The Fall of the Niebelungs
Part 4 out of 5
The din of tourney was bidden cease. The damsels were sent to their
chambers, and the guests to sleep and to take their rest till the day.
Then meats were made ready, for their host saw well to their comfort.
When they had eaten, they would have set out again for the country of the
Huns, but Rudeger said, "Go not, I pray you. Tarry here yet a while, for
I had never dearer guests."
Dankwart answered, "It may not be. Where couldst thou find the meat, the
bread and the wine, for so many knights?"
But when the host heard him, he said, "Speak not of that. Deny me not,
my dear lords. I can give you, and all them that are with you, meat for
fourteen days. Little hath King Etzel ever taken of my substance."
Albeit they made excuse, they had to tarry till the fourth morning. He
gave both horses and apparel so freely, that the fame of it spread abroad.
But longer than this it could not last, for they must needs forth.
Rudeger was not sparing of his goods. If any craved for aught, none
denied him. Each got his desire.
The attendants brought the saddled horses to the door. There many
stranger knights joined them, shield in hand, to ride with them to
Etzel's court. To each of the noble guests Rudeger offered a gift, or he
left the hall. He had wherewithal to live in honour and give freely.
Upon Giselher he had bestowed his fair daughter. He gave to Gernot a
goodly weapon enow, that he wielded well afterward in strife. The
Margrave's wife grudged him not the gift, yet Rudeger, or long, was slain
To Gunther, the valiant knight, he gave a coat of mail, that did the rich
king honour, albeit he seldom took gifts. He bowed before Rudeger and
Gotelind offered Hagen a fair gift, as was fitting, since the king had
taken one, that he might not fare to the hightide without a keepsake from
her, but he refused.
"Naught that I ever saw would I so fain bear away with me as yonder
shield on the wall. I would gladly carry it into Etzel's land."
When the Margravine heard Hagen's word, it minded her on her sorrow, and
she fell to weeping. She thought sadly on the death of Nudung, that
Wittich had slain; and her heart was heavy.
She said to the knight, "I will give thee the shield. Would to God he
yet lived that once bore it! He died in battle. I must ever weep when I
think on him, for my woman's heart is sore."
The noble Margravine rose from her seat, and took down the shield with
her white hands and carried it to Hagen, that used it as a hero should.
A covering of bright stuff lay over its device. The light never shone on
better shield. It was so rich with precious stones, that had any wanted
to buy it, it had cost him at the least a thousand marks.
The knight bade his attendants bear it away. Then came his brother
Dankwart, to whom the Margrave's daughter gave richly broidered apparel,
that afterward he wore merrily among the Huns.
None had touched any of these things but for love of the host that
offered them so kindly. Yet, or long, they bare him such hate that they
Bold Folker then stepped forth with knightly bearing and stood before
Gotelind with his viol. He played a sweet tune and sang her his song.
Then he took his leave and left Bechlaren. But first the Margravine bade
them bring a drawer near. Of loving gifts now hear the tale. She took
therefrom twelve armlets, and drew them over his hand, saying, "These
shalt thou take with thee and wear for my sake at Etzel's court. When
thou comest again, I will hear how thou hast served me at the hightide."
Well he did her behest.
The host said to the guests, "That ye may journey the safer, I will
myself escort you, and see that none fall on you by the way." And
forthwith they loaded his sumpters. He stood ready for the road with
five hundred men, mounted and equipped. These he led merrily to the
hightide. Not one of them came back alive to Bechlaren.
He took leave with sweet kisses. The same did Giselher, as love bade
him. They took the fair women in their arms. Or long, many a damsel
wept for them.
The windows were flung wide over all, for the host and his men were
gotten to horse. Their hearts, I ween, foreboded their bitter woe, and
many a wife and many a maiden wept sore. They sorrowed for many a dear
friend that was never seen more at Bechlaren. Yet merrily they rode down
the valley by the Danube into the land of the Huns.
Then said noble Rudeger to the Burgundians, "We must delay no longer to
send news of our advance. Nothing could rejoice King Etzel more."
The swift envoys pressed down through Austria, and soon the folk knew,
far and near, that the heroes were on their way from Worms beyond the
Rhine. It was welcome news to the king's vassals. The envoys spurred
forward with the tidings that the Nibelungs were come to the Huns.
"Receive them well, Kriemhild, my wife. Thy brethren are come to show
thee great honour."
Kriemhild stood at a window and looked out as a friend might for
friends. Many drew thither from her father's land. The king was joyful
when he heard the news.
"Glad am I," said Kriemhild, "my kinsmen come with many new shields and
shining bucklers. I will ever be his friend that taketh my gold and
remembereth my wrong."
She thought in her heart, "Now for the reckoning! If I can contrive it,
it will go hard at this hightide with him that killed all my happiness.
Fain would I work his doom. I care not what may come of it: my vengeance
shall fall on the hateful body of him that stole my joy from me. He
shall pay dear for my sorrow."
How Kriemhild Received Hagen
When the Burgundians came into the land, old Hildebrand of Bern heard
thereof, and told his master, that was grieved at the news. He bade him
give hearty welcome to the valiant knights.
Bold Wolfhart called for the horses, and many stark warriors rode with
Dietrich to greet them on the plain, where they had pitched their goodly
When Hagen of Trony saw them from afar, he spake courteously to his
masters, "Arise, ye doughty heroes, and go to meet them that come to
welcome you. A company of warriors that I know well draw hither - the
heroes of the Amelung land. They are men of high courage. Scorn not
Then, as was seemly, Dietrich, with many knights and squires, sprang to
the ground. They hasted to the guests, and welcomed the heroes of
When Dietrich saw them, he was both glad and sorry; he knew what was
toward, and grieved that they were come. He deemed that Rudeger was
privy to it, and had told them. "Ye be welcome, Gunther and Giselher,
Gernot and Hagen; Folker, likewise, and Dankwart the swift. Know ye not
that Kriemhild still mourneth bitterly for the hero of the Nibelungs?"
"She will weep awhile," answered Hagen. "This many a year he lieth
slain. She did well to comfort her with the king of the Huns. Siegfried
will not come again. He is long buried."
"Enough of Siegfried's wounds. While Kriemhild, my mistress, liveth,
mischief may well betide. Wherefore, hope of the Nibelungs, beware!" So
spake Dietrich of Bern.
"Wherefore should I beware?" said the king. "Etzel sent us envoys (what
more could I ask?) bidding us hither to this land. My sister Kriemhild,
also, sent us many greetings."
But Hagen said, "Bid Sir Dietrich and his good knights tell us further of
this matter, that they may show us the mind of Kriemhild."
Then the three kings went apart: Gunther and Gernot and Dietrich.
"Now tell us, noble knight of Bern, what thou knowest of the queen's
The prince of Bern answered, "What can I tell you, save that every
morning I have heard Etzel's wife weeping and wailing in bitter woe to
the great God of Heaven, because of stark Siegfried's death?"
Said bold Folker, the fiddler, "There is no help for it. Let us ride to
the court and see what befalleth us among the Huns."
The bold Burgundians rode to the court right proudly, after the custom of
their land. Many bold Huns marvelled much what manner of man Hagen of
Trony might be. The folk knew well, from hearsay, that he had slain
Siegfried of the Netherland, the starkest of all knights, Kriemhild's
husband. Wherefore many questions were asked concerning him. The hero
was of great stature; that is certain. His shoulders were broad, his
hair was grisled; his legs were long, and terrible was his face. He
walked with a proud gait.
Then lodging was made ready for the Burgundians. Gunther's attendants
lay separate from the others. The queen, that greatly hated Gunther, had
so ordered it. By this device his yeomen were slain soon after.
Dankwart, Hagen's brother, was marshal. The king commended his men
earnestly to his care, that he might give them meat and drink enow, the
which the bold knight did faithfully and with good will.
Kriemhild went forth with her attendants and welcomed the Nibelungs with
false heart. She kissed Giselher and took him by the hand. When Hagen
of Trony saw that, he bound his helmet on tighter.
"After such greeting," he said, "good knights may well take thought. The
kings and their men are not all alike welcome. No good cometh of our
journey to this hightide."
She answered, "Let him that is glad to see thee welcome thee. I will not
greet thee as a friend. What bringest thou for me from Worms, beyond the
Rhine, that thou shouldst be so greatly welcome?"
"This is news," said Hagen, "that knights should bring thee gifts. Had I
thought of it, I had easily brought thee something. I am rich enow."
"Tell me what thou hast done with the Nibelung hoard. That, at the
least, was mine own. Ye should have brought it with you into Etzel's
"By my troth, lady, I have not touched the Nibelung hoard this many a
year. My masters bade me sink it in the Rhine. There it must bide till
the day of doom."
Then said the queen, "I thought so. Little hast thou brought thereof,
albeit it was mine own, and held by me aforetime. Many a sad day I have
lived for lack of it and its lord."
"I bring thee the Devil!" cried Hagen. "My shield and my harness were
enow to carry, and my bright helmet, and the sword in my hand. I have
brought thee naught further."
"I speak not of my treasure, because I desire the gold. I have so much
to give that I need not thy offerings. A murder and a double theft - it
is these that I, unhappiest of women, would have thee make good to me."
Then said the queen to all the knights, "None shall bear weapons in this
hall. Deliver them to me, ye knights, that they be taken in charge."
"Not so, by my troth," said Hagen; "I crave not the honour, great
daughter of kings, to have thee bear my shield and other weapons to safe
keeping. Thou art a queen here. My father taught me to guard them
"Woe is me!" cried Kriemhild. "Why will not Hagen and my brother give up
their shields? They are warned. If I knew him that did it, he should
Sir Dietrich answered wrathfully then, "I am he that warned the noble
kings, and bold Hagen, the man of Burgundy. Do thy worst, thou devil's
wife, I care not!"
Kriemhild was greatly ashamed, for she stood in bitter fear of Dietrich.
She went from him without a word, but with swift and wrathful glances at
Then two knights clasped hands - the one was Dietrich, the other Hagen.
Dietrich, the valiant warrior, said courteously, "I grieve to see thee
here, since the queen hath spoken thus."
Hagen of Trony answered, "It will all come right."
So the bold men spake together, and King Etzel saw them, and asked, "I
would know who yonder knight is that Dietrich welcometh so lovingly. He
beareth him proudly. Howso is his father hight, he is, certes, a goodly
One of Kriemhild's men answered the king, "He was born at Trony. The
name of his father was Aldrian. Albeit now he goeth gently, he is a grim
man. I will prove to thee yet that I lie not."
"How shall I find him so grim?" He knew nothing, as yet, of all that the
queen contrived against her kinsmen: by reason whereof not one of them
escaped alive from the Huns.
"I know Hagen well. He was my vassal. Praise and mickle honour he won
here by me. I made him a knight, and gave him my gold. For that he
proved him faithful, I was ever kind to him. Wherefore I may well know
all about him. I brought two noble children captive to this land - him
and Walter of Spain. Here they grew to manhood. Hagen I sent home
again. Walter fled with Hildegund."
So he mused on the good old days, and what had happed long ago, for he
had seen Hagen, that did him stark service in his youth. Yet now that he
was old, he lost by him many a dear friend.
How Hagen and Folker Sat Before Kriemhild's Hall
The two valiant knights, Hagen of Trony and Sir Dietrich, parted, and
Gunther's man looked back for a comrade that he soon espied. He saw
Folker, the cunning fiddler, by Giselher, and bade him come with him, for
well he knew his grim mood. He was in all things a warrior bold and good.
The knights still stood in the court. These two alone were seen crossing
the yard to a large hall at a distance. They feared no man. They sat
down before the house, on a bench opposite Kriemhild's chamber. Their
goodly apparel shone bright on their bodies. Not a few of them that
looked were fain to know them. The Huns gaped at the proud heroes as
they had been wild beasts, and Etzel's wife saw them through a window,
and was troubled anew. She thought on her old wrong, and began to weep.
Etzel's men marvelled much what had grieved her so sore. She said, "Good
knights, it is Hagen that hath done it."
Then said they to the queen, "How came it to pass? A moment ago we saw
thee of good cheer. There is no man so bold, had he done thee a hurt,
and thou badest us avenge thee, but he should answer for it with his
"Him that avenged my wrong I would thank evermore. All that he asked I
would give him. I fall at your feet; only avenge me on Hagen, that he
lose his life."
Thereupon sixty bold men armed them swiftly, and would have gone out with
one accord to slay Hagen, the bold knight, and the fiddler, for
But when the queen saw so small a number, she spake wrothfully to the
heroes, "Think not to withstand Hagen with so few. Stark and bold as is
Hagen of Trony, much starker is he that sitteth by him, Folker the
fiddler by name, a wicked man. Ye shall not so lightly overcome them."
When they heard her word, four hundred knights more did on their armour,
for the queen was eager to do her enemies a hurt. Soon they came in sore
straits. When she saw them well armed, she said to them, "Stand still a
while and wait. I will go out to my foes with my crown on. Hearken
while I upbraid Hagen of Trony, Gunther's man, with what he hath done to
me. I know him for too proud a knight to deny it. After that, I care
not what befalleth him."
Then the fiddler, a bold minstrel, saw the queen coming down the stair
from the house, and said to his comrade, "Now see, friend Hagen, how she
that hath falsely bidden us to this land, cometh toward us. Never have I
beheld, with a king's wife, so many men, sword in hand, as for strife.
Knowest thou, friend Hagen, that they hate thee? I counsel thee to look
to thy life and thine honour. Certes, it were well. Methinketh they be
wrothful of their mood. Many among them have shoulders broad enow. Who
would save his life had best do it betimes. I ween they wear harness
below their silk, whereof I hear none declare the meaning."
But Hagen, the bold man, answered angrily, "Well, I know that it is
against me they carry their bright weapons in their hands. But, for all
that, I will yet ride back to Burgundy. Now say, friend Folker, wilt
thou stand by me, if Kriemhild's men fall on me? Tell me, as thou lovest
me. To thy service thou wouldst bind me evermore."
"I will help thee truly," answered the minstrel; "if I saw the king
coming with all his warriors, I would not, while I lived, stir a foot
from thy side through fear."
"God in Heaven quit thee, noble Folker! If they fight with me, what need
I more. Since thou wilt help me, as I have heard thee promise, these
knights had best walk warily."
"Now rise we from our seat, and let her pass," said the minstrel. "She
is a queen. Do her this honour; she is a high-born lady. Therein we
"Nay, as thou lovest me!" Hagen said. "These knights might deem I did it
through fear, and thought to fly. I will not rise from my seat for any
of them. It beseemeth us better to sit still. Shall I show honour to
her that hateth me? That I will never do, so long as I be a living man.
Certes, I care little if King Etzel's wife misliketh me."
Hagen, the overweening man, laid a bright weapon across his knee, from
the hilt whereof shone a flaming jasper, greener than grass. Well
Kriemhild knew that it was Siegfried's.
When she saw the sword, her heart was heavy. The hilt was of gold, the
scabbard of red broidered silk. It minded her on her woe, and she began
to weep. Bold Hagen, I ween, had done it apurpose.
Brave Folker drew closer to him on the bench a stark fiddle-bow, mickle
and long, made like a sword, sharp and broad. There sat the good knights
unafraid. They deemed them too high to rise from their seat through fear
Then the noble queen advanced to them and gave them angry greeting. She
said, "Now tell me, Sir Hagen, who sent for thee, that thou hast dared to
ride into this land? Wert thou in thy senses, thou hadst not done it."
"None sent for me," answered Hagen. "Three knights that I call master,
were bidden hither. I am their liegeman, and never yet tarried behind
when they rode to a hightide."
She said, "Now tell me further. Wherefore didst thou that which hath
earned thee my hate? Thou slewest Siegfried, my dear husband, that I
cannot mourn enow to my life's end."
He answered, "Enough! What thou hast said sufficeth. It was I, Hagen,
that slew Siegfried, the hero. He paid dear for the evil words that
Kriemhild spake to fair Brunhild. I deny not, mighty queen, that I am
guilty, and the cause of all the mischief. Avenge it who will, man or
woman. I will not lie; I have wrought thee much woe."
She said, "Ye hear him, knights! He denieth not the wrong he hath done
me. I care not how he suffer for it, ye men of Etzel."
The proud warriors glanced at each other. Had there been fighting, the
two comrades had come off with honour, as oft aforetime in strife. What
the Huns had undertaken they durst not perform, through fear. Then said
one among them, "Why look ye at me? My word was vain; I will not lose my
life for the gifts of no woman. King Etzel's wife, methinketh, would
Another said, "I am of thy mind. I would not challenge this fiddler for
towers full of red gold, for much I mislike his fierce glances. This
Hagen, too, I knew in his youth, and need not to be told concerning him.
In two-and-twenty battles I have seen him. He hath given many a woman
heart's dole. He and the knight of Spain rode on many a foray, and here,
by Etzel, won many victories to the honour of the king. Wherefore none
may deny him praise. In those days the knight was a child, and they that
now are grey were youths. Now he is grown to a grim man. Thereto, he
weareth Balmung, which he won evilly."
So they agreed that none should fight, whereat the queen grieved
bitterly. The knights turned away, for the feared death from the
fiddler, and were dismayed. How oft will cowards fall back when friend
standeth true by friend! And he that bethinketh him betimes is delivered
from many a snare.
Then said bold Folker, "Now have we seen and heard that foemen are around
us. Haste we to the court, to the kings, that none dare fall upon them."
"I will follow," said Hagen.
They went where they found the knights still waiting in the courtyard;
and bold Folker began to say to his masters with a loud voice, "How long
will ye stand here to be jostled? Go in and hear from the king how he is
minded toward you."
The knights bold and good went in pairs. The prince of Bern took great
Gunther of Burgundy by the hand. Irnfried took brave Gernot, and
Giselher went in with his father-in-law. Howso the others walked, Folker
and Hagen parted nevermore, save once in battle, till their death; the
which gave many a noble woman cause to weep. With the kings came their
followers, a thousand bold men, and, thereto, sixty warriors, brought by
Hagen from his land. Hawart and Iring, two chosen knights, went after
the kings, hand in hand. Dankwart and Wolfhart, a true-hearted man, bare
them courteously toward them that were present.
When the prince of Rhineland came into the palace, Etzel waited no
longer, but sprang up from his seat when he saw them. Never was fairer
greeting between kings. "Ye be welcome, Sir Gunther and Sir Gernot, and
Giselher your brother. With true heart I sent my service to you at
Worms. Your knights, too, are welcome, each one. Glad are my wife and I
to greet bold Folker, and also Hagen, in this land. Many a message she
sent you to the Rhine."
Then said Hagen of Trony, "I heard them all. Had I not ridden hither for
my masters' sake, I had come to do thee honour." Thereupon the host took
his dear guests by the hand, and led them to the high seat where he
himself sat. And they hasted and poured out mead, morat, and wine, for
the guests, in great golden goblets, and bade the strangers heartily
Then said King Etzel, "I tell you truly that nothing in this world had
pleased me better than to see you knights here. It will ease the queen
of mickle heart's dole. I marvelled oft what I had done, that, among the
many guests I won to my court, ye never came to my land. Glad am I to
see you now."
Whereto Rudeger, the high-hearted knight, answered, "Thou rejoicest with
cause, for my mistress's kinsmen are men of proven worth, and they bring
many valiant knights with them."
It was on a midsummer eve that they came to Etzel's court, and seldom
hath been heard such high greeting as he gave to the heroes. Then he
went merrily to table with them, and no host ever entreated guests
better. Meat and drink they had in plenty. All that they desired stood
ready for them, for many marvels had been told of them.
The rich king had built a great castle at much cost and trouble -
palaces, and towers, and chambers without number, in a big fortress, and
thereto a goodly hall. He had ordered it to be built long and high and
wide, by reason of the many knights that flocked to his court without
cease. Twelve great kings were his liegemen, and many warriors of much
worship he had always by him, more than any king I ever heard of. He
lived merrily with kinsmen and vassals round him, with the joyful tumult
of good knights on every side. By reason whereof his heart was uplifted.
How Hagen and Folker Kept Watch
The day was now ended and the night drew nigh. The way-weary warriors
were fain to rest, and lie down on their beds, but knew not how to
compass it. Hagen asked, and brought them word.
Gunther said to the host, "God have thee in His keeping. Give us leave
to go and sleep. If thou desire it, we will come again early in the
morning." Then Etzel parted merrily from his guests.
From all sides the folk pressed in on the strangers. Bold Folker said to
the Huns, "How dare ye get before our feet? If ye void not the way, it
will be the worse for you. I will give some of you a blow with this
fiddle that may cause your friends to weep. Fall back from us warriors.
Certes, ye had better. Ye be knights in name and naught else."
While the fiddler spake thus wrothfully, bold Hagen looked over his shoulder
and said, "The minstrel giveth you good counsel. Get to your lodging, ye
men of Kriemhild. This is no time for your malice. If ye would start a
quarrel, come to us to-morrow early, and let us way-weary warriors lie
this night in peace. I ween ye will find none readier than we are."
They led the guests to a spacious hall, where they found beds, big and
costly, standing ready. Gladly had the queen worked their doom.
Coverlets of bright stuffs from Arras were there, and testers of silk of
Araby, the goodliest that could be, broidered and shining with gold. The
bed-clothes were of ermine and black sable, for them to rest under, the
night through, till the day. In such state never king lay before with
"Woe is me for our lodging!" said Giselher the youth, "and for my friends
that came hither with us. My sister sent us fair words, but I fear we
must all soon lie dead through her."
"Grieve not," said Hagen the knight. "I will myself keep watch, and will
guard thee well, I trow, till the day. Fear naught till then. After
that, each shall look to himself."
They bowed to him and thanked him. They went to their beds, and, or
long, the valiant men were lying soft. Then bold Hagen began to arm him.
Folker the fiddler said, "If thou scorn not my help, Hagen, I would keep
watch with thee till the morning."
The hero thanked Folker, "God in Heaven quit you, dear Folker. In all my
troubles and my straits I desire thee only and no other. I will do as
much for thee, if death hinder it not."
They both did on their shining harness. Each took his shield in his
hand, and went out before the door to keep watch over the strangers.
They did it faithfully.
Brave Folker leaned his good shield against the wall, and went back and
took his fiddle, and did fair and seemly service to his friends. He sat
down under the lintel upon the stone. There never was a bolder
minstrel. When the sweet tones sounded from his strings, the proud
homeless ones all thanked him. He struck so loud that the house echoed.
Great were his skill and strength both. Then he played sweeter and
softer, till he had lulled many a careworn man to sleep. When Folker
found they were all asleep, he took his shield in his hand again, and
went out and stood before the door, to guard his friends from Kriemhild's
About the middle of the night, or sooner, bold Folker saw a helmet in the
distance, shining in the dark. Kriemhild's vassals were fain to do them
a hurt. Or she sent them forth, she said, "For God's sake, if ye win at
them, slay none save the one man, false Hagen; let the others live."
Then spake the fiddler, "Friend Hagen, we must bear this matter through
together. I see armed folk before the house. I ween they come against
"Hold thy peace," answered Hagen. "Let them come nigher. Or they are
ware of us, there will be helmets cloven by the swords in our two hands.
They shall be sent back to Kriemhild in sorry plight."
One of the Hunnish knights saw that the door was guarded, and said
hastily, "We cannot carry this thing through. I see the fiddler standing
guard. He hath on his head a shining helmet, bright and goodly, with no
dint therein, and stark thereto. The rings of his harness glow like
fire. Hagen standeth by him. The strangers are well watched."
They turned without more ado. When Folker saw this, he spake angrily to
his comrade, "Let me go out to these knights. I would ask Kriemhild's
men a question."
"Nay, as thou lovest me," said Hagen. "If thou wentest to them, thou
wouldst fall in such strait by their swords that I must help thee, though
all my kinsmen perished thereby. If both the twain of us fell to
fighting, two or three of them might easily spring into the house, and do
such hurt to the sleepers as we could never mourn enow."
But Folker said, "Let us tell them that we have seen them, that they deny
not their treachery." Then Folker called out to them, "Why go ye there
armed, valiant knights? Is it murder ye are after, ye men of Kriemhild?
Take me and my comrade to help you."
None answered him. Right wroth was he.
"Shame on you, cowards! Would ye have slain us sleeping? Seldom afore
hath so foul a deed been done on good knights."
The queen was heavy of her cheer when they told her that her messengers
had failed. She began to contrive it otherwise, for grim was her mood,
and by reason thereof many a good knight and bold soon perished.
How the Burgundians Went to Church
"My harness is grown so cold," said Folker, "that I ween the night is far
spent. I feel, by the air, that it will soon be day."
Then they walked the knights that still slept.
The bright morning shone in on the warriors in the hall, and Hagen began
to ask them if they would go to the minster to hear mass. The bells were
ringing according to Christian custom.
The folk sang out of tune: it was not mickle wonder, when Christian and
heathen sang together. Gunther's men were minded to go to church, and
rose from their beds. They did on their fine apparel - never knights
brought goodlier weed into any king's land. But Hagen was wroth, and
said, "Ye did better to wear other raiment. Ye know how it standeth with
us here. Instead of roses, bear weapons in your hands, and instead of
jewelled caps, bright helmets. Of wicked Kriemhild's mood we are well
aware. I tell you there will be fighting this day. For your silken
tunics wear your hauberks, and good broad shields for rich mantels, that,
if any fall on you, ye may be ready. My masters dear, my kinsmen, and my
men, go to the church and bewail your sorrow and your need before great
God, for know, of a surety, that death draweth nigh. Forget not wherein
ye have sinned, and stand humbly before your Maker. Be warned, most
noble knights. If God in Heaven help you not, ye will hear mass no more."
So the kings and their men went to the minster. Hagen bade them pause in
the churchyard, that they might not be parted. He said, "None knoweth
yet what the Huns may attempt on us. Lay your shields at your feet, my
friends, and if any give you hostile greeting, answer him with deep
wounds and deadly. That is Hagen's counsel, that ye may be found ready,
as beseemeth you."
Folker and Hagen went and stood before the great minster. They did this,
that the queen might be forced to push past them. Right grim was their
Then came the king and his beautiful wife. Her body was adorned with
rich apparel, and the knights in her train were featly clad. The dust
rose high before the queen's attendants.
When the rich king saw the princes and their followers armed, he said
hastily, "Why go my friends armed? By my troth it would grieve me if any
had done aught to them. I will make it good to them on any wise they ask
it. Hath any troubled their hearts, he shall feel my displeasure.
Whatso they demand of me I will do."
Hagen answered, "None hath wrought us annoy. It is the custom of my
masters to go armed at all hightides for full three days. If any did us
a mischief, Etzel should hear thereof."
Right well Kriemhild heard Hagen's words. She looked at him from under
her eyelids with bitter hate. Yet she told not the custom of her land,
albeit she knew it well from aforetime. Howso grim and deadly the
queen's anger was, none had told Etzel how it stood, else he had hindered
what afterward befell. They scorned, through pride, to tell their wrong.
The queen advanced with a great crowd of folk, but the twain moved not
two hands' breadth, whereat the Huns were wroth, for they had to press
past the heroes. This pleased not Etzel's chamberlains, and they had
gladly quarrelled with them, had they dared before the king. There was
much jostling, and nothing more.
When the mass was over, many a Hun sprang to horse. With Kriemhild were
also many beautiful maidens. Kriemhild sat by Etzel at a window with her
women, to see the bold warriors ride, the which the king loved to do.
Ha! many a stranger knight spurred below in the court!
The marshal brought out the horses. Bold Dankwart had gathered together
his master's followers from Burgundy. Well-saddled horses were led up
for the Nibelungs. When the kings and their men were mounted, Folker
counselled them to joust after the fashion of their country. Full
knightly they rode in the tourney. The counsel was welcome to all, and a
mighty din and clang of arms soon arose in the great tilt-yard, while
Etzel and Kriemhild looked on.
Sixty of Dietrich's knights spurred forward to meet the strangers. They
were eager for the onset, had Dietrich allowed it, for goodly men were
his. But it irked him when he heard thereof, and forbade them to cross
lances with Gunther's warriors. He feared it might go hard with his
When the knights of Bern were gone out of the yard, five hundred of
Rudeger's men of Bechlaren rode up before the castle, with their
shields. The Margrave had been better pleased if they had stayed away.
He pressed through the crowd, and said to them that they themselves knew
how that Gunther's men were wroth, and that he would have them quit the
When these also had gone back, they say that the knights of Thueringen
and a thousand bold Danes rode in. Then the splinters flew from the
lances. Irnfried and Hawart rode into the tourney. The Rhinelanders met
them proudly. They encountered the men of Thueringen in many a joust;
pierced was many a shield.
Sir Bloedel came on with three thousand. Etzel and Kriemhild saw plainly
all that passed below. The queen rejoiced, by reason of the hate she
bare the Burgundians. She thought in her heart, - what happed or long -
"If they wounded any, the sport might turn to a battle. I would fain be
revenged on my foes; certes, it would not grieve me."
Schrutan and Gibek came next, and Ramung and Hornbog, after the manner of
the Huns. They all bare them boldly before the Burgundians. High over
the king's palace flew the splinters. Yet all they did was but empty
sound. Gunther's men made the house and the castle ring with the clash
of shields. They won great honour. So keen was their pastime that the
foot-cloths ran with the sweat of the horses, as they rode proudly
against the Huns.
Then said stout Folker the fiddler, "These knights dare not confront us,
I ween. I have heard that they hate us. They could not have a fitter
time to prove it."
"Lead the horses to their stalls," said the king. "Toward evening ye may
ride again, if there be time for it. Haply the queen may then give the
prize to the Burgundians."
At that moment a knight rode into the lists, prouder than any other Hun.
Belike he had a dear one at the window. He was rich apparelled like a
Folker said, "I cannot help it. Yonder woman's darling must have a
stroke. None shall hinder me. Let him look to his life. I care not how
wroth Etzel's wife may be."
"Nay now, for my sake," said the king. "The folk will blame us if we
begin the fray. Let the Huns be the first. It were better so."
Still Etzel sat by the queen.
"I will join thee in the tourney," cried Hagen. "It were well that these
women and these knights saw how we can ride. They give Gunther's men
Bold Folker spurred back into the lists. Thereby many a woman won
heart's dole. He stabbed the proud Hun through the body with his spear.
Many a maid and many a wife was yet to weep for it. Hagen and his sixty
knights followed hard on the fiddler. Etzel and Kriemhild saw it all
The three kings left not the doughty minstrel alone among his foemen. A
thousand knights rode to the rescue. They were haughty and overweening,
and did as they would.
When the proud Hun was slain, the sound of weeping and wailing rose from
his kinsmen. All asked, "Who hath done it?" and got answer, "It was
Folker, the bold fiddler."
The friends of the Hunnish Margrave called straightway for their swords
and their shields, that they might kill Folker. The host hasted from the
window. There was a mighty uproar among the Huns. The kings and their
followers alighted before the all, and beat back their horses.
Then came Etzel and began to part the fray. He seized a sharp sword out
of the hand of one of the Hun's kinsmen that stood nigh, and thrust them
all back. He was greatly wroth, "Ye would have me fail in honour toward
these knights! If ye had slain this minstrel, I tell you I would have
hanged you all. I marked him well when he slew the Hun, and saw that it
was not with intent, but that his horse stumbled. Let my guests leave
the tilt-yard in peace."
He gave them escort, himself, and their horses were led to the stalls,
for many varlets stood ready to serve them.
The host went with his guests into the palace, and bade the anger cease.
They set the table, and brought water. The knights of the Rhine had
stark foemen enow. Though it irked Etzel, many armed knights pressed in
after the kings, when they went to table, by reason of their hate. They
waited a chance to avenge their kinsman.
"Ye be too unmannerly," said the host, "to sit down armed to eat. Whoso
among you toucheth my guests shall pay for it with his head. I have
spoken, O Huns."
It was long or the knights were all seated. Bitter was Kriemhild's
wrath. She said, "Prince of Bern, I seek thy counsel and thy kind help
in my sore need."
But Hildebrand, the good knight, answered, "Who slayeth the Nibelungs
shall do it without me; I care not what price thou offerest. None shall
essay it but he shall rue it, for never yet have these doughty knights
"I ask the death of none save Hagen, that hath wronged me. He slew
Siegfried, my dear husband. He that chose him from among the others for
vengeance should have my gold without stint. I were inly grieved did any
suffer save Hagen."
But Hildebrand answered, "How could one slay him alone? Thou canst see
for thyself, that, if he be set upon, they will all to battle, and poor
and rich alike must perish."
Said Dietrich also, courteously, "Great queen, say no more. Thy kinsmen
have done naught to me that I should defy them to the death. It is
little to thine honour that thou wouldst compass the doom of thy
kinsmen. They came hither under safe conduct, and not by the hand of
Dietrich shall Siegfried be avenged."
When she found no treachery in the knight of Bern, she tempted Bloedel
with the promise of a goodly estate that had been Nudung's. Dankwart
slew him after, that he clean forgot the gift.
Bloedel, that sat by her, answered, "I dare not show thy kinsmen such
hate, so long as my brother showeth them favour. The king would not
forgive me if I defied them."
"Nay now, Sir Bloedel, I will stand by thee, and give thee silver and
gold for meed, and, thereto, a beautiful woman, the widow of Nudung, that
thou mayest have her to thy dear one. I will give the all, land and
castles, and thou shalt live joyfully with her on the march that was
Nudung's. In good sooth I will do what I promise."
When Bloedel heard the fee, and because the woman pleased him for her
fairness, he resolved to win her by battle. So came he to lose his life.
He said to the queen, "Go back into the hall. Or any is ware thereof, I
will raise a great tumult. Hagen shall pay for what he hath done. I
will bring thee King Gunther's man bound."
"Now arm ye, my men," cried Bloedel, "and let us fall on the foemen in
their lodging. King Etzel's wife giveth me no peace, and at her bidding
we must risk our lives."
When the queen had left Bloedel to begin the strife, she went in to table
with King Etzel and his men. She had woven an evil snare against the
I will tell you how they went into the hall. Crowned kings went before
her; many high princes and knights of worship attended the queen. Etzel
assigned to all the guests their places, the highest and the best in the
hall. Christians and heathens had their different meats, whereof they
ate to the full; for so the wise king ordered it. The yeomen feasted in
their own quarters, where sewers served them, that had been charged with
the care of their food. But revel and merriment were soon turned to
Kriemhild's old wrong lay buried in her heart, and when the strife could
not be kindled otherwise, she bade them bring Etzel's son to table. Did
ever any woman so fearful a thing for vengeance?
Four of Etzel's men went straightway and brought in Ortlieb, the young
king, to the princes' table, where Hagen also sat. Through his murderous
hate the child perished.
When Etzel saw his son, he spake kindly to his wife's brethren, "See now,
my friends, that is my only son, and your sister's child. Some day he
will serve you well. If he take after his kin, he will be a valiant man,
rich and right noble, stark and comely. If I live, I will give him the
lordship of twelve countries. Fair service ye may yet have from young
Ortlieb's hand. Wherefore I pray ye, my dear friends, that, when ye ride
back to the Rhine, ye take with you your sister's son, and do well by the
child. Rear him in honour till he be a man, and when he is full grown,
if any harry your land, he will help you to avenge it." Kriemhild, the
wife of Etzel, heard all that the king said.
Hagen answered, "If he grow to be a man, he may well help these knights.
But he hath a weakly look. Methinketh I shall seldom go to Ortlieb's
The king eyed Hagen sternly, for his word irked him. Albeit he answered
not again, he was troubled, and heavy of his cheer. Hagen was no friend
The king and his liegemen misliked sore what Hagen had said of the child,
and were wroth that they must bear it. They knew not yet what the
warrior was to do after. Not a few that heard it, and that bare him
hate, had gladly fallen upon him: the king also, had not honour forbidden
him. Ill had Hagen sped. Yet soon he did worse: he slew his child
before his eyes.
How Bloedel Fought With Dankwart in the Hall
Bloedel's knights all stood ready. With a thousand hauberks they went
where Dankwart sat at table with the yeomen. Grim was soon the hate
between the heroes.
When Sir Bloedel strode up to the table, Dankwart the marshal greeted him
fair. "Welcome to this house, Sir Bloedel. What news dost thou bring?"
"Greet me not," said Bloedel. "My coming meaneth thy death, because of
Hagen, thy brother, that slew Siegfried. Thou and many another knight
shall pay for it."
"Nay now, Sir Bloedel," said Dankwart. "So might we well rue this
hightide. I was a little child when Siegfried lost his life. I know not
what King Etzel's wife hath against me."
"I can tell thee nothing, save that thy kinsmen, Gunther and Hagen, did
it. Now stand on your defence, ye homeless ones. Ye must die, for your
lives are forfeit to Kriemhild."
"Dost thou persist?" said Dankwart. "Then it irketh me that I asked it.
I had better have spared my words."
The good knight and bold sprang up from the table, and drew a sharp
weapon that was mickle and long, and smote Bloedel a swift blow
therewith, that his head, in its helmet, fell at their feet.
"That be thy wedding-gift to Nudung's bride, that thou thoughtest to
win!" he cried. "Let them mate her to-morrow with another man; if he ask
the dowry, he can have the like." A faithful Hun had told him that
morning, secretly, that the queen plotted their doom.
When Bloedel's men saw their master lying slain, they endured it no
longer, but fell with drawn swords in grim wrath on the youths. Many
rued it later.
Loud cried Dankwart to the squires and the yeomen, "Ye see that we are
undone. Fight for your lives, ye homeless ones, that ye may lie dead
They that had not swords seized the benches, and caught up the stools
from the floor. The squires of Burgundy were not slow to answer them.
With these they dinted many a helmet.
The homeless youths made grim defence. They drave the armed me from the
house. Yet five hundred and more lay therein dead. They were red and
wet with blood.
This heave news reached Etzel's knights. Grim was their grief that
Bloedel and his men were slain by the brother of Hagen, and the squires.
Or Etzel knew anything of the matter, two thousand Huns or more did on
their armour and hasted thither, for so it must needs be, and left not
one alive. These false knights brought a mighty host before the house.
The strangers defended them well; but what availed their prowess? They
had all to die. Or long the fray waxed grimmer yet.
Now shall ye list to marvels and wondrous deeds. Nine thousand squires
lay dead, and twelve of Dankwart's men. He stood alone among his foes.
The noise was hushed, the din had ceased. Dankwart looked over his
shoulder and cried, "Woe is me for the friends I have lost! Among my
foemen I stand alone."
Swords enow fell upon his body. Many a hero's wife was yet to weep for
it. He raised his buckler, and lowered the thong, and wetted many a
hauberk with blood.
"Woe is me for this wrong!" cried Aldrian's child. "Stand back, ye
knights of Hungary, and let me to the air, that it cool a battle-weary
man." Then he began, in their despite, to hew his way to the door.
When he sprang from the house, how many a sword rang on his helmet! They
that had not seen the wonders of his hand fell upon him there.
"Would to God," said Dankwart, "I had a messenger to tell my brother
Hagen in what peril I stand! He would help me hence, or die by me."
But the Hunnish knights answered, "Thou, thyself, shalt be the messenger,
when we carry thee in dead to thy brother. So shall Gunther's man have
first hear of his loss. To Etzel thou hast done grievous hurt."
He said, "Keep your threats, and stand back, or I will wet the harness of
some of you. I will bear the news myself to the court, and bewail my
great wrong to my masters."
He did Etzel's men such scathe, that they durst not draw against him.
Then they shot so many darts into his shield that he must drop it for
They thought to vanquish him without his shield. Ha! what deep wounds he
made in their helmets! Many a bold man staggered before him. Great
honour and praise were Dankwart's. From both sides they sprang at him.
I ween they were too hasty. He fought his way through his foemen like a
wild boar in the forest through the hounds - bolder he could not have
been. His path was ever wet anew with hot blood. When did single knight
withstand foemen better? Proudly Hagen's brother went to court.
The sewers and the cup-bearers heard the clash of swords. Many dropped
the drink and the meats they carried. On the stairs he found stark
"How now, ye sewers?" cried the weary knight; "see to the guests, and
bear in the good meats to your lords, and let me take my message to my
They that had the hardihood, and sprang down on him from the stairs, he
smote so fiercely with his sword that they fell back for fear. With his
strength he had done right wonderly.
How Dankwart Brought the News to His Masters
Then bold Dankwart strode in through the door, and bade Etzel's followers
void the way; all his harness was covered with blood. It was a the time
they were carrying Ortlieb to and fro from table to table among the
princes, and through the terrible news the child perished.
Dankwart cried aloud to one of the knights, "Thou sittest here too long,
brother Hagen. To thee, and God in Heaven, I bewail our wrong. Knights
and squires lie dead in our hall."
Hagen called back to him, "Who hath done it?"
"Sir Bloedel and his men. He paid for it bitterly, I can tell thee. I
smote off his head with my hands."
"He hath paid too little," said Hagen, "since it can be said of him that
he hath died by the hand of a hero. His womenfolk have the less cause to
weep. Now tell me, dear brother; wherefore art thou so red? I ween thy
wounds are deep. If he be anywhere near that hath done it, and the Devil
help him not, he is a dead man."
"Unwounded I stand. My harness is wet with the blood of other men,
whereof I have to-day slain so many, that I cannot swear to the number."
Hagen said, "Brother Dankwart, keep the door, and let not a single Hun
out; I will speak with the knights as our wrong constraineth me.
Guiltless, our followers lie dead."
"To such great kings will I gladly be chamberlain," said the bold man; "I
will guard the stairs faithfully."
Kriemhild's men were sore dismayed.
"I marvel much," said Hagen, "what the Hunnish knights whisper in each
other's ears. I ween they could well spare him that standeth at the
door, and hath brought this court news to the Burgundians. I have long
heard Kriemhild say that she could not bear her heart's dole. Now drink
we to Love, and taste the king's wine. The young prince of the Huns
shall be the first."
With that, Hagen slew the child Ortlieb, that the blood gushed down on
his hand from his sword, and the head flew up into the queen's lap. Then
a slaughter grim and great arose among the knights. He slew the child's
guardian with a sword stroke from both his hands, that the head fell down
before the table. It was sorry pay he gave the tutor. He saw a minstrel
sitting at Etzel's table, and sprang at him in wrath, and lopped off his
right hand on his viol: "Take that for the message thou broughtest to the
"Woe is me for my hand!" cried Werbel. "Sir Hagen of Trony, what have I
done to thee? I rode with true heart to thy master's land. How shall I
make my music now?"
Little recked Hagen if he never fiddled more. He quenched on Etzel's
knights, in the house there, his grim lust for blood, and smote to death
not a few.
Swift Folker sprang from the table; his fiddle-bow rang loud. Harsh were
the tunes of Gunther's minstrel. Ha! many a foe he made among the Huns!
The three kings, too, rose hastily. They would have parted them or more
harm was done. But they could not, for Folker and Hagen were beside
themselves with rage.
When the King of Rhineland could not stint the strife, he, also, smote
many a deep wound through the shining harness of his foemen. Well he
showed his hardihood.
Then stark Gernot came into the battle, and slew many Huns with the sharp
sword that Rudeger had given him. He brought many of Etzel's knights to
their graves therewith.
Uta's youngest son sprang into the fray, and pierced the helmets of
Etzel's knights valiantly with his weapon. Bold Giselher's hand did
But howso valiant all the others were, the kings and their men, Folker
stood up bolder than any against the foes; he was a hero; he wounded
many, that they fell down in their blood.
Etzel's liegemen warded them well, but the guests hewed their way with
their bright swords up and down the hall. From all sides came the sound
of wailing. They that were without would gladly have won in to their
friends, but could not; and they that were within would have won out, but
Dankwart let none of them up the stair or down. Then a great crowd
gathered before the door, and the swords clanged loud upon the helmets,
so that Dankwart came in much scathe. Hagen feared for him, as was meet,
and he cried aloud to Folker, "Comrade, seest thou my brother beset by
the stark blows of the Huns? Save him, friend, or we lose the warrior."
"That will I, without fail," said the minstrel; and he began to fiddle
his way through the hall; it was a hard sword that rang in his hand.
Great thank he won from the knights of the Rhine.
He said to Dankwart, "Thou hast toiled hard to-day. Thy brother bade me
come to thy help. Do thou go without, and I will stand within."
Dankwart went outside the door and guarded the stair. Loud din made the
weapons of the heroes. Inside, Folker the Burgundian did the like. The
bold fiddler cried above the crowd, "The house is well warded, friend
Hagen; Etzel's door is barred by the hands of two knights that have made
it fast with a thousand bolts."
When Hagen saw the door secured, the famous knight and good threw back
his shield, and began to avenge the death of his friend in earnest. Many
a valiant knight suffered for his wrath.
When the Prince of Bern saw the wonders that Hagen wrought, and the
helmets that he brake, he sprang on to a bench, and cried, "Hagen poureth
out the bitterest wine of all."
The host and his wife fell in great fear. Many a dear friend was slain
before their eyes. Etzel himself scarce escaped from his foemen. He sat
there affrighted. What did it profit him that he was a king?
Proud Kriemhild cried to Dietrich, "Help me, noble knight, by the
princely charity of an Amelung king, to come hence alive. If Hagen reach
me, death standeth by my side."
"How can I help thee, noble queen? I cannot help myself. Gunther's men
are so grimly wroth that I can win grace for none."
"Nay now, good Sir Dietrich, show thy mercy, and help me hence or I die.
Save me and the king from this great peril."
"I will try. Albeit, for long, I have not seen good knights in such a
fury. The blood gusheth from the helmets at their sword-strokes."
The chosen knight shouted with a loud voice that rang out like the blast
of a buffalo horn, so that all the castle echoed with its strength, for
stark and of mickle might was Dietrich.
King Gunther heard his cry above the din of strife, and hearkened. He
said, "The voice of Dietrich hath reached me. I ween our knights have
slain some of his men. I see him on the table, beckoning with his hand.
Friends and kinsmen of Burgundy, hold, that we may learn what we have
done to Dietrich's hurt."
When King Gunther had begged and prayed them, they lowered their swords.
Thereby Gunther showed his might, that they smote no blow. Then he asked
the Prince of Bern what he wanted. He said, "Most noble Dietrich, what
hurt have my friends done thee? I will make it good. Sore grieved were
I, had any done thee scathe."
But Sir Dietrich answered, "Naught hath been done against me. With thy
safe-conduct let me quit this hall, and the bitter strife, with my men.
For this I will ever serve thee."
"Why ask this grace?" said Wolfhart. "The fiddler hath not barred the
door so fast that we cannot set it wide, and go forth."
"Hold thy peace," cried Dietrich. "Thou hast played the Devil."
Then Gunther answered, "I give thee leave. Lead forth few or many, so
they be not my foemen. These shall tarry within, for great wrong have I
suffered from the Huns."
When the knight of Bern heard that, he put one arm round the queen, for
she was greatly affrighted, and with the other he led out Etzel. Six
hundred good knights followed Dietrich.
Then said noble Rudeger, the Margrave, "If any more of them that love and
would serve thee may win from this hall, let us hear it; that peace may
endure, as is seemly, betwixt faithful friends."
Straightway Giselher answered his father-in-law. "Peace and love be
betwixt us. Thou and thy liegemen have been ever true to us, wherefore
depart with thy friends, fearing nothing."
When Sir Rudeger left the hall, five hundred or more went out with him.
The Burgundian knights did honourably therein, but King Gunther suffered
scathe for it after.
One of the Huns would have saved himself when he saw King Etzel go out
with Dietrich, but the fiddler smote him such a blow that his head fell
down at Etzel's feet.
When the king of the land was gone out from the house, he turned and
looked at Folker. "Woe is me for such guests! It is a hard and bitter
thing that all my knights fall dead before them! Alack! this hightide!"
wailed the great king. "There is one within that hight Folker. He is
liker a wild boar than a fiddler. I thank Heaven that I escaped the
devil. His tunes are harsh; his bow is red. His notes smite many a hero
dead. I know not what this minstrel hath against us. Never was guest so
The knight of Bern, and Sir Rudeger, went each to his lodging. They
desired not to meddle with the strife, and they bade their men avoid the
Had the guests known what hurt the twain would do them after, they had
not won so lightly from the hall, but had gotten a stroke from the bold
ones in passing.
All that they would let go were gone. Then arose a mighty din. The
guests avenged them bitterly. Ha! many a helmet did Folker break!
King Gunther turned his ear to the noise. "Dost thou hear the tunes,
Hagen, that Folker playeth yonder on the Huns, when any would win through
the door? The hue of his bow is red."
"It repenteth me sore," spake Hagen, "to be parted from the knight. I
was his comrade, and he mine. If we win home again, we shall ever be
true friends. See now, great king, how he serveth thee. He earneth thy
silver and thy gold. His fiddle-bow cleaveth the hard steel, and
scattereth on the ground the bright jewels on the helmets. Never have I
seen a minstrel make such stand. His measures ring through helmet and
shield. Good horse shall he ride, and wear costly apparel."
Of the Huns that had been in the hall, not one was left alive. The
tumult fell, for there was none to fight, and the bold warriors laid down
How They Threw Down the Dead
The knights sat down through weariness. Folker and Hagen went out before
the hall. There the overweening men leaned on their shields and spake
Then said Giselher of Burgundy, "Rest not yet, dear friends. Ye must
carry the dead out of the house. We shall be set upon again; trow my
word. These cannot lie longer among our feet. Or the Huns overcome us,
we will hew many wounds; to the which I am nothing loth."
"Well for me that I have such a lord," answered Hagen. "This counsel
suiteth well such a knight as our young master hath approved him this
day. Ye Burgundians have cause to rejoice."
They did as he commanded, and bare the seven thousand dead bodies to the
door, and threw them out. They fell down at the foot of the stair. Then
arose a great wail from their kinsmen. Some of them were so little
wounded that, with softer nursing, they had come to. Now, from the fall,
these died also. Their friends wept and made bitter dole.
Then said bold Folker the fiddler, "Now I perceive they spake the truth
that told me the Huns were cowards. They weep like women, when they
might tend these wounded bodies."
A Margrave that was there deemed he meant this truly. He saw one of his
kinsmen lying in his blood, and put his arms round him to bear him away.
Him the minstrel shot dead.
When the others saw this, they fled, and began to curse Folker. With
that, he lifted a sharp spear and hard from the ground, that a Hun had
shot at him, and hurled it strongly across the courtyard, over the heads
of the folk. Etzel's men took their stand further off, for they all
feared his might.
Then came Etzel with his men before the hall. Folker and Hagen began to
speak out their mind to the King of the Huns. They suffered for it or
all was done.
"It is well for a people when its kings fight in the forefront of the
strife as doeth each of my masters. They hew the helmets, and the blood
Etzel was brave, and he grasped his shield. "Have a care," cried
Kriemhild, "and offer thy knights gold heaped upon the shield. If Hagen
reach thee, thou hast death at thy hand."
But the king was so bold he would not stop; the which is rare enow among
great princes to-day. They had to pull him back by his shield-thong;
whereat grim Hagen began to mock anew. "Siegfried's darling and Etzel's
are near of kin. Siegfried had Kriemhild to wife or ever she saw thee.
Coward king, thou, of all men, shouldst bear me no grudge."
When Kriemhild heard him, she was bitterly wroth that he durst mock her
before Etzel's warriors, and she strove to work them woe. She said, "To
him that will slay Hagen of Trony and bring me his head, I will fill
Etzel's shield with red gold. Thereto, he shall have, for his meed,
goodly castles and land."
"I know not why ye hang back," said the minstrel. "I never yet saw
heroes stand dismayed that had the offer of such pay. Etzel hath small
cause to love you. I see many cowards standing here that eat the king's
bread, and fail him now in his sore need, and yet call themselves bold
knights. Shame upon them!"
Great Etzel was grieved enow. He wept sore for his dead men and
kinsmen. Valiant warriors of many lands stood round him, and bewailed
his great loss with him.
Then bold Folker mocked them again. "I see many high-born knights
weeping here, that help their king little in his need. Long have they
eaten his bread with shame."
The best among them thought, "He sayeth sooth."
But none mourned so inly as Iring, the hero of Denmark; the which was
proven or long by his deeds.
How Iring Was Slain
Then cried Iring, the Margrave of Denmark, "I have long followed honour,
and done not amiss in battle. Bring me my harness, and I will go up
"Thou hadst better not," answered Hagen, "or thy kinsmen will have more
to weep for. Though ye spring up two or three together, ye would fall
down the stair the worse for it."
"I care not," said Iring. "I have oft tried as hard a thing. With my
single sword I would defy thee, if thou hadst done twice as much in the
Sir Iring armed him straightway. Irnfried of Thuringia, likewise, a bold
youth, and Hawart the stark, with a thousand men that were fain to stand
When the fiddler saw so great an armed host with him, wearing bright
helmets on their heads, he was wroth. "Behold how Iring cometh hither,
that vowed to encounter thee alone. It beseemeth not a knight to lie. I
blame him much. A thousand armed knights or more come with him."
"Call me no liar," said Hawart's liegeman. "I will gladly abide by my
word, nor fail therein through fear. How grim soever Hagen may be, I
will meet him alone."
Iring fell at the feet of his kinsmen and vassals, that they might let
him defy the knight in single combat. They were loth, for they knew
proud Hagen of Burgundy well. But he prayed them so long that they
consented. When his followers saw that he wooed honour, they let him
go. Then began a deadly strife betwixt them.
Iring of Denmark, the chosen knight, raised his spear; then he covered
his body with his shield, and sprang at Hagen. The heroes made a loud
din. They hurled their spears so mightily from their hands, that they
pierced through the strong bucklers to the bright harness, and the shafts
flew high in the air. Then the grimly bold men grasped their swords.
Hagen was strong beyond measure, yet Iring smote him, that all the house
rang. Palace and tower echoed their blows. But neither had the
Iring left Hagen unwounded, and sprang at the fiddler. He thought to
vanquish him by his mighty blows. But the gleeman stood well on his
guard, and smote his foeman, that the steel plate of his buckler flew
off. He was a terrible man.
Then Iring ran at Gunther, the King of Burgundy.
Fell enow were the twain. But though each smote fiercely at the other,
they drew no blood. Their good harness shielded them.
He left Gunther, and ran at Gernot, and began to strike sparks from his
mailcoat, but King Gernot of Burgundy well-nigh slew him. Then he sprang
from the princes, for he was right nimble, and soon had slain four
Burgundians from Worms beyond the Rhine. Giselher was greatly wroth
thereat. "Now by God, Sir Iring," he cried, "thou shalt pay for them
that lie dead!" and he fell on him. He smote the Dane, that began to
stagger, and dropped down among the blood, so that all deemed the doughty
warrior would never strike another blow. Yet Iring lay unwounded withal
before Giselher. From the noise of his helmet and the clang of the sword
his wits left him, and he lay in a swoon. That had Giselher done with
his strong arm.
When the noise of the blow had cleared from his brain, he thought, "I
live still, and am unwounded. Now I know the strength of Giselher." He
heard his foemen on both sides. Had they been ware how it stood with
him, worse had befallen him. He heard Giselher also, and he pondered by
what device he might escape them. He sprang up furiously from among the
blood. Well his swiftness served him. He fled from the house, past
Hagen, and gave him a stout stroke as he ran.
"Ha!" thought Hagen, "Thou shalt die for this. The Devil help thee, or
thou art a dead man." But Iring wounded Hagen through the helmet. He
did it with Vasky, a goodly weapon.
When Hagen felt the wound, he swung his sword fiercely, that Hawart's man
must needs fly. Hagen followed him down the stair. But Iring held his
shield above his head. Had the stair been thrice as long, Hagen had not
left him time for a single thrust. Ha! what red sparks flew from his
helmet! Yet, safe withal, Iring reached his friends.
When Kriemhild heard what he had done to Hagen of Trony in the strife,
she thanked him. "God quit thee, Iring, thou hero undismayed! thou hast
comforted me, heart and soul, for I see Hagen's harness red with blood."
The glad queen took the shield from his hand herself.
"Stint thy thanks," said Hagen. "There is scant cause for them. If he
tried it again, he were in sooth a bold man. The wound I got from him
will serve thee little. The blood thou seest on my harness but urgeth me
to slay the more. Only now, for the first time, I am wroth indeed. Sir
Iring hath done me little hurt."
Iring of Denmark stood against the wind, and cooled him in his harness,
with his helmet unlaced; and all the folk praised his hardihood, that the
Margrave's heart was uplifted. He said, "Friends, arm me anew. I will
essay it again. Haply I may vanquish this overweening man." His shield
was hewn in pieces; they brought him a better straight.
The warrior was soon armed, and stronger than afore. Wrothfully he
seized a stark spear, wherewith he defied Hagen yet again. He had won
more profit and honour had he let it be.
Hagen waited not for his coming. Hurling darts, and with drawn sword, he
sprang down the stairs in a fury. Iring's strength availed him little.
They smote at each other's shields, that glowed with a fire-red wind.
Through his helmet and his buckler, Hawart's man was wounded to the death
by Hagen's sword. He was never whole again.
When Sir Iring felt the wound, he raised his shield higher to guard his
head, for he perceived that he was sore hurt. But Gunther's man did
worse to him yet. He found a spear lying at his feet, and hurled it at
Iring, the knight of Denmark, that it stuck out on the other side of his
head. The overweening knight made a grim end of his foeman.
Iring fell back among his friends. Or they did off his helmet, they drew
the spear out. Then death stood at hand. Loud mourned his friends;
their sorrow was bitter.
The queen came, and began to weep for stark Iring. She wept for his
wounds, and was right doleful. But the undismayed hero spake before his
kinsmen, "Weep not, noble lady. What avail thy tears? I must die from
these wounds that I have gotten. Death will not leave me longer to thee
Then he said to them of Thuringia and Denmark, "See that none of you take
the gifts of the queen - her bright gold so red. If ye fight with Hagen
ye must die."
His cheek was pale; he bare death's mark. They grieved enow; for
Hawart's man would nevermore be whole. Then they of Denmark must needs
to the fray.
Irnfried and Hawart sprang forward with a thousand knights. The din was
loud over all. Ha! what sharp spears were hurled at the Burgundians!
Bold Irnfried ran at the gleeman, and came in scathe by his hand. The
fiddler smote the Landgrave through his strong helmet, for he was grim
enow. Then Irnfried gave Folker a blow, that the links of his hauberk
brake asunder, and his harness grew red like fire. Yet, for all, the
Landgrave fell dead before the fiddler.
Hawart and Hagen closed in strife. Had any seen it, they had beheld
wonders. They smote mightily with their swords. Hawart died by the
knight of Burgundy.
When the Thuringians and Danes saw their masters slain, they rushed yet
fiercer against the house, and grisly was the strife or they won to the
door. Many a helmet and buckler were hewn in pieces.
"Give way," cried Folker, "and let them in. They shall not have their
will, but, in lieu thereof, shall perish. They will earn the queen's
gift with their death."
The proud warriors thronged into the hall, but many an one bowed his
head, slain by swift blows. Well fought bold Gernot; the like did
A thousand and four came in. Keen and bright flashed the swords; but all
the knights died. Great wonders might be told of the Burgundians.
When the tumult fell, there was silence. Over all, the blood of the dead
men trickled through the crannies into the gutters below. They of the
Rhine had done this by their prowess.
Then the Burgundians sat and rested, and laid down their weapons and
their shields. The bold gleeman went out before the house, and waited,
lest any more should come to fight.
The king and his wife wailed loud. Maids and wives beat their breasts.
I ween that Death had sworn an oath against them, for many a knight was
yet to die by the hands of the strangers.
How the Queen Bad Them Burn Down the Hall
"Now do off your helmets," said Hagen the knight. "I and my comrade will
keep watch. And if Etzel's men try it again, I will warn my masters
Then many a good warrior unlaced his helmet. They sat down on the bodies
that had fallen in the blood by their hands. With bitter hate the guests
were spied at by the Huns.
Before nightfall the king and queen had prevailed on the men of Hungary
to dare the combat anew. Twenty thousand or more stood before them ready
for battle. These hasted to fall on the strangers.
Dankwart, Hagen's brother, sprang from his masters to the foemen at the
door. They thought he was slain, but he came forth alive.
The strife endured till the night. The guests, as beseemed good
warriors, had defended them against Etzel's men all through the long
summer day. Ha! what doughty heroes lay dead before them. It was on a
midsummer that the great slaughter fell, when Kriemhild avenged her
heart's dole on her nearest kinsmen, and on many another man, and all
King Etzel's joy was ended. Yet she purposed not at the first to bring
it to such a bloody encounter, but only to kill Hagen; but the Devil
contrived it so, that they must all perish.
The day was done; they were in sore straits. They deemed a quick death
had been better than long anguish. The proud knights would fain have had
a truce. They asked that the king might be brought to them.
The heroes, red with blood, and blackened with the soil of their harness,
stepped out of the hall with the three kings. They knew not whom to
bewail their bitter woe to.
Both Etzel and Kriemhild came. The land all round was theirs, and many
had joined their host. Etzel said to the guests, "What would ye with
me? Haply ye seek for peace. That can hardly be, after such wrong as ye
have done me and mine. Ye shall pay for it while I have life. Because
of my child that ye slew, and my many men, nor peace nor truce shall ye
Gunther answered, "A great wrong constrained us thereto. All my
followers perished in their lodging by the hands of thy knights. What
had I done to deserve that? I came to see thee in good faith, for I
deemed thou wert my friend."
Then said Giselher, the youth, of Burgundy, "Ye knights of King Etzel
that yet live, what have ye against me? How had I wronged you? - I that
rode hither with loving heart?"
They answered, "Thy love hath filled all the castles of this country with
mourning. We had gladly been spared thy journey from Worms beyond the
Rhine. Thou hast orphaned the land - thou and thy brothers."
Then cried Gunther in wrath, "If ye would lay from you this stark hate
against us homeless ones, it were well for both sides, for we are
guiltless before Etzel."
But the host answered the guests, "My scathe is greater than thine;
because of the mickle toil of the strife, and its shame, not one of you
shall come forth alive."
Then said stark Gernot to the king, "Herein, at the least, incline thy
heart to do mercifully with us. Stand back from the house, that we win
out to you. We know that our life is forfeit; let what must come, come
quickly. Thou hast many knights unwounded; let them fall on us, and give
us battle-weary ones rest. How long wouldst thou have us strive?"
King Etzel's knights would have let them forth, but when Kriemhild heard
it, she was wroth, and even this boon was denied to the strangers.
"Nay now, ye Huns, I entreat you, in good faith, that ye let not these
lusters after blood come out from the hall, lest thy kinsmen all perish
miserably. If none of them were left alive save Uta's children, my noble
brothers, and won they to the air to cool their harness, ye were lost.
Bolder knights were never born into the world."
Then said young Giselher, "Fairest sister mine, right evil I deem it that
thou badest me across the Rhine to this bitter woe. How have I deserved
death from the Huns? I was ever true to thee, nor did thee any hurt. I
rode hither, dearest sister, for that I trusted to thy love. Needs must
thou show mercy."
"I will show no mercy, for I got none. Bitter wrong did Hagen of Trony
to me in my home yonder, and here he hath slain my child. They that came
with him must pay for it. Yet, if ye will deliver Hagen captive, I will
grant your prayer, and let you live; for ye are my brothers, and the
children of one mother. I will prevail upon my knights here to grant a
"God in Heaven forbid!" cried Gernot. "Though we were a thousand, liefer
would we all die by thy kinsmen, than give one single man for our
ransom. That we will never do."
"We must perish then," said Giselher; "but we will fall as good knights.
We are still here; would any fight with us? I will never do falsely by
Cried bold Dankwart too (he had done ill to hold his peace), "My brother
Hagen standeth not alone. They that have denied us quarter may rue it
yet. By my troth, ye will find it to your cost."
Then said the queen, "Ye heroes undismayed, go forward to the steps and
avenge our wrong. I will thank you forever, and with cause. I will
requite Hagen's insolence to the full. Let not one of them forth at any
point, and I will let kindle the hall at its four sides. So will my
heart's dole be avenged."
Etzel's knights were not loth. With darts and with blows they drave back
into the house them that stood without. Loud was the din; but the
princes and their men were not parted, nor failed they in faith to one
Etzel's wife bade the hall be kindled, and they tormented the bodies of
the heroes with fire. The wind blew, and the house was soon all aflame.
Folk never suffered worse, I ween. There were many that cried, "Woe is
me for this pain! Liefer had we died in battle. God pity us, for we are
all lost. The queen taketh bitter vengeance."
One among them wailed, "We perish by the smoke and the fire. Grim is our
torment. The stark heat maketh me so athirst, that I die."
Said Hagen of Trony, "Ye noble knights and good, let any that are athirst
drink the blood. In this heat it is better than wine, and there is
naught sweeter here."
Then went one where he found a dead body. He knelt by the wounds, and
did off his helmet, and began to drink the streaming blood. Albeit he
was little used thereto, he deemed it right good. "God quit thee, Sir
Hagen!" said the weary man, "I have learned a good drink. Never did I
taste better wine. If I live, I will thank thee."
When the others heard his praise, many more of them drank the blood, and
their bodies were strengthened, for the which many a noble woman paid
through her dear ones.
The fire-flakes fell down on them in the hall, but they warded them off
with their shields. Both the smoke and the fire tormented them. Never
before suffered heroes such sore pain.
Then said Hagen of Trony, "Stand fast by the wall. Let not the brands
fall on your helmets. Trample them with your feet deeper in the blood.
A woeful hightide is the queen's."
The night ended at last. The bold gleeman, and Hagen, his comrade, stood
before the house and leaned upon their shields. They waited for further
hurt from Etzel's knights. It advantaged the strangers much that the
roof was vaulted. By reason thereof more were left alive. Albeit they
at the windows suffered scathe, they bared them valiantly, as their bold
hearts bade them.
Then said the fiddler, "Go we now into the hall, that the Huns deem we be
all dead from this torment, albeit some among them shall yet feel our
Giselher, the youth, of Burgundy, said, "It is daybreak, I ween. A cool
wind bloweth. God grant we may see happier days. My sister Kriemhild
hath bidden us to a doleful hightide."
One of them spake, "I see the dawn. Since we can do no better, arm you,
ye knights, for battle, that, come we never hence, we may die with
Etzel deemed the guests were all dead of their travail and the stress of
the fire. But six hundred bold men yet lived. Never king had better
knights. They that kept ward over the strangers had seen that some were
left, albeit the princes and their men had suffered loss and dole. They
saw many that walked up and down in the house.
They told Kriemhild that many were left alive, but the queen answered,
"It cannot be. None could live in that fire. I trow they all lie dead."
The kings and their men had still gladly asked for mercy, had there been
any to show it. But there was none in the whole country of the Huns.
Wherefore they avenged their death with willing hand.
They were greeted early in the morning with a fierce onslaught, and came
in great scathe. Stark spears were hurled at them. Well the knights
within stood on their defence.
Etzel's men were the bolder, that they might win Kriemhild's fee.
Thereto, they obeyed the king gladly; but soon they looked on death.
One might tell marvels of her gifts and promises. She bade them bear
forth red gold upon shields, and gave thereof to all that desired it, or
would take it. So great treasure was never given against foemen.
The host of warriors came armed to the hall. The fiddler said, "We are
here. I never was gladder to see any knights than those that have taken
the king's gold to our hurt."
Not a few of them cried out, "Come nigher, ye heroes! Do your worst, and
make an end quickly, for here are none but must die."
Soon their bucklers were filled full of darts. What shall I say more?
Twelve hundred warriors strove once and again to win entrance. The
guests cooled their hardihood with wounds. None could part the strife.
The blood flowed from death-deep wounds. Many were slain. Each bewailed
some friend. All Etzel's worthy knights perished. Their kinsmen
How Rudeger Was Slain
The strangers did valiantly that morning. Gotelind's husband came into
the courtyard and saw the heavy loss on both sides, whereat the true man
"Woe is me," said the knight, "that ever I was born, since none can stop
this strife! Fain would I have them at one again, but the king holdeth
back, for he seeth always more done to his hurt."
Good Rudeger sent to Dietrich, that they might seek to move the great
king. But the knight of Bern sent back answer, "Who can hinder it? King
Etzel letteth none intercede."
A knight of the Huns, that had oft seen Rudeger standing with wet eyes,
said to the queen, "Look how he standeth yonder, that Etzel hath raised
above all others, and that hath land and folk at his service. Why hath
Rudeger so many castles from the king? He hath struck no blow in this
battle. I ween he careth little for our scathe, so long as he has enow
for himself. They say he is bolder than any other. Ill hath he shown it
in our need."
The faithful man, when he heard that word, looked angrily at the knight.
He thought, "Thou shalt pay for this. Thou callest me a coward. Thou
hast told thy tale too loud at court."
He clenched his fist, and ran at him, and smote the Hun so fiercely that
he fell down at his feet, dead. Whereat Etzel's grief waxed anew.
"Away with thee, false babbler!" cried Rudeger. "I had trouble and
sorrow enow. What was it to thee that I fought not? Good cause have I
also to hate the strangers, and had done what I could against them, but
that I brought them hither. I was their escort into my master's land,
and may not lift my wretched hand against them."
Then said Etzel, the great king, to the Margrave, "How hast thou helped
us, most noble Rudeger? We had dead men enow in the land, and needed no
more. Evilly hast thou done."
But the knight answered, "He angered me, and twitted me with the honour
and the wealth thou hast bestowed on me so plenteously. It hath cost the
Then came the queen, that had seen the Hun perish by Rudeger's wrath.
She mourned for him with wet eyes, and said to Rudeger, "What have we
ever done to thee that thou shouldst add to our sorrow? Thou hast oft
times promised, noble Rudeger, that thou wouldst risk, for our sake, both
honour and life, and I have heard many warriors praise thee for thy
valour. Hast thou forgotten the oath thou swearest to me with thy hand,
good knight, when thou didst woo me for King Etzel - how that thou
wouldst serve me till my life's end, or till thine? Never was my need
greater than now."
"It is true, noble lady. I promised to risk for thee honour and life,
but I sware not to lose my soul. I brought the princes to this hightide."
She said, "Remember, Rudeger, thy faith, and thine oath to avenge all my
hurt and my woe."
The Margrave answered, "I have never said thee nay."
Etzel began to entreat likewise. They fell at his feet. Sore troubled
was the good Margrave. Full of grief, he cried, "Woe is me that ever I
saw this hour, for God hath forsaken me. All my duty to Heaven, mine
honour, my good faith, my knightliness, I must forego. God above have
pity, and let me die! Whether I do this thing, or do it not, I sin. And
if I take the part of neither, all the world will blame me. Let Him that
made me guide me."
Still the king and his wife implored him. Whence it fell that many
valiant warriors lost their lives at his hand, and the hero himself was
slain. Hear ye now the tale of his sorrow. Well he knew he could win
naught but teen and scathe. Fain had he denied the prayer of the king
and queen. He feared, if he slew but one man, that the world would
loathe him evermore.
Then the bold man said to the king, "Take back what thou hast given me -
castles and land. Leave me nothing at all. I will go forth afoot into
exile. I will take my wife and my daughter by the hand, and I will quit
thy country empty, rather than I will die dishonoured. I took thy red
gold to my hurt."
King Etzel answered, "Who will help me then? Land and folk I gave to
thee, Rudeger, that thou mightest avenge me on my foes. Thou shalt rule
with Etzel as a great king."
But Rudeger said, "How can I do it? I bade them to my house and home; I
set meat and drink before them, and gave them my gifts. Shall I also
smite them dead? The folk may deem me a coward. But I have always
served them well. Should I fight with them now, it were ill done. Deep
must I rue past friendship. I gave my daughter to Giselher. None better
in this world had she found, of so great lineage and honour, and faith,
and wealth. Never saw I young king so virtuous."
But Kriemhild answered, "Most noble Rudeger, take pity on us both.
Bethink thee that never host had guests like these."
Then said the Margrave, "What thou and my master have given me I must pay
for, this day, with my life. I shall die, and that quickly. Well I know
that, or nightfall, my lands and castles will return to your keeping. To
your grave I commend my wife and my child, and the homeless ones that are
"God reward thee, Rudeger," cried the king. He and the queen were both
glad. "Thy folk shall be well seen to; but thou thyself, I trow, will
come off scatheless."
So he put his soul and body on the hazard. Etzel's wife began to weep.
He said, "I must keep my vow to thee. Woe is me for my friends, that I
must fall upon in mine own despite!"
They saw him turn heavily from the king. To his knights that stood close
by, he said, "Arm ye, my men all. For I must fight the Burgundians, to
The heroes called for their harness, and the attendants brought helm and
buckler. Soon the proud strangers heard the sad news.
Rudeger stood armed with five hundred men, and twelve knights that went
with him, to win worship in the fray. They knew not that death was so
Rudeger went forth with his helmet on; his men carried sharp swords, and,
thereto, broad shields and bright. The fiddler saw this, and was
dismayed. But when Giselher beheld his father-in-law with his helmet on,
he weened that he meant them well. The noble king was right glad. "Well
for me that I have such friends," cried Giselher, "as these we won by the
way! For my wife's sake he will save us. By my faith, I am glad to be
"Thy trust is vain," said the fiddler. "When ever did ye see so many
knights come in peace, with helmets laced on, and with swords? Rudeger
cometh to serve for his castles and his lands."
Or the fiddler had made an end of speaking, Rudeger, the noble man, stood
before the house. He laid his good shield before his feet. He must
needs deny greeting to his friends.
Then the Margrave shouted into the hall, "Stand on your defence, ye bold
Nibelungs. I would have helped you, but must slay you. Once we were
friends, but I cannot keep my faith."
The sore-tired men were dismayed at this word. Their comfort was gone,
for he that they loved was come against them. From their foemen they had
"God in Heaven forbid," said Gunther the knight, "that thou shouldst be
false to the friendship and the faith wherein we trusted. It cannot be."
"I cannot help it," said Rudeger. "I must fight with you, for I have
vowed it. As ye love your lives, bold warriors, ward you well. King
Etzel's wife will have it so."
"Thou turnest too late," said the king. "God reward thee, noble Rudeger,
for the truth and the love thou hast shown us, if it endure but to the
end. We shall ever thank and serve thee for the rich gifts thou gavest
to me and my kinsmen, when thou broughtest us with true heart into
Etzel's land: so thou let us live. Think well thereon, noble Rudeger."
"Gladly would I grant it," said the knight. "Might I but give thee
freely, as I would, with none to chide me!"
"Give that no thought," said Gernot. "Never host entreated guests so
kindly as thou us; the which will advantage thee if we live."
"Would to God, noble Gernot," cried Rudeger, "that ye were at the Rhine,
and I dead with honour, since I must fight with you! Never strangers
were worse entreated by friends."
"God reward thee, Sir Rudeger," answered Gernot, "for thy rich gifts. I
should rue thy death, for in thee a virtuous man would fall. Behold,
good knight, the sword thou gavest, in my hand. It hath never failed me
in my need. Its edge hath killed many a warrior. It is finely tempered
and stark, and thereto bright and good. So goodly a gift, I ween, never
knight will give more. If thou forbear not, but fall upon us, and slay
any of my kinsmen here, thou shalt perish by thine own sword! Much I
pity thee and thy wife."
"Would to God, Sir Gernot, thou hadst thy will, and thy friends were out
of peril! To thee I would entrust wife and daughter."
Then said the youngest of fair Uta's sons, "How canst thou do this thing,
Sir Rudeger? All that came hither with me are thy friends. A vile deed
is this. Thou makest thy daughter too soon a widow. If thou and thy
knights defy us, ill am I apayed, that I trusted thee before all other
men, when I won thy daughter for my wife."
"Forget not thy troth, noble king, if God send thee hence," answered
Rudeger. "Let not the maiden suffer for my sin. By thine own princely
virtue, withdraw not thy favour from her."
"Fain would I promise it," said Giselher the youth. "Yet if my high-born
kinsmen perish here by thy hand, my love for thee and thy daughter must
"Then God have mercy!" cried the brave man; whereat he lifted his shield,
and would have fallen upon the guests in Kriemhild's hall.
But Hagen called out to him from the stairhead, "Tarry awhile, noble
Rudeger. Let me and my masters speak with thee yet awhile in our need.
What shall it profit Etzel if we knights die in a strange land? I am in
evil case," said Hagen. "The shield that Gotelind gave me to carry, the
Huns have hewn from my hand. In good faith I bore it hither. Would to
God I had such a shield as thou hast, noble Rudeger! A better I would
not ask for in the battle."
"I would gladly give thee my shield, durst I offer it before Kriemhild.
Yet take it, Hagen, and wear it. Ha! mightest thou but win with it to
When they saw him give the shield so readily, there were eyes enow red
with hot tears. It was the last gift that Rudeger of Bechlaren ever gave.
Albeit Hagen was grim and stern, he was melted by the gift that the good
knight, so night to his end, had given him. And many a warrior mourned
"Now God reward thee, noble Rudeger; there will never be thy like again
for giving freely to homeless knights. May the fame of thy charity live
for ever. Sad news hast thou brought me. We had trouble enow. God pity
us if we must fight with friends."
The Margrave answered, "Thou grievest not more than I."
"I will requite thee for thy gift, brave Rudeger. Whatever betide thee
from these knights, my hand will not touch thee - not if thou slewest
every man of Burgundy."
Rudeger bowed, and thanked him. All the folk wept. Sore pity it was
that none could stay the strife. The father of all virtue lay dead in
Then Folker the fiddler went to the door and said, "Since my comrade
Hagen hath sworn peace, thou shalt have it also from my hand. Well didst
thou earn it when we came first into this country. Noble Margrave, be my
envoy. The Margravine gave me these red bracelets to war at the
hightide. See them now, and bear witness that I did it."
"Would to God that the Margravine might give thee more! Doubt not but I
shall tell my dear one, if I ever see her alive."
When he had promised that, Rudeger lifted up his shield; he waxed fierce,
and tarried no longer. Like a knight he fell upon the guests. Many a
swift blow he smote. Folker and Hagen stood back, for they had vowed
it. But so many bold men stood by the door that Rudeger came in great
Athirst for blood, Gunther and Gernot let him pass in. Certes, they were
heroes. Giselher drew back sorrowing. He hoped to live yet awhile;
wherefore he avoided Rudeger in the strife.
Then the Margrave's men ran at their foemen, and followed their master
like good knights. They carried sharp weapons, wherewith they clove many
a helmet and buckler. The weary ones answered the men of Bechlaren with
swift blows that pierced deep and straight through their harness to their
life's blood. They did wonderly in the battle.
All the warriors were now in the hall. Folker and Hagen fell on them,
for they had sworn to spare none save the one man. Their hands struck
blood from the helmets. Right grim was the clash of swords! Many a
shield-plate sprang in sunder, and the precious stones were scattered
among the blood. So fiercely none will fight again. The prince of
Bechlaren hewed a path right and left, as one acquainted with battle.
Well did Rudeger approve him that day a bold and blameless knight.
Gunther and Gernot smote many heroes dead. Giselher and Dankwart laid
about them, fearing naught, and sent many a man to his doom.
Rudeger approved him stark enow, bold and well armed. Ha! many a knight
he slew! One of the Burgundians saw this, and was wroth; whereat
Rudeger's death drew nigh.
Gernot cried out to the Margrave, "Noble Rudeger; thou leavest none of my
men alive. It irketh me sore; I will bear it no longer. I will turn thy
gift against thee, for thou hast taken many friends from me. Come
hither, thou bold man. What thou gavest me I will earn to the uttermost."
Or the Margrave had fought his way to him, bright bucklers grew dim with
blood. Then, greedy of fame, the men ran at each other, and began to
ward off the deadly wounds. But their swords were so sharp that nothing
could withstand them. Rudeger the knight smote Gernot through his flint-
hard helmet, that the blood brake out. Soon the good warrior was
avenged. He swung Rudeger's gift on high, and, albeit he was wounded to
the death, he smote him through his good shield and his helmet, that
Gotelind's husband died. So rich a gift was never worse requited. So
they fell in the strife - Gernot and Rudeger - slain by each other's hand.
Thereat Hagen waxed grimmer than afore. The hero of Trony said, "Great
woe is ours. None can ever make good to their folk and their land the
loss of these two knights. Rudeger's men shall pay for it." They gave
no quarter. Many were struck down unwounded that had come to, but that
they were drowned in the blood.
"Woe is me for my brother, fallen dead! Each hour bringeth fresh dole.
For my father-in-law, Rudeger, I grieve also. Twofold is my loss and my
When Giselher saw his brother slain, they that were in the hall suffered
for it. Death lagged not behind. Of the men of Bechlaren there was left
not a living soul.
Gunther and Giselher, and eke Hagen, Dankwart and Folker, the good
knights, went where the two warriors lay, and there the heroes wept
"Death hath despoiled us sore," said Giselher the youth. "Stop your
weeping, and go out to the air, that we strife-weary ones may cool our
harness. God will not let us live longer, I ween."
They that were without saw them sitting, or leaning and taking their
rest. Rudeger's men were all slain; the din was hushed. The silence
endured so long that Etzel was angered, and the king's wife cried, "Woe
is me for this treason. They speak too long. The bodies of our foemen
are left unscathed by Rudeger's hand. He plotteth to guide them back to
Burgundy. What doth it profit us, King Etzel, that we have shared all
our wealth with him? The knight hath done falsely. He that should have
avenged us cometh to terms with them."
But Folker, the valiant warrior, answered her, "Alack! it is not so,
noble queen. If I might give the lie to one so high-born as thou art,
thou hast foully slandered Rudeger. Sorry terms have he and his knights
made with us. With such good will he did the king's bidding, that he and
his men all lie dead. Look round thee for another, Kriemhild, to obey
thee. Rudeger served thee till his death. If thou doubtest, thou mayest
see for thyself."
To her grief they did it. They brought the mangled hero where Etzel saw
him. Never were Etzel's knights so doleful. When the dead Margrave was
held up before them, none could write or tell all the bitter wailing
whereby women and men alike uttered their heart's dole. Etzel's woe was
so great that the sound of his lamentation was as a lion's roar. Loud
wept his wife. They mourned good Rudeger bitterly.
How Dietrich's Knights Were All Slain
So loud they wept on all sides, that palace and towers echoed with the
sound. One of Dietrich's men of Bern heard it, and hasted with the news.
He said to the prince, "Hearken, Sir Dietrich. Never in my life heard I
such wail as this. Methinketh the king himself hath joined the
hightide. How else should all the folk make such dole. Either the king
or Kriemhild - one of them at the least - have the guests killed through
hate. The valiant warriors weep bitterly."
The prince of Bern answered, "Judge not so hastily, my good men. What
the stranger knights have done, sore peril hath constrained them to. Let
it boot them now that I sware peace to them."
But bold Wolfhart said, "I will go and ask what they have done, and will
tell thee, dear master, when I know the truth."
Sir Dietrich answered, "When a knight is wroth, if one question him
roughly, his anger is soon kindled. I would not have thee meddle
He bade Helfrich haste thither, and find out from Etzel's men, or from
the guests, what had happed, for he had never heard folk wail so loud.
The messenger asked, "What aileth you all?"
One among them answered, "Joy is fled from the land of the Huns. Rudeger
lieth slain by the men of Burgundy. Of them that entered in with him,
not one is left alive."
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