The Nibelungenlied

by

Anonymous

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The Nibelungenlied: Chapter 39 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Hildebrand helps Dietrich put on his armor, and they approach the two Burgundians. Dietrich asks Gunther why he has done such a thing to him, a wretched exile, who now “[stands] robbed of all that were my refuge.” Hagen says they can’t be blamed, since Dietrich’s men had entered the hall fully armed. Gunther adds that they were trying to spite Etzel, not Dietrich, with their refusal to surrender Rüdiger’s body.
Dietrich tries to reason with Hagen and Gunther, but both of them are still in a defensive and vengeful frame of mind and show no sympathy for the bereaved exile’s grief.
Themes
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Dietrich asks Gunther to surrender himself and Hagen, and Dietrich will ensure they are kindly treated. Hagen says they would be disgraced in doing this, and that he means to take on Dietrich in single combat. After a fierce fight, Dietrich overcomes Hagen with a deep wound, and, with his great strength, manages to bind his opponent and deliver him, “the boldest warrior that ever bore sword,” to Queen Kriemhild.
As a warrior, Hagen can’t stomach the option of surrender, especially after such a drawn-out struggle and the loss of so many of his own men. Dietrich, one of the only figures who has been reluctant to take up arms, finally overcomes the bloodthirsty Hagen.
Themes
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
At long last, Kriemhild is happy. She has Hagen locked in a dungeon. Dietrich says that Hagen should be allowed to live and make amends to her. Meanwhile, Gunther, in his grief, pursues Dietrich. Despite putting up an honorable fight, Gunther is finally felled by Dietrich, who binds him, too, and carries him to Kriemhild. Dietrich appeals once again to the Queen that such worthy knights should be allowed to live. She agrees, but after Dietrich leaves, she puts her final vengeance in motion.
Kriemhild is finally completely happy. Perhaps seeing this, the perceptive Dietrich makes an appeal to whatever humanity she has left by asking her to show mercy—the two knights have proven themselves deserving of redemption.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Kriemhild visits Hagen in the dungeon and says that if he returns her treasure, he may return to Burgundy alive. Hagen refuses, so Kriemhild gives the order to have Gunther beheaded. She then carries her brother’s head by its hair and presents it to Hagen. He is still unmoved, promising the “she-devil” that the treasure’s location will forever stay hidden.
If it momentarily seemed that Kriemhild might consider clemency, it is quickly disproven. Her unfeeling treatment of Gunther is shocking, and Hagen accordingly pronounces her a she-devil, irredeemably fallen from what she was at the beginning of the story.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
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“You have repaid me in base coin,” says Kriemhild, “but Siegfried’s sword I shall have!” She takes the sword Balmung in her hands and slashes off Hagen’s head. Etzel is grieved to witness the slaying of such a great warrior by a woman’s hand. Hildebrand immediately leaps up to avenge Hagen, leaping forward and hewing Kriemhild in pieces.
Kriemhild finally gets her revenge; after all this, she achieves it by her own hand. Even after what Hagen did to Ortlieb, Etzel sees something shameful in the fact that a woman has brought the fearsome warrior down. So does Hildebrand, and his hasty vengeance permits Kriemhild little time to savor her victory.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Related Quotes
Overlooking the bodies of all the doomed, Dietrich and Etzel weep for their kinsmen and vassals. The festival has ended in sorrow, “as joy must ever turn to sorrow in the end.”
At the end, only the heathen King and the exiled Goth are left standing. When vengeance does its work, the whole world is undone. And Kriemhild’s girlhood fear comes true: love may bring happiness, but it also brings great sorrow to all whom it touches.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Fate and Action Theme Icon