Part 4 out of 6
(4) "Loche", according to Piper, is the modern "Locheim" in the
How King Etzel (1) Sent To Burgundy For Kriemhild.
That was in a time when Lady Helca (2) died and the king Etzel
sought another wife, that his friends advised his marriage to a
proud widow in the Burgundian land, hight Lady Kriemhild. Since
fair Helca was dead, they spake: "Would ye gain a noble wife, the
highest and the best king ever won, then take this same lady; the
stalwart Siegfried was her husband."
Then spake the mighty king: "How might that chance, sith I am
heathen and be christened not a whit, whereas the lady is a
Christian and therefore would not plight her troth? It would be
a marvel, and that ever happed."
The doughty warriors answered: "What if she do it, perchance, for
the sake of your high name and your mickle goods? One should at
least make a trial for the noble dame. Well may ye love the
The noble king then spake: "Which of you be acquaint with the
people and the land by the Rhine?"
Up spake then the good knight Rudeger of Bechelaren: (3) "I have
known from a child the three noble and lordly kings, Gunther and
Gernot, the noble knights and good; the third hight Giselher.
Each of them doth use the highest honors and courtesie, as their
forebears, too, have always done."
Then answered Etzel: "Friend, I prithee, tell me whether she
should wear the crown in this my land. An' she be so fair, as
hath been told me, it shall never rue my dearest kin."
"She compareth well in beauty with my Lady Helca, the royal
queen. Certes, there might not be in all this world a king's
bride more fair. He may well be of good cheer to whom she plight
He spake: "So bring it to pass, Rudeger, as I be dear to thee;
and if ever I do lie at Kriemhild's side, I will requite thee for
it as best I may. Then hast thou done my will in fullest wise.
From my treasure chambers I will bid thee be given such store of
horses, of clothes and all thou wilt, that thou and thy
fellowship may live full merrily. I'll bid full plenty of these
things be made ready against thine errand."
To this the lordly margrave Rudeger replied: "Craved I thy goods,
that were not worthy of praise. With mine own goods, which I
have from thy hands, will I gladly be thy envoy to the
Then spake the mighty king: "Now when wilt thou ride for the
fair? May God keep thee and my lady in all worship on the
journey. May fortune help me, that she look with favor on my
Rudeger made answer: "Ere we void the land, we must first make
ready arms and trappings, that we may stand with honor before
princes. I will lead to the Rhine five hundred stately men, that
wherever in Burgundy I and mine be seen, all may say of thee:
`Never did any king send afar so many men in better wise than
thou hast done to the Rhine.' If thou, O mighty king, wilt not
turn back on this account, I'll tell thee that her noble love was
subject unto Siegfried, Siegmund's son. Him thou hast seen here.
(4) Men could in right truth ascribe to him great worship."
Then spake King Etzel: "Tho' she was the warrior's wife, yet was
the noble prince so peerless that I should not disdain the queen.
She liketh me well for her passing beauty."
The margrave answered: "Then I will tell thee that we will start
hence in four and twenty days. I'll send word to Gotelind, my
dear lady, that I myself will be the messenger to Kriemhild."
Rudeger sent word to Bechelaren, at which the margravine grew
both sorrowful and proud. He told her he should woo for the king
a wife. Lovingly she thought on Helca, the fair. When the
margravine heard the message, a deal she rued it; weeping
beseemed her at the thought whether she should gain a lady as
afore. When she thought on Helca, it grieved her heart full
Rudeger should ride in seven days from Hungary; lusty and merry
King Etzel was at this. There in the town of Vienna men prepared
their weeds. Then might he no longer delay his journey. At
Bechelaren Gotelind awaited him; the young margravine, too,
Rudeger's child, gladly saw her father and his men. Many fair
maids awaited them with joy. Ere the noble Rudeger rode from the
city of Vienna to Bechelaren, all their clothes were placed upon
the sumpters. They journeyed in such wise that not a whit was
taken from them.
When they were come to tho town of Bechelaren, the host full
lovingly bade lodge his fellowship and ease them well. The noble
Gotelind saw the host come gladly, as likewise his dear daughter
did, the young margravine. To her his coming could not be
liefer. How fain she was to see the heroes from the Hunnish
land! With smiling mien the noble maiden spake: "Now be my
father and his men full welcome here."
Then great thanks were given to the young margravine by many a
doughty knight in courteous wise. Well wot Gotelind Sir
Rudeger's mood. When at night she lay close by his side, what
kindly questions the margravine put, whither the king of the
Huns had sent him. He spake: "My Lady Gotelind, I'll gladly
make this known to thee. I must woo another lady for my lord,
sith that the fair Helca hath died. I will ride for Kriemhild to
the Rhine; she shall become a mighty queen here among the Huns."
"Would to God," spake Gotelind, "an' that might hap, sith we do
hear such speech of her many honors, that she might perchance
replace our lady for us in our old age, and that we might be fain
to let her wear the crown in Hungary."
Then spake the margrave: "My love, ye must offer to those who are
to ride with me to the Rhine, your goods in loving wise. When
heroes travel richly, then are they of lofty mood."
She spake: "There be none that taketh gladly from my hand, to
whom I would not give what well beseemeth him, or ever ye and
your men part hence."
Quoth the margrave: "That doth like me well."
Ho, what rich cloths of silk were borne from their treasure
chambers! With enow of this the clothing of the noble warriors
was busily lined from the neck down to their spurs. Rudeger had
chosen only men that pleased him well.
On the seventh morning the host and his warriors rode forth from
Bechelaren. Weapons and clothes a plenty they took with them
through the Bavarian land. Seldom did men assail them on the
highways for robbery's sake, and within twelve days they reached
the Rhine. Then might the tidings not be hid; men told it to the
king and to his liegemen, that stranger guests were come. The
host gan say, if any knew them, he should tell him so. One saw
their sumpters bear right heavy loads. 'Twas seen that they were
Anon in the broad town men purveyed them quarters. When that the
many strangers had been lodged, these same lords were gazed upon
full oft. The people wondered from whence these warriors were
come to the Rhine. The host now sent for Hagen, if perchance
they might be known to him. Then spake the knight of Troneg:
"None of them have I ever seen, but when we now gaze upon them, I
can tell you well from whence they ride hither to this land.
They must indeed be strangers, an' I know them not full soon."
Lodgings were now taken for the guests. The envoy and his
fellowship were come in passing costly vesture. To the court
they rode wearing good garments, cut in full cunning wise. Then
spake the doughty Hagen: "As well as I can tell, for I have not
seen the lord long time, they ride as if 'twere Rudeger from the
Hunnish land, a lordly knight and a brave."
"How can I believe," spake at once the king, "that the lord of
Bechelaren be come to this land?"
When King Gunther had ended his speech, Hagen, the brave, espied
the good knight Rudeger. He and his friends all ran to meet
them. Then five hundred knights were seen dismounting from their
steeds. Fair were the men from Hungary greeted; messengers had
never worn such lordly clothes. Then Hagen of Troneg spake full
loudly: "Now be these knights, the lord of Bechelaren and all his
men, welcome in God's name."
With worship the speedy knights were greeted. The next of kin to
the king went to where they stood. Ortwin of Metz spake to
Rudeger: "Never have we seen guests so gladly here at any time.
This I can truly say."
On all sides they thanked the warriors for their greeting. With
all their fellowship they hied them to the hall, where they found
the king and with him many a valiant man. The lords rose from
their seats; through their great chivalry this was done. How
right courteously he met the messengers! Gunther and Gernot
greeted the stranger and his vassals warmly, as was his due. He
took the good knight Rudeger by the hand and led him to the seat
where he sat himself. Men bade pour out for the guests (full
gladly this was done) passing good mead and the best of wine that
one might find in the land along the Rhine. Giselher and Gere
both were come; Dankwart and Folker, too, had heard about the
strangers. Merry they were of mood and greeted before the king
the noble knights and good.
Then spake Hagen of Troneg to his lord: "These thy knights should
ever requite what the margrave for our sake hath done; for this
should the husband of fair Gotelind receive reward."
King Gunther spake: "I cannot hold my peace; ye must tell me how
fare Etzel and Helca of the Hunnish land."
To this the margrave now made answer: "I'll gladly let you know."
He rose from his seat with all his men and spake to the king:
"An' may that be that ye permit me, O prince, so will I not
conceal the tidings that I bring, but will tell them willingly."
Quoth the king: "The tidings that have been sent us through you,
these I'll let you tell without the rede of friends. Pray let me
and my vassals hear them, for I begrudge you no honor that ye
here may gain."
Then spake the worthy envoy: "My great master doth commend to you
upon the Rhine his faithful service and to all the kinsmen ye may
have. This message is sent in all good faith. The noble king
bade complain to you his need. His folk is joyless; my lady, the
royal Helca, my master's wife, is dead. Through her hath many a
high-born maid been orphaned, daughters of noble princes, whom
she hath trained. Therefore it standeth full piteously in his
land; they have alas none that might befriend them faithfully.
The king's grief, I ween, will abate but slowly."
"Now God reward him," spake Gunther, "that he so willingly
commendeth his service to me and to my kin. Full gladly have I
here heard his greeting, and this both my kindred and my men
shall fain requite."
Then spake the warrior Gernot of Burgundy: "The world must ever
rue fair Helca's death, for her many courtesies, which she well
knew how to use."
With this speech Hagen, the passing stately knight, agreed.
Then answered Rudeger, the noble and lordly envoy: "Sith ye
permit me, O king, I shall tell you more, the which my dear lord
hath hither sent you, sith he doth live so right sorrowfully in
longing after Helca. Men told my lord that Kriemhild be without
a husband, that Sir Siegfried be dead. If this be so, then shall
she wear a crown before Etzel's knights, would ye but permit her.
This my sovran bade me say."
Then spake the mighty king, full courteous was his mood: "And she
care to do this, she shall hear my pleasure. This will I make
known to you in these three days. Why should I refuse King Etzel
before I've learned her wish?"
Meanwhile men bade purvey good easement for the guests. They
were served so well that Rudeger owned he had good friends there
among Gunthers men. Hagen served him gladly, as Rudeger had done
to him of yore. Till the third day Rudeger thus remained. The
king sent for his counsel (full wisely he acted) to see whether
his kinsmen would think it well that Kriemhild take King Etzel to
husband. All together they advised it, save Hagen alone. He
spake to Gunther, the knight: "Have ye but the right wit, ye will
take good care that ye never do this, tho' she were fain to
"Why," spake then Gunther, "should I not consent? Whatever
pleasure happen to the queen, I should surely grant her this; she
is my sister. We ourselves should bring it to pass, if perchance
it might bring her honor."
Then answered Hagen: "Give over this speech. Had ye knowledge of
Etzel as have I, and should she harry him, as I hear you say,
then first hath danger happed to you by right."
"Why?" quoth Gunther. "I'll take good care that I come not so
near him that I must suffer aught of hatred on his part, an' she
become his wife."
Said Hagen: "Never will I give you this advice."
For Gernot and Giselher men bade send to learn whether the two
lords would think it well that Kriemhild should take the mighty
and noble king. Hagen still gainsaid, but no one other. Then
spake the knight Giselher of Burgundy: "Friend Hagen, ye may
still show your fealty. Make her to forget the wrongs that ye
have done her. Whatever good fortune she may have, this ye
should not oppose. Ye have in truth done my sister so many an
ill," continued Giselher, the full lusty knight, "that she hath
good cause, if she be angry with you. Never hath one bereft a
lady of greater joys."
Quoth Hagen: "I'll do you to wit what well I know. If she take
Etzel and live long enow, she'll do us still much harm in
whatever way she can. Forsooth full many a stately vassal will
own her service."
To this brave Gernot answered: "It may not happen, that we ever
ride to Etzel's land before they both be dead. Let us serve her
faithfully, that maketh for our honor."
Again Hagen spake: "None can gainsay me, an' the noble Kriemhild
wear the crown of Helca, she will do us harm as best she may. Ye
should give it over, 'twould beseem you knights far better."
Wrathfully then spake Giselher, fair Uta's son: "Let us not all
act as traitors. We should be glad of whatever honors may be
done her. Whatever ye may say, Hagen, I shall serve her by my
Gloomy of mood grew Hagen when he heard these words. Gernot and
Giselher, the proud knights and good, and Gunther, the mighty,
spake at last, if Kriemhild wished it, they would let it hap
without all hate.
Then spake Prince Gere: "I will tell the lady that she look with
favor upon King Etzel, to whom so many knights owe dread
obedience. He can well requite her of all the wrongs that have
been done her."
Then the doughty warrior hied him to where he saw Kriemhild.
Kindly she received him. how quickly then he spake: "Ye may well
greet me gladly and give me a messenger's meed. Fortune is about
to part you from all your woes. For the sake of your love, my
lady, one of the very best that ever gained a kingdom with great
honors, or should wear a crown, hath sent envoys hither. Noble
knights be wooing; this my brother bade me tell you."
Then spake the sorrow-laden dame: "God should forbid you and all
my kinsmen that ye make a mock of me, poor woman. What could I
be to a man who had ever gained heartfelt love from a faithful
Sorely she gainsaid it, but then came Gernot, her brother, and
Giselher, the youth, and lovingly bade her ease her heart. It
would do her good in truth, could she but take the king.
None might persuade the lady that she should marry any man. Then
the knights begged: "If ye do naught else, pray let it hap that
ye deign to see the messengers."
"I'll not deny," spake the noble dame, "but that I should gladly
see the Margrave Rudeger for his passing courtesie. Were he not
sent hither, whoever else might be the messenger, never should he
become acquainted with me. Pray bid him come to-morrow to my
bower. I'll let him hear my will in full and tell it him
myself." At this her great laments brake forth anew.
The noble Rudeger now craved naught else but that he might see
the high-born queen. He wist himself to be so wise that she
could not but let the knight persuade her, if it should ever be.
Early on the morrow when mass was sung, the noble envoys came. A
great press arose; of those who should go to court with Rudeger,
many a lordly man was seen arrayed. Full sad of mood, the high-
born Kriemhild bided the noble envoy and good. He found her in
the weeds she wore each day, whereas her handmaids wore rich
clothes enow. She went to meet him to the door and greeted full
kindly Etzel's liegeman. Only as one of twelve he went to meet
her. Men offered him great worship, for never were come more
lofty envoys. They bade the lording and his vassals seat them.
Before her were seen to stand the two Margraves Eckewart and
Gere, the noble knights and good. None they saw merry of mood,
for the sake of the lady of the house. Many fair women were seen
to sit before her, but Kriemhild only nursed her grief; her dress
upon her breast was wot with scalding tears. This the noble
margrave noted well on Kriemhild.
Then spake the high-born messenger: "Most noble princess, I pray
you, permit me and my comrades that are come with me, to stand
before you and tell you the tidings for the sake of which we have
"Now may ye speak whatso ye list," spake the queen. "I am minded
to hear it gladly; ye be a worthy messenger."
The others noted well her unwilling mood.
Then spake Prince Rudeger of Bechelaren: "Etzel, a high-born
king, hath in good faith sent you a friendly greeting, my lady,
by messengers hither to this land. Many good knights hath he
sent hither for your love. Great joy without grief he doth offer
you most truly. He is ready to give you constant friendship, as
he did afore to Lady Helca, who lay within his heart. Certes,
through longing for her virtues he hath full often joyless days."
Then spake the queen: "Margrave Rudeger, were there any who knew
my bitter sorrow, he would not bid me marry any man. Of a truth
I lost the best of husbands that ever lady won."
"What may comfort grief," the bold knight replied, "but married
joy. When that any gan gain this and chooseth one who doth
beseem him, naught availeth so greatly for woe of heart. And ye
care to love my noble master, ye shall have power over twelve
mighty crowns. Thereto my lord will give you the lands of thirty
princes, all of which his doughty hand hath overcome. Ye shall
become the mistress over many worthy liegemen, who were subject
to my Lady Helca, and over many dames of high and princely race,
who owned her sway." Thus spake the brave knight and bold.
"Thereto my lord will give you (this he bade me say), if ye would
deign to wear with him the crown, the very highest power which
Helca ever won; this shall ye rule before all Etzel's men."
Then spake the queen: "How might it ever list me to become a
hero's bride? Death hath given me in the one such dole that I
must ever live joyless unto mine end."
To this the Huns replied: "O mighty queen, your life at Etzel's
court will be so worshipful that it will ever give you joy, an'
it come to pass, for the mighty king hath many a stately knight.
Helca's damosels and your maids shall together form one retinue,
at sight of which warriors may well be blithe of mood. Be
advised, my lady, ye will fare well in truth."
With courtesie she spake: "Now let be this speech until the
morrow early, when ye shall come here again. Then will I give
you answer to what ye have in mind."
The bold knights and good must needs obey.
When all were now come to their lodgings, the noble dame bade
send for Giselher and for her mother, too. To the twain she
said, that weeping did beseem her and naught else better.
Then spake her brother Giselher: "Sister, it hath been told me,
and I can well believe it, that King Etzel would make all thy
sorrows vanish, and thou takest him to be thy husband. Whatever
others may advise, this thinketh me well done. He is well able
to turn thy grief to joy," spake Giselher again; "from the Rhone
to the Rhine, from the Elbe down to the sea, there be no other
king as mighty as he. Thou mayst well rejoice, an' he make thee
She spake: "My dear brother, why dost thou advise me this?
Weeping and wailing beseem me better far. How should I go to
court before his knights? Had I ever beauty, of this I am now
To her dear daughter the Lady Uta spake: "Whatever thy brothers
counsel thee, dear child, that do. Obey thy kindred and it will
go well with thee. I have seen thee now too long in thy great
Then she prayed God full oft to grant her such store of goods
that she might have gold, silver, and clothes to give, as at her
husband's side of yore, when that he was still alive and well.
Else would she never have again such happy hours. She thought
within her mind: "And shall I give my body to a paynim (6) (I am
a Christian wife), forever in the world must I bear shame. An'
he gave me all the kingdoms in the world still 1 would not do
Thus she let the matter rest. All night until the break of day
the lady lay upon her bed in thought. Her bright eyes never grew
dry, till on the morn she went to matins. Just at the time for
mass the kings were come and took their sister again in hand. In
truth they urged her to wed the king of the Hunnish land; little
did any of them find the lady merry. Then they bade fetch hither
Etzel's men, who now would fain have taken their leave, whatever
the end might be, whether they gained or lost their suit.
Rudeger came now to court; his heroes urged him to learn aright
the noble prince's mind. To all it seemed well that this be done
betimes, for long was the way back into their land. Men brought
Rudeger to where Kriemhild was found. Winningly the knight gan
beg the noble queen to let him hear what message she would send
to Etzel's land. I ween, he heard from her naught else than no,
that she nevermore would wed a man. The margrave spake: "That
were ill done. Why would ye let such beauty wither? Still with
honor may ye become the bride of a worthy man."
Naught booted that they urged, till Rudeger told the noble queen
in secret that he would make amends for all that ever happed to
her. At this her great sorrow grew a deal more mild. To the
queen he spake: "Let be your weeping. If ye had none among the
Huns but me and my faithful kin and liegemen, sore must he repent
it who had ever done you aught."
At this the lady's mood grew gentler. She spake: "Then swear me
an oath, that whatever any do to me that ye will be the first to
amend my wrongs."
Quoth the margrave: "For this, my lady, I am ready."
Rudeger with all his vassals swore that he would ever serve her
faithfully and pledged his hand, that the noble knights from
Etzel's land would ne'er refuse her aught.
Then the faithful lady thought: "Sith I, wretched wife, have won
so many friends, I'll let the people say whatso they choose.
What if my dear husband's death might still be avenged?" She
thought: "Sith Etzel hath so many men-at-arms, I can do whatso I
will, an' I command them. He is likewise so rich that I shall
have wherewith to give; the baleful Hagen hath bereft me of my
To Rudeger she spake: "Had I not heard that he were a paynim,
gladly would I go whithersoever he listed and would take him to
Then spake the margrave: "Lady, give over this speech. He hath
so many knights of Christian faith, that ye'll ever be joyful at
his court. What if ye bring it to pass, that he should let
himself be christened? Therefore may ye fain become King Etzel's
Then her brothers spake again: "Now pledge your troth, dear
sister. Ye should now give over your sadness."
They begged her till she sadly vowed before the heroes to become
King Etzel's bride. She spake: "I will obey you, I poor queen,
and fare to the Huns as soon as ever that may be, whenever I have
friends who will take me to his land."
Of this fair Kriemhild pledged her hand before the knights.
Then spake the margrave: "If ye have two liegemen, I have still
more. 'Twill be the best, that with worship we escort you across
the Rhine. No longer, lady, shall ye tarry here in Burgundy. I
have five hundred vassals and kinsmen, too; they shall serve you,
lady, and do whatso ye bid, both here and there at home. I'll do
by you the same whenever ye do mind me of the tale and never feel
ashamed. Now bid the housings for your horses be made ready
(Rudeger's counsel will never irk you) and tell it to your maids,
whom ye would take along, for many a chosen knight will meet us
on the road."
She still had harness with which they rode afore in Siegfried's
time, so that she might take with her many maidens now with
worship, whenever she would hence. Ho, what good saddles they
fetched for the comely dames! Albeit they had aye worn costly
robes, many more were now made ready, for much had been told them
of the king. They opened up the chests, which stood afore well
locked. For four and one half days they were aught but idle;
from the presses they brought forth the stores that lay therein.
Kriemhild now began to open up her treasure rooms, she fain would
make all Rudeger's liegemen rich. Of the gold from the Nibelung
land she still had such store that a hundred horses might not
bear it; she weened her hand should deal it out among the Huns.
This tale Hagen heard told of Kriemhild. He spake: "Sith
Kriemhild will not become my friend, so Siegfried's gold must
stay behind. For why should I give to my foes such great store
of goods? Well I wot what Kriemhild will do with this hoard. I
can well believe, an' she take it with her, that it will be doled
out to call forth hate against me. Nor have they steeds enow to
bear it hence. Hagen doth intend to keep it, pray tell Kriemhild
When that she heard this tale, it irked her sore. It was
likewise told to all three kings. Fain would they have changed
it, but as this did not hap, the noble Rudeger spake full
blithely: "Mighty queen, why mourn ye for the gold? King Etzel
doth bear you such great love, that when his eyes do light upon
you, such store he'll give you that ye can never spend it all;
this will I swear to you, my lady."
Then spake the queen: "Most noble Rudeger, never hath king's
daughter gained such wealth as that, of which Hagen hath bereft
Then came her brother Gernot to the treasure chamber. By leave
of the king in the door he thrust the key. Kriemhild's gold was
handed forth, a thousand marks or more. He bade the strangers
take it; much this pleased King Gunther.
Then spake Gotelind's knight from Bechelaren: "And had my Lady
Kriemhild all the hoard that was brought from the Nibelung land,
little of it would mine or the queen's hand touch. Now bid them
keep it, for I will none of it. Forsooth I brought from home
such store of mine that we can lightly do without this on the
road, for we be furnished for the journey in full lordly wise."
Aforr this her maids had filled twelve chests at leisure with the
very best of gold that anywhere might be. This they took with
them and great store of women's trinkets, which they should wear
upon the road. Her thought too great the might of Hagen. Of her
gold for offerings (7) she had still a thousand marks. For her
dear husband's soul she dealt it out. This Rudeger thought was
done in faithful love. Then spake the mournful lady: "Where be
now my friends who for my sake would live in exile? Let those
who would ride with me to the Hunnish land, take now my treasure
and purchase horses and trappings."
Then spake the margrave Eckewart to the queen: "Since the day I
first became your vassal, I have served you faithfully," spake
the knight, "and aye will do the same by you until mine end. I
will take with me also five hundred of my men and place them in
your service right loyally. Naught shall ever part us, save
For this speech Kriemhild bowed her thanks; forsooth she had full
Men now led forth the palfreys; for they would ride away. Then
many tears were shed by kinsfolk. Royal Uta and many a comely
maiden showed that they were sad at Kriemhild's loss. A hundred
high-born maids she took with her hence, who were arrayed as well
befit them. Then from bright eyes the tears fell down, but soon
at Etzel's court they lived to see much joy. Then came Lord
Giselher and Gernot, too, with their fellowship, as their
courtesie demanded. Fain would they escort their dear sister
hence; of their knights they took with them full a thousand
stately men. Then came Or(win and the doughty Gere; Rumolt, the
master of the kitchen, must needs be with them, too. They
purveyed them night quarters as far as the Danube's shore, but
Gunther rode no further than a little from the town. Ere they
fared hence from the Rhine, they had sent their messengers
swiftly on ahead to the Hunnish land, who should tell the king
that Rudeger had gained for him to wife the noble high-born
(1) "Etzel", see Adventure I, note 7.
(2) "Helca" (M.H.G. "Helche") or "Herka", Etzel's wife, is the
daughter of king "Oserich" or "Osantrix", as the
"Thidreksaga" calls him. In the latter work (chap. 73-80)
we read how Rudeger (Rodingeir) took her by force from her
father and brought her to Etzel to be the latter's bride.
On her identity with the historical "Kerka" of Priscus, see
Bleyer, PB. "Beit." xxxi, 542.
(3) "Rudeger of Bechelaren", or, as the name reads in the
"Thidreksaga", "Rodingeir of Bakalar", is probably not an
historical personage, but the hero of a separate legend.
Evidence of this is seen in the fact that he calls himself
an exile, though he is Etzel's mightiest vassal, with
castles and lands in fief. He may have been introduced, as
Wilmanns ("Anz." xviii 101) thinks, to play a role
originally assigned to Dietrich, who is also an exile.
Mullenhoff considered him to have been a mythical person.
Bechelaren, or Pechlarn, lies at the junction of the Erlach
with the Danube.
(4) "hast seen here". "Biterolf", 9471, relates that Dietrich
had carried Siegfried, when young, by force to Etzel's
(5) "full soon". See Adventure III, note 4.
(6) "Paynim" (O F. "paienime", late Latin "paganismus"),
(7) "gold for offerings". This was the gold to be used as
offering when masses were sung for Siegfried's soul.
How Kriemhild Journeyed To The Huns.
Let now the messengers ride. We will do you to wit, how the
queen journeyed through the lands and where Giselher and Gernot
parted from her. They had served her as their fealty bade them.
Down to Vergen (1) on the Danube they rode; here they gan crave
leave of the queen, for they would ride again to the Rhine.
Without tears these faithful kinsmen might not part. Doughty
Giselher spake then to his sister: "Whenever, lady, thou shouldst
need me, when aught doth trouble thee, let me but know, and I
will ride in thy service to Etzel's land."
Those who were her kin she kissed upon the mouth. Lovingly they
took their leave of Margrave Rudeger's men. The queen had with
her many a fair-fashioned maid, full a hundred and four, that
wore costly robes of rich, gay-colored silks. Many broad shields
were borne close by the ladies on the road, but many a lordly
warrior turned then from her.
They journeyed soon from thence down through Bavarian land. Here
the tale was told that many unknown strangers had gathered there,
where still a cloister standeth and where the Inn floweth into
the Danube. In the town of Passau, where lived a bishop,
lodgings were soon emptied and the prince's court as well, as
they hurried forth to meet the strangers in the Bavarian land,
where the Bishop Pilgrim (2) found fair Kriemhild. The knights
of the land were little loth, when in her train they saw so many
comely maids; with their eyes they courted the daughters of noble
knights. Later good lodgings were given the noble guests.
With his niece the bishop rode toward Passau. When it was told
the burghers of the town that Kriemhild was come, their prince's
sister's child, well was she greeted by the merchants. The
bishop had the hope that they would stay. Then spake Sir
Eckewart: "That may not be. We must fare further down to
Rudeger's land. Many knights await us, for all wot well the
Well wist fair Gotelind the tale. She tired her and her noble
child with care. Rudeger had sent her word that it thought him
good that she should cheer the mind of the queen by riding forth,
with his vassals to the Enns (3) for to meet her. When this
message had been given, one saw on every side the roads alive; on
foot and horse they hastened to meet their guests. Now was the
queen come to Efferding. (4) Enow there were from the Bavarian
land who might perchance have done the guests much harm, had they
robbed upon the roads, as was their wont. That had been
forestalled by the lordly margrave: he led a thousand knights or
Now Gotelind, the wife of Rudeger, was come; with her there rode
many a noble knight in lordly ;vise. When they were come across
the Traun, (5) upon the plain by Enns, one saw erected huts and
tents, where the guests should have their lodgings for the night.
Rudeger gave the vitaille to his guests. Fair Gotelind left her
lodgings far behind her; along the road there trotted many a
shapely palfrey with jingling bridle. Fair was the welcome;
right well was Rudeger pleased. Among those who rode to meet
them on the way, on either side, in praiseworthy wise, was many a
knight. They practised chivalry, the which full many a maiden
saw. Nor did the service of the knights mislike the queen. When
that Rudeger's liegemen met the guests, many truncheons (6) were
seen to fly on high from the warriors' hands in knightly custom.
As though for a prize they rode before the ladies there. This
they soon gave over and many warriors greeted each other in
friendly wise. Then they escorted fair Gotelind from thence to
where she saw Kriemhild. Scant leisure had they who wot how to
serve the ladies.
The lord of Bechelaren rode now to his wife. Little it irked the
noble margravine that he was come so well and sound from the
Rhine. In part her cares had given way to .joy. When she had
welcomed him, he bade her dismount with the ladies of her train
upon the sward. Many a noble knight bestirred him and served the
ladies with eager zeal. Then Kriemhild spied the margravine
standing with her meiny. No nearer she drew, but checked the
palfrey with the bridle and bade them lift her quickly from the
saddle. Men saw the bishop with Eckewart lead his sister's child
to Gotelind. All stood aside at once. Then the exiled queen
kissed Gotelind upon the mouth. Full lovingly spake Rudeger's
wife: "Now well is me, dear lady, that I have ever seen with mine
own eyes your charming self in these our lands. Naught liefer
might hap to me in all these times."
"Now God requite you," quoth Kriemhild, "most noble Gotelind.
Shall I and Botelung's (7) son remain alive and well, it may be
lief to you that ye have seen me here."
Neither knew what must needs later hap. Many maidens went to
meet each other in courtly wise. The warriors, too, were full
ready with their service. After the greeting they sat them down
upon the clover. With many they became acquaint, who were full
strange to them aforetime. As it was now high noon, men bade
pour out wine for the ladies. The noble meiny no longer tarried,
but rode to where they found many broad pavilions; there ample
service stood ready for the guests.
That night they had repose till early on the morn. Those from
Bechelaren made ready for to lodge the worthy guests. So well
had Rudeger planned, that little enow they lacked. The
embrasures in the walls stood open, the castle at Bechelaren was
opened wide. In rode the guests whom men were fain to see; the
noble host bade purvey them proper easement. Most lovingly
Rudeger's daughter with her meiny went to welcome the queen.
There, too, stood her mother, the margrave's wife; many a high-
born maid was greeted with delight. They took each other by the
hand and hied them hence to a broad hall, fashioned full fair,
under which the Danube flowed along. Towards the breeze they
sate and held great pastime. What more they did I cannot tell,
save that Kriemhild's men-at-arms were heard to grumble that they
fared so slowly on their way, for much it irked them. Ho, what
good knights rode with them hence from Bechelaren!
Rudeger offered them much loving service. The queen gave
Gotelind's daughter twelve ruddy armlets, and raiment too, as
good as any that she brought to Etzel's land. Although the
Nibelung gold was taken from her, yet she did win the hearts of
all that saw her with the little she still might have. Great
gifts were given to the courtiers of the host. In turn the Lady
Gotelind offered the guests from the Rhine worship in such
friendly wise, that men found passing few of the strangers that
did not wear her jewels or her lordly robes.
When they had eaten and should depart, faithful service was
proffered by the lady of the house to Etzel's bride. The fair
young margravine, too, was much caressed. To the queen she
spake: "Whenso it thinketh you good, I know well that my dear
father will gladly send me to you to the Hunnish land." How well
Kriemhild marked that the maiden loved her truly.
The steeds were harnessed and led before the castle of Bechelaren
and the noble queen took leave of Rudeger's wife and daughter.
With a greeting many a fair maid parted too. Full seldom did
they see each other since these days. From Medelick (8) the folk
bare in their hands many a rich cup of gold, in which they
offered wine to the strangers on the highway. Thus they made
them welcome. A host dwelt there, hight Astolt, (9) who showed
them the road to the Austrian land, towards Mautern (10) down the
Danube. There the noble queen was later served full well. From
his niece the bishop parted lovingly. How he counseled her that
she should bear her well and that she should purchase honor for
herself, as Helca, too, had done! Ho, what great worship she
later gained among the Huns!
To the Traisem (11) they escorted hence the guests. Rudeger's
men purveyed them zealously, until the Huns came riding across
the land. Then the queen became acquaint with mickle honor.
Near the Traisem the king of the Hunnish land did have a mighty
castle, hight Zeisenmauer, (12) known far and wide. Lady Helca
dwelt there aforetime and used such great virtues that it might
not lightly ever hap again, unless it be through Kriemhild. She
wist so how to give, that after all her sorrow she had the joy
that Etzel's liegemen gave her great worship, of which she later
won great store among the heroes. Etzel's rule was known far and
wide, so that all time one found at his court the boldest
warriors of whom men ever heard, among Christian or among paynim.
They were all come with him. All time there were at his court,
what may not so lightly hap again, Christian customs and also
heathen faith. In whatsoever wise each lived, the bounty of the
king bestowed on all enow.
(1) "Vergen" is the modern Pforing, below Ingolstadt. A ferry
across the river existed here from ancient times.
(2) "Pilgrim", or "Pilgerin", as he is variously called, is an
historical personage. He was bishop of Passau from 971 to
991. Without doubt he is a late introduction, according to
Boer between 1181 and 1185. See Boer, ii, 204, and E.L.
Dummler, "Pilgrim von Passau", Leipzig, 1854.
(3) "Enns" (M.H.G. "Ens") is one of the tributaries of the
Danube, flowing into it about eleven miles southeast of
(4) "Efferding" (M.H.G. "Everdingen") is a town on the Danube,
about thirteen miles west of Linz.
(5) "Traun" (M.H.G. "Trune") is a river of Upper Austria,
forty-four miles southeast of Linz.
(6) "Truncheons", see Adventure II, note 8.
(7) "Botelung's son" is Attila, who is so called in our poem, in
the "Klage", and in "Biterolf". In the earlier Norse
version "Atli" is the son of "Budli". (On this point see
Mullenhoff, "Zur Geschichte der Nibelungensage", p. 106, and
Zsfd A., x, 161, and Bleyer, PB. Beit. xxxi, 459, where the
names are shown to be identical.
(8) "Medelick" is the modern Molk, or Melk, a town on the Danube
near the influx of the Bilach. It lies at the foot of a
granite cliff on which stands a famous Benedictine abbey.
(9) "Astolt" appears only in this passage; nothing else is known
(10) "Mantern" is situated at the influx of the Flanitz, opposite
Stein in Lower Austria.
(11) "Traisem", Traisen, is a tributary of the Danube in Lower
Austria, emptying near Traismauer.
(12) "Zeisenmauer" (M.H.G. "Zeizenmure"). All the MSS. but C and
D have this reading. The latter have "Treysenmoure" and
"treisem moure", which corresponds better to the modern
name, as Zeiselmauer lies between Tulln and Vienna. It is
possible, however, that the town on the Traisem was
originally called Zeiselmauer, as the road leading from
Traismauer to Tulln still bears the name of Zeiselstrasse.
See Laehmann, "Anmerkungen", 1272, 3, and Piper, ii, 289,
note to str. 1333.
How Etzel Made Kriemhild His Bride.
Until the fourth day she stayed at Zeisenmauer. The while the
dust upon the highway never came to rest, but rose on every side,
as if it were burning, where King Etzel's liegemen rode through
Austria. Then the king was told aright how royally Kriemhild
fared through the lands; at thought of this his sorrows vanished.
He hasted to where he found the lovely Kriemhild. Men saw ride
before King Etzel on the road many bold knights of many tongues
and many mighty troops of Christians and of paynims. When they
met the lady, they rode along in lordly wise. Of the Russians
and the Greeks there rode there many a man. The right good
steeds of the Poles and Wallachians were seen to gallop swiftly,
as they rode with might and main. Each did show the customs of
his land. From the land of Kiev (1) there rode many a warrior
and the savage Petschenegers. (2) With the bow they often shot
at the birds which flew there; to the very head they drew the
arrows on the bows.
By the Danube there lieth in the Austrian land a town that men
call Tulna. (3) There she became acquaint with many a foreign
custom, the which size had never seen afore. She greeted there
enow who later came through her to grief. Before Etzel there
rode a retinue, merry and noble, courtly and lusty, full four and
twenty princes, mighty and of lofty birth. They would fain
behold their lady and craved naught more. Duke Ramung (4) of
Wallachia, with seven hundred vassals, galloped up before her;
like flying birds men saw them ride. Then came Prince Gibeek
with lordly bands. The doughty Hornbog, (5) with full a thousand
men, wheeled from the king away towards the queen. Loudly they
shouted after the custom of their land. Madly too rode the
kinsmen of the Huns. Then came brave Hawart (6) of Denmark and
the doughty Iring, (7) free of guile was he, and Irnfried (8) of
Thuringia, a stately man. With twelve hundred vassals, whom they
had in their band, they greeted Kriemhild, so that she had
therefrom great worship. Then came Sir Bloedel, (9) King Etzel's
brother, from the Hunnish land, with three thousand men. In
lordly wise he rode to where he found the queen. Then King Etzel
came and Sir Dietrich, too, with all his fellowship. There stood
many worshipful knights, noble, worthy, and good. At this Dame
Kriemhild's spirits rose.
Then Sir Rudeger spake to the queen: "Lady, here will I receive
the high-born king; whomso I bid you kiss, that must ye do.
Forsooth ye may not greet alike King Etzel's men."
From the palfrey they helped the royal queen alight. Etzel, the
mighty, bode no more, but dismounted from his steed with many a
valiant man. Joyfully men saw them go towards Kriemhild. Two
mighty princes, as we are told, walked by the lady and bore her
train, when King Etzel went to meet her, where she greeted the
noble lording with a kiss in gracious wise. She raised her veil
and from out the gold beamed forth her rosy hue. Many a man
stood there who vowed that Lady Helca could not have been more
fair than she. Close by stood also Bloedel, the brother of the
king. Him Rudeger, the mighty margrave, bade her kiss and King
Gibeek, too. There also stood Sir Dietrich. Twelve of the
warriors the king's bride kissed. She greeted many knights in
All the while that Etzel stood at Kriemhild's side, the youthful
warriors did as people still are wont to do. One saw them riding
many a royal joust. This Christian champions did and paynim,
too, according to their custom. In what right knightly wise the
men of Dietrich made truncheons from the shafts fly through the
air, high above the shields, from the hands of doughty knights!
Many a buckler's edge was pierced through and through by the
German strangers. Great crashing of breaking shafts was heard.
All the warriors from the land were come and the king's guests,
too, many a noble man.
Then the mighty king betook him hence with Lady Kriemhild. Hard
by them a royal tent was seen to stand; around about the plain
was filled with booths, where they should rest them after their
toils. Many a comely maid was shown to her place thereunder by
the knights, where she then sate with the queen on richly covered
chairs. The margrave had so well purveyed the seats for
Kriemhild, that all found them passing good; at this King Etzel
grew blithe of mood. What the king there spake, I know not. In
his right lay her snow-white hand; thus they sate in lover's
wise, since Rudeger would not let the king make love to Kriemhild
Then one bade the tourney cease on every side; in courtly wise
the great rout ended. Etzel's men betook them to the booths; men
gave them lodgings stretching far away on every side. The day
had now an end; they lay at ease, till the bright morn was seen
to dawn again, then many a man betook him to the steeds. Ho,
what pastimes they gan ply in honor of the king! Etzel bade the
Huns purvey all with fitting honors. Then they rode from Tulna
to the town of Vienna, where they found many a dame adorned.
With great worship these greeted King Etzel's bride. There was
ready for them in great plenty whatever they should have. Many a
lusty hero rejoiced at prospect of the rout.
The king's wedding feast commenced in merry wise. They began to
lodge the guests, but quarters could not be found for all within
the town. Rudeger therefore begged those that were not guests to
take lodgings in the country round about. I ween men found all
time by Lady Kriemhild, Sir Dietrich and many another knight.
Their rest they had given over for toil, that they might purvey
the guests good cheer. Rudeger and his friends had pastime good.
The wedding feast fell on a Whitsuntide, when King Etzel lay by
Kriemhild in the town of Vienna. With her first husband, I trow,
she did not win so many men for service. Through presents she
made her known to those who had never seen her. Full many among
them spake to the guests: "We weened that Lady Kriemhild had
naught of goods, now hath she wrought many wonders with her
The feasting lasted seventeen days. I trow men can no longer
tell of any king whose wedding feast was greater. If so be, 'tis
hidden from us. All that were present wore brand-new garments.
I ween, she never dwelt before in Netherland with such retinue of
knights. Though Siegfried was rich in goods, I trow, he never
won so many noble men-at-arms, as she saw stand 'fore Etzel. Nor
hath any ever given at his own wedding feast so many costly
mantles, long and wide, nor such good clothes, of which all had
here great store, given for Kriemhild's sake. Her friends and
the strangers, too, were minded to spare no kind of goods.
Whatever any craved, this they willingly gave, so that many of
the knights through bounty stood bereft of clothes. Kriemhild
thought of how she dwelt with her noble husband by the Rhine; her
eyes grew moist, but she hid it full well, that none might see
it. Great worship had been done her after many a grief.
Whatever bounty any used, 'twas but a wind to that of Dietrich,.
What Botelung's son had given him, was squandered quite.
Rudeger's lavish hand did also many wonders. Prince Bleedel of
Hungary bade empty many traveling chests of their silver and
their gold; all this was given away. The king's champions were
seen to live right merrily. Werbel and Swemmel, (10) the
minstrels of the king, each gained at the wedding feast, I ween,
full thousand marks, or even better, when fair Kriemhild sate
crowned at Etzel's side.
On the eighteenth morning they rode forth from Vienna. Many
shields were pierced in tilting by spears, which the warriors
bare in hand. Thus King Etzel came down to the Hunnish land.
They spent the night at ancient Heimburg. (11) No one might know
the press of folk, or with what force they rode across the land.
Ho, what fair women they found in Etzel's native land! At mighty
Misenburg (12) they boarded ship. The water which men saw
flowing there was covered with steeds and men, as if it were
solid earth. The wayworn ladies had their ease and rest. Many
good ships were lashed together, that neither waves nor flood
might do them harm. Upon them many a goodly tent was spread, as
if they still had both land and plain.
From thence tidings came to Etzelburg, (13) at which both men and
wives therein were glad. Helca's meiny, that aforetime waited on
their mistress, passed many a happy day thereafter at Kriemhild's
side. There many a noble maid stood waiting, who had great grief
through Helca's death. Kriemhild found still seven royal
princesses there, through whom all Etzel's land was graced. For
the meiny the high-born maiden Herrat (14) cared, the daughter of
Helca's sister, beseen with many courtly virtues, the betrothed
of Dietrich, a royal child, King Nentwin's (15) daughter; much
worship she later had. Blithe of heart she was at the coming of
the guests; for this, too, mighty treasures were prepared. Who
might tell the tale of how the king held court? Never had men
lived better among the Huns with any queen.
When that the king with his wife rode from the shore, the noble
Kriemhild was told full well who each one was; she greeted them
the better. Ho, how royally she ruled in Helca's stead! She
became acquaint with much loyal service. Then the queen dealt
out gold and vesture, silk and precious stones. Whatever she
brought with her across the Rhine to Hungary must needs be given
all away. All the king's kinsmen and all his liegemen then owned
her service, so that Lady Helca never ruled so mightily as she,
whom they now must serve till Kriemhild's death. The court and
all the land lived in such high honors, that all time men found
the pastimes which each heart desired, through the favor of the
king and his good queen.
(1) "Kiev" (M.H.G. "Kiew") is now a government in the
southwestern part of Russia. Its capital of the same name,
situated on the Dnieper, is the oldest of the better known
cities of Russia, and in the latter Middle Ages was an
important station of the Hanseatic league.
(2) "Petschenegers", a Turkish tribe originally dwelling to the
north of the Caspian. By conquest they acquired a kingdom
extending from the Don to Transylvania. They were feared
for their ferociousness and because they continually invaded
the surrounding countries, especially Kiev.
(3) "Tulna (M.H.G. "Tulne") is the modern Tulln, a walled town
of Lower Austria, seventeen milos northwest of Vienna on the
(4) "Ramung and Gibeck" (M.H.G. "Gibeche") appear only in our
poem, nothing else is known of them.
(5) "Hornbog" is frequently mentioned in the "Thidreksaga", but
nothing otherwise is known of him.
(6) "Hawart" is perhaps identical with the Saxon duke Hadugot,
who is reputed to have played an important part in the
conquest of Thuringia. He evidently comes from the Low
(7) "Iring" is considered by Wilmanns to have been originally an
ancient deity, as the Milky Way is called "Iringe straze" or
"Iringi". He occurs in a legend of the fall of the
Thuringian kingdom, where he played such a prominent role
that the Milky Way was named after him. See W. Grimm,
"Heldensage", p. 394, who thinks, however, that the
connection of Iring with the Milky Way is the result of a
(8) "Irnfried" is considered to be Hermanfrid of Thuringia, who
was overthrown and killed in A.D. 535 by Theuderich with the
aid of the Saxons. See Felix Dahn, "Urgeschichte", iii,
73-79. He, too, comes from the Low German tradition.
(9) "Bloedel" is Bleda, the brother of Attila, with whom he
reigned conjointly from A.D. 433 to 445. In our poem the
name appears frequently with the diminutive ending, as
(10) "Werbel and Swemmel", who doubtless owe their introduction
to some minstrel, enjoy special favor and are intrusted with
the important mission of inviting the Burgundians to Etzel's
court, an honor that would hardly be accorded to persons of
their rank. Swemmel appears mostly in the diminutive form
(11) "Heimburg" lies on the Danube near the Hungarian border.
(12) "Misenburg" is the modern Wieselburg on the Danube,
twenty-one miles southeast of Pressburg.
(13) "Etzelburg" was later identified with the old part of
Budapest, called in German "Ofen", through the influence of
Hungarish legends, but, as G. Heinrich has shown, had no
definite localization in the older M.H.G. epics. See
Bleyer, PB. Belt. xxxi 433 and 506. The name occurs in
documents as late as the fifteenth century.
(14) "Herrat", the daughter of King "Nentwin" is frequently
mentioned in the "Thidreksaga" as Dietrich's betrothed. She
is spoken of as the exiled maid.
(15) "Nentwin" is not found in any other saga, and nothing else
is known of him. See W. Grimm, "Heldensage", 103.
How Kriemhild Thought To Avenge Her Wrongs.
With great worship of a truth they lived together until the
seventh year. In this time the queen was delivered of a son, at
which King Etzel could not have been more joyful. She would not
turn back, until she brought it to pass that Etzel's child was
christened after the Christian rite. Men named it Ortlieb; (1)
at this great joy arose over all of Etzel's lands. Whatever
courtly breeding Lady Helca had possessed, Dame Kriemhild
practiced this full many a day. Herrat, the exiled maid, who in
secret grieved full sore for Helca, taught her the customs. Well
was she known to the strangers and the home-folk. They vowed
that never had a kingdom had a better or more bounteous queen.
This they held for true. She bare this praise among the Huns
until the thirteenth year. Now wot she well, that none would
thwart her, as royal men-at-arms still do to a prince's wife, and
that all time she saw twelve kings stand before her. Over many a
wrong she brooded, that had happed to her at home. She thought
likewise on the many honors in the Nibelung land, which she had
there enjoyed and of which Hagen's hand had quite bereft her at
Siegfried's death, and if perchance she might not make him suffer
for his deed. "That would hap, if I might but bring him to this
land." She dreamed that Giselher, her brother, walked often with
her hand in hand. Alway she kissed him in her gentle slumber;
later suffering came to both. I ween, the foul fiend did counsel
Kriemhild this, that she withdrew her friendship from Giselher,
whom for forgiveness' sake she had kissed in the Burgundian land.
At this hot tears again gan soil her robe. Early and late it lay
within her heart, how without fault of hers they had made her wed
a heathen man. Hagen and Gunther had brought her to this pass.
This wish she seldom gave over in her heart. She thought: "I am
so mighty and have such great wealth, that I can do my foes an
injury yet. Full ready would I be for this towards Hagen of
Troneg. My heart doth often yearn for my faithful kin. Might I
be with those who did me wrong, my lover's death would be well
avenged. Scarce can I abide this," spake Etzel's wife.
All the king's men, Kriemhild's warriors, bare her love in duty
bound. Of the chamber Eckewart had charge, which won him
friends. None might gainsay Dame Kriemhild's will. All time she
thought: "I will beg the king, that he in kindly wise may grant
me to bring my kinsmen to the Hunnish land." None marked the
evil purpose of the queen. One night when she lay by the king,
and he did hold her in his arms, as he was wont to love the noble
dame, who was dear to him as life, the high-born lady thought her
of her foes. To the king she spake: "Dear my lord, I would fain
beseech you, by your grace, that ye would show me that ye did
love my kinsfolk, if I have earned the favor."
Then spake the king (true was his heart): "I'll give you to know
however well the knights may fare, I may well have joy of this,
for never have I won better kin through woman's love."
Again the queen spake: "It hath been well told you, that I have
high-born kin; therefore do I grieve that they so seldom reck to
see me here. I hear the folk aver that I be banished."
Then spake king Etzel: "Dear lady mine, and it think you not too
far, I'll bid hither to my lands, from across the Rhine, whomso
ye be fain to see."
The lady joyed her when she heard his will. She spake: "Would ye
show me your faith, my lord, then send envoys to Worms across the
Rhine, through whom I may tell my kinsfolk what I have in mind.
Thus there will come hither to our land many a noble knight and a
He answered: "It shall hap whenso ye bid. Ye might not be more
glad to see your kin than I to see the sons of the noble Uta. It
doth irk me sore, that they have been strangers to us so long a
time. If it please you, dear lady mine, I would fain send my
minstrels for your kinsmen to the Burgundian land."
He bade the good minstrels be fetched straightway. Quickly they
hasted to where the king sate by the queen. He told the twain
they should be envoys to the Burgundian land and bade full lordly
weeds be made ready for them. Clothing was prepared for four and
twenty warriors, and the message was told them by the king, how
they should bid Gunther and his liegemen hither. Kriemhild, the
queen, talked with them apart. Then spake the mighty king: "I'll
tell you what to say. I offer to my kin my love and service,
that it may please them to ride hither to my land. But few such
welcome guests have I known, and if they perchance will fulfill
my wish, tell Kriemhild's kinsmen that they must not fall to come
this summer to my feast, for much of my joy doth lie upon the
kinsmen of my wife."
Then spake the minstrel, the proud Swemmel: "When shall your
feasting be in these lands, that I may tell it yonder to your
King Etzel answered: "On next midsummer's day."
"We'll do as ye command," spake then Werbel.
The queen bade them be brought secretly unto her bower, where she
then talked with the envoys. From this but little joy happed to
many a knight. To the two messengers she spake: "Now earn ye
mickle goods, in that ye do my pleasure full willingly and give
the message which I send to my native land. I'll make you rich
in goods and give you the lordly robes. And if ye see any of my
kin at Worms upon the Rhine, ye must not tell them that ye ever
saw me sad of heart. Tender my service to the heroes brave and
good. Beg that they do as the king doth bid and thus part me
from all my grief. The Huns ween, I be without kith and kin.
Were I a knight, I'd visit them myself at times. And say to
Gernot, too, the noble brother of mine, that none in the world
doth love him more. Beg him to bring with him to this land our
best of friends, that it may be to our honor. Say also to
Giselher, that he remember well, I never gained grief through
fault of his. Therefore would mine eyes fain sue him. For his
great loyalty I would gladly have him here. Tell my mother also
of the honors which I have, and if Hagen of Troneg be minded to
stay at home, who then should lead them through the lands? From
a child he knoweth the roads to Hungary." (2)
The envoys wist not, why it was done, that they should not let
Hagen of Troneg stay upon the Rhine. Later it repented them full
sore. With him many a knight was doomed to a savage death.
Letters and messages had now been given them. They rode forth
rich in goods, and well could lead a sumptuous life. Of Etzel
and his fair wife they took their leave, their persons adorned
full well with goodly weeds.
(1) "Ortlieb" is not historical, and in the "Thidreksaga"
Etzel's son is called Aldrian. Bleyer, "Die germanischen
Elemente der ungarischen, Hunnensage", PB. Beit. xxxi, 570,
attempt to prove the identity of the names by means of a
form "*Arda", giving on the one hand Hungarian "Aladar",
"Aldrian", on the other German "Arte", "Orte".
(2) "Hungary". According to the account in "Waltharius", Hagen
spent his youth as a hostage at Etzel's court.
How Werbel And Swemmel Brought The Message.
When that Etzel had sent his envoys to the Rhine, these tidings
flew from land to land. Through full speedy messengers he begged
and bade to his high feasting. From this many a one met there
his death. The envoys rode away from the Hunnish land to
Burgundy. They were sent thither for three noble kings and for
their men, that these should come to Etzel; therefore all gan
haste. To Bechelaren they came a-riding, where served them
gladly. Rudeger and Gotelind and the child of them twain delayed
not to send their service through the envoys to the Rhine. Nor
did they let them part hence without gifts, that Etzel's men
might fare the better. To Uta and her sons Rudeger sent word
that they had no more loyal margrave than he. To Brunhild, also,
they tendered service and good wishes, constant fealty and a
loving mind. When they heard the speech that the envoys would
ride, the margravine begged God in heaven to keep them well.
Before the messengers were quite come through Bavarian land, the
doughty Werbel sought out the good Bishop Pilgrim. What word he
sent to his kin upon the Rhine, that I know not, but naught but
ruddy gold he gave the messengers for love and let them ride.
Then spake the bishop: "And might I see them here, my sister's
sons, I should be blithe of mood, for full seldom can I come to
them upon the Rhine."
What roads they traveled to the Rhine, I cannot tell. None
robbed them of their silver and their weeds; men feared their
master's wrath. Certes the noble high-born king was a mighty
Within a twelfth night Werbel and Swemmel came to the Rhine, to
the land of Worms. To the kings and their liegemen tidings were
told that there came strange messengers. Gunther, the lord of
the Rhineland, gan ask: "Who will do us to wit, from whence these
strangers ride into our land?"
This none wist, till Hagen of Troneg saw them, who then spake to
Gunther: "New tidings be come to us, as I will vouch, for I have
seen King Etzel's minstrels here. Them your sister hath sent to
the Rhine; for their master's sake we must give them a kindly
Already they were riding up before the palace; never did a
prince's minstrels journey in more lordly wise. Straightway the
king's meiny bade them welcome. Men gave them lodgings and bade
take in charge their trappings. Their traveling clothes were
rich and so well fashioned that with honor they might come before
the king, but they would not wear them longer there at court, and
asked if there were any that desired them. At the selfsame
moment folk were found who fain would take them, and to these
they were sent. Then the strangers donned far better weeds, such
as well befitted king's messengers for to wear.
Then Etzel's retainers went by leave to where the king was
sitting; men saw this gladly. Hagen sprang courteously towards
the messengers and greeted them in loving wise. For this the
squires did say him thanks. That he might know their tidings, he
gan ask how Etzel fared and all his men. Then spake the
minstrel: "Never did the land stand better, nor were the folk
more merry; now know that of a truth."
To the host they went; the hall was full. There men received the
guests, as one must do by right, when kindly greetings be sent to
the lands of other kings. Werbel found full many warriors there
at Gunther's side. In courteous wise the king gan greet them:
"Ye minstrels of the Huns and all your fellowship, be ye welcome.
Hath the mighty Etzel sent you hither to the Burgundian land?"
To the king they bowed; then spake Werbel: "My dear lord, and
also Kriemhild, your sister, do send you loyal service to this
land. They have sent us to you knights in all good faith."
Spake the mighty prince: "Merry am I at this tale. How fareth
Etzel," so asked the knight, "and Kriemhild, my sister, of the
Quoth the minstrel: "This tale I'll tell you; ye should know that
never have folk fared better than the twain and all their
followers, their kinsmen and their vassals. They joyed them of
the journey, as we departed hence."
"Gramercy for his greetings which he hath sent me, and for those
of my sister, sith it standeth so that the king and his men live
thus in happiness, for I did ask the news in fear and trembling."
The two young princes were now also come, for they had but just
heard the tale. For the sake of his sister Giselher, the youth,
was fain to see the envoys. He spake to them in loving wise: "Ye
messengers, be very welcome to us. An' ye would ride more often
hither to the Rhine, ye would find friends here whom ye would be
glad to see. Little of harm shall hap you in this land."
"We trust you in all honor," spake then Swemmel. "I could not
convey to you with all my wits, how lovingly king Etzel and your
noble sister, who live in such great worship, have sent their
greetings. The queen doth mind you of your love and fealty, and
that your heart and mind did ever hold her dear. But first and
foremost we be sent to the king, that ye may deign to ride to
Etzel's land. The mighty Etzel enjoined us strictly to beg you
this and sent the message to you all, that if ye would not let
your sister see you, he fain would know what he had done you that
ye be so strange to him and to his lands,. An' ye had never known
the queen, yet would he fain bring it to pass that consent to
come and see him. It would please him well if that might hap."
Then spake King Gunther: "In a sennight I will tell you the tale
of what I have bethought me with my friends. Meanwhile hie you
to your lodgings and rest you well."
Quoth Werbel again: "And could that be that we might see my lady,
the royal Uta, afore we take our easement?"
The noble Giselher spake then full courteously: "None shall
hinder that. An' ye would go before her, ye will do in full my
mother's wish, for she will gladly see you for my sister's sake,
the Lady Kriemhild; she will make you welcome."
Giselher led them to where they found the queen. Gladly she
gazed upon the envoys from the Hunnish land. Through her
courtesie she gave them gentle greeting. The good and courtly
messengers then told their tale. "My lady offereth you of a
truth," so spake Swemmel, "her love and duty. Might that be that
she could see you oft, ye may well believe she had no better joy
in all the world."
Then spake the queen: "That may not be. However gladly I would
often see the dear daughter of mine, yet doth the wife of the
noble king live, alas, too far from me. May she and Etzel be
ever blessed. Pray let me know before ye leave, when ye would
hence again; not in a long time have I seen messengers so gladly
as I have you." The squires vowed that this should hap.
Those from the Hunnish land now rode to their lodgings.
Meanwhile the mighty king had sent to fetch his friends. The
noble Gunther asked his liegemen how they liked the speech. Many
a one gan say that the king well might ride to Etzel's land. The
very best among them advised him this, save Hagen alone; him
misliked it sore. Privily he spake to the king: "Ye fight
against yourself; ye know full well what we have done. We may
well be ever on our guard with Kriemhild, for with mine own hand
I slew her husband to death. How durst we ride to Etzel's land?"
Then spake the mighty king: "My sister gave over her wrath; with
a kiss she lovingly forgave what we had done her, or ever she
rode away. Unless be that the feud doth stand against you
Quoth Hagen: "Now let the messengers from the Huns beguile you
not, whatsoever they say. Would ye visit Kriemhild, easily may
ye lose there both life and honor. Full long of vengeance is
King Etzel's wife."
Then spake Prince Gernot to the council: "Why should we give it
over, because ye rightly fear death in the Hunnish lands? It
were an ill deed not to go to see our sister."
Then spake Prince Giselher to the knight: "Sith ye know you to
be guilty, friend Hagen, ye should stay at home and guard you
well, and let those who dare ride with us to my sister."
At this the knight of Troneg grew wroth of mood. "I will not
that ye take any with you on the way, who durst better ride to
court than I. Sith ye will not turn you, I will well show you
Then spake the master of the kitchen, Rumolt, the knight: "Ye can
well have the strangers and the home-folk cared for here, after
your own desire, for ye have full store of goods. I ween, Hagen
hath never given you for a hostage; (1) but if ye will not follow
him, Rumolt adviseth you, for I be bound to you in fealty and
duty, that for my sake ye abide here and leave King Etzel there
with Kriemhild. How might it fare more gently with you in all
the world? Ye be well able to stand before your foes; so deck
your body out with brave attire, drink the best of wine, and pay
court to stately ladies. Thereto ye be served with the best of
food that ever king did gain in the world. And were this not so,
yet should ye tarry here for your fair wife's sake, before ye
risk your life so childishly. Wherefore I do counsel you to stay
at home. Your lands be rich, and one can redeem his pledges
better at home than among the Huns. Who knoweth how it standeth
there? Ye should stay at home, Sire, that is Rumolt's counsel."
"We will not stay," quoth Gernot. "Sith my sister and the mighty
Etzel have bidden us in such friendly wise, why should we not
accept? He that liketh not to go may stay at home."
To This Hagen answered: "Take not my speech amiss, however ye may
fare. In all truth I counsel you, would ye guard your lives,
then ride to the Huns well armed. Sith ye will not turn you,
send for your men-at-arms, the best ye have or can find in any
part; from among them all I'll choose a thousand doughty knights.
Then Kriemhild's evil mood can bring you naught of harm."
"This rede I'll gladly follow," spake straightway the king. He
then bade messengers ride far and wide throughout his lands.
Three thousand champions or more they fetched. Little they
weened to gain such grievous woe. Full merrily they rode to
Gunther's court. Men bade give all that were to ride forth from
Burgundy both steeds and trappings. The king gained full many a
one with willing mood. Then Hagen of Troneg bade his brother
Dankwart lead eighty of their warriors to the Rhine. In knightly
guise they came; these doughty men took with them harness and
trappings into Gunther's land. Then came bold Folker, a noble
minstrel he, with thirty of his men for the journey to
Kriemhild's court. They had clothing such as a king might wear.
Gunther bade make known, he would to the Hunnish land. I'll do
you now to wit who Folker was. He was a noble lord, the liege of
many doughty knights in Burgundy. A minstrel he was called, for
that he wist how to fiddle. Hagen chose a thousand whom he well
knew; oft had he seen what their hands had wrought in press of
battle, or in whatever else they did. None might aver aught else
of them than doughtiness.
The tarrying irked Kriemhild's envoys sore, for great was their
fear of their lord. Daily they craved leave to go; this Hagen
would not grant through craftiness. To his master he spake: "We
should well guard against letting them ride away, until we
ourselves fare forth a sennight later to Etzel's land. If any
beareth us ill will, the better shall we wot it. Nor may Lady
Kriemhild then make ready that through any plan of hers, men do
us harm. An' this be her will, she'll fare full ill, for many a
chosen liegeman had we hence."
Shields and saddles, and all the garments that they would take
with them to Etzel's land, were now full ready for many a brave
man-at-arms. Now men bade Kriemhild's messengers go before King
Gunther. When they were come, Gernot spake: "The king will do as
Etzel asked us, we will gladly come to his high feast to see our
sister; be no more in doubt of that."
Then King Gunther spake: "Wist ye how to tell us, when this feast
shall be, or in what time we should go thither?"
Swemmel replied: "Of a truth it shall be on next midsummer's
The king gave them leave (this had not happed as yet), if they
would fain see Lady Brunhild, to go before her with his free
will. This Folker hindered, which pleased her much. "Forsooth,
my Lady Brunhild is not so well of mood, that ye may see her,"
spake the good knight. "Bide the morrow, and men will let you
see her." When they weened to gaze upon her, it might not hap.
Then the mighty prince, who liked the envoys well, through his
own courtesie, bade his gold be carried forth on the broad
shields of which he had great store. Rich gifts were also given
them by his kinsmen Giselher and Gernot, Gere and Ortwin. Well
they showed, that they were generous, too. They offered the
messengers such rich gifts, that for fear of their lord they
durst not take them.
Now spake the envoy Werbel to the king: "Sir King, let your
gifts stay here at home. We may carry none away; our lord
forbade that we take aught of gifts. Then too, there is but
Then the ruler of the Rhine waxed wroth, that they should thus
refuse the gifts of so mighty a king. At last they were forced
to take his gold and weeds, the which they later bare to Etzel's
land. They would fain see the Lady Uta, or ever they departed
hence, so the doughty Giselher brought the minstrels before his
mother Uta. The lady sent the message, that whatever honors her
daughter had, this gave her joy. Then the queen bade give the
minstrels of her edgings and her gold, for the sake of King Etzel
and Kriemhild whom she loved. Gladly they took the gifts; in
good faith 'twas done.
The messengers had now taken their leave from thence, from wives
and men. Merrily they rode away to Swabia. Thither Gernot bade
his knights escort them, that none might do them harm. When they
parted from those who should have them in their care, Etzel's
power did guard them on all their ways, so that none bereft them
of either horse or trappings. With great speed they hasted
towards Etzel's land. To all the friends they wot of, they made
known that in a short time the Burgundians would come hither from
the Rhine to the Hunnish land. To the Bishop Pilgrim too, the
tale was told. As they rode adown the highway before Bechelaren,
men delayed not to tell Rudeger and Gotelind, the margrave's
wife. Merry she grew that she should see them. Men saw the
minstrels hasting with the tidings. They found King Etzel in the
town of Gran. (2) Greeting after greeting they gave the king, of
which full many had been sent him. He blushed for very joy.
Happy of mood was the queen, when she heard the tale aright that
her brothers should come into the land. She gave the minstrels
great gifts as meed. This was done for honor's sake. She spake:
"Now tell me, both of you, Werbel and Swemmel, which of my kin
are minded to be at the feast? Will the best of those we bade
come hither to this land? Pray tell me what Hagen said when he
heard the tale."
The minstrel answered: "He came on a morning early to the
council, and but little of fair speech he spake thereby. When
they pledged the journey hither to the Hunnish lands, that was as
words of death to the wrathful Hagen. Your brothers, the three
kings, will come in lordly mood. Whoever else may come, this
tale I know not of a surety. The brave minstrel Folker vowed to
"Little do I reck," spake the queen, "whether I ever see Folker
here. Of Hagen I be fond, he is a doughty hero. My spirits
stand high that we may see him here."
Then the queen went to where she saw the king. how lovingly Dame
Kriemhild spake: "How like you these tales, dear my lord? What I
have ever craved, shall now be brought to pass."
"Thy wish is my joy," spake then the king. "Never have I been so
blithe of mine own kin, when they should come hither to my lands.
Through the kindness of thy kinsmen my care hath fled away."
King Etzel's officers bade everywhere palace and hall be purveyed
with benches for the guests which were to come. Thereafter the
king heard from them mickle weeping.
(1) "Hostage", i.e., he has never betrayed you to your enemies.
(2) "Gran", royal free city of Hungary, on the right bank of the
Danube opposite the influx of the Gran, twenty-four miles
northwest of Budapest.
How The Lords All Journeyed To The Huns.
Now let us leave the tale of how they lived at Etzel's court.
More high-mettled warriors never rode in such lordly wise to the
land of any king; they had whatever they listed, both of weapons
and of weeds. The ruler of the Rhineland clad his men, a
thousand and sixty knights, (1) as I have heard, and nine
thousand footmen, for the courtly feast. Those they left at home
bewailed it in after time. The trappings were now borne across
the court at Worms; then spake an aged bishop from Speyer to fair
Uta: "Our friends would journey to the feasting. May God
preserve their honor there."
The noble Lady Uta then spake to her sons: "Pray tarry here, good
knights. Me-dreamed last night of direst woe, how all the fowls
in this land lay dead."
"Who recketh aught of dreams," quoth Hagen, "he wotteth not how
to say the proper words, when 'twould bring him great store of
honors. I wish that my lord go to court to take his leave. We
must gladly ride to Etzel's land. The arms of doughty heroes may
serve kings there full well, where we shall behold Kriemhild's
Hagen counseled the journey, but later it rued him sore. He
would have advised against it, but that Gernot encountered him
with such rude words. Of Siegfried, Lady Kriemhild's husband, he
minded him; he spake: "Because of him Hagen will not make the
journey to the court."
At this Hagen of Troneg spake: "I do it not from fear. Heroes,
when it please you, begin the work. Certes I will gladly ride
with you to Etzel's land." Later he carved to pieces many a helm
The skiffs were now made ready; many a knight stood there.
Thither men bare whatever clothes they had. Busy they were until
the even tide, then full merrily they set forth from home. Tents
and pavilions were raised upon the green beyond the Rhine. When
this had happed, the king bade his fair wife tarry with him.
That night she still embraced her stately knight. Trumpeting and
fluting rose early on the morn, as sign that they should ride.
Then to the work they went. Whoso held in his arms his love
caressed the fair. Later King Etzel's wife parted them with woe.
Fair Uta's sons, they had a liegeman, brave and true. When they
would hence, he spake to the king in secret wise his mind. Quoth
he: "I must bewail that ye make this journey to the court." He
was hight Rumolt and was a hero of his hands. He spake: "To whom
will ye leave your folk and lands? O that none can turn you
warriors from your mind! These tidings from Kriemhild have never
thought me good."
"Be the land and my little child, too, commended to thy care;
serve well the ladies, that is my wish. Comfort any thou dost
see in tears. Certes King Etzel's bride will never do us harm."
The steeds were now ready for the kings and their men. Many a
one who lived there high of spirit, parted thence with loving
kisses. This many a stately dame must later needs bewail. When
the doughty knights were seen go toward the steeds, men spied
full many ladies standing sadly there. Their hearts did tell
them that this long parting boded them great harm. This doth
never ease the heart.
The doughty Burgundians started on their way. Then in the land a
mighty turmoil rose; on either side of the mountains there wept
both men and wives. But however the folk might bear them, the
knights jogged merrily along. With them rode the men of
Nibelung, a thousand hauberks strong, who had left many comely
dames at home whom they never saw again. Siegfried's wounds gave
Gunther's liegemen now wended their way towards the river Main,
up through Eastern Frankland. (2) Thither Hagen led them, for
well he wot the way. Dankwart was their marshal, the hero from
Burgundian land. As they rode away from the Eastern Frankland
towards Swanfield, (3) men could tell the princes and their kin,
the worshipful knights, by their lordly bearing. On the twelfth
morning the king came to the Danube. Hagen of Troneg rode
foremost of them all, giving to the Nibelungs helpful cheer. On
the sandy shore the bold knight dismounted and bound his steed
full soon to a tree. The river was swollen, the skiffs hidden
away. Great fear the Nibelungs had, as to how they might come
across, for the stream was much too broad. Full many a lusty
knight alighted on the ground.
"Ill may it lightly hap with thee here," quoth Hagen, "O ruler of
the Rhine. Now mayst thou thyself see the river is swollen, its
flood is mighty. Certes, I ween, we shall lose here many a
worthy knight to-day."
"Why dost thou rebuke me, Hagen?" spake the lordly king. "For
thine own prowess' sake discomfit me no more, but seek us the
ford across to the other bank, that we may take hence both steeds
"Forsooth," quoth Hagen, "I be not so weary of life, that I would
drown me in these broad waves. Sooner shall men die by my hands
in Etzel's lands. That will I well. Stay by the water's side,
ye proud knights and good, and I will seek the ferryman myself
along the stream, who shall ferry us across to Gelfrat's (4)
Then the stalwart Hagen seized his good shield. Well was he
armed. The shield he bare along, his helmet bound upon his head,
bright enow it was. Above his breastplate he bare a sword so
broad that most fiercely it cut on either edge. To and fro he
sought the ferryman. He heard the splash of water and began to
listen. In a fair spring wise women (5) were bathing for to cool
them off. Now Hagen spied them and crept toward them stealthily.
When they grew ware of this, they hurried fast to escape him;
glad enow they were of this. The hero took their clothes, but
did them naught else of harm.
Then spake one of the mermaids (Hadburg she was called): "Sir
Knight Hagen, we'll do you here to wit, an' ye give us our weeds
again, bold knight, how ye will fare upon this journey to the
Like birds they floated before him on the flood. Therefore him-
thought their senses strong and good; he believed the more what
they would tell him. Well they answered what he craved of them.
Hadburg spake again: "Ye may safely ride to Etzel's land. I'll
stake my troth at once as pledge, that heroes never rode better
to any realm for such great honors. Now believe that in truth."
In his heart Hagen was joyous at this rede. He gave them back
their clothes and no longer tarried. As they donned their
strange attire, they told him rightly of the journey to Etzel's
land. The other mermaid spake (Siegelind she hight): "I will
warn thee, Hagen, son of Aldrian. (6) For the sake of her weeds
mine aunt hath lied to thee. An' thou comest to the Huns, thou
wilt be sore deceived. Time is, that thou shouldst turn again,
for ye heroes be bidden, that ye may die in Etzel's land. Whose
rideth hither, hath taken death by the hand."
Answered Hagen: "Ye deceive us needlessly. how might it come to
pass that we should all die there, through anybody's hate?"
Then gan they tell him the tale still more knowingly. The same
one spake again: "It must needs be that none of you shall live,
save the king's chaplain; this we know full well. He will come
again safe and sound to Gunther's land."
Then spake bold Hagen, fierce of mood: "It were not well to tell
my lords that we should all lose our lives among the Huns. Now
show us over the stream, thou wisest of all wives."
She answered: "Sith ye will not turn you from the journey, up
yonder where an inn doth stand, by the waterside, there is a
ferryman and elsewhere none."
At once he ceased to ask for further tidings. After the angry
warrior she called: "Pray bide a time, Sir Hagen! Forsooth ye
are too much in haste. List further to the tale of how ye may
cross to the other bank. The lord of these marches beareth the
name of Else. (7) His brother is hight Knight Gelfrat, a lord in
the Bavarian land. 'Twill go hard with you, an' ye will cross
his land. Ye must guard you well and deal full wisely with the
ferryman. So grim of mood is he that he'll not let you live,
unless be that ye have your wits about you with the knight. An'
ye will that he guide you, then give him his meed. He guardeth
this land and is liegeman unto Gelfrat. And cometh he not
betimes, so call across the flood and say, ye hight Amelrich. (8)
He was a doughty here that; because of a feud did void this land.
The ferryman will come when he heareth this name."
Haughty Hagen bowed then to the dames; he spake no more, but held
his peace. Then by the river he hied him higher up upon the
sandy shore, to where he found an inn upon the other bank.
Loudly he began to call across the flood: "Now come and fetch me,
ferryman," quoth the good knight, "and I will give thee as meed
an arm ring of ruddy gold. Know, that of this passage I have
great need in truth."
So noble was the ferryman that it behooved him not to serve,
therefore he full seldom took wage of any wight. His squires,
too, were full lofty of mood. All this time Hagen still stood
alone, this side of the flood. He called with might and main,
that all the water rang, for mickle and great was the hero's
strength. "Now fetch me. I am Amelrich, Else's liegeman, that
because of a great feud did void these lands."
High upon his spear (9) he offered him an arm band, bright and
fair it was, of ruddy gold, that one should ferry him over to
Gelfrat's land. The haughty ferryman, the which was newly wed
himself, did take the oar in hand. As he would earn Hagen's gold
so red, therefore he died the sword-grim death at the hands of
the knight. The greed for great goods (10) doth give an evil
end. Speedily the boatman rowed across to the sandy bank. When
he found no trace of him whose name he heard, wroth he grew in
earnest. When he spied Hagen, with fierce rage he spake to the
hero: "Ye may perchance hight Amelrich, but ye are not like him
whom I weened here. By father and by mother he was my brother.
Sith ye have bewrayed me, ye may stay on this hither shore."
"No, by the mighty God," spake then Hagen, "I am a stranger
knight and have warriors in my care. Now take ye kindly my meed
to-day and ferry me over. I am in truth your friend."
The ferryman replied: "This may not be. My dear lords have foes,
wherefore I never ferry strangers to this land. If ye love your
life, step out quickly on the sand."
"Now do it not," spake Hagen; "sad is my mind. Take this good
gold from me as a token of my love and ferry us across: a
thousand horse and just as many men."
The grim boatman answered: "'Twill ne'er be done." He raised a
mighty rudder oar, mickle and broad, and struck at Hagen (full
wroth he grew at this), so that he fell upon his knees in the
boat. The lord of Troneg had never met so fierce a ferryman.
Still more the boatman would vex the haughty stranger. He smote
with an oar, so that it quite to-broke (11) over Hagen's head (a
man of might was he); from this the ferryman of Else took great
harm. Hagen, fierce of mood, seized straightway his sheath,
wherein he found his sword. His head he struck off and cast it
on the ground. Eftsoon these tidings were made known to the
proud Burgundians. At the very moment that he slew the boatman,
the skiff gan drifting down the stream. Enow that irked him.
Weary he grew before he brought it back. King Gunther's liegeman
pulled with might and main. With passing swift strokes the
stranger turned it, until the sturdy oar snapped in his hand. He
would hence to the knights out upon the shore. None other oar he
had. Ho, how quickly he bound it with a shield strap, a narrow
band! Towards a wood he floated down the stream, where he found
his sovran standing by the shore.
Many a stately man went down to meet him. The doughty knights
and good received him with a kindly greeting. When they beheld
in the skiff the blood reeking from a gaping wound which he had
dealt the ferryman, Hagen was plied enow with questions by the
knights. When that King Gunther spied the hot blood swirling in
the skiff, how quickly he spake: "Wherefore tell ye me not,
Hagen, whither the ferryman be come? I ween your prowess hath
bereft him of his life."
At this he answered craftily: "When I found the skiff hard by a
willow tree, I loosed it with my hand. I have seen no ferryman
here to-day, nor hath harm happed to any one through fault of
Then spake Sir Gernot of Burgundy: "I must needs fear the death
of dear friends to-day. Sith we have no boatmen here at hand,
how shall we come over? Therefore I must perforce stand sad."
Loudly then called Hagen: "Ye footmen, lay the trappings down
upon the grass. I bethink me that once I was the very best of
boatmen that one might find along the Rhine. I trow to bring you
all safe across to Gelfrat's land."
They struck the horses, that these might the sooner come across
the flood; passing well they swam, for the mighty waves bereft
them of not a one. Some few drifted far adown the stream, as did
befit their weariness. Then the knights bare to the skiff their
gold and weeds, sith there was no help for the crossing. Hagen
played the steersman, and so he ferried full many mighty warriors
over to the sandy shore, into the unknown land. First he took
across a thousand noble knights, then his own men-at-arms. Still
there were more to come. Nine thousand footmen he ferried over
to the land. Aught but idle was Hagen's hand that day. When he
had carried them all safe across the flood, the doughty knight
and good bethought him of the strange tales which the wild
mermaids had told him afore. For this cause the king's chaplain
near lost his life. He found the priest close by the chapel
luggage, leaning with his hand upon the relics. Little might
that boot him. When Hagen spied him, ill fared it with the
hapless priest; he threw him from the skiff in haste. Enow of
them called out: "Hold on, Sir Hagen, hold!"
Giselher, the youth, gan rage, but Hagen let none come between.
Then spake Sir Gernot of Burgundy: "What availeth you now, Hagen,
the chaplain's death? Had another done the deed, 'twould have
irked you sore. For what cause have ye sworn enmity to the
The clerk (12) now tried to swim with might and main, for he
would fain save his life, if perchance any there would help him.
That might not be, for the stalwart Hagen was wroth of mood. He
thrust him to the bottom, the which thought no one good. When
the poor priest saw naught of help, he turned him back again.
Sore was he discomfited, but though he could not swim, yet did
God's hand help him, so that he came safe and sound to the: land
again. There the poor clerk stood and shook his robe. Hagen
marked thereby that naught might avail against the tidings which
the wild mermaids told him. Him-thought: "These knights must
lose their lives."
When the liegemen of the three kings unloaded the skiff and had
borne all away which they had upon it, Hagen brake it to pieces
and threw it in the flood, at which the bold knights and good did
"Wherefore do ye that, brother," quoth Dankwart, "how shall we
come over, when we ride homeward from the Huns, back to the
Later Hagen told him that might not be. The hero of Troneg
spake: "I do it in the hope that if we have a coward on this
journey, who through faint-heartedness would run away, that in
this stream he may die a shameful death."
They had with them from Burgundy land a hero of his hands, the
which was named Folker. Wisely he spake all his mind. Whatever
Hagen did, it thought the fiddler good. Their steeds were now
ready, the sumpters laden well. On the journey they had taken no
harm that irked them, save the king's chaplain alone. He must
needs wander back on foot to the Rhine again.
(1) "a thousand and sixty". This does not agree with the
account in Adventure XXIV, witere we read of a thousand of
Hagen's men, eighty of Dankwart's, and thirty of Folker's.
The nine thousand foot soldiers mentioned here are a later
interpolation, as the "Thidreksaga" speaks of only a
thousand all told.
(2) "Eastern Frankland", or East Franconia, is the ancient
province of "Franconia Orientalis", the region to the east
of the Spessart forest, including the towns of Fulda,
Wurzburg and Barnberg. In "Biterolf" Dietlich journeys
through Eastern Frankland to the Danube.
(3) "Swanfield" (M.H.G. "Swanevelde") is the ancient province of
"Sualafeld" between the Rezat and the Danube.
(4) "Gelfrat" is a Bavarian lord and the brother of "Else",
mentioned below. Their father's name was also Else.
(5) "Wise women", a generic name for all supernatural women of
German mythology. While it is not specifically mentioned,
it is probable that the wise women, or mermaids, as they are
also called here, were 'swan maidens', which play an
important role in many legends and are endowed with the gift
of prophecy. They appear in the form of swans, and the
strange attire of the wise women mentioned here refers to
the so-called swan clothes which they wore and which enabled
Hagen to recognize them as supernatural beings. On bathing
they lay aside this garment, and he who obtains possession
of it has them in his power. This explains their eagerness
to give Hagen information, if he will return their garments
to them. For an account of them see Grimm's "Mythologie",
(6) "Aldrian" is not an historical personage; the name is merely
a derivative of "aldiro", 'the elder', and signifies
'ancestor', just as Uta means 'ancestress'. In the
"Thidreksaga" Aldrian is the king of the Nibelung land and
the father of Gunther, Giselher, and Gernot, whereas Hagen
is the son of an elf by the same mother.
(7) Else appears also in "Biterolf"; in the "Thidreksaga" he is
called "Elsung", the younger, as his father bore the same
name. See Adventure XXV, note 4.
(8) "Amelrich" is the ferryman's brother.
(9) "Spear". It was the custom to offer presents on a spear
point, perhaps to prevent the recipient from treacherously
using his sword. Compare the similar description in the
"Hildebrandslied", 37, where we are told that gifts should
be received with the spear.
(10) "Goods". In the "Thidreksaga" the ferryman desires the ring
for his young wife, which explains better the allusion to
marriage and the desire for wealth.
(11) "To-broke", see Adventure II, note 9.
(12) "Clerk", 'priest'.
ADVENTURE XXVI (1)
How Gelfrat Was Slain By Dankwart.
Now when all were come upon the shore, the king gan ask: "Who
will show us the right roads through this land, that we go not
Then the sturdy Folker spake: "For this I alone will have a
"Now hold," quoth Hagen, "both knight and squire. Certes, me-
thinketh right that we should heed our friends. With full
monstrous tales I'll make you acquaint: we shall never come again
to the Burgundian land. Two mermaids told me early in the
morning that we should not come back again. I will now counsel
you what ye do: ye must arm you, ye heroes, for we have mighty
foes. Ye must guard you well and ride in warlike guise. I
thought to catch these mermaids in a lie. They swore that none
of us would come home safe and sound, save the chaplain alone.
Therefore would I fain have drowned him to-day."
These tidings flew from band to band and valiant heroes grew pale
from woe, as they began to fear a grewsome death on this journey
to Etzel's court. Forsooth they had great need. When they had
crossed at Moering, (2) where Else's ferryman had lost his life,
Hagen spake again: "Sith I have gained me foes upon the way, we
shall surely be encountered. I slew this same ferryman early on
the morn to-day. Well they wot the tale. Now lay on boldly, so
that it may go hard with Gelfrat and Else, should they match our
fellowship here to-day. I know them to be so bold that 'twill
not be left undone. Let the steeds jog on more gently, that none
ween we be a-fleeing on the road."
"This counsel I will gladly follow," quoth Giselher, the knight;
"but who shall guide the fellowship across the land?"
They answered: "This let Felker do; the valiant minstrel knoweth
both road and path."
Ere the wish was fully spoken, men saw the doughty fiddler
standing there well armed. On his head he bound his helmet, of
lordly color was his fighting gear. On his spear shaft he tied a
token, the which was red. Later with the kings he fell into
Trustworthy tidings of the ferryman's death were now come to
Gelfrat's ears. The mighty Else had also heard the tale. Loth
it was to both; they sent to fetch their heroes, who soon stood
ready. In a passing short time, as I'll let you hear, one saw
riding towards them those who had wrought scathe and monstrous
wounds in mighty battles. Full seven hundred or more were come
to Gelfret. When they began to ride after their savage foes,
their lords did lead them, of a truth. A deal too strong they
hasted after the valiant strangers; they would avenge their
wrath. Therefore many of the lordings' friends were later lost.
Hagen of Troneg had well planned it (how might a hero ever guard
his kinsmen better), that he had in charge the rear guard, with
his liegemen and his brother Dankwart. This was wisely done.
The day had passed away; the night was come. For his friends he
feared both harm and woe, as beneath their shields they rode
through the Bavarian land. A short time thereafter the heroes
were assailed. On either side of the highway and in the rear
hard by they heard the beat of hoofs. Their foes pressed on too
hard. Then spake hold Dankwart: "They purpose to attack us here,
so hind on your helmets, for that be well to do."
They stayed their journey, as though it must needs he; in the
gloom they spied the gleam of shining shields. Hagen would no
longer keep his peace; he called: "Who chaseth us upon the
To this Gelfrat must needs give answer. Quoth the margrave of
Bavaria: "We seek our foes and have galloped on behind you. I
know not who slew my ferryman to-day, but it doth rue me enow,
for he was a hero of his hands."
Then spake Hagen of Troneg: "And was then the ferryman thine?
The fault was mine, he would not ferry us over, so I slew the
knight. Forsooth I had great need, for I had sheer gained at his
hands my death. As meed I offered him gold and trappings, that
he ferry me across to thy land, Sir Knight. This angered him so
greatly that he smote me with a mighty oar. At this I waxed grim
enow. I seized my sword and fended him his anger with a grievous
wound. Thus the hero met his death. I'll make amends, as doth
think thee best."
"Well I wist," spake Gelfrat, "when Gunther and his fellowship
rode hither, that Hagen of Troneg would do us harm. Now he shall
not live; the knight must stand for the ferryman's life."
Over the bucklers Gelfrat and Hagen couched their spears for the
thrust; each would charge the other. Else and Dankwart rode full
gloriously; they tested who they were, fierce was the fight. How
might heroes ever prove each other better? From a mighty thrust
Hagen was unhorsed by Gelfrat's hand. His martingale snapped, he
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