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The great knight Siegfried.

From Myths and Legends of all nations
by Logan Marshall
Age Rating 8 Plus.

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The following evening Siegfried again donned his cloud cloak and entered the apartments of Gunther and Brunhild. As he entered he blew out the lights, caught Brunhild's hands and wrestled with her until she pleaded for mercy. "Great king, forbear," she said. "I will henceforth be thy dutiful wife. I will do nothing to anger thee. Thou art my lord and master." Having accomplished his purpose, Siegfried left the room, but first he took Brunhild's girdle and her ring. These he carried with him when after the festivities he and Kriemhild returned to Xante on the Rhine. Siegmund and Sieglinde abdicated in favor of their son, and for ten years Siegfried and Kriemhild reigned happily. Then they were invited to pay a visit to Gunther and Brunhild. They accepted, leaving their little son Gunther in the care of the Nibelungs. Brunhild received Kriemhild graciously, but at heart she was jealous and wanted Kriemhild to acknowledge her as superior. One day they had a hot dispute, Kriemhild declaring that her husband was without peer in the world, and Brunhild retorting that since he was Gunther's vassal he must be his inferior. Kriemhild made an angry avowal that she would publicly assert her rank. Both queens parted in a rage and proceeded to attire themselves in the most gorgeous costumes they possessed. Accompanied by their ladies-in-waiting they met at the church door. Brunhild bade Kriemhild stand aside while she entered, and Kriemhild would not. A storm of words followed. Finally Kriemhild insulted the other queen by declaring that Brunhild was not a faithful wife.



"You loved Siegfried better than Gunther," she declared. "Here are your girdle and ring which my husband gave to me." So saying, she displayed the girdle and ring which Siegfried had unwisely given her when he confided to her the story of Gunther's wooing. Brunhild summoned Gunther to defend her, and he sent for Siegfried. The latter publicly swore that his wife had not told the truth and that Brunhild had never loved him or he her. "This quarrel is disgraceful," he said. "I will teach my wife better manners for the future." Gunther promised to do likewise. The guests departed, but Brunhild still smarted from the insult and longed for revenge. Hagen, finding her in tears, undertook to avenge her. He continually reminded Gunther of the insult his wife had received. The king at first paid no attention to the insinuations, but at last he consented to an assault on Siegfried. He asked the great hero to help him in a war which he pretended his old enemy Ludeger was about to bring upon him. Siegfried consented, and Kriemhild, because she loved her husband very deeply, was much troubled. In her distress she confided to Hagen that Siegfried was invulnerable except in one spot, between the shoulder blades, where a lime leaf had rested and the dragon's blood had not touched him. "Never fear," said Hagen, "I myself will help to protect him. You sew a tiny cross on Siegfried's doublet, just over the vulnerable spot, that I may be the better able to shield him." Kriemhild promised to obey his instructions, and Hagen departed, well pleased, to carry the news to Gunther.



At last the day came for Siegfried to leave his queen. He talked to her and comforted her and kissed her rosy lips. "Dear heart," he said, "why all these tears? I shall not be gone long." But she was thinking of what she had told Hagen, and wept and wept and would not be comforted. When Siegfried joined Gunther's party he was surprised to learn that the rebellion had been quelled and that he was invited to join in a hunt instead of a fray. So he joined the hunting party. Now Siegfried was as great a hunter as he was a warrior, and while the noonday meal was being prepared he scoured the forest, slew several wild boars, caught a bear alive and in a spirit of mischief turned him loose among the guests. Then, tired and thirsty, he sat down, calling for a drink. Not a bit of wine was at hand; it had all been carried to another part of the forest. Hagen pointed out a spring near by and Siegfried proposed a race, offering to run in full armor while the others ran without armor or weapons. In spite of the handicap, Siegfried reached the spring first. Always polite, Siegfried bade his host, Gunther, drink first, while he himself disarmed. Siegfried then stooped over the spring to drink, and as he stooped, Hagen, gliding behind him, drove his spear into his body at the exact spot where Kriemhild had embroidered the fatal mark.



Siegfried struggled to avenge himself, but found nothing but his shield within reach. This he flung with such force at his murderer that it knocked him down. Exhausted by the effort, the hero fell back upon the grass, cursing the treachery of Gunther and Hagen. Curses soon gave way to thoughts of Kriemhild, however, and overcoming his anger he recommended her to the care of her brother Gunther. Then the great hero died. The hunting party agreed to carry the body back to Worms and say that they had found it in the forest. But Hagen, bolder than the rest, ordered the bearers to deposit the corpse at Kriemhild's door, where she would see it when she went out for early mass the next morning. As he expected, Kriemhild discovered her dead lord and fell senseless upon him. Recovering, she cried out that he had been murdered: no foeman in a fair fight could have killed the glorious knight. A great funeral took place and Siegfried's body was laid in state in the cathedral at Worms. Thither many came to view it and to express their sympathy for the widow Kriemhild. The latter, suspecting treachery, refused to listen to Gunther until he promised that all of those present at the hunt should touch the body. "Blood will flow afresh at the murderer's touch," he said. One by one the hunters advanced, and when Hagen touched the great warrior's form, lo, the blood flowed again from his wounds. At this the Nibelung warriors wanted to avenge the dead, but Kriemhild would not permit them to interrupt the funeral. So the ceremonies were concluded and Siegfried's body was laid to rest.



       



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