Now it’s time to switch to the Niflungen. Hagen and Gunther, the two foremost Niflungen, joined the tournament in Bertangaland, and therefore the saga introduces them briefly just before Dietrich’s feast starts. We’ll get to that in a moment.
But first we hear about Sigfrid’s youth until he comes to Isung in Bertangaland. He is the son of king Sigmund and Sisibe, and their adventures are told first. Once theu’re married Sigmund goes on a long campaign and leaves the pregnant Sisibe in the care of two counts. One of the counts wants to marry her, but when she rebuts his advances he rides to the returning Sigmund and tells him his wife has been unfaithful with a slave.
The enraged king orders her death, but the count suggests leaving her in the Svava forest where no one ever returns from. Sigmund concurs, and the counts ride home and bring her to the forest. Then one of them wants to cut out her tongue to bring to the king, but the other wants her to remain unharmed.
The two counts fight, and during this fight Sisibe gives birth to Sigfrid and puts him in a glass pot. The evil count is killed, but in falling he pushes the glass pot into the river. Seeing this, Sisibe dies.
The glass pot with the child floated on the river to the sea, and it didn't take too long, and it was ebb. The pot now floated onti a sand bank, and the water fell further, so that it was dry. Meanwhile the child had grown somewhat, and he broke it in two, and cried.
Then a hind came, took the child in her mouth and carried it home to her lair. She had two calves, and she put the boy down and let him drink, and thus she nursed him like her own calves, and he was with the hind for twelve months. Then he was so large and strong as other children that were four years old.
A man called Mime was a famous and skilfull smith. He had many journeymen that served him. He also had a wife, but in the nine
He had a brother named Regin, who was very strong, and the most evil of all men, and as a punishment for doing witchcraft and magic he became a dragon. And thus it happened that he became the largest and most evil dragon, and he would kill anyone except for his brother. And nobody knew where his lair was, except for Mime.
One day Mime went into the forest to burn coal, and he thought to be away for three days. And when he came into the forest he made a great fire, and when he stood by this fire alone a small boy came and ran to him. He asked the boy who he was, but the boy could not speak. Still Mime took him and put him on his knee
Then a hind came and went to Mime's knee and licked the face and head of the boy. And from this Mime understood that the hind had nursed the child, and he did not want to kill the hind. But he took the boy home with him and wanted to raise him like his son and gave him the name Sigfrid.
Thus the boy grew up until he was twelve
One of the journeymen was called Eckhart, and he was the strongest of the twelve. One day Sigfrid came to the smithy, and Eckhart was smithing, and Eckhart hit Sigfrid on the ear with a tongue, but Sigfrid took him by the hair in his left hand so tightly that he fell to the ground
Then Mime said to Sigfrid: Don't hit my journeymen. They do useful work, but you do nothing except evil, even though you're strong enough and could work as hard as the others. I will help you to work, but if you don't want to I'll hit you until you will. And he took Sigfrid by the hand and took him to the smithy.
There Mime sat down and took iron and put it in the fire, and he gave Sigfrid the heaviest hammer. When the iron had become hot he put it on the anvil and told Sigfrid to hit it. And Sigfrid's first hit was so strong that the anvil split in two and sank into the anvil stone, and the iron splattered all around, the tongues broke, and the hammehead flew from the shaft.Mime said: I have never seen a man hit harder or worse than this, and whatever you will do, it won't be crafts. Now Sigfrid went to the house and sat with his foster mother and did not tell anyone how he felt, good or bad.
Now Mime sae that the boy would do more bad things and he decided to kill him. He now went into the forest where the dragon was, and told him he'd give him a boy and asked the dragon to kill him. Then he went home.
The next day Mime told Sigfrid to go into the forest to burn coal. Sigfrid said: If that can patch up things between us I will do so. And Mime propared his journey and gave him food and wine for nine
Then it was dinner time, and he sat down to eat, and ate all the food, and he drank all the wine as well, while Mime had thought it would serve him for nine days. And he said to himself: I don't think I could find a man that I would not fight, and I don't think any man's hand will be too strong for me.
And when he had said this a large dragon came to him. And he said to himself: Now it could happen that I can try what I just wished for. And he jumped to the fire, too the largest tree, walked to the dragon and hit it on the head, and with the first stroke the dragon went down, and he hit the dragon again, and it fell to the ground, and he hit again and again until the dragon was taken to hell
Now he sat down and he had become tired. It was already late in the day and he understood he would not come home today, and he didn't know what food he could get. Then he realised he could eat the dragon for supper, and he took his kettle and put it on the fire. Then he cut large pieces from the dragon with his axe until the kettle was full and he had enough to eat. And when he thought it was ready he dipped his hand into the kettle, and burned his fingers, and put them in his mouth to cool them.
As soon as the broth went over his tongue and down into his throat he heard how two birds who were sitting in a tree sang, and he now understood what one said: It would be better for this man to know what we know, then he would go home and kill Mime his foster father because Mime plotted to kill him if everything had gone as he wanted. And this dragon was Mime's brother, and Mime will want to avenge his brother and kill the boy.
Then Sigfrid took the dragon's blood and rubbed it on his hands, and everywhere he could reach, and it was as if his skin became horn. Then he took off his clothes and rubbed himself entirely with the blood but he could not reach in the middle between the shoulders. Now he dressed and took the dragon's head in his hand.
The story of how Sigfrid kills the dragon is his most famous one, but the saga’s version almost seems like a parody to me. Killing the dragon is not very difficult, and Sigfrid is described as a hungry lout who only discovers the magical powers of the dragon’s blood because he wants to eat it.
Although Sigfrid acquires his impregnable horn skin here, in future chapters the saga is curiously vague about it. It is mentioned sometimes, but the two times Sigfrid really needs to be impregnable (
Eckehart stood outside and saw how Sigfrid came back. And he want to his master and said: Sigfrid comes home, and he has the dragon's head in his hand. He must have killed it. Now everyone should save himself, because even though there's twelve of us, and even if there were half again as many, he would still kill all of us. And with that they all ran into the forest and hid.
But Mime went to Sigfrid alone and welcomed him. Sigfrid said: No welcomes! You will gnaw on this head like a dog. And Mime said: Don't do that. I will make up for what I did to you. I'll give you the helmet and armour that I made for king Hertnit in Holmgard, and I will give you a stallion called Grani, who is in Brunhild's herd, and also a sword named Gram, it is the best of all swords.
And Sigfrid said: I agree, if you do as you promise. And Mime gave him amrour and helmet and shield, and finally the sword, and when Sigfrid took the sword he swung it as powerfully as he could and gave Mime the death blow.
Now Signfrid went away and took the road that he was told went to Brunhild's castle. And when he came to the castle he found an iron door and nobody was there to open it for him. Then he hit the door so hard that the irons on the door were torn apart and went into the castle. Seven guards came to him, and they were guarding the gate, and didn't like him breaking open the door and wanted to kill him. But Sigfrid drew his sword and didn't stop until all these servants were slain. When the knights noticed this they took their weapons and attacked him, but he defended himself well.Brunhild now heard of all of this in her room, and she said: That must be Sigfrid Sigmund's son. And even though he may have killed seven of my knights ans seven servantsm he should still be welcome. And she went to the fight and told them to stop. And she asked who the man was that had come, and he said he was Sigfrid. She asked him for his ancestors, but he did not know.
And she said: If you don't know, then I can tell you you are Sigfrid, son of king Sigmund and Sisibe, and you are welcome here. But where do you travel to?
Sigfrid replied: I came here, because my foster father Mime told me to go here to get a stallion called Grani that you have. And I'd like to have him, if you please.
She said: I will give you a horse, or even several, if you want.
She ordered her men to catch the horse, and they took all day to do so, but they could not take it and in the evening they came home without it.
Sigfrid stayed the night. But in the morning she called twelve of her men, and went herself as the thirteenth. And the twelve men chased the horse for a long time and could not catch it. In the end Sigfrid asked for the bridle, and with it he went to the stallion, and the stallion wehnt to him and he caught it and jumped on his back.
Now Sigfrid rode away and thanked Brunhild for her hospitality. He stayd in no place for more than one night until he came to Bertangaland. There ruled a king named Isung, who had eleven sons. He took in Sigfrid and made him his counselor and banner bearer, and Sigfrid felt welcome here.
These are all parts of the traditional hero’s story. The father (Mime, in this case) gives wise advice and equipment, and the mysterious lady helps him along (and probably sleeps with him). Nonetheless, I still see this as a parody of the traditional hero’s story. Sigfrid is not being very heroic, especially when it comes to Mime.
Now that Sigfrid is in Bertangaland the saga gives an introduction of the Niflungen, in particular of Hagen’s birth.
A king named Aldrian ruled over Niflungenland, and his wife was the daughter of a mighty king. One day, when Aldrian was away, she was drunk with wine and fell asleep in a flower garden. A man came to her, and she thought she recognised Aldrian, but he left quickly.
The queen became pregnant, and when she once again was alone the same man came to her, and told her he was the child's father, and he was an elf. She should keep this a secret from everyone except the child, who would grow to become a great man. And when he would ever find himself in trouble, he should call upon his father. Having said that, the man disappeared.
The queen gave birth to Hagen, called Aldrian's son. When he was four winters old, the other children told him his face was like a ghost's, and when he looked at himself in water, he saw his face was as pale like ash. He went to his mother and asked why he was like this. His mother told him the truth about his father, but a woman stood nearby and overheard the conversation, and this woman later became a concubine of Dietrich von Bern, and she told him the secret, and thus it became known.
King Aldrian and his wife had three sons and a daughter: Gunther, Gernot, and Giselher, who was still a child when these things happened
When king Aldrian left his realm and died, his oldest son Gunther took up the kingship.
The next chapter contains this story again, with minor differences: Aldrian is now called Irung. It seems likely that 169 belonged in the Niflungen story, since it explains how Dietrich von Bern knew about Hagen’s birth, while 170 belonged in the Bertangaland story, since it treats Dietrich’s invitation to Hagen and Gunther to join him at his feast.
Now the saga describes Dietrich’s feast and the tournament in Bertangaland, as summarised in The journey to Bertangaland. Hagen and Gunther both lose their fight.
Later, in the confused jumble about marriages, the story of how Hagen lost his eye is told.
This is the only part of the saga that is certainly not in its proper chronological position. In Bertangaland Hagen already has one eye, so what follows now must have happened before. The saga ignores chronology here in favour of theme: since the story contains a vaguely love-themed main thread it is placed in the Marriages section.
Walther and Hildegund live at Attila’s court as hostages; he for his uncle Ermenrik and she for her uncle Osantrix. They fall in love and run away together, taking a nice slice of the king’s treasure.
When king Attila found out that Walther and Hildegund had fled, he ordered twelve of his men to ride after them, and they should take back all the gold they had stolen, and also Walther's head. Among them there was also a man called Hagen, kung Aldrian's son. These twelve knights pursued the two fugitives and quicly saw them ride ahead.
Then Walther sprang from his stallion and hid Hildegund and the treasure under it
Then Hildegund said: It's a pity you should fight alone against twelve knights, you should rather turn back and save your life. Walther told her not to cry. He had seen helmets cleaved before, and shields split, and armour sundered, and headless men falling off their horses
Now they rode against each other, and battle broke out, and it became night before it was over.
Although he had killed eleven knights, Walther was badly wounded, but Hagen had fled into the forest. Walther went back to his wife and stayed with her there in the forest. He struck fire from flints and built a large fire, and roasted a ham of a wild boar
Then Hagen sprang from the bushes, and to the fire where Walther sat, and Hagen drew his sword and wanted to kill him. Hildegund warned Walther to defend himself, because one of the enemies had come back. Then Walther took the ham that was eaten
Walther also mounted and rode south over the mountains to king Ermenrik, and told him the entire adventure. They recovered king Attila's friendship by the rich gifts that king Ermenrik gave him.
Chronologically speaking, Gunther and Hagen now go with Dietrich to Bertangaland. On the way back they manage to marry Sigfrid into their family. He tells Gunther he knows the perfect bride for him: Brunhild.
Then king Dietrich and all his heroes rode with king Gunther to Niflungenland. And there the marriage was decided that later became famous, that Sigfrid would take Grimhild, sister to king Gunter and Hagen, as his wife, and with it half of king Gunther's realm.
And a great feast was given, and all the best and noblest men in the country were invited. And this marriage took five days and was wonderful in all things.
When king Dietrich, king Gunther and Sigfrid sat together, Sigfrid said to Gunther, his brother-in-law: I know a woman who surpasses all women in the world in beauty and virtue
Then they rode away from the feast, king Dietrich, king Gunther, Hagen and Sigfrid with all their men, and they traveled long and didn't stop before they reached Brunhild's castle.
Brunhild received king Dietrich and king Gunther well, but Sigfrid not so much, since she already knew he had a wife, and the first time they met he had sworn not to take another woman than her, and she not another man than him
Now Sigfrid went to Brunhild and told her why they had come, and that she should marry king Gunther. She replied: I heard how badly you kept your word, that we had promised ourselves to each other, and even though I can pick whichever man in the world I'd like, I still want you for my husband.
Sigfrid replied: What had been decided before
Then Brunhild replied: I see now that I cannot have you, so I will take your and king Dietrich's counsel in this. Now king Dietrich and king Gunther joined this conversation, and they did not part before king Gunther and Brunhild decided to marry.
Now a great marriage feast was held, and king Gunther married Brunhild. And on the first night, when king Gunther and Brunhild went to bed, no third man
And when the two newlyweds were together, king Gunther wanted to make love to Brunhild, but she didn't want that at all, and she took both their belts and tied him hand and foot and hung him on a nail in the wall. And there he hung until daylight, when she released him so that he could go and drink. Neither he nor she spoke of this to anyone.
And the next night the same happened, and the third night as well. And king Gunther became unhappy and did not know what to do. Then it occurred to him that Sigfrid and he had sworn brotherhood, and that he was also wise, so he had a talk with Sigfrid alone and told him what had happened.
Sigfrid replied: I'll tell you why this happens. As long as she keeps her virginity hardly any man can be found who has power over her, but once her virginity is taken she is not stronger than other women.
Then king Gunther said: Because of our blood relation and friendship I trust no man but you to keep silent about this, and I also know you're strong enough to take her virginity; but I trust that if we do this it will never become common knowledge. And Sigfrid said he'd do as Gunther asked, so that was decided.
When evening came and Gunther would go to bed, Sigfrid went instead, and Gunther went away in Sigfrid's clothes. And all thought that Gunther was in bed. But Sigfrid had thrown clothes on his head, and pretended he was very tired, and he lay there until everyone had fallen asleep or gone away. Then he went to Brunhild and took her virginity. And in the morning he took from her hand a finger ring
And now a hundred men came out to meet him, and king Gunther was the first, who went to the bed and Sigfrid came to him, and they swapped their clothes again, and nobody knew what had happened.
Then the saga returns to a few other marriages, Dietrich’s flight, the Wilkinen wars, and the battle at Gransport. Once Erka dies after warning Attila not to marry a woman of the Niflungen, the saga tells us why Grimhild of the Niflungen is available as a bride: Sigfrid is killed by his brothers in law.
In these days, in the town called Vernisa
And from the moment that Sigfrid married Grimhild this realm stood in great splendor, mostly because everyone was afraid of the mighty lords who ruled there, and also because they had more cattle, gold, and silver than any other king. They were cruel to their enemies, but among one another they were good friends. But Sigfrid excelled above the others in all things, his skin was as hard as horn, like the breast of a wild boar, and no weapn could pierce it, except between the shoulders, where his skin was like that of other people.
One day queen Brunhild went into her hall
And Grimhild replied: I'll tell you why not. You are sitting on the throne that once belonged to my mother, and I have as much right as you to sit there.
Brunhild replied: Although your mother had this seat, and your father this town and land, now it is mine, and not yours
Then Grimhild said: Why would it be a disgrace to me that Sigfrid is my husband? You start this game now, and you clearly want us to speak more of what is an honour and a dishonour to you. So answer my question promptly: who took your virginity? Who was your first man?
And Brunhild replied: I can easily answer that with honour: king Gunther came to my castle with his men, and on the counsel of my friends I took him for my husband and was duly married with many precious gifts and guests
Then Grimhold said: You lie, as I thought you would. The man who took your virginity was Sigfrid. And Brunhild said: I was never Sigfrid's wife, and he never my husband.
And Grimhild said: I can prove it by this finger ring that he took from you when he had taken your virginity. He drew this gold from your hand and gave it to me.
And when Brunhild saw this gold she knew it had once been hers, and she understood what must have happened
She saw three men coming to here, and the first was king Gunther, and his brother Hagen, and the third was Gernot. They met her, and she cried and wailed and tore her clothes. King Gunther and Hagen had rode to hunt that day, and when they saw queen Brunhild act like that they didn't know what ailed her and halted their horses.
Then the queen said: Noble king Gunther, I gave myself into your power and left my realm and friends and relatives, and I did all of that for your sake. Will you or another man now avenge my disgrace? And if you do not want to avenge me, you should do it for your own sake. Sigfrid has broken his promise of silence and has told his wife Grimhild about everything that you had confided to him: that you were not the first to lie with me, but had Sigfrid take my virginity. And Grimhild said all that in the presence of everyone.
Hagen replied: Noble queen Brunhild, don't cry any longer. Instead, act as if nothing has happened.
Brunhild said: I will do as you say. Sigfrid came to you as a traveler
King Gunther said: My wife, don't cry, and be silent right now. Sigfrid will not be our lord for much longer, and my sister Grimhild will not be your queen. And Brunhild did as the king demanded.
King Gunther and Hagen his brother now rode into town to the hall. And they and Gernot pretended they knew nothing, and Brunhild did the same. Sigfrid had ridden into the forest to hunt, and was not at home at that time.
A few days later Sigfrid returned with his men. And when he came into the hall where king Gunther sat, the king rose and welcomed his brother in law, and so did Hagen and Gernot, and they were quite joyful that evening, but queen Brunhild was not.
A few days later Hagen said to his brother king Gunther: Lord, when do you want to ride into the forest to hunt, and we with you? And the king said he wanted to ride out as soon as the weather was better. And again a few days passed, and then Hagen went to the cooking house and told the cook: Tomorrow morning you will bring us breakfast, and make everything as salt as you can, and give Sigfrid the portion that is saltiest. And then he went to his cup-bearer and told him to give them their drinks very late. And then Hagen left.
The next morning king Gunther and Hagen said that they were going to ride out for a hunt and went to breakfast. Sigfrid came there and asked them what they were planning. Gunther told him they were going for a hunt, and asked if Sigfrid wanted to join them. And Sigfrid agreed to come with them. The king said: Then eat, and Sigfrid did so, and the cook and the cup-bearer did everything that Hagen had ordered them.
When they had eaten they took their horses, rode into the forest, and loosed their dogs. And when Sigfrid had departed from the castle Grimhild went back to bed because she was so angry with Brunhild that she didn't want to sit with her.
Hagen rode away later than the others, and had talked to queen Brunhild. And Brunhild asked Hagen to make sure Sigfrid did not come home that evening, and she offered him gold and silver and jewelry to do so. But Hagen said that Sigfrid was so strong that he wasn't sure he could kill him, but he promised to try. And then he rode out, and the queen wished him goodbye and told him to keep his promise.
Now they hunted, and rode until they were tired, and from time to time they ran. And Sigfrid was the first
Then they came to a brook, and king Gunther lay down and drank, and Hagen did the same, and then Sigfrid came and also lay down to drink. And when Hagen had drunk he rose, took his spear in both hands, and stuck Sigfrid right between the shoulder blades so that it went through his heart and exited through his breast
Then Sigfrid said, when he received the spear: I had not expected that
Then Hagen said: This morning we hunted a boar, and we four
Then king Gunther said: You have hunted well, and this wisent we will take home with us to bring it to my sister. Then they took Sigfrid's body and took it back to the castle.
Queen Brunhild stood on the rampart and saw king Gunther and Hagen and Gernot ride back to the castle, and also saw they brought Sigfrid dead. She went to them and said they were the luckiest hunters, and asked them to bring the body to Grimhild. She sleeps in her bed, she said, let her now embrace the dead, he has what he deserves now, and so does Grimhild.
They now went to her room, which was locked, and they broke open the door and carried the body inside, and threw it onto the bed into her arms, and she woke up and saw that Sigfrid was in her bed and was dead.
Then Grimhild said to Sigfrid: Your wounds are evil. How did you receive them? Your shield and helmet are untouched, how were you wounded like that? You must be murdered. If I knew who'd done it I'd avenge it.
Hagen said: He was not murdered/ We hunted a wild boar, and that boar gave him the fatal wound. And Grimhild said: That boar, that was you, Hagen, and no one else. And she cried bitterly.
Then they went to the hall and were quite happt, and Brunhild was no less happy. But Grimhild called her people and had Sigfrid's body buried.
And when the tale made the rounds that Sigfrid was dead, everyone said that no man like that was in the world any more, nor would ever be born, so strong and brave, and possessed of such noble virtues, and his name would never be forgotten in the German language, nor in the Norse one.
With this the stage has been set for Grimhild’s revenge.
The saga first tells the unrelated story of the war between Hertnit and Isung, where Isung, Detlef and Fasold die. It has nothing to do with the Niflungen, but maybe it has been inserted here to show that some time passed between Sigfrid’s death and Grimhild’s revenge.