Thursday, 31 March 2011

Nibelungenlied: Chapter 18-19

Chapter 18:

Siegfried's dad offers to hand over the crown to Kriemhild (determined to preserve his retirement), while Kriemhild's relatives (the ones who DIDN'T murder her husband) try to persuade her to stay.

There is a brief tug-of-war, but finally Kriemhild does exactly what you would expect her to do, being the logical, responsible woman she is: she spits on Siegmund's offer of a crown and decides to stay behind in Worms, abandoning her son.

And so, the Nibelungenlads leave without Kriemhild. But vengeance is in their minds.

Chapter 19:

Kriemhild gets a house of her very own built for her, right near where Siegfried is buried, so she can go weep over him whenever she pleases (and this does please her well). She proves inconsolable, refuses to speak to Gunther for three whole years, and refuses to even look at Hagen.

Her brothers have had just about enough of her sulking and try to lure her back to court, but still she refuses to forgive Hagen.

Kriemhild's brothers ride to Niebelungenland to retrieve her bridal treasure, which is being protected by the dwarf Alberich (remember him?). He hands the treasure over to Kriemhild (it is her right, after all), but mourns the loss of the invisible cloak.

It takes three trips to move all the treasure back to the Rhine. Predictably, Hagen wants it for himself (greedy bastard). Among the more interesting items is a wish-rod made of gold, which makes its wielder master over men (apparently).

But Kriemhild is not interested in these thousands of pounds of treasure just hauled to Worms by the sweat and blood of slave labour:

And had it e’en been greater, / yea a thousandfold,
If but again might Kriemhild / safe her Siegfried hold,
Fain were she empty-handed / of all the boundless store.
Spouse than she more faithful / won a hero nevermore.


Kriemhild begins giving away her vast treasure to all sorts of people, and Hagen (the greedy bastard) begins to worry that she might win over the people and raise an army.

Gunther: "pfft, why should I care who she gives her treasure to?"

To which Hagen has another one of those delightful misogynist responses:
                                “No man that boasteth wit
Should to any woman / such hoard to hold permit.
By gifts she yet will bring it / that will come the day
When valiant men of Burgundy / rue it with good reason may.”

Ahh, the old medieval problem of women with property.

Hagen wanders in and steals all of her treasure anyway (which is quite the undertaking, given the amount of it--no wonder he could kill Siegfried). She never gets the treasure back.

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