended with honour, and
Etzel's men went to their tents, where they had spacious lodging. That
evening, and through the night, they rested in comfort, till the morning
light began to shine. Then they got to horse again. Ha! what sports
they drave for the glory of the king! Etzel exhorted his Huns to do as
Then they rode from Tulna to the town of Vienna. There they found many
women featly adorned, that received Etzel's wife with much worship. All
that they needed was there in plenty, and the heroes rejoiced against the
festival. Lodging was given them, and the king's hightide began
merrily. There was not room for all in the town, and Rudeger bade them
that were not guests take up their quarters in the country round about.
All this time, I trow, the king was not far from Kriemhild. Sir
Dietrich, and many another knight beside, slacked not in their endeavour
to cheer the hearts of the strangers. Rudeger and his friends had good
The festival fell on a Whitsuntide, when King Etzel wedded Kriemhild in
the town of Vienna. She had not, certes, had so many men to serve her in
her first husband's time. With her gifts she made herself known to many
that had never seen her afore, among the which were some that said to the
guests, "We deemed that Kriemhild possessed naught. Yet here she doeth
wonders with her wealth."
The hightide lasted seventeen days. Of no king, I ween, is it told, that
he held a longer marriage feast; at the least we wot of none. All the
guests wore new apparel. At home, in the Netherland, Kriemhild had never
sat before so many knights; yea, I trow, that albeit Siegfried had great
possessions, he had never at command so many noble warriors as stood
before Etzel. Nor had nay king ever given at his own wedding such store
of rich mantles, long and wide, nor such goodly vesture, whereof he had
enow and to spare. For Kriemhild's sake he did it all.
Friends and strangers were of one mind. They grudged not their dearest
possession. Whatso any asked for was readily given, till that many a
knight, through his charity, was left bare and without clothes.
When the queen thought how once she had sat by the Rhine with her noble
husband, her eyes grew wet. But she hid it, that none knew. Great
honour was now hers after her mickle dole.
Howso freely the others gave, it was but a wind compared with Dietrich.
What Botlung's son had given him was no wall spent. The open hand of
Rudeger also did great wonders. Prince Bloedel, too, of Hungary, bade
empty many a travelling chest, and scatter freely both silver and gold.
Right merrily lived the warriors of the king. Werbel and Schwemmel, the
court minstrels, won, each, at the hightide, when Kriemhild wore the
crown beside Etzel, a thousand marks or more.
On the eighteenth morning they rode away from Vienna. Many a shield was
pierced in knightly encounter by the spears which the heroes bare in
their hands. So Etzel returned to the land of the Huns rejoicing. They
stayed the night at ancient Haimburg. None could number the host, nor
tell how many strong they rode through the land. Ha! what beautiful
women they found waiting them in their home! At Misenburg, the wealthy
city, they went aboard ships. The water was covered with horses and men,
as if the dry land had begun to float. There the way-weary women had
ease and comfort. The good ships were lashed together, that wave and
water might not hurt them, and fair awnings were stretched above, as they
had been still on the plain.
When word thereof came to Etzel's castle, both women and men rejoiced.
Etzel's household, that Helca had aforetime ruled, passed many a happy
day with Kriemhild. Noble maidens stood waiting, that since Helca's
death had suffered heart's dole. Kriemhild found there seven kings'
daughters that were for an adornment to Etzel's whole land. The charge
of the damsels was with Herrat, Helca's sister's daughter, famed for
virtue, and the betrothed of Dietrich, a noble king's child, the daughter
of Nentwine; the which afterward had much worship. Glad of her cheer was
she at the coming of the guests, and many a goodly thing was made ready.
What tongue might tell how merrily King Etzel dwelled there? Never under
any queen fared the Huns better.
When the king rode up with his wife from the strand, Kriemhild was told
the name of them that led forward the maidens, that she might greet them
the more fitly. Ha! how mightily she ruled in Helca's stead! She had
true servants in plenty. The queen gave gold and vesture, silver and
precious stones. All that she had brought with her from over the Rhine
to the Huns, she divided among them. All the king's kinsmen and liegemen
vowed their service to her, and were subject to her, so that Helca
herself had never ruled so mightily as Kriemhild, that they had all to
serve till her death.
So famous was the court and the country, that each found there, at all
times, the pastime he desired; so kind was the king and so good the queen.
How Kriemhild Thought of Revenging Her Wrong
So, in high honour (I say sooth), they dwelled together till the seventh
year. Meanwhile Kriemhild had borne a son. Nothing could have rejoiced
Etzel more. She set her heart on it that he should receive Christian
baptism. He was named Ortlieb, and glad was all Etzel's land.
For many a day Kriemhild ruled virtuously, even as Helca aforetime.
Herrat, the foreign maiden, that still mourned bitterly for Helca in
secret, taught her the customs of the country. Strangers and friends
alike praised her, and owned that never queen had ruled a king's land
better or more mildly. For this she was famed among the Huns till the
When now she saw that none withstood her (the which a king's knights will
sometimes do to their prince's wife), and that twelve kings stood ever
before her, she thought on the grievous wrongs that had befallen her in
her home. She remembered also the honour that was hers among the
Nibelungs, and that Hagen's hand had robbed her of it by Siegfried's
death, and she pondered how she might work him woe.
"It were easily done, could I but bring him hither." She dreamed that
she walked hand in hand with Giselher her brother, and oft, in sweet
sleep, she kissed him. Evil came of it after.
It was the wicked Devil, I ween, that counselled Kriemhild to part from
Gunther in friendship, and to be reconciled to him with a kiss in the
land of Burgundy. She began to wet her vesture anew with hot tears.
Late and early it lay on her heart, how that, through no fault of hers,
she had been forced to wed a heathen. Hagen and Gunther had done this
wrong to her.
Never a day passed but she longed to be revenged. She thought, "Now I am
so rich and powerful that I could do mine enemies a mischief. Were it
Hagen of Trony, I were nothing loth. My heart still yearneth for my
beloved. Could I but win to them that worked me wore, well would the
death of my dear one be avenged. It is hard to wait," said the sorrowful
All her knights, the king's men, loved her, as was meet. Her chamberlain
was Eckewart, that thereby won many friends. None durst withstand
Every day she thought to herself, "I will ask the king." She deemed
that, of his goodness, he would send for her friends and bring them into
the land of the Huns. None guessed her evil intent.
One night, when she lay by the king, and he held her in his arms, as was
his wont, for she was to him as his life, the royal woman thought on her
foes, and said to him, "My dearest lord, I would fain beg a boon of
thee. I would have thee show, if I have deserved it at thy hand, that my
kinsmen have found favour in thy sight."
The great king answered with true heart, "That will I readily prove to
thee. All that profiteth and doth honour to the knights rejoiceth me,
for through no woman's love have I won better friends."
Then said the queen, "Thou knowest well that I have noble kinsmen. It
irketh me that they visit me so seldom. The folk here deem me kinless."
Whereto King Etzel answered, "My dearest wife, if it be not too far, I
will invite across the Rhine whomsoever thou wouldst gladly see, and bid
them hither to my land."
The woman was well content when she discovered his mind on the matter,
and said, "If thou wouldst truly please me, my lord, thou wilt dispatch
envoys to Worms beyond the Rhine. I will inform my friends of my desire
by these; so, many good knights will come hither into our land."
He answered, "Thy wish shall be obeyed. Thy kinsmen, noble Uta's sons,
will not be so welcome to thee as to me. It irketh me sore that they
have been strangers so long. If it seem good to thee, dearest wife, I
will send my minstrels as envoys to thy friends in Burgundy."
He bade summon the good fiddlers straightway, that hasted to where he sat
by the queen, and he told them both to go as envoys to Burgundy. He let
fashion rich clothes for them; for four and twenty knights they made
apparel, and the king gave them the message wherewith they were to invite
Gunther and his men. And Kriemhild began to speak to them in secret.
Then said the great king, "I will tell ye what ye shall do. I send to my
friends love and every good wish, and pray them to ride hither to my
land. I know few other guests so dear. And if Kriemhild's kinsmen be
minded to do my will, bid them fail not to come, for love of me, to my
hightide, for my heart yearneth toward the brethren of my wife."
Whereto Schwemmel, the proud minstrel, answered, "When shall thy hightide
fall, that we may tell thy friends yonder?"
King Etzel said, "Next midsummer."
"Thy command shall be obeyed," answered Werbel.
The queen bade summon the envoys secretly to her chamber, and spake with
them. Little good came thereof. She said to the two envoys, "Ye shall
deserve great reward if ye do my bidding well, and deliver the message
wherewith I charge you, at home, in my land. I will make you rich in
goods, and give you sumptuous apparel. See that ye say not to any of my
friends at Worms, by the Rhine, that ye have ever seen me sad of my
cheer, and commend my service to the heroes bold and good. Beg them to
grant the king's prayer and end all my sorrow. The Huns deem me without
kin. Were I a knight, I would go to them myself. Say to Gernot, my
noble brother, that none is better minded to him in the world than I.
Bid him bring here our best friends, that we win honour. And tell
Giselher to remember that never, through his fault, did ill betide me;
for which reason mine eyes are fain to behold him. Evermore I would
serve him. Tell my mother, also, what worship is mine. And if Hagen of
Trony tarry behind, who shall lead them through the land? From a child
up he hath known the roads hither to the Huns."
The envoys guessed not why she could not leave Hagen of Trony at the
Rhine. They knew it afterward to their cost, for, through him, many a
knight was brought face to face with grim death.
Letters and greetings were given to them. They rode forth rich in goods,
that they might live merrily by the way. They took leave of Etzel and
his fair wife. Their bodies were adorned with goodly vesture.
How Werbel and Schwemmel Brought the Message
When Etzel sent his fiddlers to the Rhine, the news flew from land to
land. By means of swift messengers, he invited guests to his hightide.
There many met their death.
The envoys rode from the country of the Huns to the Burgundians, even to
the three noble kings and their men, to bid them to Etzel's court, and
hasted on the way. They came to Bechlaren, where they were well seen to,
and nothing lacked to their entertainment. Rudeger and Gotelind, and the
Margrave's child also, sent their greeting by them to the Rhine. Not
without gifts went Etzel's men forth, that they might fare the better on
the road. Rudeger commended him to Uta and her sons; never Margrave was
so true to them as he. To Brunhild, likewise, they commended their true
service and their steadfast faith and love. When the envoys had heard
the message, they set out again, and the Margravine prayed God in Heaven
to guard them.
Or they left Bavaria, swift Werbel sought out the bishop: what greeting
he sent to his friends by the Rhine I know not. But he gave his red gold
to the envoys out of love, and let them ride on. Bishop Pilgerin said,
"Right gladly would I see my sister's sons here. Seldom, alack! can I
win to them at the Rhine."
I cannot tell by what road they fared through the land; but none took
from them their silver and fine clothes, for all feared the wrath of
their master: the great king was mighty and of high lineage.
Within twelve days Werbel and Schwemmel reached Worms on the Rhine. And
the king sand their men were told the news, that foreign envoys were
come. Thereupon Gunther, the prince of the Rhine, began to question his
folk, and said, "Who will tell us whence these strangers are come riding
into the land?"
And none knew, till that Hagen of Trony saw the envoys, and said to
Gunther, "We shall have news, I promise thee, for I have seen Etzel's
fiddlers here. Thy sister hath sent them. Let us welcome them right
heartily for their master's sake."
They rode straight to the palace. Never goodlier show made the minstrels
of a king. Gunther's courtiers hasted to meet them, and gave them
lodging, and bade see to their gear. Their travelling clothes were rich
and well fashioned. With all honour they might have gone before the king
therein. Yet the scorned to wear them at the court, and asked whether
any desired them. There was no lack of needy folk, that took them
gladly, and to these they were sent. Then the guests clad them in rich
apparel, as beseemed the envoys of a king.
Etzel's men got leave to go before Gunther. They that saw them
rejoiced. Hagen sprang from his seat and ran to them, and received them
lovingly, for which the youths thanked him. He asked for news of Etzel
and his men, whereto the fiddlers made answer, "The land was never more
prosperous, nor the people more joyful; know that of a surety."
He led them before the king, through the hall full of folk, and the
guests were well received, as envoys should ever be in foreign kings'
lands. Werbel found many a knight by Gunther.
The gracious prince greeted them, and said, "Ye are both welcome, Etzel's
minstrels, ye and your followers. Wherefore hath the mighty Etzel sent
you into Burgundy?"
They bowed before him, and Werbel answered, "My dear master, and
Kriemhild thy sister, commend their service to thee. With true intent
they have sent us hither to you, O knights."
Then said the noble prince, "I rejoice at the tidings. How fareth it
with Etzel, and Kriemhild my sister?"
Whereto the fiddler answered, "Never was king of any land better or
happier, nor his kinsmen nor vassals; know that for certain. Right glad
were they when we set forth on this journey."
"Thank him and my sister for their greeting. I rejoice that it is well
with the king and his folk, for I asked, much fearing."
The two young kings were also come in, and had heard the news for the
first time. Giselher, the youth, was glad to see the envoys, for love of
his sister, and said to them kindly, "Ye be heartily welcome. If ye came
oftener to the Rhine, ye would find friends worth the seeing. Small ill
should betide you here."
"I trow it well," answered Schwemmel. "Word of mine cannot tell thee how
right lovingly Etzel commendeth him to thee, and eke thy sister, that is
holden in high esteem. The king's wife biddeth thee remember thy love
and faith, and that thou wert ever true to her in heart and soul. And,
first of all, we are sent to the king, to invite you to ride into Etzel's
land, and Sir Gernot with you. Mighty Etzel commanded me to say to you
all that, even if ye desire not to see your sister, he would fain learn
what wrong he hath done you, that ye are such strangers to him and his
court. Had ye never known the queen, he deserveth no less of you than
that ye come to see him. If ye consent to this, ye shall please him
And Gunther answered, "A sennight from now I will let thee know what I
and my friends have determined on. Go meanwhile to thy lodging and rest."
But Werbel said, "Might we not, ere we seek repose, win audience of great
Whereto the noble Giselher answered courteously, "None shall hinder you,
for in this ye shall have done my mother's will. For the sake of my
sister, Queen Kriemhild, she will see you gladly. Right welcome shall ye
Giselher brought them before the lady, who rejoiced to see envoys from
the land of the Huns. Kindly and lovingly she greeted them, and the
courtly messengers and good delivered their tidings. "My mistress
commendeth to thee," said Schwemmel, "her service and her true love.
Could she but have sight of thee oftener, naught on earth were dearer to
But the queen answered, "That cannot be. The noble king's wife dwelleth,
alack! too far from me. Blessed evermore be she and Etzel. Fail not to
send me word of your departure, when ye are about to return home. It is
long since envoys were so welcome as ye are." And the youths promised
that they would do it.
The Huns went to their lodging. Meanwhile, the great king had sent for
his friends, and noble Gunther asked his men how the message pleased
them. And many of them began to say that he might well ride into Etzel's
land. The best among them counselled him thereto - all save Hagen. Him
it irked exceedingly. He said to the king apart, "Ye strike at your own
life. Surely you know what we have done. Evermore we stand in danger
from Kriemhild. I smote her husband dead with my hand. How dare we ride
into Etzel's land?"
But the king answered, "My sister forgot her anger. With a loving kiss
she forgave us for all we had done to her or she rode away. Hath she
aught against any, it is against thee alone, Hagen."
"Be not deceived," said Hagen, "by the words of the Hunnish envoys. If
thou goest to see Kriemhild, thou mayst lose thine honour and thy life.
The wife of King Etzel hath a long memory."
Then Gernot spake out before the assembly, "Because thou fearest death
with reason among the Huns, it were ill done on our part to keep away
from our sister."
And Sir Giselher said to the knight, "Since thou knowest thyself guilty,
friend Hagen, stay thou at home, and guard thyself well, and let them
that dare, journey with us to the Huns."
Then the knight of Trony fell into a passion. "None that ye take with
you will be readier to ride to the court than I. And well I will prove
it, since ye will not be turned."
But knight Rumolt, the cook, said, "Strangers and friends ye can
entertain at home, at your pleasure. For here is abundance. Hagen, I
trow, hath never held you back afore. If ye will not follow him in this,
be counselled by Rumolt (for your true and loving servant am I) and tarry
here as I would have ye do, and leave King Etzel yonder by Kriemhild.
Where in the wide world could ye be better? Here ye are safe from your
enemies. Ye can adorn your bodies with goodly vesture, drink the best
wine, and woo fair women. Thereto, ye are given meats, the best on earth
that ever king ate. The land is prosperous. Ye may give up Etzel's
hightide with honour, and live merrily at home with your friends. Even
had ye nothing else to feat on here, I could always give you your fill of
one dish - cutlets fried in oil. This is Rumolt's advice, my masters,
since there is danger among the Huns. Never again, I trow, will
Kriemhild be your friend, nor have you and Hagen deserved otherwise.
Stay here, ye knights, else ye may rue it. Ye shall find in the end
that my counsel is not bad: wherefore heed my words. Rich are your
lands. Here you can redeem your pledges better than among the Huns. Who
knoweth how things stand there. Abide where ye are. That is Rumolt's
"We will not stay here," said Gernot. "Since my sister and great Etzel
have bidden us so lovingly, why should we refuse? He that will not with
us may tarry at home."
"By my troth," said Rumolt, "I, for one, will never cross the Rhine for
Etzel's hightide. Why should I hazard what I have? I will live while I
"I am of thy mind for that," said knight Ortwin. "I will help thee to
order things at home."
And there were many that would not go, and said, "God guard you among the
The king was wroth when he saw they desired to take their ease at home.
"We will go none the less. The prudent are safe in the midst of danger."
Hagen answered, "Be not wroth at my word. Whatever betide, I counsel
thee in good faith to rid strongly armed to the Huns. Since thou wilt
not be turned, summon the best men thou canst find, or knowest of, among
thy vassals, and from among the I will choose a thousand good knights,
that thou come not in scathe by Kriemhild's anger."
"I will do this," said the king straightway. And he bade messengers ride
abroad through the country. Three thousand or more heroes they brought
back with them.
They thought not to meet so grim a doom. Merrily they rode into Gunter's
land. To all them that were to journey to the Huns horses and apparel
were given. The king found many willing. Hagen of Trony bade Dankwart,
his brother, lead eighty of their knights to the Rhine. They came in
proud array, bringing harness and vesture with them. Bold Folker, a
noble minstrel, arrived with thirty of his men for the journey. He told
Gunther that these would also visit the Huns.
I will tell you who Folker was. He was a noble knight, and many good
warriors in Burgundy were his vassals. He was called a minstrel because
he played on the viol.
Hagen chose a thousand that he knew well, and the prowess of whose hand
he had seen in grim battle, and in warlike deeds. None could deny their
It irked Kriemhild's envoys to be delayed, for they greatly feared their
master, and every day they desired to be gone. But Hagen kept them for
his crafty ends. He said to his lord, "We must beware of letting them go
or we be ready to follow them, in a sennight. We shall be safer so, if
they mean us harm. Kriemhild will not have the time to contrive our
hurt. Or, if she be minded thereto, it may go ill with her, since we
lead with us to the Huns so many chosen men."
Shields and saddles and all the vesture they were to take with them, to
Etzel's land, were now ready, and Kriemhild's envoys were bidden to
Gunther's presence. When they appeared, Gernot said, "The king will
obey Etzel's wish. We go gladly to his hightide to see our sister. She
may count on us."
Gunther asked, "Can ye tell us when the hightide falleth, or when we must
And Schwemmel answered, "Next midsummer, without fail."
The king gave them leave, for the first time, to visit Brunhild, but
Folker, to please her, said them nay.
"Queen Brunhild is not well enow for you to see her," said the good
knight. "Wait till morning, and ye shall win audience of her." They had
fain beheld her, but could not.
Then the rich prince, that he might show favour to the envoys, bade bring
thither of his own bounty gold upon broad shields. He had plenty
thereof. His friends also gave them rich gifts. Giselher and Gernot,
Gary and Ortwin, let it be seen that they could give freely. They
offered such costly things to the envoys that these durst not take them,
for fear of their master.
Then said Werbel to the king, "Keep your gifts, O king, in your own
land. We may not carry them with us. My lord forbade us to take aught.
Thereto, we have small need." But the prince of the Rhine was angry
because they refused so great a king's gift. So, at the last, they were
constrained to take his gold and vesture, and carry them home into
They desired to see Uta or they departed. Giselher, the youth, brought
the minstrels before his mother, and the lady bade them say that she
rejoiced to hear how that Kriemhild was had in worship. For the sake of
Kriemhild, that she loved, and of King Etzel, the queen gave the envoys
girdles and gold. Well might they receive this, for with true heart it
The envoys had now taken leave of both men and women, and rode merrily
forth to Swabia. Gernot sent his warriors with them thus far, that none
might do them a hurt.
When their escorts parted from them, Etzel's might kept them safe by the
way, that none robbed them of horses or vesture. Then they spurred
swiftly to the land of the Huns. Them that they knew for friends, they
told that the Burgundians from the Rhine would pass there shortly. They
brought the tidings also to Bishop Pilgerin.
When they rode down by Bechlaren, they failed not to send word to Rudeger
and Dame Gotelind, the Margrave's wife, that was merry of her cheer
because she was to see the guests so soon.
The minstrels were seen spurring through the land. They found Etzel in
his town of Gran. They gave the king, that grew red for joy, the
greetings that had been sent him.
When the queen heard for certain that her brothers would come, she was
well content, and requited the minstrels with goodly gifts, which did her
honour. She said, "Now tell me, both of you, Werbel and Schwemmel, which
of my friends, of the best that we have bidden, come to the hightide.
What said Hagen when he heard the news?"
"He came to the council one morning early. He had little good to say of
the hightide. It was named by grim Hagen the death-ride. Thy brothers,
the three kings, come in merry mood. Who further are with them I cannot
say. Folker, the bold minstrel, is one."
"I had made shift to do without Folker," said the king's wife. "Hagen I
esteem; he is a good knight. I am right glad that wee shall see him
Then Kriemhild went to the king, and spake to him right sweetly, "How
doth the news please thee, dearest lord? All my heart's desire shall now
"Thy will is my pleasure," answered the king. "I were less glad had it
been mine own kinsmen. Through love of thy dear brethren all my cares
Etzel's officers bade fit up the palace and hall everywhere with seats
for the welcome guests. They took much joy from the king.
How the Kings Journeyed to the Huns
But of their doings there we shall tell no further. High-hearted heroes
never rode so proudly into any king's land. All that they wanted they
had, both of weapons and apparel. They say that the Prince of the Rhine
equipped a thousand and three score of knights, and nine thousand squires
for the hightide. They that tarried at home were soon to weep for them.
Whilst they carried their harness across the court at Worms, an old
bishop from Spires said to fair Uta, "Our friends will ride to the
hightide. God help them there."
Then noble Uta said to her children, "Stay here, good heroes. Last night
I dreamed an evil dream, that all the birds in this land were dead."
"He that goeth by dreams," said Hagen, "careth little for his honour. I
would have my noble master take leave without delay, and ride forward
merrily into Etzel's land. There kings need heroes' hands to serve them,
and we must see Kriemhild's hightide."
Hagen counselled them now to the journey, but he rued it later. He had
withstood them, but that Gernot had mocked him. He minded him on
Siegfried, Kriemhild's husband, and said, "It is for that, that Hagen
durst not go."
But Hagen said, "I hold not back from fear. If ye will have it so,
heroes, go forward. I am ready to ride with you to Etzel's land." Soon
many a helmet and shield were pierced by him.
The ships lay waiting for the kings and their men. They carried their
vesture down to them, and were busy till eventide. Merry of cheer they
quitted their homes. On the camping ground across the Rhine they pitched
tents and put up booths. The king's fair wife entreated him to stay, for
much she loved him. Flutes and trumpets rang out early in the morning,
and gave the signal to be gone. Many a true lover was torn from his
loved one's arms by King Etzel's wife.
King Uta's sons had a liegeman bold and true. When he saw they would
forth, he spake to the king secretly, "Much I grieve that thou goest to
this hightide." Rumolt was his name, a chosen knight. He said, "To whom
wilt thou leave thy folk and thy land? Alack! that none can turn you
knights from your purpose! Kriemhild's message never pleased me."
"I leave my land and child in thy charge. I will have it so. Comfort
them that thou seest weeping. Etzel's wife will do us no hurt!"
The king held a council with his chief men or he started. He left not
land and castles defenceless. Many a chosen knight stayed behind to
The horses stood ready for the kings and their followers. With sweet
kisses parted many whose hearts still beat high. Noble women soon wept
for them. Wailing was there, with tears enow. The queen bare her child
in her arms to the king. "How canst thou leave us both desolate? Stay
for our sake," said the sorrowful woman.
"Weep not for me, but be of good cheer here at home. We shall return
shortly, safe and sound."
So they waited no longer, but lovingly took leave of their friends. When
the bold knights were gotten to horse, many women stood sorrowing. Their
hearts told them it was a long parting. None is merry of his cheer when
bitter woe is at hand.
The swift Burgundians rode off, and there was hurrying in the land. On
either side the mountains both men and women wept. But, for all the folk
could do, they pressed forward merrily. A thousand of the Nibelung
knights in habergeons went with them, that had left fair women at home,
the which they never saw more. The wounds of Siegfried gaped in
The Christian faith was still weak in those days. Nevertheless they had
a chaplain with them to say mass. He returned alive, escaped from much
peril. The rest tarried dead among the Huns. Gunther's men shaped their
course toward the Main, up through East Frankland. Hagen led them, that
knew the way well. Their Marshal was Dankwart, the knight of Burgundy.
As they rode from East Frankland to Schwanfeld, the princes and their
kinsmen, knights of worship, were known by their stately mien.
On the twelfth morning the king reached the Danube. Hagen of Trony rode
in front of the rest. He was the helper and comforter of the Nibelungs.
The bold knight alighted there on the bank, and tied his horse to a
tree. The river was swoln, there was no boat, and the knights were
troubled how to win across. The water was too wide. Many a bold knight
sprang to the ground.
"Mischief might easily befall thee here, King of Rhineland," said Hagen;
"thou canst see for thyself that the river is swoln, and the current very
strong. I fear me we shall lose here to-day not a few good knights."
"Wherefore daunt me, Hagen?" said the proud king. "Of thy charity fright
us no more. Look out a ford for us, that we bring both horses and
baggage safe across."
"I am no so weary of life," said Hagen, "that I desire to drown in these
broad waves. Many a man in Etzel's land shall first fall by my hand.
That is more to my mind. Stay by the water side, ye proud knights and
good, and I will seek the ferrymen by the river, that will bring us safe
into Gelfrat's land."
Thereupon stark Hagen took his good shield. He was well armed. He bare
his buckler. He laced on his shining helmet. He wore a broad weapon
above his harness, that cut grimly with both its edges.
Then he sought the ferrymen up and down. He heard the splash of water
and began to listen. It came from mermaidens that bathed their bodies in
a clear brook to cool them.
Hagen spied them, and stole up secretly. When they were ware of him,
they fled. Well pleased were they to escape him. The hero took their
garments, but did them no further annoy.
Then one of the mermaids (she hight Hadburg) said, "We will tell thee,
noble Hagen, if thou give us our clothes again, how ye shall all fare on
this journey among the Huns."
They swayed like birds in the water before him. He deemed them wise and
worthy of belief, so that he trusted the more what they told him. They
informed him concerning all that he asked them. Hadburg said, "Ye may
ride safely into Etzel's land; I pledge my faith thereon, that never yet
heroes journeyed to any court to win more worship. I say sooth."
Hagen's heart was uplifted at her word; he gave them back their clothes
and stayed no longer. When they had put on their wonderful raiment, they
told him the truth about the journey.
The other mermaid, that hight Sieglind, said, "Be warned, Hagen, son of
Aldrian. My aunt hath lied to thee because of her clothes. If ye go to
the Huns, ye are ill-advised. Turn while there is time, for ye bold
knights have been bidden that ye may die in Etzel's land. Who rideth
thither hath death at his hand."
But Hagen said, "Your deceit is vain. How should we all tarry there,
dead, through the hate of one woman?"
Then they began to foretell it plainer, and Hadburg said also, "Ye are
doomed. Not one of you shall escape, save the king's chaplain: this we
know for a truth. He, only, shall return alive into Gunther's land."
Grimly wroth spake bold Hagen then. "It were a pleasant thing to tell my
masters that we must all perish among the Huns! Show us a way across the
water, thou wisest of womankind."
She answered, "Since thou wilt not be turned from the journey, up yonder
by the river standeth an inn. Within it is a boatman; there is none
He betook him thither to ask further. But the mermaidens cried after the
wrothful knight, "Stay, Sir Hagen. Thou art too hasty. Hearken first
concerning the way. The lord of this march hight Elsy. The name of his
brother is Gelfrat, a prince in Bavaria. It might go hard with thee if
thou wentest through his march. Look well to thyself, and proceed warily
with the boatman. He is so grim of his mod that he will kill thee, if
thou speak him not fair. If thou wouldst have him ferry thee across,
give him hire. He guardeth this land, and is Gelfrat's friend. If he
come not straightway, cry across the river to him that thou art Amelrich;
he was a good knight, that a feud drove from this land. The boatman will
come when he heareth that name."
Proud Hagen thanked the women for their warning and their counsel, and
said no more. He went up the river's bank, till he came to an inn that
stood on the far side. He began to shout across the water, "Boatman, row
me over, and I will give thee, for thy meed, an armlet of red gold. I
The boatman was so rich that he needed not to serve for hire, and seldom
took reward from any. His men also were overweening, and Hagen was left
standing on the bank of the river.
Thereupon he shouted so loud that all the shore rang with it. He was a
stark man. "Row across for Amelrich. I am Elsy's liegeman, that, for a
feud, fled the country." He swung the armlet aloft on his sword - it was
of red gold, bright and shining - that they might ferry him over to
Gelfrat's march. At this the haughty boatman himself took the oar, for
he was greedy and covetous of gain, the which bringeth oft to a bad end.
He thought to win Hagen's red gold, but won, in lieu thereof, a grim
death by his sword.
He rowed over to the shore with mighty strokes. When he found not him
that had been named, he fell into a fury; he saw Hagen, and spake
wrothfully to the hero, "Thy name may be Amelrich, but, or I err greatly,
thy face is none of his. By one father and one mother he was my
brother. Since thou hast deceived me, thou canst stay where thou art."
"Nay, for the love of God," said Hagen. "I am a stranger knight that
have the charge of other warriors. Take thy fee and row me over, for I
am a friend."
But the boatman answered, "I will not. My dear masters have foemen,
wherefore I must bring no stranger across. If thou lovest thy life, step
out on to the shore again."
"Nay now," said Hagen, "I am sore bested. Take, as a keepsake, this
goodly gold, and ferry us over with our thousand horses and our many men."
But the grim boatman answered, "Never!" He seized an oar, mickle and
broad, and smote Hagen (soon he rued it), that he staggered and fell on
his knees. Seldom had he of Trony encountered so grim a ferryman.
Further, to anger the bold stranger, he brake a boat-pole over his head,
for he was a strong man. But he did it to his own hurt.
Grimly wroth, Hagen drew a weapon from the sheath, and cut off his head,
and threw it on the ground. The Burgundians were soon ware of the
In the same moment that he slew the ferryman, the boat was caught by the
current, which irked him no little, for he was weary or he could bring
her head round, albeit Gunther's man rowed stoutly. With swift strokes
he sought to turn it, till the oar brake in his hand. He strove to reach
the knights on the strand, but had no other oar. Ha! how nimbly he bound
it together with the thong of his shield, a narrow broidered band, and
rowed to a wood down the river.
There he found his masters waiting on the beach. Many a valiant knight
ran to meet him, and greeted him joyfully. But when they saw the boat
full of blood from the grim wound he had given the ferryman, they began
to question him.
When Gunther saw the hot blood heaving in the boat, he said quickly,
"Tell me what thou hast done with the ferryman. I ween he hath fallen by
But he answered with a lie, "I found the boat by a waste meadow, and
loosed it. I have seen no ferryman this day, nor hath any suffered hurt
at my hand."
Then said Sir Gernot of Burgundy, "I am heavy of my cheer because of the
dear friends that must die or night, for boatmen we have none.
Sorrowfully I stand, nor know how we shall win over."
But Hagen cried, "Lay down your burdens on the grass, ye squires. I was
the best boatman by the Rhine, and safe, I trow, I shall bring you into
That they might cross the quicker, they drave in the horses. These swam
so well that none were drowned, albeit a few, grown weary, were borne
down some length by the tide. Then they carried their gold and harness
on board, since they must needs make the passage. Hagen was the
helmsman, and steered many a gallant knight to the unknown land. First
he took over a thousand, and thereto his own band of warriors. Then
followed more: nine thousand squires. The knight of Trony was not idle
that day. The ship was huge, strongly built and wide enow. Five hundred
of their folk and more, with their meats and weapons, it carried easily
at a time. Many a good warrior that day pulled sturdily at the oar.
When he had brought them safe across the water, the bold knight and good
thought on the strange prophecy of the wild mermaids. Through this the
king's chaplain came nigh to lose his life. He found the priest beside
the sacred vessels, leaning with his hand upon the holy relics. This
helped him not. When Hagen saw him, it went hard with the poor servant
of God. He threw him out of the ship on the instant. Many cried, "Stop,
Hagen, stop!" Giselher, the youth, was very wroth, but Hagen ceased not,
till he had done him a hurt.
Then stark Gernot of Burgundy said, "What profiteth thee the chaplain's
death, Hagen? Had another done this, he had paid dear for it. What hast
thou against the priest?"
The chaplain swam with all his might. He had gotten on board again had
any helped him. But none could do it, for stark Hagen pushed him
fiercely under. None approved his deed.
When the poor man saw that they would not aid him, he turned and made for
the shore. He was in sore peril. But, albeit he could not swim, the
hand of God upbore him, that he won safe to the dry land again. There he
stood, and shook his clothes.
By this sign Hagen knew there was no escape from what the wild women of
the sea had foretold. He thought, "These knights be all dead men."
When they had unloaded the ship, and brought all across that belonged to
the three kings, Hagen brake it in pieces and threw these on the water.
Much the bold knights marvelled thereat.
"Wherefore dost thou so, brother?" said Dankwart. "How shall we get over
when we ride home from the Huns to the Rhine?"
Hagen told him, after, that that would never be, but for the meantime he
said, "I did it a-purpose. If we have any coward with us on this
journey, that would forsake us in our need, he shall die a shameful death
in these waves."
They had with them one from Burgundy, a hero of great prowess, that hight
Folker, and that spake with mocking words all his mind. And whatso Hagen
did, this fiddler approved.
When the king's chaplain saw the ship hewn up, he cried across the water
to Hagen, "What had I done to thee, false murderer, that, without cause,
thou wouldst have drowned me?"
Hagen answered, "Hold thy peace. By my troth, and in sober earnest, it
irketh me that thou hast escaped."
Said the poor priest, "I will praise God evermore. Little I fear thee
now, rest assured. Fare forward to the Huns, and I will to the Rhine.
God grant thou comest never back again. That is my prayer, for well-nigh
hadst thou killed me."
But King Gunther said to his chaplain, "I will more than make good to
thee what Hagen hath done in his anger, if I win back alive. Have no
fear. Go home, for so it needs must be now. Bear a greeting to my dear
wife, and my other kinsfolk. Tell them the good tidings: that, so far,
all is well."
The horses stood ready, the sumpters were laden. As yet they had
suffered no scathe by the way, save the king's chaplain, that had to
return to the Rhine afoot.
How Dankwart Slew Gelfrat
When they were all on the shore, the king asked, "Who will show us the
right way through the country, that we go not astray?"
Whereto bold Folker answered, "I will do it."
"Stop!" said Hagen, "both knights and squires. One must follow one's
friends - that is plain to me, and right. But I have heavy news to tell
you. Never again shall we see Burgundy. Two mermaids told me this
morning early that we should win back to our home nevermore. Now follow
my counsel. Arm ye, ye heroes, and guard your lives well. Stark foemen
are at hand, wherefore ride as to battle. I hoped to prove the words of
the wise mermaids false. They said that none save the chaplain would
return. It was for that I had so gladly drowned him."
The news flew from rank to rank. Many a bold knight grew pale, and fell
in fear of bitter death, whereto he journeyed. Doleful were they and
They crossed the river at Moering, where Elsy's ferryman was killed, and
Hagen said further, "I have made enemies by the way, that will shortly
set on us. I slew the boatman this morning; wherefore, if Gelfrat and
Elsy attack us, welcome them on such wise that it shall go hard with
them. They will do it without fail, for I know them for bold men. Ride
softly, that none may say we fly."
"So be it," said young Giselher. "Who will lead us through the land?"
And they answered, "Folker, the bold minstrel; he knoweth all the hills
and the paths."
Or they had time to ask him, the brave fiddler stood before them, armed,
with his helmet on. His harness was bright coloured, and he had bound a
red pennon on his spear. Soon he came, with the kings, in great peril.
The news of his boatman's death had reached Gelfrat. Stark Elsy had
heard it likewise. Wroth were they both. They summoned their knights,
that were soon ready. Straightway, as I will tell you, a mighty host,
strongly armed, rode to them that had suffered scathe. To Gelfrat come
more than seven hundred. When these set out to pursue their grim foemen,
the leaders spurred hotly after the strangers, to be revenged. By the
which they lost many friends.
Hagen of Trony had so ordered it (how could a hero guard his kinsmen
better) that he brought up the rear with his vassals, and with Dankwart,
his brother. It was wisely done.
The day was far spent; the light failed. He feared greatly for his
comrades. They rode through Bavaria behind shields, and shortly after
were set upon.
On both sides, and close behind, they heard the trample of hoofs, and
spurred on. Then said bold Dankwart, "They will fall on us here. Ye did
well to bind on your helmets."
So they stopped, as needs was. Then they saw the glitter of shields in
the dark. Hagen held his peace longer, "Who follow us by the way?"
Gelfrat had to answer. Said the Margrave of Bavaria, "We seek our foemen
and follow on their track. I know not who slew my boatman to-day. He
was a valiant knight, and I grieve for his loss."
Then said Hagen of Trony, "Was the boatman thine? He would not ferry me
over. The blame is mine. I slew him. Certes, I had need. I had nigh
met my death at his hand. I offered him gold and raiment, Sir Knight, as
his meed for rowing us into thy land. So angry was he that he struck me
with his great oar, whereat I was grim enow. Then I seized my sword, and
defended me from his wrath with a grisly wound, whereby the hero
perished. I will answer for it as seemeth good to thee."
So they fell to fighting, for they were wroth. "I knew well," said
Gelfrat, "when Gunther crossed with his followers, that Hagen's insolence
would do us some hurt. Now he shall not escape us. His death shall pay
for the boatman's." Gelfrat and Hagen couched their lances to thrust
above their shields. Deadly was their hate. Elsy and Dankwart met
gallantly, and proven on each other was their might. They strove
grimly. How could heroes have fought better? Bold Hagen was knocked
back from off his horse by a strong blow from Gelfrat's hand. The
poitral brake asunder and he fell.
From the followers also rang the clash of spears. Hagen sprang up again
where he had fallen on the grass from the blow; not little was his wrath
against Gelfrat. I know not who held their horses. Hagen and Gelfrat
were both on the ground. They ran at each other, and their attendants
helped them and fought by them. For all Hagen's fierce onset, the noble
Margrave hewed an ell's length from his shield, that the sparks flew
bright. Gunther's man was well-nigh slain. Then he cried aloud to
Dankwart, "Help! dear brother. I perish by the hand of a hero."
Bold Dankwart answered, "I will decide between you." The knight spurred
toward them, and smote Gelfrat such a blow that he fell dead.
Elsy would have avenged him, but he and his followers were overcome. His
brother was slain, and he himself wounded. Full eighty of his warriors
he left there with grim death; the prince had to flee before Gunther's
When the Bavarians gave way, there was heard the echo of grisly strokes.
The men of Trony chased their foes, and they that stayed not to answer
for it had little ease by the way.
But while they pursued them, Dankwart said, "Now turn we, and let them
ride. They are wet with blood. Let us join our friends. Truly it were
When they came again where the fight had been, Hagen of Trony said, "Let
us see now, ye heroes, who are amissing, and whom we have lost through
They had four to mourn for, that they had lost. Well they were avenged.
Against these, more than an hundred of them of Bavaria lay slain. The
shields of the men of Trony were dim and wet with blood.
The bright moon shone faintly through the clouds, and Hagen said, "Let
none tell my dear masters what hath befallen us. Let them be free of
trouble till the morrow."
When they that had fought came up with the rest, they found them overcome
with weariness. "How long shall we ride?" asked many among them. Bold
Dankwart answered, "Here is no hostel. Ye must ride till it is day."
Folker, that had the charge, bade ask the marshal, "Where shall we halt
for the night, that the horses and my dear masters may rest?" But
Dankwart said, "I know not. We cannot rest till the dawn. Then we shall
lie down on the grass wherever we find a place." When they heard this
news they were sorry enow!
Of the red blood that reeked on them nothing was said till the sun
greeted the morning on the mountains with his bright beams, and the king
saw that they had fought.
The knight cried angrily, "How now, friend Hagen? Wherefore didst thou
scorn my help when they were wetting thy harness with blood? Who hath
Hagen answered, "It was Elsy. He fell on us by night. Because of his
ferryman, he attacked us. My brother's hand slew Gelfrat. Elsy was
forced to flee. An hundred of his men, and four of ours, lie dead, slain
I cannot tell you where they rested. Soon all the country folk heard
that noble Uta's sons were on their way to the hightide. They were well
received at Passau. Bishop Pilgerin, the king's uncle, was well pleased
that his nephews drew night with so many knights. He was not slow to
give them welcome. Friends rode out to meet them on the way. When there
was not room enough for all in Passau, they crossed the river to a field,
and there the squires put up tents and rich pavilions.
They had to tarry there a whole day and a night. Well they were
entreated! Then they rode into Rudeger's country. When Rudeger heard
the news, he was glad.
When the way-weary ones had rested, and drew nigher to Rudeger's country,
they found a man asleep on the marches, from whom Hagen of Trony took a
stark weapon. This same good knight hight Eckewart. Right heavy was he
of his cheer that he had lost his sword through the passing of the
heroes. They found Rudeger's marches ill guarded.
"Woe is me for this shame!" cried Eckewart. "Sore I rue the Burgundians'
journey. The day I lost Siegfried my joy was ended. Alack! Sir
Rudeger, an ill turn I have done thee."
Hagen overheard all the warrior's grief, and gave him his sword again,
with six red armlets. "Take them, Sir Knight, for love of me, and be my
friend. Thou art a brave man to lie here all alone."
"God quit thee for thine armlets," answered Eckewart. "Yet still I must
rue thy journey to the Huns. Thou slewest Siegfried, and art hated
here. Look well to thyself; from true heart I warn thee."
"God must guard us," said Hagen. "No other care have these knights, the
princes and their liegemen, than to find quarters, where they may tarry
the night. Our horses are weary from the long way, and our provender is
done. We can find none to buy. We have need of a host that, of his
charity, would give us bread."
Eckewart answered, "I will show you such an host. Better welcome to his
house will none give you in any land than Rudeger, if ye will go to see
him. He dwelleth fast by the road, and is the best host that ever had a
house. His heart blossometh with virtues, as smiling May decketh the
grass with flowers. He is ever glad to serve knights."
Then said King Gunther, "Wilt thou be my envoy, and ask my dear friend
Rudeger if he will keep us - me with my kinsmen and our men - till the
day? I will require him as best I can."
"I will gladly be thy envoy," answered Eckewart.
He set out with good will, and told Rudeger what he had heard. Such good
news had not reached him for long. A knight was seen hasting to
Bechlaren. Rudeger knew him, and said, "Here cometh Eckewart,
Kriemhild's man, down the way." He deemed that foemen had done him a
hurt. He went to the door and met the envoy, that ungirded his sword and
laid it down.
Rudeger said to the knight, "What hast thou heard, that thou ridest in
such hot haste? Hath any done us a mischief?"
"None hath harmed us," said Eckewart straightway. "Three kings have sent
me: Gunther of Burgundy, Giselher, and Gernot. Each of them commended
his service to thee. The same doth Hagen from true heart, and also
Folker. Further, I have to tell thee that Dankwart, the king's marshal,
bade me say that the good knights have need of thy roof."
Rudeger answered with smiling face, "This is glad news, that the high
kings need my service. It shall not be denied them. Right glad am I
that they come to my house."
"Dankwart, the marshal, bade me tell thee who there be of them: sixty
bold warriors and a thousand good knights, with nine thousand squires."
Rudeger rejoiced to hear it, and said, "Welcome are these guests - the
high warriors that come to my castle, and that I so seldom have served
heretofore. Ride out to meet them, my kinsmen and my vassals."
Whereat knights and squires hasted to horse. All that their lord
commanded they deemed right; so they served him the better.
Gotelind, that sat in her chamber, had not heard the news.
How They Came to Bechlaren
The Margrave went to find his wife and daughter, and told them the good
news that he had heard, how that their queen's brethren were coming to
"Dear love," said Rudeger, "receive the high and noble kings well when
they come here with their followers. Hagen, Gunther's man, thou shalt
also greet fair. There is one with them that hight Dankwart; another
hight Folker, a man of much worship. These six thou shalt kiss - thou
and my daughter. Entreat the warriors courteously."
The women promised it, nothing loth. They took goodly apparel from their
chests, wherein to meet the knights. The fair women made haste enow.
Their cheeks needed little false colour. They wore fillets of bright
gold on their heads, fashioned like rich wreaths, that the wind might not
ruffle their beautiful hair. They were dainty and fresh.
Now leave we the women busied on this wise. There was mickle spurring
across the plain among Rudeger's friends till they found the princes.
These were well received in the Margrave's land. Rudeger cried joyfully
as he went toward them, "Ye be welcome, ye knights, and all your men.
Right glad am I to see you in my home."
The warriors thanked him with true heart void of hate. He showed them
plainly they were welcome. To Hagen he gave special greeting, for he
knew him from aforetime. He did the same to Folker of Burgundy. He
welcomed Dankwart also. Then said that knight, "If thou take us in, who
will see to our followers from Worms beyond the Rhine?"
The Margrave answered, "Have no fear on that head. All that ye have with
you, horses, silver and apparel, shall be so well guarded that ye shall
not lose a single spur thereof. Pitch your tents in the fields, ye
squires. Whatso ye lose here I will make good to you. Off with the
bridles, and let the horses go loose." Never before had host done this
for them. Glad enow were the guests. When they had obeyed him, and the
knights had ridden away, the squires laid them down on the grass over
all, and took their ease. It was their softest rest on the whole journey.
The noble Margravine came out before the castle with her beautiful
daughter. Lovely women and fair maids not a few stood beside her,
adorned with bracelets and fine apparel. Precious stones sparked bright
on their rich vesture. Goodly was their raiment.
The guests rode up and sprang to the ground. Ha! courteous men all were
they of Burgundy! Six and thirty maidens and many women beside, fair to
heart's desire, came forth to meet them, with bold men in plenty. The
noble women welcomed them sweetly. The Margravine kissed the kings all
three. Her daughter did the like. Hagen stood by. Him also her father
bade her kiss. She looked up at him, and he was so grim that she had
gladly let it be. Yet must she do as the host bade her. Her colour came
and went, white and red. She kissed Dankwart, too, and, after him, the
fiddler. By reason of his body's strength he won this greeting. Then
the young Margravine took Giselher, the youth, of Burgundy by the hand.
Her mother did the same to Gunther, and they went in merrily with the
The host led Gernot into a wide hall. There knights and ladies sat down,
and good wine was poured out for the guests. Never were warriors better
Rudeger's daughter was looked at with loving eyes, she was so fair; and
many a good knight loved her in his heart. And well they might, for she
was an high-hearted maiden. But their thoughts were vain: it could not
They kept spying at the women, whereof many sat round. Now the fiddler
was well-minded to Rudeger.
Women and knights were parted then, as was the custom, and went into
separate rooms. The table was made ready in the great hall, and willing
service was done to the strangers.
To show love to the guests, the Margravine went to table with them. She
left her daughter with the damsels, as was seemly, albeit it irked the
guests to see her no longer.
When they had all drunk and eaten, they brought the fair ones into the
hall again, and there was no lack of sweet words. Folker, a knight bold
and good, spake plenty of them. This same fiddler said openly, "Great
Margrave, God hath done well by thee, for He hath given thee a right
beautiful wife, and happy days. Were I a king," said the minstrel, "and
wore a crown, I would choose thy sweet daughter for my queen. She would
be the choice of my heart, for she is fair to look upon, and, thereto,
noble and good."
The Margrave answered, "How should a king covet my dear daughter? My
wife and I are both strangers here, and have naught to give. What
availeth then her beauty?"
But said Gernot, the courteous man, "Might I choose where I would, such a
wife were my heart's desire."
Then said Hagen graciously, "It is time Giselher wedded. Of such high
lineage is the noble Margravine, that we would gladly serve her, I and
his men, if she wore the crown in Burgundy."
The word pleased both Rudeger and Gotelind greatly. Their hearts were
uplifted. So it was agreed among the heroes that noble Giselher should
take her to wife; the which a king might well do without shame.
If a thing be right, who can withstand it? They bade the maiden before
them, and they swore to give her to him, whereupon he vowed to cherish
her. They gave her castles and lands for her share. The king and Gernot
sware with the hand that it should be even as they had promised.
Then said the Margrave, "Since I have no castles, I can only prove me
your true friend evermore. I will give my daughter as much silver and
gold as an hundred sumpters may carry, that ye warriors may, with honour,
Then the twain were put in a circle, as the custom was. Many a young
knight stood opposite in merry mood, and thought in his heart as young
folk will. They asked the lovely maiden if she would have the hero. She
was half sorry, yet her heart inclined to the goodly man. She was
shamefast at the question, as many a maid hath been.
Rudeger her father counselled her to say "yes," and to take him
gladly. Giselher, the youth, was not slow to clasp her to him with his
white hands. Yet how little while she had him!
Then said the Margrave, "Great and noble kings, I will give you my child
to take with you, for this were fittest, when ye ride home again into
your land." And it was so agreed.
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