| 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'S SOJOURN AT WORMS
T the court of Worms high festival was held to do honour to
Siegfried and his eleven brave warriors. It is true that his
boldness when he entered the city had made the Kings and
their liegemen wish to serve the dauntless hero, yet now it
was not of his boldness that they thought, but of his happy,
winsome ways. Indeed it was but a short time until he was
the most favoured Prince in all the gallant throng of
courtiers that gathered round King Gunther in his royal
Only one in all the country hated the gallant Prince of the
Netherlands, and that one was the stern and fierce-eyed
Hagen; but of the counsellor's ill-will the light-hearted
hero knew nought.
Merry were the frolics, gay the pastimes at
 the court of
Worms, and in every game and sport Siegfried was the most
Did the warriors hurl the stone? None could hurl it as far
as could Siegfried. Did they leap? No one ever leaped as far
as did the Prince. Did they go a-hunting? No one brought
down the prey as often as did the hero. Did they tilt in the
tournament? Siegfried it was who ever gained the prize. Yet
none was envious of the Prince, so glad he was, so light of
When games were held in the great castle hall, ladies clad
in garments of richest hue, and sparkling with gems of ruddy
gold, would come into the galleries. And ever as they
watched the gallant knights their eyes would follow the most
gallant of them all, the hero Siegfried. But among these
fair counts and ladies the Princess Kriemhild was never to
be seen, and Siegfried had no thought to spare for any other
damsel. In his heart was ever the image of the maiden whom
he had come hither to win.
The Princess might not go down to the great hall to see the
tournament, yet as she sat in her tower she would ofttimes
think of the mighty
 strength of this hero, of his heart of
gold. And almost before she was aware Kriemhild had found
the Prince whom she would gladly call her lord.
When she heard the knights running and leaping in the
courtyard, Kriemhild would lay her seam aside, and Princess
though she was, she would run to her lattice window, and
peeping through, she would watch her hero with glad eyes,
victor in every pastime. Nor would she turn away until the
sports were ended and the courtyard once again grew silent
Siegfried did not know that Kriemhild's glad eyes were
peeping through her lattice window, and had he known he
would scarce have dared to dream that her glance was fixed
on no other save on him alone.
Indeed sometimes the hero's heart misgave him. When would he
see the maiden whom he loved? Had she no pleasure in his
knightly games, no smile to give him for his skill? Nay, she
was as great a stranger to him now as when he had ridden
into the royal city of Worms in hope to gain her favour.
Thus for one whole year Siegfried dwelt with
 the three Kings
of Burgundy, and during all that time he never once saw the
wonder-lady of his dreams, the Princess Kriemhild.
At the end of the year King Gunther's fair realm of Burgundy
was threatened with invasion and with mighty wars. No longer
did the castle hall at Worms ring with the merry pastimes of
the courtiers. All was grave, silent, for King Gunther and
his brothers and his counsellors were in sore distress.
That day heralds had ridden into the land and demanded
audience of King Gunther.
"Now who hath sent you hither?" said the King in angry mood.
"Our masters," cried the heralds. "King Ludegast and King
Ludeger have sent us to warn thee that they hate thee and
will invade thy land. With great armies will they come to
thy realm of Burgundy. Within twelve weeks will they be
here, unless thou dost offer a ransom for thy kingdom."
"Tarry a little," said Gunther, "until I have spoken with my
counsellors, then shall ye carry my answer back to thy
King Gernot had heard the challenge of the
 heralds, and
dauntless he cried, "Our good swords shall defend us. What
fear we from the foreign host!"
But Hagen cried, "Ludegast and Ludeger are fierce, and evil
will overtake us, for scarce have we time in which to gather
our liegemen together ere the foe will be in our land. Speak
thou, O King, unto the hero Siegfried. It may be that his
powers can help us now."
Meanwhile King Gunther commanded that the heralds should be
lodged with all due courtesy, and this he did for the sake
of his fair fame.
Now as Gunther sat brooding over the evil which seemed as
though it would overtake his land, Siegfried came to his
side. He knew no reason for the King's distress.
"What hath come to pass," said the hero, "that all our merry
pastimes are ended? For since ever I came into the fair land
of Burgundy hath the castle hall of thy royal city echoed
with the ring of knightly deeds, and tilts and jousts have
long held sway. Why, therefore, are the merry pastimes
ended, and wherefore dost thou sit here thus sad and
 "Not to every one," said King Gunther, "would I tell my
sorrow, nay, to none save a steadfast friend dare I declare
When Siegfried heard the King's words, his fair face
flushed, then paled again.
"Already," cried the hero, "have I followed thee in time of
need." For indeed during the year which he had spent at
Worms, Siegfried had gone with Gunther on more than one
foray into the neighbouring kingdoms.
"Now," he continued, "now if trouble hath come to thee my
arm is strong to bring thee aid. I will be thy friend if
thou art willing while life is mine."
"God reward thee, Sir Siegfried!" cried King Gunther, and
right glad of heart was he. "It may be I shall not need thy
strength to aid me in my battles, yet do I rejoice that thou
art my friend. Never while my life lasts shalt thou be sorry
for thy words."
Then King Gunther told to the brave knight the insolent
message which the heralds had brought from their masters,
Ludegast and Ludeger.
"Thou needst not be troubled at these tidings,"
 said the
young knight. "If thy foes were as many as thirty thousand,
yet with one thousand warriors would I destroy them.
Therefore leave the battle in my hands."
King Gunther, for he was not very brave, rejoiced at
Siegfried's words, and scattered his fears to the four
Then he sent for the heralds, and bade them return to their
masters to say that King Gunther defied their threats, and
in proof thereof would ere long send an army to punish them
for their insolence.
Now when the heralds reached their own country with these
tidings, King Ludegast of Denmark, and King Ludeger the
Saxon, who was his brother, were filled with dread.
Moreover the heralds told them that the famous hero
Siegfried would fight for Burgundy, and when they heard that
the hearts of the rude kings failed for fear.
In great haste they gathered together their warriors, and
soon Ludegast had twenty thousand men ready to defend his
land. Ludeger the Saxon, too, had called together even more
than forty thousand men, and the two armies formed a mighty
 King Gunther meanwhile had assembled his men, and the chief
command was given to Hagen with the grim face and the
When Siegfried saw that Gunther was buckling on his armour
he drew near to him, and said, "Sir King, stay thou at home
in the royal city and guard the women. Neither dost thou
have any fear, for in good sooth, I can protect both thine
honour and thy men."
And King Gunther stayed in the royal city while his warriors
went forth to battle.
From the Rhine river Gunther's vast army marched toward the
Saxon country, and all along the borders they smote those
who were in favour of their foes, until fear fell upon those
Then leaving Hagen with the main army, Siegfried rode
forward alone to seek the foe. Nor was it long ere on a
plain before him he saw a great host encamped.
In advance of the great army of more than forty thousand men
stood a single warrior, as though he were a sentinel
guarding the plain. A shining shield of gold was in his
hand, and when Siegfried saw that, he knew that the
was none other than Ludegast himself.
Even as Siegfried knew his enemy and spurred forward his
steed, Ludegast saw the hero. Digging his spurs into the
sides of his horse he also sprang forward, and, with lances
poised, the two mighty men met and charged with all their
On dashed the noble steeds as though driven by a tempest,
until the King and the Prince drew rein, and turning faced
each other once again, their swords now in their hands.
With such great strokes did Siegfried ply his foe, that
fiery sparks flamed all around the helmet of the King, while
the noise of his mighty blows filled the space around as
with peals of thunder.
King Ludegast was a worthy foe and many an ugly thrust did
Siegfried parry with his shield. But at length with his good
sword Balmung, the hero pierced through the steel harness of
Ludegast the King. Three times he struck, until his enemy
lay helpless at his feet.
With piteous moan then did Ludegast beg
 the Prince to spare
his life, and this Siegfried did.
Then, as the hero was going to sheathe his sword, up rode
thirty of the King's warriors, who had watched the fray from
afar. Fiercely they beset the hero who had vanquished their
King and stealthily did they seek to rescue his prisoner.
But Siegfried brandished his good sword Balmung, and with
his own strong right hand slaughtered the thirty warriors,
all save one. Him the Prince spared that he might carry the
dire tidings of the capture of King Ludegast to the army on
Then Siegfried, left alone with his royal prisoner, lifted
him on to his own charger, and brought him to Hagen.
But the Prince did not linger with the army. Without delay
he set out for the forefront of the fray, and close behind
him rode his own eleven knights, while Gernot followed with
a thousand men. And soon the great plain was a grim
Loud and fierce was the conflict. Many a clanging blow fell
upon uplifted shields, many an eager sword-thrust struck
 and through mail, and ever in the thickest of
the fight rode Siegfried, the valiant Prince of the
The hero was seeking for King Ludeger, the leader of the
Saxon host. Three times did he cleave his way through the
mighty host until at length he stood before the King.
Now Ludeger had seen how Siegfried swung his good sword
Balmung, and how he cleft in twain the helmet of many of the
toughest warriors in the Saxon army, and his heart was
filled with rage. He knew also that his brother Ludegast had
been taken captive by this same bold Prince.
Thus it was that when Siegfried stood before his royal foe,
the onslaught of the King was more violent than the hero had
expected. So violent was it that the Prince's war-horse
staggered and well-nigh fell. With a mighty effort, the
steed recovered from the shock, but the rage of the hero was
terrible. In his eagerness to reach the fierce King Ludeger
he dismounted, as also did his foe, and thus they fought,
while all around them flew the splinters of broken swords
 At length with a great blow Siegfried struck the shield from
Ludeger's hold; a moment more and he had him at his mercy.
For the second time that day the Prince was victor over a
As Siegfried stooped to bind his prisoner, Ludeger's eyes
fell upon the crown which was emblazoned on his victor's
shield. Then he knew that the rumour which had reached him
was true. This mighty hero was none other than Siegfried,
the son of Siegmund, King of the Netherlands.
Vain was it to fight longer with such a hero among their
foes, and Ludeger raised his voice loud above the tumult,
and cried to his brave Saxon warriors, "My warriors, my
lieges, cease to give battle. Lay down your arms, lower your
standards, for none may conquer where Prince Siegfried
At Ludeger's words all that was left of the great armies of
Danes and Saxons laid down their arms, lowered their
standards, while their King humbly sued for peace.
By Hagen's command peace was granted, but Ludeger, along
with Ludegast and five
 hundred warriors who had been taken
prisoner, were forced to go with the Burgundians to the
royal city of Worms.
The victorious army was soon upon its homeward way, the
wounded being carried in litters by the command of King
Tidings were sent to King Gunther, telling him to rejoice,
for his warriors had won the day. Yet to all it was well
known that the victory was due to the prowess of the mighty
Nor did the heralds who were sent to the city with the glad
news of victory forget to tell of the marvellous deeds of
In Worms there had been grief lest their warriors should be
vanquished, but now the city was full of triumph, and noble
dames and happy maidens gathered round the squires who had
brought the good news.
Then Kriemhild sent secretly for one of the squires, for she
wished to hear without delay all that had befallen her
gallant knight. Had she not mourned his absence and scarce
slept the long nights through lest danger should come nigh
so fearless a warrior? Had she not vowed
 to herself that she
would own no other knight as lord, save only this great
hero? For unawares love had stolen into the tender heart of
the Lady Kriemhild.
When the squire was led to the bower of the Princess, he
stood quiet, modest before the beauteous lady.
"Tell me the dear tidings," she said, "stint not thy words,
and gold will I give to thee in plenty."
Yet at first the Princess had no courage to ask of
"How fared my brother Gernot, and how have my other kinsmen
fought? Are many wounded left upon the field?"
Then to her lips sprang the words she would fain have the
squire answer before all others.
"And who did best of any?" said the Princess, and her voice
broke, and her tears fell as she spoke.
But the young squire knew what the maiden wished to hear,
and he told her of the mighty deeds done on the battlefield,
and how ever in the forefront, where the danger was the
 greatest, was to be seen the gallant Prince of the
Netherlands, his good sword Balmung in his hand. Of his two
royal captives, too, the young squire told, and as Kriemhild
listened to the exploits of her knight, her lovely face
became rosy red with delight.
Well rewarded indeed was the squire for his joyous tidings,
for the Princess gave him costly raiment and ten gold coins
Ere many more days had passed away there came the tramp of
armed men along the banks of the great Rhine river. The
troops were coming home.
Then to the windows of the castle rushed the maidens, and
among them was the beautiful Princess, and together they
watched as the warriors rode through the streets of the
King Gunther himself went forth to welcome his troops, and
to thank the young hero who had so gallantly saved the realm
of Burgundy from invasion.
Of all those who had gone forth to battle but sixty men were
left behind, stricken by the foe.
 The royal prisoners Ludegast and Ludeger the King treated
with honour. He indeed promised to set them free if their
liegemen, who had been taken prisoners, would stay as
hostages in his land. And this the prisoners were well
pleased to do, that their Kings might return without ransom
to their own lands.
Siegfried the hero now began to think that it was fitting
that he should go back to his old father Siegmund, and his
dear mother Sieglinde.
But King Gunther, to whom he told his wish, entreated him to
stay yet a little longer in the royal city.
"For now," said the King, "will we hold a merry festival and
kings and princes will we summon to our court. Stay, then,
Sir Siegfried, that thou mayest show thy skill in the great
Yet it was neither the wishes of the King nor the thought of
the tournament which made Siegfried willing to linger on
still in the fair Burgundian town. It was the image of a
gentle maiden, whom yet he had never seen,
 which kept him
from speeding home to his own country.
Perchance if he waited he would see her soon, the
wonder-maiden, whose image even on the battlefield was safe
hidden in his heart.
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