The Nibelungenlied

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Hagen Character Analysis

Hagen is a vassal of the Burgundian kings Gunther, Gernot, and Giselher. He is known as a particularly fearsome warrior. He is also calculating and acquisitive, always looking for ways to accumulate power and wealth, whatever the cost. He boasts an extensive knowledge of foreign countries and shares details of Siegfried’s valiant past when the latter first arrives in Burgundy. As soon as Hagen hears Brunhild’s accusations against Siegfried, he begins plotting against him. Hagen crafts an elaborate scheme which culminates in him stabbing Siegfried in the back during a hunting trip. At Siegfried’s funeral, Hagen’s proximity to the bier causes Siegfried’s wounds to bleed anew, proving Hagen’s guilt in accordance with folk traditions. He is obsessed with Siegfried’s Nibelung treasure, and a few years later, he contrives to have it brought to Burgundy and gains possession of it, dumping it into the Rhine and provoking Kriemhild’s wrath all the more. Years later, when the Burgundians are invited to Etzel’s and Kriemhild’s festival, he resists going at first, but ultimately relents, even though he suspects—and some water-fairies confirm—that Kriemhild is plotting deadly revenge. When the festival becomes a massacre, Hagen survives to the last, then is finally slain by Kriemhild herself.

Hagen Quotes in The Nibelungenlied

The The Nibelungenlied quotes below are all either spoken by Hagen or refer to Hagen . 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 7 Quotes

And now Brunhild had arrived, armed as though about to contend for all the kingdoms in the world and wearing many tiny bars of gold over her silk, against which her lovely face shone radiantly. […] The man whom she would favour would have to be a very brave one: for this shield which the girl was to carry was (so we are told) a good three spans thick beneath the boss; it was resplendent with steel and with gold, and even with the help of three others her chamberlain could scarce raise it. “What now, King Gunther?” stalwart Hagen of Troneck asked fiercely, on seeing the shield brought out. “We are done for - the woman whose love you desire is a rib of the Devil himself!”

Related Characters: Hagen (speaker), Gunther, Brunhild
Related Symbols: Clothes
Page Number: 65
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 14 Quotes

“How could the thing be done?” asked King Gunther. “I will tell you,” replied Hagen. “We shall send envoys to ourselves here in Burgundy to declare war on us publicly, men whom no one knows. Then you will announce in the hearing of your guests that you and your men plan to go campaigning, whereupon Siegfried will promise you his aid, and so he will lose his life. For in this way I shall learn the brave man’s secret from his wife.”

The King followed his vassal Hagen’s advice, to evil effect, and those rare knights began to set afoot the great betrayal before any might discover it, so that, thanks to the wrangling of two women, countless warriors met their doom.

After Hagen learns of Kriemhild’s charge that Brunhild slept with Siegfried, he wastes no time beginning to plot Siegfried’s death. After winning over the other Burgundians and even the weak Gunther to his view, he explains his plan to discover Siegfried’s vulnerability. It’s striking that he uses the device of a military engagement to bring about the betrayal. Siegfried initially won the Burgundians’ trust by offering to fight off invaders for them; now, Hagen and the others betray that loyalty by laying a trap for Siegfried, knowing he will leap to defend them in battle. Of course, Siegfried isn’t faultless; much as Siegfried defeated Brunhild by secretly using the magical cloak, now the others defend Brunhild’s honor by means of an even more convoluted deception. And while it’s true that the crisis was touched off by the queens’ quarreling, it’s Hagen’s choice to capitalize on the situation, ostensibly in Brunhild’s defense, that triggers actual violence. In addition, Gunther shows himself to be incredibly weak-willed and unwilling to oppose Hagen, despite Siegfried’s faithful friendship in the past. There is much more guilt to go around than the poet’s terse summary suggests.

Related Characters: Gunther (speaker), Hagen (speaker), Kriemhild, Siegfried, Brunhild
Page Number: 118
Chapter 15 Quotes

“You and I are of one blood, dear Hagen, and I earnestly commend my beloved spouse to you to guard him.” Then she divulged some matters that had better been left alone. […] “Now I shall reveal this to you in confidence, dearest kinsman, so that you may keep faith with me, and I shall tell you, trusting utterly in you, where my dear husband can be harmed. When the hot blood flowed from the dragon’s wound and the good knight was bathing in it, a broad leaf fell from the linden between his shoulder-blades. It is there that he can be wounded, and this is why I am so anxious.”

“Sew a little mark on his clothing so that I shall know where I must shield him in battle.”

She fancied she was saving the hero, yet this was aimed at his death.

Related Characters: Kriemhild (speaker), Hagen (speaker), Siegfried
Related Symbols: Clothes
Page Number: 121
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 16 Quotes

The lady Kriemhild’s lord fell among the flowers, where you could see the blood surging from his wound. Then – and he had cause - he rebuked those who had plotted his foul murder. “You vile cowards,” he said as he lay dying. “What good has my service done me now that you have slain me? I was always loyal to you, but now I have paid for it. Alas, you have wronged your kinsmen so that all who are born in days to come will be dishonoured by your deed. You have cooled your anger on me beyond all measure. You will be held in contempt and stand apart from all good warriors.”

Related Characters: Siegfried (speaker), Kriemhild, Gunther, Hagen
Page Number: 131
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 17 Quotes

Now learn of a deed of overweening pride and grisly vengeance. Hagen ordered the corpse of Siegfried of Nibelungland to be carried in secret to Kriemhild’s apartment and set down on the threshold, so that she should find him there before daybreak when she went out to matins, an office she never overslept.

They pealed the bells as usual at the minster, and lovely Kriemhild waked her many maids and asked for a light and her attire. A chamberlain answered - and came upon Siegfried’s body. […] Before she had ascertained that it was her husband she was already thinking of Hagen’s question how he might shelter Siegfried, and now she rued it with a vengeance! From the moment she

learned of Siegfried’s death she was the sworn enemy of her own happiness.

Related Characters: Kriemhild, Siegfried, Hagen
Related Symbols: Dawn
Page Number: 133
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 19 Quotes

Now that Kriemhild had possession of the hoard she lured many foreign warriors to Burgundy, and indeed her fair hand lavished gifts with such bounty that the like has never been seen […] Hagen declared that were she to live for any time she would recruit so many men that matters would go ill with the Burgundians. […] “No man who is firm in his purpose should leave the treasure to a woman,” said Hagen. “By means of her gifts she will bring things to the point where the brave sons of Burgundy will bitterly regret it.”

Related Characters: Hagen (speaker), Kriemhild, Gunther
Page Number: 148
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 25 Quotes

The priest made great efforts to keep himself afloat, thinking to save his life if only someone would help him. This, however, was ruled out, for mighty Hagen vehemently thrust him to the bottom, to the scandal of everyone there. Seeing no aid forthcoming, the miserable cleric turned back to the shore to his great discomfort, and although he could not swim he was succoured by the hand of the Lord and reached dry land in safety. Standing up, he shook his cassock, and this brought it home to Hagen that there would be no escaping the fate which the wild nixies had foretold. “These knights are doomed to die,” thought he.

Related Characters: Hagen (speaker), The Water-Fairies / The Nixies
Page Number: 198
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 28 Quotes

“Alas,” cried lady Kriemhild, “why will my brother and Hagen not let their shields be placed in safety? Someone must have warned them! If I knew who it was he would surely die!”

“It was I that warned the illustrious kings of Burgundy and their vassal, fearless Hagen,” replied King Dietrich angrily. “Now come on, you she-devil, you must not let me go unpunished!”

Related Characters: Kriemhild (speaker), Dietrich (speaker), Hagen
Page Number: 217
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 31 Quotes

And now indeed the bright morning sent its rays into the hall to light the guests, while Hagen roused the knights everywhere, asking whether they wished to go to mass in the cathedral, for there was a great pealing of bells in keeping with the Christian rite. But Christians and heathen sang mass differently, as was very evident — they were at variance in this. Gunther’s men did wish to go to church and they had immediately risen from their beds and were lacing themselves into clothes of such quality that no knights ever brought better into any realm.

Related Characters: Gunther, Hagen
Related Symbols: Clothes, Dawn
Page Number: 230
Explanation and Analysis:

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

Hagen Character Timeline in The Nibelungenlied

The timeline below shows where the character Hagen appears in The Nibelungenlied. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 1
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...bring them to a sad end.” Some of these knights include famed warriors such as Hagen, Dancwart, Ortwin, and Volker. (full context)
Chapter 3
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...in this endeavor, but warns Siegfried to be wary of Gunther’s many proud vassals, especially Hagen. Siegfried isn’t troubled; whatever he can’t get by friendly requests, he says, he will gain... (full context)
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...his men receive word of the dazzling knights who have just arrived, and Gunther summons Hagen, since Hagen “knows all the kingdoms and foreign countries” and can identify the newcomers. (full context)
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Though Hagen has never seen him before, he guesses that the unfamiliar knight is Siegfried, slayer of... (full context)
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Hagen further relates that Siegfried once slew a dragon and bathed in its blood, which caused... (full context)
Chapter 4
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...Gunther should choose to negotiate with them. Gunther summons his men to court for advice. Hagen suggests asking Siegfried for help. Gunther continues to brood over the matter, and when Siegfried... (full context)
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...prisoner. Siegfried then slays 29 of Liudegast’s men single-handedly and hands over his captive to Hagen. (full context)
Chapter 6
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Siegfried, seemingly familiar with Brunhild’s intimidating ways, advises against Gunther’s plan, but Hagen suggests that Gunther enlist Siegfried’s help, which he does—promising to help Siegfried in turn. Siegfried... (full context)
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...grants him invisibility. He helps Gunther plan the journey to Iceland, deciding to take only Hagen and Dancwart as additional companions. Gunther and Siegfried also visit Kriemhild, and, while Kriemhild and... (full context)
Chapter 7
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...appears, armed with a heavy spear and a shield of steel and gold. Seeing this, Hagen tells Gunther, “We are done for—the woman whose love you desire is a rib of... (full context)
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...and returns to the palace, pretending he doesn’t know the games have already occurred. When Hagen explains the outcome, Siegfried says he is glad that someone has mastered Brunhild, and that... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...at his excessive generosity, telling him that she trusts herself to squander her own inheritance. Hagen tries to convince her that Gunther has such riches that her own won’t be needed,... (full context)
Chapter 11
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Gernot grants Siegfried a thousand knights for his household. Kriemhild wants to take Hagen and Ortwin as her liegemen, but Hagen is incensed at the implication that Gunther can... (full context)
Chapter 12
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...Kriemhild will attend the festivity. They also show off the munificent gifts they received, prompting Hagen to remark that it’s easy for Siegfried to bestow such gifts, since he holds the... (full context)
Chapter 14
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The women depart the scene in silence. Later, Hagen comes upon Brunhild, sees that she is crying, and asks her what is the matter.... (full context)
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...rest of the knights, “though he had done them no wrong,” declare themselves Siegfried’s enemies. Hagen points out to Gunther that, if Siegfried were taken out of the picture, then Gunther... (full context)
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...anyway, Siegfried is so strong and brave that it would be foolish to oppose him. Hagen replies that he will always be Siegfried’s enemy, and that he will carry out a... (full context)
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Gunther follows Hagen’s instructions, “to evil effect,” and the betrayal is underway. “Thanks to the wrangling of two... (full context)
Chapter 15
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...and Liudegast. Some of Gunther’s men want to give up the plot even now, but Hagen won’t hear of it. “Their plotting,” the poet observes, “fell out to their own torment... (full context)
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...thanks him. Knights from both Burgundy and the Netherlands begin to prepare for battle. When Hagen tells Kriemhild about the impending war, she mentions that Siegfried should not be made to... (full context)
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Hagen asks Kriemhild what he can do to help protect Siegfried from harm in battle. Kriemhild... (full context)
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The next morning, Siegfried rides out happily with his men for battle. Once Hagen observes the mark sewn on Siegfried’s clothes, he secretly sends two of his men to... (full context)
Chapter 16
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...hunters settle down for a feast, the butlers are slow to appear with the wine. Hagen explains that the butlers were misdirected to a different hunting ground. Thirsty, Siegfried soon goes... (full context)
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Siegfried, it turns out, “paid for his good manners.” As he bends to drink, Hagen hurls Siegfried’s own spear at the mark on his tunic, so that it fixes in... (full context)
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As the men watch him die, Gunther laments, but Hagen reprimands him. They will now be virtually unopposed, he says, and he is glad they’ve... (full context)
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...is dead, the men place his body on a shield and discuss how to conceal Hagen’s deed. They decide that they must spread the story that Siegfried was killed by robbers... (full context)
Chapter 17
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The warriors wait for nightfall before crossing over the Rhine with Siegfried’s body. Then, Hagen commits a deed of “overweening pride and grisly vengeance.” He orders that the corpse be... (full context)
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...the truth, Kriemhild bursts into lament, and her thoughts go immediately to her conversation with Hagen before the hunt. She swoons in her grief, having already become “the sworn enemy of... (full context)
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...replies, in anguish, that it is Siegfried. She adds, “It is Brunhild who urged it, Hagen did the deed!” When she sees her husband’s body, she notices that his shield is... (full context)
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The next morning, Siegfried’s body is carried to the cathedral. There Kriemhild meets Gunther and Hagen. Gunther expresses his sorrow, but Kriemhild says that if he truly regretted this death, it... (full context)
Chapter 18
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...However, her kinsmen, especially Giselher, beg her to remain, promising that she need never see Hagen and that it will comfort her to live with her mother and brothers. Siegmund is... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...three and a half years, Kriemhild avoids speaking to Gunther or even setting eyes on Hagen. Meanwhile, Hagen tells Gunther that if he won back Kriemhild’s friendship, then they could bring... (full context)
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...Burgundy, and she bestows lavish gifts on rich and poor alike. This begins to make Hagen nervous, and he is annoyed with Gunther’s permissiveness toward his sister, telling him, “No man... (full context)
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Kriemhild appeals to her brothers to intervene, but while they are away on a journey, Hagen dumps the entire treasure into the Rhine with the intention of using it for himself... (full context)
Chapter 20
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The people of Worms are intensely curious about the wealthy newcomers. Gunther asks Hagen if he knows them, and he replies that they would have to come from outlandish... (full context)
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The envoys are graciously received in the King’s hall. Hagen reminds Gunther that he was once a hostage in Etzel’s court, and that they must... (full context)
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...in three days’ time. He seeks his men’s opinions about the marriage, and all but Hagen express their approval. Hagen insists that they will have trouble on their hands if Gunther... (full context)
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...ability to attract more warriors by gifts, 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... (full context)
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...journey to Hungary at once. When Kriemhild plans to dole out gifts to Rüdiger’s men, Hagen hears about it and demands that the money stay with him. The kings do nothing... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...that had been done to her in Burgundy. She muses that if she could get Hagen to Hungary in some way, she could exact revenge on him. She also dreams of... (full context)
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...was brought to the point of having to marry a heathen—something for which she blames Hagen and Gunther. Aware of how much wealth and power she now possesses, she “tenaciously […]... (full context)
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...they must never let her kinsmen know that they have seen her sorrowing. And if Hagen wishes to stay at home, they must ask how the retinue will find their way... (full context)
Chapter 24
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...deliberation. When he asks his vassals their opinion, many desire to make the journey, but Hagen, unsurprisingly, is fiercely opposed. He tells the King, “You are bent on your own destruction.” (full context)
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...had renounced her feud with him before she left for Hungary, though her quarrel with Hagen remains open. Hagen replies that Gunther is deceiving himself, because “in matters of revenge King... (full context)
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Hagen counsels that if Gunther is determined to go to Hungary, he must uphold his honor... (full context)
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...as 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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...to go; she has just dreamed that all the birds of the land were dead. Hagen retorts, “Those who set store by dreams cannot rightly know where their whole honor lies.” (full context)
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...the Nibelungs) reaches the Danube and are dismayed to find its banks flooded. Gunther sends Hagen to find a way to ford the river. He can’t find a ferryman, but he... (full context)
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Hagen tries to sneak up on the water-fairies, but they flee, so he takes their clothing.... (full context)
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Hagen questions the water-fairies further, and one of them predicts that only Gunther’s chaplain will return... (full context)
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...figures out he has been deceived, refuses to take strangers across the river. He and Hagen fight, and the ferryman is beheaded. At that moment the ferry floats downstream, and when... (full context)
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At this moment, Hagen remembers the water-fairies’ prediction. When he sees the chaplain, he flings the priest overboard, to... (full context)
Chapter 26
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Once they have safely attained the other shore, Hagen reveals the water-fairies’ prophecy. Hagen warns everyone to arm themselves, since he did kill the... (full context)
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...Else, hear about the killing of the ferryman, and soon the Burgundians are under attack. Hagen explains he was acting in self-defense and is willing to make amends, but soon he... (full context)
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...the frontier of Rüdiger’s domain. There they find a sleeping knight named Eckewart, whose sword Hagen takes. When Eckewart awakes, he is terribly ashamed to discover his negligence, but Hagen takes... (full context)
Chapter 27
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...the Burgundians, welcoming them with warm promises of hospitality in Pöchlarn, giving special attention to Hagen and Volker. That evening in Rüdiger’s hall, Rüdiger’s young daughter attracts the admiration of many... (full context)
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...their way to Etzel’s country, Rüdiger bestows many gifts, including a gem-studded shield that catches Hagen’s eye. He also cheerfully escorts them to the festival. The poet notes that this glad... (full context)
Chapter 28
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...give them a warm welcome. He immediately tells them that Kriemhild still weeps for Siegfried. Hagen is dismissive, but Dietrich warns the men to be on their guard. (full context)
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...welcomes the men of Burgundy “with perfidy in her heart.” She kisses only Giselher, prompting Hagen to lace his helmet tighter. Kriemhild refuses to greet Hagen personally, instead demanding to know... (full context)
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Hagen and the others refuse to let their weapons be stowed, and when Kriemhild is enraged... (full context)
Chapter 29
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Hagen asks Volker to accompany him as a comrade-in-arms. As the two sit in the palace... (full context)
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Kriemhild summons 400 knights who are eager to slay Hagen. She tells them to wait until she publicly upbraids him. When he sees the Queen... (full context)
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Kriemhild demands to know why Hagen slew Siegfried. Hagen admits his responsibility for the deed, and says that Siegfried had to... (full context)
Chapter 30
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As the Burgundian guests retire to bed, they are jostled by Kriemhild’s Hunnish knights. Hagen warns them that if they’re spoiling for a fight, they should come back the next... (full context)
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...of her knights to slay the guests in their sleep, but they are intimidated by Hagen and Volker. The Queen, filled with hatred, must devise other means to carry out her... (full context)
Chapter 31
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The next morning at dawn, Hagen wakes the knights and asks if any wish to attend mass. They do, and accordingly... (full context)
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...in church, he is sorry and wants to make amends to whomever he has offended. Hagen convinces him that it’s the Burgundian custom to go armed for three whole days at... (full context)
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Hagen and Volker force the Huns to jostle around them in order to enter the church.... (full context)
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...swayed by her promises and plans to start an uproar, with the aim of delivering Hagen to her in bonds. (full context)
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...home with Kriemhild’s relatives to Burgundy, so that he can be reared as a knight. Hagen says that the young prince has an ill-fated look, and that they will never see... (full context)
Chapter 32
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Bloedelin takes his squires to the quarters of Giselher’s vassal and Hagen’s brother, Dancwart. Dancwart welcomes him warmly, but Bloedelin replies that Hagen slew Siegfried and that... (full context)
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...slaughter Dancwart’s men. Dancwart survives the fray, fighting his way to the court to warn Hagen of his peril. (full context)
Chapter 33
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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... (full context)
Chapter 34
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...to the 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,... (full context)
Chapter 35
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Iring, Margrave of Denmark, announces his intention to fight Hagen. He does succeed in wounding him, but Hagen ultimately makes an end of him. After... (full context)
Chapter 36
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...show mercy, Kriemhild retorts that her heart has no mercy to show. As long as Hagen is alive, reconciliation is not possible, and they must all pay for it together. The... (full context)
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Gernot, Giselher, and Dancwart immediately speak up in Hagen’s defense, protesting that they cannot break faith with a friend in this way. Kriemhild then... (full context)
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Hagen tells the suffering men to drink the blood from corpses’ wounds in order to assuage... (full context)
Chapter 37
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...fact that Rüdiger will be widowing his daughter before she is even a wife. Then Hagen appeals to him, for the shield Gotelind had gifted him has been hacked to pieces.... (full context)
Chapter 38
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 39
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...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... (full context)
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Dietrich asks Gunther to surrender himself and Hagen, and Dietrich will ensure they are kindly treated. Hagen says they would be disgraced in... (full context)
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At long last, Kriemhild is happy. She has Hagen locked in a dungeon. Dietrich says that Hagen should be allowed to live and make... (full context)
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Kriemhild visits Hagen in the dungeon and says that if he returns her treasure, he may return to... (full context)
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...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... (full context)