Das Nibelungenlied

nibelungen

Das Nibelungenlied is an old Germanic epic. The author is still unknown, but presumably it was a male writer. Minnelyrik poems were written solely by men during the early Medieval ages. The Germanic language is old high German, and is actually quite elegant and softer than the German we speak today. Das Nibelungenlied was the first real drama from this time period that had character developments and a bitter ending. It is not a fairy tale like Pazival and Erec, although there are mythological elements in the story. The central theme to this Epic is revenge. I haven’t read any literary work on this theme since, but it is a feeling humans identify with on a daily basis. Perhaps because of religion, or ethics we learn as school children that we do not avenge ourselves. My essay looked at the protagonist Kriemhild. I felt that she was unfairly judged for her revenge:

Kriemhild macht sich einen Plan, sich gegen den Morder ihres Mannes zu rächen. Ihre Rache war maßloses Ungeheuer, die viele Männer zum Tode bracht, aber wie ungerecht ihre Rache geworden war, hatte Kriemhild trotzdem das Recht ihre Liebe zu ahnden. Niemand kann mit ihren Gefühlen oder mit ihrer Trauer identifizieren, wenn es ihnen nicht selber passiert war. Über Kriemhilds Gram wird es gesagt, “Vor Leid hätte sie sterben mögen.” Deswegen behaupte ich, daß jeder Mensch das Recht hat, sich zu rächen.

“ Ze samene dô gesâzen            die könieginne rich.

Sie gedâhten zweier recken,             die wâren lobelîch.

Dô sprach diu schœne Kriemhilt:            ‘ich hân einen man,

Daz elliu diesiu rîche             ze sînen handen solden stân,’ “(815)

(Frist Lang Die Nibelungen silent film)

I would also like to bring attention to the fact that in Germanic and Viking pagan religions one has the right to avenge a loved one. I think what made me sympathize with Kriemhild the most was that she was completely alone. Nobody was on her side when she tried to make Hagen responsible for the murder of her husband Siegfried, whom he murdered in cold blood for greedy reasons. Especially for the time period Kriemhild was a sort of heroine. She is the only female figure in old Germanic texts that goes into battle and executes the criminal. Other female characters don’t even pick up a sword let alone behead someone. I think her will, her pride, and her strength should be be admired and not condemned.

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What the author was trying to teach us with this story is that revenge comes at a pretty price. Kriemhild avenges Siegfried, but it is at the lost of thousands of innocent men who have nothing to do with this conflict, and quite frankly she could not handle her grief, turning instead to madness. We should ask ourselves, is revenge really worth it? For Kriemhild there was no other possibility than to condemn Hagen and make him pay for the murder, and I have to say I agree with her.

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“ The murder of Siegfried grieves Kriemhild in at least three ways: (1) it robs her of the man with whom she is deeply in love…(2) it deprives her of the source of much of her prestige and power (Siegfried as a status symbol); (3) it makes her acutely aware of her own guilt,”(17).

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