The Nibelungenlied



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Dawn Symbol Icon

In The Nibelungenlied, dawn is a time of revelation, when the true nature of things is made plain. While literary tropes of the period traditionally associate dawn with love, promise, and new beginnings, the poet plays on these expectations in various ways to reveal things about his characters’ fates.  The symbol is used in a traditional, expected manner when Siegfried finally lays eyes on Kriemhild for the first time—she emerges “like the dawn from the dark clouds,” freeing him from the long agony of waiting. Later usage turns the symbol on its head, however. In love songs of the period, daybreak was the time when lovers would bid one another goodbye following an overnight tryst. Thus, expectations are subverted all the more hilariously when, “when the bright morning shone through the windows” following his troubled wedding night, dawn finds Gunther tied up and suspended from a nail in the wall, gesturing not only to Brunhild’s alarming strength but to Gunther’s overall weakness of character at the hands of others. However, the following “bright dawn” finds Gunther and Brunhild lying amorously together, with Brunhild subdued to an ordinary woman’s weakness—allowing hearers’ expectations for a “proper” marriage to be met, while also signaling Brunhild’s fading from the role of formidable female character. There is a grisly twist on the symbol when, after slaying Siegfried, Hagen has his corpse deposited on Kriemhild’s threshold overnight, plunging her into lifelong grief and vengeance when she sees him in the morning; thus, the sun rises on the book’s bloody second half.

Dawn Quotes in The Nibelungenlied

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

And now Gunther and the lovely girl lay together, and he took his pleasure with her as was his due, so that she had to resign her maiden shame and anger. But from his intimacy she grew somewhat pale, for at love’s coming her vast
strength fled so that now she was no stronger than anyother woman. Gunther had his delight of her lovely body, and had she renewed her resistance what good could it have done her? His loving had reduced her to this.

And now how very tenderly and amorously Brunhild lay beside him till the bright dawn!

Related Characters: Gunther, Siegfried, Brunhild
Related Symbols: Dawn
Page Number: 93
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 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

Dawn Symbol Timeline in The Nibelungenlied

The timeline below shows where the symbol Dawn appears in The Nibelungenlied. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Chapter 5
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... (full context)
Chapter 10
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
...she refuses to loosen his bonds, since she is lying too comfortably in bed. When dawn comes, Brunhild taunts him with the possibility of being discovered by his chamberlains in such... (full context)
Chapter 17
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon placed on the threshold of Kriemhild’s apartment so that she will discover it at dawn. (full context)
Chapter 31
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
The next morning at dawn, Hagen wakes the knights and asks if any wish to attend mass. They do, and... (full context)
Chapter 36
Idealized and Deviant Womanhood Theme Icon
Civilization vs. Barbarism Theme Icon
Honor vs. Vengeance Theme Icon
Hospitality, Gifts, and Exchange Theme Icon
As dawn breaks, Kriemhild is shocked by the report that 600 men have survived the perilous night... (full context)