The Nibelungenlied



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The Nibelungenlied: Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Giselher and Gernot accompany Kriemhild as far as the Danube before tearfully taking their leave. Rüdiger’s party then passes through Bavaria. In the town of Passau, many people come out to see the strangers, including Bishop Pilgrim, who is Kriemhild’s uncle and encourages them to stay for a visit. They press on toward Rüdiger’s lands, however, and Gotelind rides out from the camp in hopes of cheering Kriemhild, who is now a stranger in a foreign land.
The poet’s somewhat more detailed description of the brief passage through Bavaria, particularly Passau, has been cited as evidence of the poet’s origins in that region. Kriemhild is now decidedly beyond the reach of those who have known and loved her and begins to become a stranger to them, even as she’s a stranger within unfamiliar lands.
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Kriemhild and Gotelind greet one another courteously and spend time getting acquainted, “neither [having] any foreboding of what was destined to happen.” The next morning, they press on to Pöchlarn, where Kriemhild’s party is well looked after, and she in turn gives fine gifts to her hosts through what “slender means” remain to her.
The poet continues to drop hints that later events will devastate all the characters. Meanwhile, although Kriemhild doesn’t have access to her rightful wealth, she’s still able to reward and cement the loyalty of those she meets on the journey.
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Kriemhild’s party stays in Etzel’s fortress on the Traisen River in Austria for a few days while waiting for the Huns to arrive to accompany her into Etzel’s lands. “Etzel’s dominion,” the poet comments, “is so widely known that the most fearless warriors ever heard of among Christians and heathens alike” flock to him. “And always,” he adds, “the Christian life and the heathen existed side by side. But whichever rite a man followed, the King’s magnanimity saw to it that all were amply rewarded.”
The positive characterization of Etzel as a tolerant and generous king is likely due to his alliance with the Ostrogoths, the Germanic peoples who settled in Austria and its environs in the sixth century. Though his kingdom is decidedly “other” in its paganism and ethnic diversity, it’s a relatively benign otherness.
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