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
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!”
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!
“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.
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.