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Nibelungenlied: A Literary Analysis

hugo bekker
Series: Heritage
Copyright Date: 1971
Pages: 180
  • Book Info
    Book Description:

    Professor Bekker's study takes a fresh approach theNibelungenlied, tracing the new designs which the poet brings to the Nibelungen tradition and provides detailed examinations of the main aspects of technique and structure in the epic.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-5679-6
    Subjects: Language & Literature, History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-2)

    The following studies are based on the view that theNibelungenliedis a literary monument worthy to be read for its own sake. This is not to deny the validity and importance of the scrutiny of the epic’s known or assumed sources. After all, theNibelungenliedwas not written in a vacuum; its antecedents are multiple and complex, and the manner in which the poet dealt with them is very much a matter of relevant investigation.

    Unfortunately, endeavors to reconcile the two basic and sometimes mutually antagonistic approaches to the epic have so far been unsuccessful. Over against the imposing...

    (pp. 3-23)

    The title of this chapter derives from the conviction that clothes, gems, and festivities are of consequence in theNibelungenliedin so far as they are representative of a noble way of life. Together with other devices, which will also be mentioned, they emphasize parallel or contrasting situations and suggest additional dimensions of meaning. The larger part of the discussion that follows seeks to glean insights from several passages dealing with manifestations of this representative function.

    The first verse of theNibelungenlied– “Uns ist in alten maeren wunders vil geseit …”¹ – brings to mind tales of a gray...

    (pp. 24-49)

    In the thirty-secondAventiure, after the nine thousand Burgundians under Dankwart have been slain, Hagen’s brother has one of his awe-inspiring moments in this strophe:

    1939 “So we mir dirre leide,” sprach Aldrianes kint.

    “nu wichet, Hiunen recken, ir lat mich an den wint,

    daz der luft erküele mich sturmmüeden man.”

    do sah man den recken vil harte herliche gan.

    “Alas for this grief,” Aldriane’s son said, “stand back, you Hunnish knights, and let me out into the open, so that the breezes may cool me, a battle-weary man.” And he proceeded with magnificent stride.

    It is not certain whether...

  6. iii KRIEMHILD
    (pp. 50-68)

    The investigation of the window motif in chapter 1 showed that Kriemhild is the only person in theNibelungenliedwho leaves a window in order to destroy. She is also the one who does not want harmony for its own sake (chapter 1, p. 21), and who – in contrast to the Huns – is unwilling to exercise any form of mercy. There are several other occasions on which Kriemhild (obliquely) reveals or even indicts herself. Each of these instances is of consequence, for the epic provides but a few hints about her development in the course of time. For...

    (pp. 69-83)

    The following citations of critical views are fairly representative of the evaluations made about the Brunhild figure. Schneider observes, “Brünhilds Triebe sind ungebändigt, ihr Treiben hat einen materialistischen Anstrich, ihr Leben ist unheroisch, unritterlich, unköniglich.”¹ Weber conceives of her as “eine überkraftvolle nordische Jungfrau, wir würden etwa sagen, vom isländischen Landadel – von etwas grobschlächtiger Schönheit.”² De Boor sees Brunhild as a person who “diesem Dichter wenig zugänglich ist. … Sie ist ihm nur noch ein nötiger Hebel der Handlung.”³ Mueller thinks of Brunhild in these terms: “Of crude disposition, she is presented as a creature of monstrous strength and...

    (pp. 84-100)

    Because the evaluation of the Siegfried-Brunhild relationship in the previous chapter differs fundamentally from the other interpretations known to me, it may be worthwhile to scrutinize theEigenmannmotif. As I understand it, this motif goes to the very core of Brunhild’s problem in the quarrel episode and the scenes following.

    Several critics have had their say about this motif of Siegfried’s vassalage. Attention has been drawn to the stubborn fashion in which Brunhild adheres to the view that Siegfried is subservient to Gunther. Her tenacity has been put down as an indication that the poet of theNibelungenlieddoes...

    (pp. 101-117)

    From the point of view of many people Siegfried as a candidate for kingship has much to recommend him. Like all the crown bearers in theNibelungenlied– and some of their emulators as well, Rüdeger, for instance – Siegfried is liberal in giving. Such liberality is an attribute indispensable to kings:

    309 In der hogezite der wirt der hiez ir pflegen

    mit der beste spise. er hete sich bewegen

    aller slahte scande, die ie künec gewan.

    During the feast the king regaled them with the choicest foods; he had placed himself beyond all such criticisms as kings may incur....

    (pp. 118-134)

    It is the purpose of this chapter to see whether our understanding of Hagen would benefit from the intra-comparative evaluation that in the preceding chapters was considered a valid and rewarding way of reading theNibelungenlied. This procedure does not attempt a full-scale study of Hagen, but seeks to delineate aspects of his character that have received little or no attention in literary criticism. Hence, through the accumulation of circumstantial evidence a figure may emerge whose evaluation falls beyond the mainstream of prevailing opinions.¹

    The first time we hear of Hagen, he is a mere name:

    9 Daz was von...

    (pp. 135-148)

    From the previous chapter Hagen begins to emerge as a figure without redeeming or praiseworthy features. His ability to manipulate makes him a potential traitor to all and everything. That he feels an affinity to traitors becomes apparent in his encounter with Eckewart. The scene between them at the border of Rüdeger’s domains is not at all a little idyll introducing the greater idyll of Bechlaren immediately following, but presents a small-time traitor coming into his own when faced with a more exalted member of the guild. The following comments support this suggestion.

    Sacker¹ has dealt with Hagen’s experiences before...

    (pp. 149-165)

    The previous chapters have attempted to draw attention to some of the building materials used in theNibelungenlied, and to the nature of their distribution. What the total structure amounts to is a different matter. In order to attempt an evaluation of the epic as a whole, it is necessary to deal with some devices that are akin to that of parallelism, which so far has provided the base from which to view isolated motifs, events, or the functions of individual characters. The task involved demands a survey of the imagery in the epic, of the nature of the symmetry...

    (pp. 166-166)
    (pp. 167-172)
  15. INDEX
    (pp. 173-178)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 179-179)