The Nibelungenlied

by

Anonymous

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The Nibelungenlied: Chapter 5 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Throngs of noble guests begin to arrive in Burgundy for the great festivity. Meanwhile, Gunther has observed Siegfried’s love for his sister, Kriemhild. Ortwin suggests that Kriemhild should be allowed to appear before the guests. Gunther sends word to his mother and Kriemhild accordingly. One hundred vassals and as many ladies-in-waiting escort Kriemhild and Queen Uote to the festival, and the knights jostle to get a good look.
Gunther is not an oblivious fool, at least in this matter, and finally arranges for the long-desired meeting to unfold. In keeping with courtly custom, Kriemhild is accompanied by scores of beautiful women, signifying her royal importance. Since a lady of her stature would have largely kept to her own quarters, her emergence in public for the festival is a big deal for the entire kingdom.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Kriemhild emerges “like the dawn from the dark clouds,” and Siegfried is freed from the distress of his yearning to see her. He is nevertheless sad, thinking it foolish to expect that he could ever win the princess’ love. As the knights observe the beautiful women, “the high aspirations of their hearts” bring them much joy.
Kriemhild’s appearance liberates Siegfried from his status as a lovelorn knight pining from afar, and the appearance of the other courtly women stirs up chivalrous desires in the other men present.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Gernot then encourages Gunther to present Siegfried to Kriemhild. “With this,” he counsels, “we shall attach this splendid warrior to ourselves.” When he is summoned, Siegfried’s heart is finally filled with undiluted joy. As Kriemhild greets him, he blushes and bows, his spirit soaring. The two take hands and walk together, exchanging tender looks. Other knights look on with envy. When Kriemhild bestows a kiss on Siegfried, King Liudegast reflects grimly, “This most exalted kiss has been the cause of many a man’s lying wounded.”
Siegfried has gone from feared outsider to valuable ally, and now the Burgundian court wants him to be one of them, through marriage. Meanwhile, genuine romance blossoms between the pair, sealed with a ceremonial kiss indicating Kriemhild’s esteem for Siegfried. Looking on, the foreign king sums up the theory of courtly love as a positive, emboldening force—Siegfried’s longing for this kiss had made him an especially ardent warrior, to the detriment of Liudegast’s and Liudeger’s men.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Siegfried accompanies Kriemhild to and from church. Kriemhild thanks him for his service in battle, and Siegfried tells her that he has done it to win her favor. The two continue to appear in one another’s company over the next 12 days of the festival. Liudeger and Liudegast express their desire to return home, and Gunther goes to Siegfried for advice. Siegfried advises that the foreign kings be allowed to go free, without obligations, as long as they swear never to invade again. The kings do so. Finally, Gunther doles out heaping shields of gold to his friends and dismisses them with honor.
Loose ends appear to be tying up neatly. The lovers’ courtship continues, the aftermath of war has been fully resolved, and gifts of gratitude have been lavished on those who served the court.
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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Siegfried, too, makes preparations to leave, but Giselher urges him to stay. Siegfried agrees. As a result, he sees Kriemhild daily. It is her “transcendent beauty” that keeps him there, but Siegfried is “tormented” by the passion Kriemhild arouses in him—“thanks to which,” concludes the poet, “the hero met a pitiful end.”
Siegfried makes another token attempt to leave, but is drawn back by the promise of Kriemhild. Her “transcendence” and his resultant “torment” are a perfect example of the courtly love ideal; the object of his affections is both so near and so unattainable. If he had been able to resist Kriemhild’s beauty, the poet implies, then Siegfried wouldn’t have died.
Themes
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon