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The Nibelungenlied

3.87  ·  Rating details ·  6,095 ratings  ·  311 reviews
Written by an unknown author in the twelfth century, this powerful tale of murder and revenge reaches back to the earliest epochs of German antiquity, transforming centuries-old legend into a masterpiece of chivalric drama. Siegfried, a great prince of the Netherlands, wins the hand of the beautiful princess Kriemhild of Burgundy, by aiding her brother Gunther in his strug ...more
Paperback, 404 pages
Published August 26th 2004 by Penguin Classics (first published 1200)
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Average rating 3.87  · 
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Because we all need some kick-ass medieval literature in our lives.
Jan 06, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Das Nibelungenlied
By Anonymus
Translated from Mittelhochdeutsch by Karl Simrock in 1827

Existing historical locations and recordings of living persons at the time, determine the period of creation of this epic poem to between 1202 and 1204.

It is the German counterpart to the Anglo-Saxon sagas of King Arthur and his knights and Chretien of Troie’s Lancelot tales.

The geographical locations of the events stretch from Worms, the country on the river Rhine, to a northern Iceland, the castle of Brunehi
Ronald Morton
Mar 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing
How bad*** do you want your epics to be?

Do you want someone to hit someone else so hard that the plains shake and gouts of red fire shoot from the impact? How about someone throwing a boulder 20 fathoms and then leaping just as far?

And, if you don’t, what’s wrong with you?

This book/epic/lay is amazingly over the top, and at the same time is one of the greatest examples of medieval literature that has not been lost to antiquity. Any one who has read and enjoyed Beowulf, Canterbury Tales, Aelfric’
Jul 02, 2010 added it
Shelves: 2010, 12th-century-ad
As with Shakespeare's Pericles, I have a great deal of affection for the Nibelungenlied on account of the conflict in its structure. The poet (lost now) has had to wrangle together two conflicting folk traditions into a single story. His or her achievement here is subtle and remarkable.

Northrop Frye says that a central trait of epic is a change of mode and subject halfway through the poem. The Odyssey, the Aeneid and Paradise Lost all switch tack in the middle: Odysseus' and Aeneas' romantic wan
Adonis Devereux
Jan 24, 2013 rated it liked it
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Paul Haspel
May 09, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: germany
The Nibelungs, in case you were wondering, are the royal house of the Burgundians – and the Burgundians, whose name lives on in the Burgundy region of east-central France that produces some of the world’s finest wine, were a Germanic tribe that migrated to the Rhine River region around the city of Worms in the early 5th century A.D. All of this information can be helpful for the modern reader who wants to understand the compelling, troubling, and exceedingly violent work that is The Nibelungenli ...more
David Sarkies
Jul 28, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy
Massacre upon Massacre
3 August 2016 - Dusseldorf

Well, maybe it isn't the case that the entire book is about people being slaughtered, but when you reach the end it certainly feels like it, with the last quarter of the story involving a huge revenge slaughter in the Hungarian king's home. In fact it appears as if, with the exception of a couple of people, nobody actually comes out of this story on top – and the thing is that other than being a bit of a pompous git, Siegfried didn't do anything w
Bryn Hammond
Jan 17, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: epic-and-romance
May I defend the Nibelungenlied against charges of misogyny?

Brunhild warns her suitors: “He will have to cast the weight, follow through with a leap, and then throw the javelin with me. Do not be too hasty – you may well lose your lives and your reputations here,” said the charming woman. “Consider it very closely.” And Hatto footnotes, There is always a touch of burlesque when Brunhild goes into action. I like you, A.T. Hatto; you translated a steppe epic, bless you; but why is this burlesque?
Nov 14, 2013 rated it really liked it
As is probably true of many if not most readers of this work, I explored it primarily because of my interest in and enjoyment of Richard Wagner’s great four-opera work, Der Ring des Nibelungen. I wished to read what was clearly part of his source material for the libretto and plot he created, and I wanted to see how closely the one work corresponded with the other.

Written in Middle High German around 1200 CE, the legends comprising the written work reach back much farther into the past. Its them
Aug 20, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: german
I love this book so much, the characters and storyline are so absorbing. The blend and variation of French courtly romance and Germanic heroic ethic causes tension throughout the poem, with characters such as Siegfried, Hagen, Brunhild and Hildebrand representing the older heroic ethic and characters such as Gunther, Dietrich, Etzel and Ruedegar representing a new courtly ethic. kriemhild's transformation from courtly princess to heroic villain is also intriguing. Variation is also noticeable in ...more
The Middle High German Nibelungenlied is thought to date from around 1180 to 1210 and is preserved in 35 known manuscripts. The poem probably originates from the Austrian Danube region. The poet, after much scholarly work, still remains a mystery, with theories on the poet's identity ranging from a Meister Konrad to the famous Walther von der Vogelweide.

The poem seems to have been popular during the Middle Ages with the vast amount of manuscripts in existence and the story seems to have remained
Mar 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Seigfried is my favorite mythical hero. He's kinda like a German Achilles without the 20+ chapters of pouting. He is a fierce warrior but also childlike and innocent in many ways. I just wanted the guy to win, and that's what he does for half the book. Then some cat-fight between his wife and his brother-in-law's wife escalates into his murder.

Then for the second half of the book, his widow plots revenge by marrying Attila the Hun and inviting her whole family to their last celebration. I was li
Czarny Pies
Jan 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in Northern European Mythology
Recommended to Czarny by: Richard Wagner
Shelves: mythology, german-lit
I saw the four operas of Wagner's Ring Cycle over twenty years finishing in 1983. Since that time I have been meaning to read the source story and finally had the strange impulse to do so last Friday.

I chose to read French prose version from the 20th century rather than the epic poem composed in Medieval German in the 13th century. This meant essentially that I missed most of the work's literary value but probably succeeded in my effort to gain marginal insight into Wagner's creative process.

I've read the story of Siegfried and Brunhild elsewhere, in the Norse versions/origin, the Eddas and the Saga of the Volsungs, but it was good to read this expanded edition. It's well translated by Hatto, who also translated my copy of von Strassburg's Tristan, and whose work I can recommend, at least insofar as it's readable and accessible, but keeps an "archaic" sort of flavour -- I can't say if it really keeps the voice of the narrator, of course. What I mean is, it doesn't modernise it so th ...more
Mark Adderley
Aug 26, 2009 rated it it was ok
This is an intriguing read, but not necessarily a very pleasant one. I read it to complement my reading of The Song of Roland, and intend to read The Poem of the Cid afterwards.

The Nibelungenlied is on the list of Great Books of the Western World, but I don't quite see why. The characterization is wildly inconsistent. Kriemhild, for example, is portrayed as a virtuous woman for the first half of the tale, but then as an evil schemer for the second half. Hagen of Troneg as an evil schemer for the
Stuart Macalpine
Mar 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing
The Song of the Nibelungen makes the average Hollywood action movie look like Telly Tubbies. When Kriemhilde is trying to burn the hall that Hagen is holed up in with 600 troops, he easily puts out the fire brands she throws in... by submerging the flames in the knee high blood from the thousands he has just slaughtered in there... whose blood he later drinks when they are starved of water and needs refreshment between battles... But there is more to it than that, particularly in the first half. ...more
With what a truly savage din did all those swords ring out as shield-braces flew from their housing with the gems dropping smashed into the blood! They fought with such ferocity that men will never fight so again.
The Nibelungenlied is an epic poem written around 1200 by an anonymous writer. This Penguin edition, translated into English prose by A.T. Hatto, was first published in 1965. It is an epic tale of murder and revenge that ends in one almighty bloodbath—which has hopefully piqued your int
Apr 22, 2020 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I read this with my Classics Bookclub. I had not ever heard of this book prior to reading it and I now find that sad. This is a wonderful, engaging epic which I will read again. It ranks in quality and excitement to The Odyssey.
Jul 07, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: poetry
"Following this his stalwarts were furnished with clothes lines with vari-colored squirrel."

"I shall not keep this momentous news from whatever trusty followers I may have; rather shall I complain of it to my friends."

"They alone die that are doomed."

"Their battered shields were taken away to store, and orders were given for the bloodstained saddles (of which there were so many) to be hidden away lest the ladies me moved to tears."

"I heartily regret our visit to this court."

"A soldier of fortune
(this review is for the Cyril Edwards translation)

I have to specifically note the edition because for the story itself I would've scored higher. I am not a fan of this translation (the way it is brought. I cannot judge its accuracy, of course) and even less of the translator's often unnecessary derisive remarks (the weird sportsman comparison???).

I hope Hatto's version will be better than this because the lay itself I do like and it pains me a bit to only give the Nibelungenlied 3 stars.
Shaun Rylands
Jan 10, 2020 rated it it was ok
Finished reading the chivalric romance of The Niberlungenlied. Bathing in dragon's blood and owning the cloak of invisibility is of little profit to Siegfried; the ambivalent and exotic Brunhild is weakened and becomes a silent Burgundian queen; while the sweet and pliant Kriemhild presides over a vengeful bloodbath in a faraway pagan court and is ultimately killed for it by the vengeful Hildebrand.
Jul 31, 2018 rated it really liked it
Newfound respect for fiddlers.

But yeah -- the moral landscape of this world is as foreign terrain as any I've walked.
Scott Holstad
Jan 31, 2020 rated it it was amazing
One of my very favorite Medieval works. Genius!
Jun 12, 2017 rated it liked it
The first-time reader of the Nibelunglied may need to set certain expectations aside, assuming that s/he has any. The title immediately calls to mind Wagner’s operas, and this in turn causes some to think about Nazi Germany. In fact Wagner’s operas play fast and loose with the original stories, and there is very little of the Nibelunglied in Wagner.

We would also be struggling to find much to support Fascism here either. Certainly the story concerns ancient warrior heroes, but there is no suggest
Welwyn Wilton Katz
Aug 27, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: comparative mythologians, historians of the Germanic peoples
Recommended to Welwyn by: no one
I have to confess to a prejudice against the story of the Nibelungenlied, which is so closely related to the Norse (The Tale of Andvari's Gold) and which I like so much better. The Norse makes sense of all the ruination and despair and doesn't pretend to be history. Unfortunately, the Nibelungenlied (with its anonymous author's emphasis on trickery through (female) magic and its deaths of heroic characters through (female) trouble-making and revenge) lays no real responsibility on any of the mal ...more
While largely less exciting than the Scandinavian version (Volsunga saga), and often bogged down in lengthy, trivial and uninteresting descriptions such as the kinds of dresses that girls are wearing as they bustle about, The Nibelungenlied none the less is a uniquely introspective work of courtly literature that takes a more self-conscious look at High Medieval social expectations than even such monumental contemporary authors as Chrétien de Troyes. The Nibelungenlied manages to entangle countl ...more
Joshua Jacobs
There's nothing wrong with this having a depressing ending. However, I have two main complaints:

First of all, one against this translation. Admittedly I haven't considered the task myself, but I find the translation a little to unpoetic. I speak fluent modern German and understand a (very) little Middle High German. Modern German translations are wonderfully poetic. The original seems to be as well. But the English (at least the Oxford edition) is far too unpoetic. I certainly think some of the
John Wiswell
May 09, 2008 rated it it was amazing
A brilliant epic that speaks across the centuries to the modern condition despite its trappings of myths, outmoted violence and larger than life characters. It is essentially two stories linked at the middle: the rise of a hero, and what happens to the country when it kills its heroes. On various levels it is a war epic, a commentary on sentimentalism and the importance of idols, and a shrewd look into primal politics. Siegfried, Kriemhild, Gunther, Hagen and Brunhild are all interesting charact ...more
May 03, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: adventure, poetry
Here's a story that's flawed in every respect, yet manages to be a fairly endearing read--if you are interested in mythology, that is. The version I read was a prose novelization of the epic poem, which I think is probably the best way to experience this. Keep in mind that every scene of the novel basically revolves around either violent bloodshed, the preparation of beautiful clothing, or copious amounts of gift-giving. If that doesn't sound like your kind of thing, take a pass. The writing its ...more
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