The Nibelungenlied

by

Anonymous

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Etzel Character Analysis

Etzel is the widowed King of Hungary (his character is based on Attila the Hun). Because he is a pagan, he doubts that the Christian Kriemhild will consider marrying him, but hopes that his extravagant wealth might persuade her. Rüdiger, Etzel’s vassal, travels to Burgundy to secure Kriemhild’s consent, and she returns with him to Hungary to become Etzel’s new bride. Etzel seems generally good-natured, gullible, and quite oblivious to what’s happening around him—he apparently never suspects Kriemhild’s persistent grief and vengefulness, for example, and is persuaded that the Burgundians remain armed out of custom, not fear for their lives. After his son Ortlieb is slain, however, he desires no mercy for the perpetrators. Nevertheless, he is shocked and grieved to see Kriemhild slay Hagen. With Dietrich and Hildebrand, he is one of the only characters who remains alive at the story’s end.

Etzel Quotes in The Nibelungenlied

The The Nibelungenlied quotes below are all either spoken by Etzel or refer to Etzel. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Penguin edition of The Nibelungenlied published in 1969.
Chapter 21 Quotes

Etzel’s dominion was so widely known that the most fearless warriors that were ever heard of among Christians and heathen alike were always to be found at his court, all having joined him. And always — a thing that will hardly happen again — the Christian life and the heathen existed side by side. But whichever rite a man followed, the King’s magnanimity saw to it that all were amply rewarded.

Related Characters: Etzel
Page Number: 170
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 31 Quotes

Leaving Bloedelin resolved on battle, the Queen went to table with King Etzel and his men. She had laid a deadly plot against their guests.

Kriemhild’s old grief was embedded deep in her heart. Since there was no beginning the fighting in any other way, she had Etzel’s son carried to the board. (How could a woman ever do a more dreadful thing in pursuance of her

revenge?) Four of Etzel’s followers went immediately and returned bearing the young Prince Ortlieb to the King’s table, where Hagen, too, was seated, owing to whose murderous hate the boy must needs soon die.

Related Characters: Kriemhild, Hagen , Etzel, Ortlieb, Bloedelin
Page Number: 236
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 39 Quotes

“You have repaid me in base coin,” she said, “but Siegfried’s sword I shall have and hold! My fair lover was wearing it when last I saw him, through whom I suffered mortal sorrow at your hands.” She drew it from its sheath -he was powerless to prevent it - and bent her thoughts to robbing him of life. She raised it in both hands - and struck off his head! King Etzel saw this, and great was the grief it gave him.

Related Characters: Kriemhild (speaker), Siegfried, Hagen , Etzel
Page Number: 290
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Nibelungenlied LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Nibelungenlied PDF

Etzel Character Timeline in The Nibelungenlied

The timeline below shows where the character Etzel appears in The Nibelungenlied. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 20
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
In Hungary, King Etzel, a widower, desires to take another wife. His friends encourage him to consider Kriemhild. He... (full context)
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...known the Queen and her brothers since childhood, offers to go to the Rhineland as Etzel’s envoy. Etzel promises to reward him with treasure, clothes, and horses, though Rüdiger says it... (full context)
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...received in the King’s hall. Hagen reminds Gunther that he was once a hostage in Etzel’s court, and that they must always seek to repay Rüdiger for his kindness to Burgundy.... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
...dressed in her widow’s clothes, she receives him the following day in tears. After hearing Etzel’s proposal, Kriemhild explains that she cannot love another man. Rüdiger argues that affection can heal... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Fate and Action Theme Icon
Giselher and Uote appeal to Kriemhild in private, trying to convince her that marriage to Etzel will make her happy. Kriemhild prays and ponders all night, wishing she had access to... (full context)
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...despite having been robbed of her fortune by Hagen. Aloud, she voices her concerns about Etzel’s heathenism. Rüdiger assures her that Etzel has many Christian warriors, and besides, perhaps she will... (full context)
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Finally, Kriemhild consents to marry Etzel. Rüdiger urges her to prepare for the journey to Hungary at once. When Kriemhild plans... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
...takes leave of Worms accompanied by a guard of honor, messengers rushing ahead to tell Etzel that his new bride is on her way. (full context)
Chapter 21
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Kriemhild’s party stays in Etzel’s fortress on the Traisen River in Austria for a few days while waiting for the... (full context)
Chapter 22
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
As Etzel rides out to meet Kriemhild, “bold knights of many different languages […] great companies past... (full context)
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Finally, King Etzel appears, accompanied by Lord Dietrich and his comrades. He joyfully approaches Kriemhild and greets her... (full context)
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Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
The festivities go on for 17 days. As rich as Siegfried was, Etzel is richer—no man has ever been surrounded by so many noble heroes or has given... (full context)
Chapter 23
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Etzel and Kriemhild live together peacefully for seven years, at which time Kriemhild gives birth to... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Fate and Action Theme Icon
...no one in Hungary would dare thwart her plans, so she decides she will prompt Etzel to invite her relatives to visit. So, one night, as the King lovingly caresses her,... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Fate and Action Theme Icon
Etzel immediately summons his two minstrels, Swemmel and Werbel, and explains that he is sending them... (full context)
Chapter 24
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Fate and Action Theme Icon
...remains open. Hagen replies that Gunther is deceiving himself, because “in matters of revenge King Etzel’s queen has a long memory.” Seeing Hagen’s hesitation to go to Hungary, Giselher taunts him... (full context)
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Fate and Action Theme Icon
...who also plays the viol and so is known as “The Minstrel.” Meanwhile, Hagen delays Etzel’s envoys so that they can’t arrive too far in advance of the Burgundians, lest Kriemhild... (full context)
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Fate and Action Theme Icon
...to who exactly is coming and expresses particular pleasure at the prospect of seeing Hagen. Etzel’s court begins to make preparations for the State visit. (full context)
Chapter 25
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Fate and Action Theme Icon
...believes them. The fairy pledges her word of honor that they can ride confidently into Etzel’s land without fear of harm. Pleased, Hagen returns their clothes, but another fairy says that... (full context)
Chapter 27
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Fate and Action Theme Icon
...they protest—Rüdiger’s hospitality is too formidable to resist. Before they continue on their way to Etzel’s country, Rüdiger bestows many gifts, including a gem-studded shield that catches Hagen’s eye. He also... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Meanwhile, messengers rush to Etzel’s court to announce that the Nibelungs are in Hungary. Kriemhild stands at a window watching... (full context)
Chapter 28
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...Siegfried every morning. Volker points out that there’s no stopping whatever will befall them in Etzel’s court, so they might as well proceed. As they do so, Hagen attracts much curiosity... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
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...calling Kriemhild a “she-devil.” She withdraws from them in fear for the time being. Meanwhile, Etzel, oblivious, reminisces about Hagen’s boyhood as a hostage in his court. (full context)
Chapter 29
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...two in exchange for any riches. The men from Burgundy retreat to the court, where Etzel greets them amicably and presides over a feast in their honor. (full context)
Chapter 31
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When Etzel arrives and sees the Burgundians wearing their helmets in church, he is sorry and wants... (full context)
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
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Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
...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... (full context)
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Etzel happily praises Ortlieb’s great promise and asks that he be taken home with Kriemhild’s relatives... (full context)
Chapter 32
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...off Bloedelin’s head. Bloedelin’s men immediately spring at Dancwart’s, and bloody fighting ensues. Even before Etzel hears of it, 2,000 Huns slaughter Dancwart’s men. Dancwart survives the fray, fighting his way... (full context)
Chapter 33
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Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange 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... (full context)
Chapter 34
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Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...door of the hall and throw them down the stairs. Outside the palace, Hagen taunts Etzel to join in battle—he and Siegfried have a very distant relationship, he jeers, since Siegfried... (full context)
Chapter 35
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Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
...through the water-spouts into the gutters. There is another respite from the fighting, during which Etzel and Kriemhild lament bitterly. (full context)
Chapter 36
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Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Etzel comes at their request, but he refuses the idea of a truce, since his losses... (full context)
Chapter 37
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...he would naturally oppose the foreigners, except that he has acted as their escort into Etzel’s country, so he is honor-bound to them and cannot fight them. Kriemhild argues that he... (full context)
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Etzel joins his wife, Kriemhild, in entreating Rüdiger on their knees. Rüdiger declares himself a “godforsaken... (full context)
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Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...weary and grief-stricken by this turn of events. When they see Rüdiger’s body carried out, Etzel and Kriemhild, too, lament loudly. (full context)
Chapter 39
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...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. (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
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...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.... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
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Fate and Action Theme Icon
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... (full context)