The Nibelungenlied

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Anonymous

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Clothes Symbol Analysis

Clothes Symbol Icon

In The Nibelungenlied, clothes symbolize characters’ wealth and ability to bestow gifts without concern for expense or waste. Throughout the epic poem, the poet frequently devotes paragraphs to describing outfits that characters wear or give away. For instance, when Gunther and Siegfried plan to sail to Iceland to win Brunhild’s hand, they are very concerned to appear not only in new outfits, but in three different sets of clothing for four days. Kriemhild and her ladies quickly agree to sew them elaborate garments out of exotic Arabian silks and rare animal-skins, spangled with precious stones—“the best of knightly apparel.” Later, when Brunhild is first received in Worms, the warriors hold a tournament in their most magnificent clothes and “ride [them] to tatters”—showing their lords are rich enough that they can afford this kind of conspicuous waste. It’s also customary to provide clothes for one’s envoys as a mark of munificence, as Gunther and Kriemhild bestow fine robes on the envoys who invite them to Brunhild’s festivity; this spreads the word about their fabulous wealth in advance of their arrival. During the same festival, when Kriemhild and Brunhild have their momentous argument, Kriemhild outfits her ladies in dazzling cloth-of-gold, in order to make an unambiguous statement as she and her train process into church—her household’s status is second to no one’s. Finally, during their Viennese wedding, Kriemhild and Etzel’s extravagant bestowal of fine clothes helps “make [Kriemhild] known” among the strangers who will be her new subjects—they’d assumed she was a poor widow, but she is able to perform “marvels of generosity” and secure people’s loyalty nonetheless.

Clothes Quotes in The Nibelungenlied

The The Nibelungenlied quotes below all refer to the symbol of Clothes. 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 10 Quotes

Siegfried left the maiden lying there and stepped aside as through to remove his clothes and, without the noble Queen’s noticing it, he drew a golden ring from her finger and then took her girdle, a splendid orphrey. I do not know whether it was his pride which made him do it. Later he gave them to his wife, and well did he rue it!

Related Characters: Kriemhild, Gunther, Siegfried, Brunhild
Related Symbols: Clothes
Page Number: 93
Explanation and Analysis:
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 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:
Get the entire The Nibelungenlied LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Nibelungenlied PDF

Clothes Symbol Timeline in The Nibelungenlied

The timeline below shows where the symbol Clothes appears in The Nibelungenlied. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 2
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...Siegfried’s companions and the giving of rich gifts to all present—indeed, “it rained horses and clothes as though their donors had not a day to live!” Despite everyone’s great esteem for... (full context)
Chapter 4
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Hearing the news, Kriemhild blushes with delight and rewards the page with fine clothes and gold. (Such gifts, the poet observes, “encourage one to tell such news to great... (full context)
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...stay, and Siegfried agrees, in hopes of meeting Kriemhild. Everyone begins to plan the magnificent clothes they will wear to the festival. (full context)
Chapter 6
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...Kriemhild and Siegfried exchange flirtatious glances, Gunther explains that their party will require the finest clothes for their journey to Brunhild’s court. Kriemhild promises that her maidens will make four days’... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Kriemhild demonstrates her favor for the knights by supplying them with elaborate, exotic clothing. The fabrics are imported from such faraway lands as Arabia, Morocco, and Libya, the linings... (full context)
Chapter 12
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...warriors, and Siegmund accompanies them as well. Siegfried and Kriemhild outfit their guests with fine clothes for the journey. (full context)
Chapter 15
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
...harm in battle this way. Hagen tells Kriemhild to sew a small mark on Siegfried’s clothing so that he will know where he must protect Siegfried in battle. Kriemhild agrees, thinking... (full context)
Chapter 20
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...to go to the Rhineland as Etzel’s envoy. Etzel promises to reward him with treasure, clothes, and horses, though Rüdiger says it isn’t necessary. A week later, he rides out from... (full context)
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
...the marriage. Kriemhild refuses, though she agrees to see Rüdiger. Still dressed in her widow’s clothes, she receives him the following day in tears. After hearing Etzel’s proposal, Kriemhild explains that... (full context)
Chapter 22
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
...surrounded by so many noble heroes or has given away so many gifts of fine clothes. There is such an air of sumptuous generosity that everyone “freely gave whatever was asked... (full context)
Chapter 23
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
Fate and Action Theme Icon
...as envoys to invite Kriemhild’s kinsmen to a midsummer festival. He outfits them with new clothes and a company of warriors. Later, in secret, Kriemhild meets with the minstrels again and... (full context)
Chapter 31
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
...if any wish to attend mass. They do, and accordingly begin dressing in their fine clothes. Hagen warns them that they should dress in battle-gear instead and pray for mercy, since... (full context)