|The Story of Siegfried|
|by James Baldwin|
|Legends of the Nibelungen hero, Siegfried, full of the mystery, awe, and poetry of the northern lands. They tell of how Siegfried forged the wondrous sword, Balmung, of his riding through flaming fire to awaken the maiden, Brunhild, and of the many other strange and daring deeds which he wrought. Many of the Norse myths are interwoven in the tale. The best rendition for children of the Siegfried legends, based on the Eddas, the Volsung Saga, and the Nibelungen-lied. Ages 11-14 |
HOW THE HOARD WAS BROUGHT TO BURGUNDY
ND what was done on the morrow?
Too sad is the tale of Kriemhild's woe and her grief for the
mighty dead. Let us pass it by in tearful, pitying silence,
nor wish to awaken the echoes of that morning of hopeless
anguish which dawned on the cold and cheerless dwelling of
the kings. For peace had fled from Burgundy, nevermore to
Siegfried was dead. Faded, now, was the glory of the
Nibelungen Land, and gone was the mid-world's hope.
It is told in ancient story, how men built a funeral pile
far out on the grassy meadows, where the quiet river flows;
and how, in busy silence, they laid the sun-dried beams of
ash and elm together, and made ready the hero's couch; and
how the pile was dight with many a sun-bright shield, with
war coats and glittering helms, and silks and rich dyed
cloths from the Southland, and furs, and fine-wrought
ivory, and gem stones priceless and rare; and how, over all,
they scattered sweet spices from Araby, and the pleasantest
 of all perfumes. Then they brought the golden Siegfried, and
laid him on his couch; and beside him were his battered
shield, and Balmung with its fire-edge bare. And, as the sun
rose high in heaven, the noblest earl-folk who had loved
Siegfried best touched fire to the funeral pile. And a
pleasant breeze from the Southland fanned the fire to a
flame, and the white blaze leaped on high, and all the folk
cried out in mighty agony to the gods.
Such was the story that men told to each other when the
world was still young, and the heroes were
unforgotten. And some said, too, that Brunhild, the
fair and hapless queen, died then of a broken heart and of a
hopeless, yearning sorrow, and that she was burned with
Siegfried on that high-built funeral-pile.
"They are gone,—the lovely, the mighty, the hope of the ancient earth:
It shall labor and bear the burden as before the day of their birth: . . .
It shall yearn, and be oft-times holpen, and forget their deeds no more,
Till the new sun beams on Balder and the happy sealess shore."
Another and much later story is sometimes told of these last
sad days,—how the hero's body was laid in a coffin, and
buried in the quiet earth, amid the sorrowful lamentations
of all the Rhineland folk; and how, at
 Kriemhild's earnest
wish, it was afterwards removed to the place where now
stands the little minster of Lorsch. As to which of these
stories is the true one, it is not for me to say. Enough it
is to know that Siegfried was dead, and that the springtime
had fled, and the summer season with all its golden glories
had faded away from Rhineland, and that the powers of
darkness and of cold and of evil had prevailed.
To this day the city where was the dwelling of the
Burgundian kings is called Worms, in remembrance of the
dragon, or worm, which Siegfried slew; and a figure of that
monster was for many years painted upon the city arms, and
borne on the banner of the Burgundians. And, until recently,
travellers were shown the Reisen-haus,—a stronghold, which,
men say, Siegfried built; and in it were many strange and
mighty weapons, which, they claim, were wielded by the hero.
The lance which was shown there was a great beam nearly
eighty feet in length; and the war coat, wrought with steel
and gold, and bespangled with gem stones, was a wonder to
behold. And now, in the Church of St. Cecilia, you may see
what purports to be the hero's grave. And a pleasant meadow,
not far from the town, is still called Kriemhild's
Rose Garden; while farther away is the place called
Drachenfels, or the dragon's field, where, they say,
Siegfried met Fafnir. But whether it is the same as the
Glittering Heath of the ancient legend, I know not.
And what became of the Hoard of Andvari?
 The story is briefly told. When the days of mourning
were past, and the people had gone back sadly to their
homes, Queen Kriemhild began to speak of returning to the
land of the Nibelungens. But Ute, her aged mother, could not
bear to part with her, and besought her to stay, for a while
at least, in the now desolate Burgundian castle. And Gernot
and Giselher, her true and loving brothers, added their
words of entreaty also. And so, though heart-sick, and with
many misgivings, she agreed to abide for a season in this
cheerless and comfortless place. Many days, even months,
dragged by, and still she remained; for she found it still
harder and harder to tear herself away from her mother, and
all that her heart held dear. Yet never, for three years and
more, did she even speak to Gunther, or by any sign show
that she remembered him. And, as for Hagen, no words could
utter the deep and settled hate she felt towards him. But
the dark-browed chief cared nought either for love or hate;
and he walked erect, as in the days of yore, and he smiled
and frowned alike for both evil and good. And he said, "It
was not I: it was the Norns, who wove the woof of his life
The years went by on leaden wings, and brought no sunlight
to Gunther's dwelling; for his days were full of sadness,
and his nights of fearful dreams. At length he said to chief
Hagen, "If there is aught in the mid-world that can drive
away this gloom, I pray thee to help me find it; for madness
steals upon me."
 "There is one thing," answered Hagen, "which might brighten
our land again, and lift up your drooping spirits, and bring
gladness to your halls."
"What is that?" asked the king.
"It is the Nibelungen Hoard," said the chief. "It is the
wondrous treasure of Andvari, which Siegfried gave as a gift
to Kriemhild. If it were ours, we might become the masters
of the world."
"But how can we obtain it?"
"It is Kriemhild's," was the answer. "But she does not care
for it; neither could she use it if she wished. If you could
only gain her favor and forgiveness, I feel sure that she
would let you do with it as you wish."
Then Gunther besought his younger brothers to intercede for
him with Kriemhild, that she would so far forgive him as to
look upon his face, and speak with him once more. And this
the queen at last consented to do. And, when Gunther came
into her presence, she was so touched at sight of his
haggard face and whitened locks, and his earnest words of
sorrow, that she forgave him the great wrong that he had
done, and welcomed him again as her brother. And he swore
that never would he again wrong her or hers, nor do aught to
grieve her. But it was not until a long time after this,
that he proposed to her that they should bring the Hoard of
Andvari away from the Nibelungen Land.
"For, if it were here, dear sister," he said, "it might be
of great use to you."
 "Do whatever seems best to you," answered Kriemhild. "Only
remember the oath that you have given me."
Then Gunther, because he was anxious to see the wondrous
Hoard, but more because he was urged on by Hagen, made ready
to send to the Nibelungen Land to bring away the treasure by
Kriemhild's command. Eight thousand men, with Gernot and
Giselher as their leaders, sailed over the sea in stanch
vessels, and landed on the Nibelungen shore. And when they
told who they were, and whence they came, and showed the
queen's signet-ring, they were welcomed heartily by the
fair-haired folk of Mist Land, who gladly acknowledged
themselves the faithful liegemen of the loved Kriemhild.
When the Burgundians made known their errand to Alberich the
dwarf, who still held watch and ward over the mountain
stronghold, he was much amazed, and he grieved to part with
his cherished treasure.
"But," said he to his little followers, who stood around him
by thousands, each anxious to fight the intruders,—"but
there is Queen Kriemhild's order and her signet-ring, and we
must, perforce, obey. Yet had we again the good Tarnkappe
which Siegfried took from us, the Hoard should never leave
Then sadly he gave up the keys, and the Burgundians began to
remove the treasure. For four whole days and nights they
toiled, carrying the Hoard in huge wagons down to the sea.
And on the fifth day they
 set sail, and without mishap
arrived in good time at Worms. And many of Alberich's
people, the swarthy elves of the cave, came with Gernot to
Rhineland; for they could not live away from the Hoard. And
it is said, that hidden among the gold and the gem stones
was the far-famed Wishing-rod, which would give to its owner
the power of becoming the lord of the wide mid-world.
And the vast treasure was stored in the towers and vaults of
the castle. And Queen Kriemhild alone held the keys, and
lavishly she scattered the gold wherever it was needed most.
The hungry were fed, the naked were clothed, the sick were
cared for; and everybody near and far blessed the peerless
Queen of Nibelungen Land.
Then Hagen, always plotting evil, whispered to King Gunther,
and said, "It is dangerous to suffer your sister to hold so
vast a treasure. All the people are even now ready to leave
you, and follow her. She will yet plot to seize the kingdom,
and destroy us."
And he urged the king to take the keys and to make the
Nibelungen Hoard his own.
But Gunther answered, "I have already done too great a
wrong. And I have sworn to my sister never to harm her
again, or to do aught that will grieve her."
"Let the guilt, then, rest on me," said Hagen. And he strode
away, and took the keys from Kriemhild by force.
When Gernot and Giselher heard of this last vile
 act of the
evil-eyed chief, they waxed very angry, and vowed that they
would help their sister regain that which was her own. But
the wary Hagen was not to be foiled; for, while the brothers
were away from the burgh, he caused the great Hoard to be
carried to the river, at a place called Lochheim, and sunk,
fathoms deep, beneath the water. And then, for fear of the
vengeance which might be wreaked upon him, he fled from
Rhineland, and hid himself for a while among the mountains
and the barren hill country of the South.
And this was the end of the fated Hoard of Andvari.
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