The Nibelungenlied

by

Anonymous

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The Nibelungenlied: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Count Eckewart remains in Burgundy with the widowed Kriemhild. A magnificent house is built for her next to the church, and she lives there joylessly, going only to services and to Siegfried’s grave. Her keen grief for her husband displays her great virtue.
It’s clear that Kriemhild’s life going forward is to be swallowed up by her grief, and this is fitting in the eyes of her culture; little more is expected of a woman in her situation.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
For three and a half years, Kriemhild avoids speaking to Gunther or even setting eyes on Hagen. Meanwhile, Hagen tells Gunther that if he won back Kriemhild’s friendship, then they could bring the Nibelung treasure to Burgundy. Gunther agrees to make overtures to Kriemhild through his brothers. After Gernot and Giselher entreat her, she agrees to see Gunther, though Hagen doesn’t dare enter her presence.
Kriemhild’s capacity to carry a grudge is becoming evident—and Hagen’s shameless persists as well. He is still preoccupied with the wealth Siegfried left behind and is happy to use his lords, Kriemhild’s brothers, to get to it.
Themes
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Kriemhild makes peace with Gunther, and it isn’t long before the Nibelung treasure, her nuptial dower, is ferried over the Rhine. Giselher and Gernot, along with 8,000 men, travel to Nibelungenland to fetch it from Alberich the dwarf, who grumbles that if Siegfried hadn’t stolen the invisibility cloak, then none of this would have happened. It takes four days and a dozen wagons to haul the gems and gold back to Burgundy, and Kriemhild’s rooms are soon crammed with treasure.
Claiming the Nibelung treasure gives Kriemhild power that she wouldn’t otherwise have had, thus inviting potential trouble. Alberich’s complaint lends a bit of (perhaps truthful) levity to the situation.
Themes
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Kriemhild’s hoard draws many foreign warriors to Burgundy, and she bestows lavish gifts on rich and poor alike. This begins to make Hagen nervous, and he is annoyed with Gunther’s permissiveness toward his sister, telling him, “No man who is firm in his purpose should leave the treasure to a woman.” Gunther still refuses to interfere, so Hagen secures the keys to the treasure himself.
Kriemhild’s riches and generosity threaten the status quo in Burgundy; the bonds she creates through her gift-giving could unsettle balances of power among the men. Hagen’s comment recalls a similar situation with Brunhild; she wasn’t trusted to dispose of her own wealth, either.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Related Quotes
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Kriemhild appeals to her brothers to intervene, but while they are away on a journey, Hagen dumps the entire treasure into the Rhine with the intention of using it for himself one day. When her brothers return, they agree that Hagen has acted badly, but he stays away from them until their anger cools. Kriemhild, however, stews in her malice toward Hagen. Her sorrow increases all the more, and she spends 13 years after Siegfried’s death lamenting.
Hagen finally obtains his objective, securing the treasure for himself and, he thinks, preventing Kriemhild from causing any trouble about the matter, since the money is beyond her reach. Kriemhild’s brothers are completely ineffectual in coming to her defense. Meanwhile, the injustice of the theft only intensifies Kriemhild’s grief and anger, and her life revolves around her obsession.
Themes
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon