|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 |
SIEGFRIED'S WELCOME HOME
 IN Santen Castle, one day, there was a strange uproar and
confusion. Everybody was hurrying aimlessly about, and no
one seemed to know just what to do. On every side there were
restless whisperings, and hasty gestures, and loud commands.
The knights and warriors were busy donning their war coats,
and buckling on their swords and helmets. Wise King Siegmund
sat in his council chamber, and the knowing men of the
kingdom stood around him; and the minds of all seemed
troubled with doubt, if not with fear.
What could have caused so great an uproar in the once quiet
old castle? What could have brought perplexity to the mind
of the wisest king in all Rhineland? It was this: a herald
had just come from the seashore, bringing word that a
strange fleet of a hundred white-sailed vessels had cast
anchor off the coast, and that an army of ten thousand
fighting men had landed, and were making ready to march
against Santen. Nobody had ever heard of so large a fleet
before; and no one could guess who the strangers
 might be,
nor whence they had come, nor why they should thus, without
asking leave, land in the country of a peace-loving king.
The news spread quickly over all the land. People from every
part came hastening to the friendly shelter of the castle.
The townsmen, with their goods and cattle, hurried within
the walls. The sentinels on the ramparts paced uneasily to
and fro, and scanned with watchful eye every stranger that
came near the walls. The warders stood ready to hoist the
drawbridge, and close the gate, at the first signal given by
the watchman above, who was straining his eyes to their
utmost in order to see the first approach of the foe.
A heavy mist hung over the meadow lands between Santen and
the sea, and nothing was visible beyond the gates of the
town. The ten thousand strange warriors might be within half
a league of the castle, and yet the sharpest eagle-eye could
not see them.
All at once a clatter of horse's hoofs was heard; the dark
mist rose up from the ground, and began to roll away, like a
great cloud, into the sky; and then strange sunbeam flashes
were seen where the fog had lately rested.
"They come!" cried one of the sentinels. "I see the glitter
of their shields and lances."
"Not so," said the watchman from his place on the tower
above. "I see but one man, and he rides with the speed of
the wind, and lightning flashes from the mane of the horse
which carries him."
 The drawbridge was hastily hoisted. The heavy gates were
quickly shut, and fastened with bolts and bars. Every man in
the castle was at his post, ready to defend the fortress
with his life. In a short time the horse and his rider drew
near. All who looked out upon them were dazzled with the
golden brightness of the hero's armor, as well as with the
lightning gleams that flashed from the horse's mane. And
"This is no man who thus comes in such kingly splendor. More
likely it is Odin on one of his journeys, or the Shining
Balder come again to earth."
As the stranger paused on the outer edge of the moat, the
sentinels challenged him,—
"Who are you who come thus, uninvited and unheralded, to
"One who has the right to come," answered the stranger. "I
am Siegfried; and I have come to see my father, the good
Siegmund, and my mother, the gentle Sigelind."
It was indeed Siegfried; and he had come from his kingdom in
the Nibelungen Land, with his great fleet and the noblest
of his warriors, to see once more his boyhood's home, and to
cheer for a time the hearts of his loving parents. For he
had done many noble deeds, and had ruled wisely and well,
and he felt that he was now not unworthy to be called the
son of Siegmund, and to claim kinship with the heroes of the
 As soon as it was surely known that he who stood before the
castle walls was the young prince who had been gone so many
years, and about whom they had heard so many wonderful
stories, the drawbridge was hastily let down, and the great
gates were thrown wide open. And Siegfried, whose return had
been so long wished for, stood once again in his father's
halls. And the fear and confusion which had prevailed gave
place to gladness and gayety; and all the folk of Santen
greeted the returned hero with cheers, and joyfully welcomed
him home. And in the whole world there was no one more happy
than Siegmund and Sigelind.
On the morrow the ten thousand Nibelungen warriors came to
Santen; and Siegmund made for them a great banquet, and
entertained them in a right kingly way, as the faithful
liegemen of his son. And Siegfried, when he had given them
rich gifts, sent them with the fleet back to Nibelungen
Land; for he meant to stay for a time with his father and
mother at Santen.
When the harvest had been gathered, and the fruit was
turning purple and gold, and the moon rode round and full in
the clear autumn sky, a gay high-tide was held for
Siegfried's sake; and everybody in the Lowland country,
whether high or low, rich or poor, was asked to come to the
feast. For seven days, nought but unbridled gayety prevailed
in Siegmund's halls. On every hand were sounds of music and
laughter, and sickness and poverty and pain were for the
time forgotten. A mock battle was fought on the grassy
not far from the town, and the young men vied with each
other in feats of strength and skill. Never before had so
many beautiful ladies nor so many brave men been seen in
Santen. And, when the time of jollity and feasting had drawn
to an end, Siegmund called together all his guests, and gave
to each choice gifts,—a festal garment, and a horse with
rich trappings. And Queen Sigelind scattered gold without
stint among the poor, and many were the blessings she
received. Then all the folk went back to their homes with
light hearts and happy faces.
The autumn days passed quickly by, and Siegfried began to
grow weary of the idle, inactive life in his father's halls;
and Greyfell in his stall pined for the fresh, free air, and
his mane lost all its brightness. When Siegmund saw how full
of unrest his son had become, he said to him,—
"Siegfried, I have grown old and feeble, and have no longer
the strength of my younger days. My kingdom would fare
better were a younger ruler placed over it. Take my crown, I
pray you, and let me withdraw from kingly cares."
But Siegfried would not listen to such an offer. He had his
own kingdom of the Nibelungens, he said; and, besides, he
would never sit on his father's throne while yet that father
lived. And although he loved the pleasant companionship of
his mother, and was delighted to listen to the wise counsels
of his father, the
 craving for action, and the unrest which
would not be satisfied, grew greater day by day. At last he
"I will ride out into the world again. Mayhap I may find
some other wrong to right, or some other kingdom to win. It
was thus that my kin, in the golden age long past, went
faring over the land and sea, and met their doom at last.
They were not home-abiders, nor tillers of the soil; but the
world was their abiding place, and they filled the hearts of
And, when his father and mother heard this, they tried no
longer to keep him with them; for they knew that it would be
more cruel than the keeping of a caged bird away from the
"Only go not into Burgundy," said his father. "The kings of
that country are not friendly to us, and they may do you
harm. Hagen, the kinsman of the kings, and the chief of
their fighting men, is old and crafty, and he cannot brook a
greater hero than himself."
"That is all the better reason why I should go to
Burgundyland," he said.
"Then take ten thousand of my warriors," said his father,
"and make yourself master of the land."
"No, no!" cried Siegfried. "One kingdom is enough for me. My
own Nibelungen Land is all I want. I will take my twelve
Nibelungen knights that I have with me here, and we will
fare forth to see the world and its beauties, and men's
work; and, when we have tired with riding, we will sail
across the sea to our Nibelungen home."
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