The Nibelungenlied (“The Song of the Nibelungs”) is an epic poem originally written in in Middle High German around the year 1180. It tells the story of the dragon-slayer Siegfried at the court of the Burgundians, how he was murdered, and of his wife Kriemhild’s revenge.
Along with the Völsunga saga, the Nibelungenlied served as source material for Richard Wagner’s famous four music dramas Der Ring des Nibelungen (“The Ring of the Nibelung”), although the storyline in the Nibelungenlied is far more extensive than in Wagner’s work.
Based on pre-Christian Germanic heroic motifs which include ancient oral traditions (including the Norse sagas), the Nibelungenlied first appeared from the area of the Danube between Passau and Vienna, from where the oldest manuscripts originate.
The epic is divided into two parts, the first dealing with the story of Siegfried and Kriemhild, the wooing of Brünhild and the death of Siegfried at the hands of Hagen, and Hagen’s hiding of the Nibelung treasure in the Rhine (Chapters 1–19).
The second part deals with Kriemhild’s marriage to Etzel (Atilla the Hun), her plans for revenge, the journey of the Burgundians to the court of Etzel, and their last stand in Etzel’s hall (Chapters 20–39).
The original was written as a poem in 2,400 stanzas, divided up into 39 Aventiuren (“adventures”).
This edition has been translated into poem format with the exact metre of the German original. It includes a complete background introductory essay by the translator, in which much fascinating detail of the epic is revealed.
About the translator: Major George Henry Needler, PhD, (1866–1962) was born in Millbrook, Canada, and received his BA from University College in 1886 and a PhD from Leipzig. In 1891, he joined the teaching staff of the German Department of University College at the University of Toronto. He was appointed department head in 1914, and held the title until his retirement in 1936.