“Uns ist in alten maeren wunders vil gesent von helden lobebaeren, von grôzer arebeit, von fröuden, hôchgezîten, von weinen und von klagen, von küener recken strîten muget ír nu wunder hoeren sagen... ” (Many wonders tell us the heroic deeds in the past, talk about heroes worthy of praise, great suffering, happiness and festivities, crying and regrets, fights of brave knights. Now you are going to listen to them.)

08.02.2011 Text and pictures: JAUME CLUET

The Nibelungenlied (Song of the Nibelungs) is an anonymous work supposedly written in 1204 by an unknown Bavarian minstrel who is found by the specialists in the archbishop’s court of the Bavarian city of Passau. The work comes up from the epic of the ancient Germanic-Scandinavian sagas or Eddas, which are also influenced by the German troubadour poetry or Minnesang. The Song combines legendary, magic, fantastic elements of far-off times with some influence of the incipient medieval German Christianity. The ancient Scandinavian sagas have a clear mythical, barbarian touch. On the contrary, the Nibelungenlied is much more elaborate, romantic and courteous.

Siegfried (Siegfried in the German poem and Sigurd in the Scandinavian one) is the main character of the Song. He is a hero and adventurer. His fame and fortune come from his heroic deeds, such as the victorious fight against a dragon or the conquest of the fabulous kingdom or the Treasure of the Nibelungs. This last one had such nature and magnitude that did not run out nor decrease. The etymology of the term nibelungen, although it can be confused, is commonly attributed to the Germanic word nebel, which means fog. The Germanic ending lung is equivalent to the concept inhabitants of…

In the Scandinavian Eddas, the Nibelungs are likewise known as the Niflungar (the land of the fog and the dead). Richard Wagner adduced that the interpretation of this myth entails that the conqueror of the treasure is condemned to join inexorably to those inhabitants of the darkness or afterlife. The theme of the treasure of the Nibelungs (protectors of hidden treasures) and the hero Siegfried comes, therefore, from the old Norse-Scandinavian tradition, in which initially the brothers Fafni and Regin fight for the treasure of the dwarf Andvari.

The Eddas or sagas transcribed by anonymous authors were written in the archaic Norse (predecessors of the current Danish-Swedish-Norwegian linguistic field). They show us a mythical story which is made in a basic way and in its original purest form. The last version of the Song of the Nibelungs, from the beginning of the 13th century, is a later re-elaboration that studies the myth of the hero Siegfried in depth. In this version it appears, as we have mentioned before, typical elements of Christianity, like the value of friendship or the love faithfulness. Then, it is shown the clear influence of chivalry that comes from the Occitan-Provençal field, which gave rise to the birth of the troubadours’ lyric world.

This new re-elaboration of the old myth of the Song, written by the anonymous Bavarian minstrel, has a magic nature and it involves spells and curses. It reflects on the search of achieving the perfection of the heroic novel by mixing heterogeneous themes that reinforce its tragic greatness.

In 1775 in Hohenems (Switzerland) it was found a manuscript that made possible the rediscovery of the Song of the Nibelungs, from which until then there were only indirect references from previous centuries. Today 32 manuscripts have been found in different libraries from Germany, Austria and Switzerland. Only 10 of them have the complete version. The Nibelunglied is divided into 39 chants that involve the word aventurien, which comes from the French aventure. Each verse has four long lines in rhyming couplets.

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