| Stories of Siegfried Told to the Children|
|by Mary Macgregor|
|Siegfried is the central character in this legend, skillfully adapted from the Nibelung, an old German poem, full of strange adventures of tiny dwarves and stalwart mortals. In this retelling of the ancient legend, Siegfried wins the accursed Rhineland treasure, takes Kriemhild as bride, and comes to an untimely end, passing the curse of the Rhinegold on to his enemies. Ages 8-10 |
SIEGFRIED IS SLAIN
 Hagen did not delay to carry out his wicked plot. Four days
later, thirty-two strangers rode into Rhineland, and
demanded to see King Gunther. These were the men who had
been hired by the counsellor to bring false tidings of
When the heralds stood before the King their spokesman said,
"We come from King Ludegast and King Ludeger, who have
gathered together new armies with which to invade thy land,
and forthwith they challenge thee to combat."
Then the King pretended that he did not know that these were
false heralds with false tidings. He frowned, and his eyes
flashed anger at the strangers as he listened to their
 Siegfried, who had heard the strangers' words, cried
eagerly, "Fear not, O King, I and my warriors will fight for
thee, even as aforetime we have done."
Well pleased then seemed Gunther at the hero's words. As
though he really feared the armies of the foreign kings, he
graciously thanked Siegfried for his offered aid.
Gaily then did Siegfried summon his thousand warriors and
bade them polish their armour and make their shields shine,
for they must go forth to fight for the realm of Burgundy.
"Now," thought Hagen, "is the moment to win from Kriemhild
the secret of her lord's strength," so he hastened to her
apartments to bid her farewell. For he, too, was going forth
When Kriemhild saw the grim warrior she cried, "If thou art
near to my lord in the battlefield, guard him for my sake,
and ever shalt thou have Queen Kriemhild's thanks."
"Right gladly will I serve Siegfried for thy sake," said the
false knight. "Tell me how best I may guard thy lord."
 "Thou art my kinsman, Hagen," said the noble lady,
"therefore will I trust thee with the secret of his
Then the Queen told the warrior of the tiny spot between her
husband's shoulders on which the linden leaf had fallen
while he bathed in the dragon's blood, and how, while all
the rest of his body was too tough to be pierced by spear or
arrow, on that spot, he might be wounded as easily as any
Hagen's eyes glittered. The life of the King was well-nigh
in his hands.
"If this be so, noble lady, I beg of thee sew a token upon
his garment, that I may know the spot which I must guard
with my shield, and if need be with my life," said the
Then Kriemhild promised to sew a tiny cross upon Siegfried's
tunic, that so Hagen might the better be able to shield her
Bowing low, Hagen said farewell, then hastened from the
presence of the gentle lady whose trust he meant to betray
and that right cruelly.
The next morning Siegfried set out, merrily as was his wont,
at the head of his warriors,
 and close behind him rode
Hagen, his keen eyes searching for the little cross.
It was there, the token which the lady Kriemhild had sewn
with eager hands on her lord's tunic, thinking thus to guard
him from all harm.
There was no need now for the pretence of war, for Hagen
himself held Siegfried's life in his hands. The wicked
counsellor, therefore, ordered two of his own followers to
ride away in secret, bidding them return in a day or two,
travel-stained, as though they had come from afar. With them
they were to bring tidings of submission and peace from
Ludegast and Ludeger.
Thus, before Siegfried and his great host had marched into
the enemy's land they were stayed by heralds who brought
messages of peace and good-will to Gunther, and much against
his wish the gallant hero had to return to Worms, no battle
fought, no enemy conquered.
But if Siegfried grieved, Kriemhild rejoiced at his return.
Already she had begun to be sorry that she had trusted her
 Gunther, too, seemed happy to welcome Siegfried. "Now that
there is peace we will go a-hunting," he said to the hero.
Now this hunt had been planned by Hagen.
Then Siegfried went to say farewell to his beautiful wife
ere he rode away to the hunt.
But Kriemhild clung to him,
begging her dear lord not to leave her. She longed to warn
him, too, against Hagen, yet this she did not dare to do.
"Ah, my lord," she cried, "last night I dreamed that two
wild boars chased thee, and again I dreamed that as thou
didst ride into the valley two mountains fell upon thee and
hid thee for ever from my sight. Go not to the hunt, my dear
Yet the hero would not heed the dreams of his lady. Gently
he loosened her hands, and saying farewell, he left her
Out in the glad sunshine Siegfried smiled. He would be back
so soon to comfort his dear wife, and then she, too, would
laugh at her fears, and thinking thus he joined Gunther and
his merry huntsmen, and together they rode toward the
 Never had there been such a hunt or such merry huntsmen, and
no prey seemed to escape the hero Siegfried.
A strong and savage ox he felled to the ground with his own
hand. A lion sprang toward him, but swiftly the hero drew
his bow, and it lay harmless at his feet. An elk, a buffalo,
four strong bisons, a fierce stag, and many a hart and hind
were slain by his prowess. But when, with his sword, he slew
a wild boar that had attacked him, his comrades slipped the
leash round the hounds and cried, "Lord Siegfried, nought is
there left alive in the forest. Let us return to the camp
with our spoils."
At that moment, clear and loud rang out the hunting horn. It
was the King who bade it sound that his merry huntsmen might
come to feast with him in the green meadow on the outskirts
of the forest.
Now the horn had roused a grisly bear, and Siegfried, seeing
it, jumped from his charger, chased it, and having at length
caught it with his strong right hand, bound it without
receiving even a scratch from its claws or a bite from its
 Then the hero dragged the bear back to his charger, tied it
to his saddle, and mounting rode quickly forward to the
King Gunther watched him as he drew near, and so gallant and
brave he looked, that his heart grew heavy because he had
listened to the cruel counsels of his uncle Hagen.
The hero wore a tunic of black velvet, a riding cap of
sable. By his side hung his good sword Balmung, a quiver
thrust through his girdle was filled with arrows, the shafts
of which were golden.
Before he reached the camp, Siegfried again alighted and
loosed the great bear, and bewildered, the brute sprang
forward into the camp kitchen.
Up sprang the scullions from the fire, kettles were toppled
over, the fire was put out, fish, fowl, meat, all lay in the
black and smoking ashes.
Then Gunther and his merry huntsmen chased the huge bear
into the wood, and while all were swift, none was so swift
as Siegfried. His good sword Balmung flashed in the air, and
the bear was slain and carried back to the camp.
 Now Hagen had arranged the feast for the huntsmen, and for
his own purpose he had ordered no wine.
"Where are the cupbearers?" cried Siegfried, who was thirsty
after the day's sport.
"They have gone across the Rhine whither they thought we
hunted," said Hagen, the false knight. "But there is a
spring of cold water a little way off, thither may we go to
quench our thirst."
Siegfried soon rose to go to the fountain. Then Hagen drew
near and said, "Ofttimes I have heard that thou art sure and
swift of foot. Wilt thou race with me to the spring?"
"If thou art at the fountain before me," said the mighty
hero, "I will even lay myself at thy feet."
Gunther heard Siegfried's words and shuddered. Yet now he
dared not save the hero from his foe.
"I will bear my spear, my sword, my quiver, and my shield as
I race," said Siegfried. But Hagen and King Gunther, who
also wished to run, stripped off their upper garments, that
they might run more lightly.
 Fleet of foot were Hagen and the King, yet fleeter still was
Siegfried. He reached the well, loosened his sword, and laid
it with his bow and arrows on the ground, and leant his
spear against a linden tree that grew close to the fountain.
He looked down into the spring, yet though his thirst was
great, so courteous was he that he would not drink before
When Gunther reached the well, he knelt at once to drink,
then having quenched his thirst he turned and wandered back
along the hillside toward his merry huntsmen.
As Siegfried now bent over the spring, Hagen with stealthy
steps crept near and drew the hero's sword and quiver out of
his reach. Stealthy still, he seized the spear which rested
against the linden tree. Then while Siegfried drank of the
cool, clear water, Hagen stabbed him, straight through the
little cross of silk which Kriemhild's gentle hand had
sewed, he stabbed.
While Siegfried drank of the clear, cool water, Hagen stabbed him
The cruel deed was done, and Hagen turned to flee, leaving
the spear there where he had
 thrust it, between the hero's
shoulders, where once, alas! had lain a linden leaf.
Siegfried sprang to his feet as he felt the cruel blow, and
reached for his quiver that he might speed the traitor to
his death, but neither quiver nor sword could he find.
Then unarmed save for his shield the wounded hero ran, nor
could Hagen escape him. With his shield Siegfried struck the
false knight such heavy blows that the precious stones
dropped out of the shield and were scattered, and Hagen lay
helpless at King Siegfried's feet.
But Siegfried had no sword with which to slay his enemy,
moreover his wound began to smart until he writhed with
pain. Then, his strength failing him, he fell upon the green
grass, while around him gathered Gunther and his huntsmen.
Sore wounded was King Siegfried, even unto death, and
Gunther, sorry now the cruel deed was done, wept as he
looked down upon the stricken King.
"Never would I have been slain, save by treachery," murmured
Siegfried. "Yet how can I think of aught but my beautiful
Kriem-  hild. Unto thee, O King Gunther, do I entrust her.
If there be any faith in thee, defend her from all her
No more could he say, for he was faint from his wound, and
ere long the hero lay still on the grass, dead.
Then the knights, when they saw that the mighty King no
longer breathed, laid him on a shield of gold, and when
night fell they carried him thus, back to the royal city.
When Kriemhild knew that her lord, King Siegfried, was dead,
bitter were her tears. Full well did she know that it was
Hagen who had slain him, and greatly did she bemoan her
foolishness in telling the grim counsellor the secret known
to her alone.
The body of the great hero was laid in a coffin of gold and
silver and carried to the Minster. Then when the days of
mourning were over, the old King Siegmund and his warriors
went sadly back to the Netherlands.
But Kriemhild stayed at Worms, and for thirteen years she
mourned the loss of her dear lord.
Her sufferings, during these years, were made
 the greater through the greed of Hagen. For at the cruel
warrior's bidding, Gunther went to the Queen and urged her
to send for the treasure of the Nibelungs.
"It shall be guarded for thy use in the royal city," said
In her grief Kriemhild cared little where the treasure was
kept; and seeing this, her brother sent in her name to
command that it should be brought to Worms.
No sooner, however, did it reach the city than it was seized
upon by Hagen the traitor, and Kriemhild's wealth was no
longer her own.
That henceforth it might be secure from every one save
himself and King Gunther, Hagen buried the great treasure
beneath the fast-flowing river Rhine.
When thirteen years had passed away, Kriemhild married
Etzel, the powerful King of the Huns, and then at last Hagen
began to fear. Would the lady to whom he had been so false
punish him now that she was again a mighty Queen?
The years passed by, and Hagen was beginning to forget his
fears when heralds came
 from Etzel, the King of the Huns,
bidding King Gunther and his knights come visit Queen
Kriemhild in her distant home. The command of Etzel was
But no sooner did Hagen stand before her throne than
Kriemhild commanded him to give her back the hidden
treasure. This the grim counsellor refused to do.
"Then shalt not thou nor any of thy company return to
Burgundy," cried Kriemhild.
And as the Queen said, so it was, for the warriors of King
Etzel fought with the warriors of King Gunther, until after
a grievous slaughter not one Burgundian was left alive. Thus
after many years was King Siegfried's death avenged by Queen
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