The Nibelungenlied

by

Anonymous

Teachers and parents! Struggling with distance learning? Our Teacher Edition on The Nibelungenlied can help.

The Nibelungenlied: Chapter 33 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dancwart arrives at the court, his armor streaming with blood, and summons Hagen. Hagen orders Dancwart to guard the door while he has a word with the Hunnish knights who have struck down the Burgundians’ squires without provocation. He declares, “Let us now drink to the dead and so repay the King’s wine—with the young lord of the Huns as the first.” With this, he strikes off Ortlieb’s head so that the boy’s head falls into Kriemhild’s lap, unleashing a savage slaughter among the warriors.
The horrifying murder of Ortlieb is made yet more shocking when Hagen casts it as “repaying” King Etzel’s hospitable acts, though Hagen is being sarcastic here; it’s revenge for the Huns’ attack, and he probably hopes to provoke Kriemhild into showing her vengeful intentions openly as well.
Themes
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Volker leaps up from the table, wielding his fiddle-bow like a sword, and makes “loud music.” The three Burgundian kings also jump up, but it’s too late for them to put a stop to the violence, so they enter the fray themselves. In the midst of the bloodshed, Kriemhild appeals to Dietrich to help her escape. He promises to try, although he has never seen so many good knights so bitterly roused. He begins to shout so resoundingly that his voice puts a stop to the fighting.
Kriemhild may have gotten what she wanted by triggering violence, but she has no wish to be swept up in it, at least not yet. Dietrich is the only character who is able to be heard over the din, which symbolizes his tendency to remain above the fray.
Themes
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
The warriors allow Dietrich safe-conduct to leave the scene of the fight along with Etzel, Kriemhild, and Rüdiger. Once outside the hall, Etzel laments that Volker’s “lays grate on the ear,” and that he has never had “so dreadful a guest.” Back inside, the knights of Burgundy succeed in felling the Hunnish knights so that none remains alive, and the battle dies away.
The poet is fond of musical plays on words to highlight Volker’s fierceness as a fighter. Etzel’s comments on Volker’s rudeness sound humorous, but it’s true that in the context of the story, his failures as a guest would be seen to only compound his deadly behavior.
Themes
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon