The Nibelungenlied

by

Anonymous

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The Nibelungenlied: Chapter 22 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
As Etzel rides out to meet Kriemhild, “bold knights of many different languages […] great companies past counting of both Christians and heathens” ride ahead of him, including Greeks, Russians, Poles, Wallachians, and “wild Pechenegs.” In the Austrian town of Tulln on the Danube, Kriemhild encounters many unfamiliar customs and is received by various knights “who were to suffer at her hands in days to come.”
This scene highlights the variety of peoples who will be under Kriemhild’s command as Etzel’s wife—but also makes it all the more alarming how much destruction and suffering it will be within her power to bring about.
Themes
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Finally, King Etzel appears, accompanied by Lord Dietrich and his comrades. He joyfully approaches Kriemhild and greets her with a kiss. After a brief jousting display, the couple retires to a pavilion, chaperoned by Rüdiger. The next day, they all journey to Vienna, where the wedding is celebrated. Kriemhild gives so many gifts to her new vassals that they remark, “We imagined lady Kriemhild had no means, instead of which she has performed marvels of generosity!”
Etzel and Kriemhild exchange amiable greetings at last. The Goth exile, Lord Dietrich—like Kriemhild, a foreigner in a foreign land— also appears in the story for the first time. As has been well established at earlier weddings, gift-giving is an important celebratory gesture, cementing new relationships at the same time. It’s important to Kriemhild to establish this reputation for generosity from the start.
Themes
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
The festivities go on for 17 days. As rich as Siegfried was, Etzel is richer—no man has ever been surrounded by so many noble heroes or has given away so many gifts of fine clothes. There is such an air of sumptuous generosity that everyone “freely gave whatever was asked […] with the result that, thanks to his generosity, many a knight was left there with no clothes to stand up in!” In the midst of all this, Kriemhild weeps in memory of Siegfried, but she masks her feelings, and no one notices.
Although Etzel is as rich as Kriemhild could desire and then some, the wedding festivities only inspire fresh tears, which she’s careful to hide. Her marriage, and the riches that accompany it, are obviously a means to an end for her. Meanwhile, Etzel’s unsparing generosity inspires a similar attitude in his guests, carried to an absurd extreme. The air of festive camaraderie will be grotesquely paralleled by extremes of hostility by the end.
Themes
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
The next day, they ride away from Vienna and into Hungary. When they arrive at Etzelnburg, Kriemhild receives marks of submission from her new subjects, and she gives away all that she had brought with her from the Rhine. She comes to wield great power, and the court and country live in great splendor and bounty in the years to come.
The following years are marked by harmony and further consolidation of power and riches—making it look as if all is well. The poet lulls readers into thinking that Kriemhild has been peacefully assimilated into her new world—which, based on past upsets, creates an expectation that such peace will eventually be shattered.
Themes
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
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