The Nibelungenlied

by

Anonymous

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The Nibelungenlied: Chapter 38 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Dietrich is horrified to learn of Rüdiger’s death, deeming it “terrible vengeance and a diabolical mockery of all that is right.” He sends Hildebrand, his master-at-arms, to approach the foreigners civilly to learn what has happened. His nephew, Wolfhart, insists that they go armed. When Volker sees the group approach, he fears they will attack.
Dietrich, again stepping into the story as a character above the fray, attempts to find a peaceful resolution. Wolfhart’s decision to bear arms, however, will undermine Dietrich’s peaceful intent.
Themes
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
When Hildebrand and his men confirm the truth about Rüdiger’s death, they weep. Hildebrand wishes to bear the Margrave’s body away. Volker refuses to hand over the corpse; they must come and get it. He and Hagen continue to provoke the men until they finally give up their restraint and run into the hall. Determined to avenge Rüdiger, Hildebrand fights as if he’s gone berserk and finally kills Volker. Soon after, Wolfhart and Giselher slay one another. Then Hagen, grieving for Volker, wounds Hildebrand. Now Gunther and Hagen are the only Burgundian warriors left alive.
Hagen and his men are uninterested in a peaceful parley; indeed, it seems that everyone involved has been reduced to a barbaric, willful lack of restraint by this time. One by one, most of the remaining major characters are finally killed off.
Themes
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Meanwhile, the mortally wounded Hildebrand staggers back to Dietrich, who is grieved to have the news of Rüdiger’s death confirmed, and utterly shaken to hear that all his men have been killed in the meantime—especially since he’d forbidden them to fight. Dietrich declares himself godforsaken and laments that he cannot die of grief.
Like Rüdiger, Dietrich will discover that even his status as a seemingly impartial exile does not exempt him from weighing into the conflict; now that his men have been slain, honor forbids his inaction, but the necessity breaks his heart.
Themes
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon