Mbelingenlied, Or Nibelnngennot, an old German epic poem, embodying several cycles of heroic traditions. Its legends form a large part of the Heldeiuagen of Germany, and are found with various modifications in other Germanic and Scandinavian poems. It begins by telling how King Günther in Worms reigned over the Burgundians. He had a sister, Chriemhild, the world's wonder, of rare grace and beauty. She forswears marriage in consequence of a dream; but the gallant Sigfried, who had vanquished the ancient fabulous royal race of the Nibelungen, and taken away their immense treasures of gold and gems, comes to Worms to woo her. He is welcomed, triumphs over all the knights who venture to meet him, wins her heart by his valor, but has begun to despair of success when Günther hears of the beautiful and redoubtable Brunehild, queen of Isenland, and resolves to stake his fortune as her suitor. The condition is that he shall engage in three combats with her, and if vanquished be put to death. Sigfried accompanies and aids him, being promised the hand of Chriemhild if successful. The united heroes reach their destination after a voyage of twelve days. Brunehild appears in the lists with a shield of beaten gold, so heavy that four of her chamberlains can scarcely bear it.
Günther is in despair, when the touch and voice of an invisible person by his side give him courage for the fight. The same person seizes his arm, hurls the spear, and flings the stone, till the martial maid confesses herself vanquished, and bids her vassals do homage to Gunther. Sigfried, the real winner of the contest, who had been made invisible by his magic cap, receives for his reward the hand of Chriemhild, and the two marriages are celebrated amid the utmost pomp and rejoicing. Dissension ensues between the queen and her sister-in-law. Sigfried contrives to obtain the girdle of the former, and to present it to the latter, who afterward tells the whole tale of her husband's valor, and charges her rival with love for him and infidelity. The queen vows revenge, and secures the aid of the fierce Hagen, who skilfully draws from Chriemhild the secret of the spot where alone Sigfried was mortal, and soon after treacherously plunges a lance between his shoulders in a royal chase. After this Chriem-hild lives at Worms for thirteen years, Hag-en having sunk all her Nibelungen treasure in the Rhine. Then Etzel (Attila), king of the Huns, seeks her in marriage, and she consents, in order that she may avenge the death of Sig-fried. After seven years of repose in Hungary she persuades Etzel to invite Gunther and his heroes to visit him.
They accept, and go with a retinue of 10,000 men. At the castle of Rudiger, ambassador of the king, they are hos-pitably entertained. Provided with gifts, they advance into Etzel's land, who receives them with honor. A tumult results in a dreadful battle in which many of the heroes on both sides are slain, and Etzel and Chriemhild are barely rescued from the hall in which the Bur-gundians were raving with Berserkir rage. The hall is then assailed by 20,000 Huns. Gunther seeks a reconciliation, but rejects the proffered terms requiring the surrender of Hagen, and the queen orders the edifice to be set on fire. (July 600 Burgundians survive the conflagration. The contest is renewed by Rüdiger, and numerous heroes are so nearly matched that they slay each other, until at last of all the Burgundians only Gunther and Hagen remain, who are delivered in bonds to Chriemhild. She demands of the latter where the Nibelun-gen treasure is concealed, but he refuses to betray it so long as one of his lords lives. The head of Gunther is struck off, but Hagen still declares that he alone of men knows the secret, and that he will not reveal it.
She then with the sword of Sigfried beheads him by a blow, but the Hunnish warrior Hildebrand disdains to see a hero fall beneath a woman's hand, and slays the queen; and Etzel and Dietrich survive alone to lament the dead. - The action of the poem extends over thirty years, and it abounds in passages of remarkable beauty. The origin of the traditions embodied in it is usually attributed to the Scandinavians. They are contained in the Edda, the Brynhilda, Gu-drun, and Sigurd of which are only the personages of the Nibelungenlied in different outlines. Johannes von Muller ascribes the authorship of the Nibelungenlied to Wolfram von Eschenbach; Bodmer to Kunrat, a scribe of Bishop Piligrim of Passau, and in a later view to Marner; Adelung to Konrad of Würzburg; Zeune to Klinsor von Ungarland; A. W. von Schlegel to Heinrich von Ofterdingen; Von der Hagen to Walther von der Vogelweide; Karl Both to Rudolf von Ems; Gartner to the prelate Chuonrad; Heinrich HaastoWirnt von Gravenberg; Karl and Nikola Mosler to Fnedrich von Hansen; and Franz Pfeiffer to kuronberg; hut not one of these critics has been able to establish his opinion. Lachmann endeavored to show that the Nibelungenlied consists of 20 songs, originally unconnected and independent of each other, and of various dates.
According to Holtzmann, the Nibelungenlied is the work of a single poet, and did not originate by joining several national songs, though founded on the traditions then current, and traceable to the myths and legends common to all Indo-European races. As to the time of the composition of the poem, opinions vary from the 10th to the beginning of the 13th century. - See Lachmann, Ueber die ursprungliche Gestalt des Gedichtes ton der Nibelunge Not (Berlin, 1816); Mone, Einleitung in das Nibelungenlied (Heidelberg, 1818); Von der Hagen, Minnesinger (Leipsic, 1838); Spaun, Heinrich von Ofterdingen und das Nibelungenlied (Linz, 1840); Holtzmann, Untersuchungen ilber das Nibelungenlied (Stuttgart, 1854); Zarncke, Beitrdge zur Erklurung und Geschichte des Niebelungenliedes (Leipsic, 1857); Gartner, Chuonrad und das Nibelungenlied (Pesth, 1857); Haas, Die Nibelungen in ihren Be-ziehungen zur Geschiclite des Mittelalters (Er-langen, I860); Karl and Nikola Mosler, Der Nibelunge Noth (Leipsic, 1864); Bartsch, Untersuchungen ilber das Nibelungenlied (Vienna, 1865); Pfeiffer, FreieForschung - KleineSchrif-ten zur Geschichte der deutschen Literatur und Sprache (Vienna, 1867); Zupitza, Ueber Franz Pfeiffer's Versuch (Oppeln, 1867); Schults, Der gegenwdrtige Stand der Nibelungenfrage (Schleiz, 1874); and Fischer, Die Forschungen ilber das Nibelungenlied seit Lachmann (Leipsic, 1874). There are English translations by Birch and Letsam. The best translation into modern German is by Simrock (new ed., Stuttgart, 1874).