Places: The Nibelungenlied

  • Last updated on December 10, 2021

First transcribed: Nibelungenlied, c. 1200 (English verse translation, 1848; prose translation, 1877)

Type of work: Poetry

Type of plot: Epic

Time of work: c. 437

Asterisk denotes entries on real places.

Places Discussed*Castle of Worms

*Castle Nibelungenlied, Theof Worms. Castle by the Rhine River in northern France’s historic Burgundy region. It is the home of Kriemhild and her family, who face much hardship and death as a result of Kriemhild’s great love for Siegfried. This place represents the unmarred beauty and happiness of a young woman, while it also symbolizes her maturity and the bitterness that follows betrayal, which eventually leads to death and destruction–her own and those of innumerable others.

*Netherlands

*Netherlands. Homeland of Siegfried that signifies his power, as well as his own evanescent nature. In certain instances within the poem, Norway and Nibelungenland seem to be synonymous with the Netherlands, which is analogous to the relationship that Siegfried has with his own people and those of other nations–that of a known origin, but of an indistinct nature.

Isenstein

Isenstein. Location of Brunhild’s court. For a long while, this place was thought to be in Iceland because it is described as having been along the coast. However, that is no longer considered the case. Brunhild may also correspond with her place of origin, for just as she has enormous power that is eventually taken from her by an act of betrayal, so is her court.

Nibelungenland

Nibelungenland. Mythical setting in which Siegfried is believed to have won his cloak of invisibility and the gold hoard. It represents that which is inscrutable for humans, unknown power and wealth, and those possessions to which everyone in this epic aspires but never attains.

*Hungary

*Hungary. Homeland of King Etzel, the heathen. Although Etzel himself is not portrayed in a negative light, Hungary is associated with the dark deeds of Kriemhild, who remains there until her death for the sole purpose of revenge.

BibliographyBekker, Hugo. The Nibelungenlied: A Literary Analysis. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1971. Deals at length with the four main characters and with numerous parallelisms in the epic. Bekker’s main point is that Brunhild is offended not because Siegfried overpowers her in bed but because he breaches the rules of kingship by not consummating the sexual act.Haymes, Edward R. The Nibelungenlied: History and Interpretation. Champaign: University of Illinois Press, 1986. Discusses how the epic would have been received around the year 1200, when it was written. Interprets it as an argument for the stability of the old feudal structure and against new elements from chivalric literature.McConnell, Winder. The Nibelungenlied. Boston: Twayne, 1984. An excellent discussion of the epic, with strong historical cultural background information and an interesting overview of the reception of the work in Germany. Well-organized interpretations of the major characters. Emphasizes the anonymous author’s style of presenting the events without passing judgment.Mowatt, D. G., and Hugh Sacker. The Nibelungenlied: An Interpretative Commentary. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1967. Includes maps and a genealogical diagram. A good general introduction followed by more than one hundred pages of commentary that closely follows the original text. Most useful in conjunction with an English translation that retains the stanza numbers.The Nibelungenlied. Translated by A. T. Hatto. New York: Penguin Books, 1969. In addition to the translation, Hatto provides more than one hundred pages of information on the epic. He points out many discrepancies in the work. A useful glossary of the characters’ names.
Categories: Places