Mystery of authorship
"The Song of the Nibelungen" was written at the end of the XII - the beginning of the XIII century. About a dozen manuscripts and several small fragments have reached us. It is impossible to establish with certainty who wrote “The Song” - the name of the author is not mentioned anywhere. In one of the stanzas, the anonymous author calls himself a “scribe,” that is, he evaluates his contribution to the processing and creation of a new text low. However, over the centuries, literary critics argued whether the author of the Nibelungen simply added up the missing pieces of the mosaic together or creatively processed the text and wrote a real poem.
The first page of the manuscript C, about 1220−1250
The plot and origins
The main question that tormented the researchers of the work is whether it is possible to isolate the fragments that lie at the very basis of a heroic legend, or should the Nibelungen be considered as a whole? Literary critics never came to the general opinion, but some of the original sources of the Song are still possible to indicate.
In general, the poem falls into two parts, historically unrelated to each other. First, the author tells about the adventures of Siegfried, famous for having killed the dragon and seized the treasure of the Nibelungen. Another plot - the struggle with the maid warrior Brunhilda. This part of the Nibelunks largely overlaps with the stories described in the older “Elder Edda” and the Icelandic Völsung Saga.
Illustration of the XV century
In the "Saga" events are arranged in chronological order. At the end of the Volsung, a new story arises - a description of the destruction of the Burgundian house. This part is based on real historical events, although it is complemented by fiction. In 437, the Hun squad led by Attill (Etzel in the Song of the Nibelungen) actually defeated the Kingdom of Burgundy on the Rhine.
The Spanish chronicler Idacius, who wrote the sequel to Jerome's Chronicle, describes the fall of the Burgundians and estimates the number of victims at 20,000. Thus, the basis of the "Song of the Nibelungs" are real historical events and folk tales that have changed over the centuries.
The entire poem consists of 39 songs, which are traditionally called “aventures” (they also called the adventures of knights in medieval novels). The action takes place in the V century. The main character Siegfried (in other variations of the same plot - Sigurd) hails from the city of Xanten, where the Salic Franks lived in those days. The young man is brave and handsome, and when the time of initiation into knights comes, he refuses the crown of his father and goes to Worms to win the heart of the beautiful Krimhilda (in the Scandinavian epic - Gudrun). For a whole year, he feasts and celebrates at the court of the King of the Burgundians, Gunter, the brother of the future bride. To get the hand of his beloved, Siegfried has to go overseas with Gunter in order to marry the maiden warrior Brynhild to the king.
The ruler of the Burgundians alone can not cope, so the brave Siegfried with the help of an invisibility cloak helps him in a difficult struggle. Already in Worms, Brunhild tries again to defeat the future groom. Gunter is too weak, and a loving bride binds him and hangs on a nail. The next day Siegfried intervenes, defeats Brynhild and takes away her ring and belt (the symbol of virginity) - which is why, however, he will later have big problems.
Gunter's wedding night (G. Füsli, 1807)
Death of sigfried
Brave Siegfried dies because of nonsense, or rather, because of a female quarrel. Brunhilda and Crimhilda argue which of them is the real queen. Angry Hagen promises to take revenge for insulting Brunhilda and slyly kills Siegfried. Despite the fact that the hero bathed in the blood of dragon Fafnir and became invulnerable, a piece of paper stuck between his shoulders at that moment, and it hit King Hagen in the back. Inconsistent Crimhilda promises to take revenge on the scoundrel. The famous Nibelun treasures, received from her husband as a gift, the widow gives to the brothers, and the evil Hagen hides them at the bottom of the Rhine.
The depiction of Siegfried's death in manuscript K., 1480−1490
Revenge of the Crimhilda
After 13 years, Crimhild marries Etztel, the leader of the Huns. For a long time, she lives in the hope of avenging a murdered husband. This is a clear difference between the plot of the German poem and the Scandinavian epic - in the earlier versions of Krimhild, according to tradition, revenge for Etzel, who was flattered by treasure for killed brothers, in the “Song of the Nibelugs” blood kinship fades into the background, and the widow revenge for his relatives killing a husband
After another 13 years, Crimhild invites the Burgundians to visit. At night, after a feast, the servants of the queen try to attack the Huns, but they fail. The carnage breaks out the next day during a feast. The Burgundians and Huns interrupt each other. Crimhilda asks her to give Hagen, but the Burgundians refuse, and she orders to set fire to the hall. Burgundians spend the night in terrible agony, quenching their thirst with the blood of those killed. The next day, in order to find out from Hagen, where the Nibelungs treasure is hidden, Crimhild chops off his head to his brother Gunther. When that does not help, she kills Hagen himself, and then Hildebrand cuts her in half.
Crimhilda shows Hagen the head of Gunter (G. Füsli, 1805)
In this form, the poem was intended not for singing, as, probably, its separate parts in the early versions, but for reading aloud in the Austrian court circles of that time.