The Nibelungenlied

by

Anonymous

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The Nibelungenlied: Chapter 31 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The next morning at dawn, Hagen wakes the knights and asks if any wish to attend mass. They do, and accordingly begin dressing in their fine clothes. Hagen warns them that they should dress in battle-gear instead and pray for mercy, since this is probably the last time they will hear mass in their lives. Hagen and Volker stand guard outside the church.
This doesn’t suggest a sudden religious awakening in Hagen (who, not too long ago, was willing to drown a priest), but a recognition that they’re all probably about to die.
Themes
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Related Quotes
When Etzel arrives and sees the Burgundians wearing their helmets in church, he is sorry and wants to make amends to whomever he has offended. Hagen convinces him that it’s the Burgundian custom to go armed for three whole days at a festivity. Kriemhild looks at Hagen savagely when she hears this lie.
With almost touching innocence, clueless Etzel continues to be oblivious to the bristling hostilities right underneath his nose, accepting a flimsy pretense put forth by Hagen.
Themes
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hagen and Volker force the Huns to jostle around them in order to enter the church. After church, there is a bohort involving knights from many countries, and the Burgundians, despite being in an ugly mood, “[cover] themselves with glory” in the contests. During the bohort, Volker thrusts his spear through one of the Huns, leading the rest of the Huns to take up their swords against him. Etzel hurriedly takes a sword and beats back his own knights, enraged at such a disgraceful breach of hospitality; Volker’s actions were accidental.
Bohorts were for friendly competition and display of skill and were not meant to lead to actual fighting. It’s unclear whether Volker (who has already shown himself to be belligerent) speared the Hun intentionally, to provoke overall fighting, or accidentally, as the horrified Etzel—still oblivious to the tone of the court—insists.
Themes
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Everyone retreats to the palace for a feast. Kriemhild beseeches Dietrich for help, but he refuses to participate in her plot against her kinsmen, arguing that such a request “does [her] little honor.” She next appeals to Lord Bloedelin, Etzel’s brother, offering him riches, lands, and a bride if he will fight. He is swayed by her promises and plans to start an uproar, with the aim of delivering Hagen to her in bonds.
Dietrich, again from his position as an outsider to the conflict, is the only character to call out Kriemhild’s behavior as unbefitting. Kriemhild isn’t swayed by his reproach and again offers riches in exchange for violence, this time to her brother-in-law.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
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Kriemhild’s grief remains “embedded deep in her heart.” Since the fighting could be instigated in no other way, she has Etzel’s son brought to the table. The poet remarks, “How could a woman ever do a more dreadful thing in pursuance of her revenge?”
By exposing Ortlieb to such an explosive scene, the poet suggests, Kriemhild is doing something unthinkable for a woman and mother—continuing her descent into deviant womanhood, as well as barbarism.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Etzel happily praises Ortlieb’s great promise and asks that he be taken home with Kriemhild’s relatives to Burgundy, so that he can be reared as a knight. Hagen says that the young prince has an ill-fated look, and that they will never see him ride to court to wait on Ortlieb. Etzel and his lords are deeply pained at these words.
Entrusting a child to a relative to be raised with specific skills in a different household was considered an honor both for the child and the relatives, so Hagen’s insult of Ortlieb cuts deep.
Themes
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon