The Nibelungenlied: Translated by Margaret Armour

Contents:
Date: 1200

THIRTY-SIXTH ADVENTURE

HOW THE QUEEN BADE THEM BURN DOWN THE HALL

’NOW do off your helmets,’ said Hagen the knight. ’I and my comrade will keep watch. And if Etzel’s men try it again, I will warn my masters straightway.’

Then many a good warrior unlaced his helmet. They sat down on the bodies that had fallen in the blood by their hands. With bitter hate the guests were spied at by the Huns.

Before nightfall the king and queen had prevailed on the men of Hungary to dare the combat anew. Twenty thousand or more stood before them ready for battle. These hasted to fall on the strangers.

Dankwart, Hagen’s brother, sprang from his masters to the foemen at the door. They thought he was slain, but he came forth alive.

The strife endured till the night. The guests, as beseemed good warriors, had defended them against Etzel’s men all through the long summer day. Ha! what dought heroes lay dead before them. It was on a midsummer that the great slaughter fell, when Kriemhild avenged her heart’s dole on her nearest kinsmen, and on many another man, and all King Etzel’s joy was ended. Yet she purposed not at the first to bring it to such a bloody encounter, but only to kill Hagen; but the devil contrived it so, that they must all perish.

The day was done; they were in sore straits. They deemed a quick death had been better than long anguish. The proud knights would fain have had a truce. They asked that the king might be brought to them.

The heroes, red with blood, and blackened with the soil of their harness, stepped out of the hall with the three kings. They knew not whom to bewail their bitter woe to.

Both Etzel and Kriemhild came. The land all round was theirs, and many had joined their host. Etzel said to the guests, ’What would ye with me? Haply ye seek for peace. That can hardly be, after such wrong as ye have done me and mine. Ye shall pay for it while I have life. Because of my child that ye slew, and my many men, nor peace nor truce shall ye have.’

Gunther answered, ’A great wrong constrained us thereto. All my followers perished in their lodging by the hands of thy knights. What had I done to deserve that? I came to thee in good faith, for I deemed thou wert my friend.’

Then said Giselher, the youth, of Burgundy, ’Ye knights of King Etzel that yet live, what have ye against me? How had I wronged you?- I that rode hither with loving heart?’

They answered, ’Thy love hath filled all the castles of this country with mourning. We had gladly been spared thy journey from Worms beyond the Rhine. Thou hast orphaned the land- thou and thy brothers.’

Then cried Gunther in wrath, ’If ye would lay from you this stark hate against us homeless ones, it were well for both sides, for we are guiltless before Etzel.’

But the host answered the guests, ’My scathe is greater than thine; because of the mickle toil of the strife, and its shame, not one of you shall come forth alive.’

Then said stark Gernot to the king, ’Herein, at the least, incline thy heart to do mercifully with us. Stand back from the house, that we win out to you. We know that our life is forfeit; let what must come, come quickly. Thou has many knights unwounded; let them fall on us, and give us battle-weary ones rest. How long wouldst thou have us strive?’

King Etzel’s knights would have let them forth, but when Kriemhild heard it, she was wroth, and even this boon was denied to the strangers.

’Nay now, ye Huns, I entreat you, in good faith, that ye let not these lusters after blood come out from the hall, lest thy kinsmen all perish miserably. If none of them were left alive save Uta’s children, my noble brothers, and won they to the air to cool their harness, ye were lost. Bolder knights were never born into the world.’

Then said young Giselher, ’Fairest sister mine, right evil I deem it that thou badest me across the Rhine to this bitter woe. How have I deserved death from the Huns? I was ever true to thee, nor did thee any hurt. I rode hither, dearest sister, for that I trusted to thy love. Needs must thou show mercy.’

’I will show no mercy, for I got none. Bitter wrong did Hagen of Trony to me in my home yonder, and here he hath slain my child. They that came with him must pay for it. Yet, if ye will deliver Hagen captive, I will grant your prayer, and let you live; for ye are my brothers, and the children of one mother. I will prevail upon my knights here to grant a truce.’

’God in Heaven forbid!’ cried Gernot. ’Though we were thousand, liefer would we all die by thy kinsmen, than give one single man for our ransom. That we will never do.’

’We must perish then,’ said Giselher; ’but we will fall as good knights. We are still here; would any fight with us? I will never do falsely by my friend.’

Cried bold Dankwart too (he had done ill to hold his peace), ’My brother Hagen standeth not alone. They that have denied us quarter may rue it yet. By my troth, ye will find it to your cost.’

Then said the queen, ’Ye heroes undismayed, go forward to the steps and avenge our wrong. I will thank you forever, and with cause. I will requite Hagen’s insolence to the full. Let not one of them forth at any point, and I will let kindle the hall at its four sides. So will my heart’s dole be avenged.’

Etzel’s knights were not loth. With darts & with blows they drave back into the house them that stood without. Loud was the din; but the princes and their men were not parted, nor failed they in faith to one another.

Etzel’s wife bade the hall be kindled, and they tormented the bodies of the heroes with fire. The wind blew, and the house was soon all aflame. Folk never suffered worse, I ween. There were many that cried, ’Woe is me for this pain! Liefer had we died in battle. God pity us, for we are all lost. The queen taketh bitter vengeance.’

One among them wailed, ’We perish by the smoke and the fire. Grim is our torment. The stark heat maketh me so athirst, that I die.’

Said Hagen of Trony, ’Ye noble knights and good, let any that are athirst drink the blood. In this heat it is better than wine, and there is naught sweeter here.’

Then went one where he found a dead body. He knelt by the wounds, and did off his helmet, and began to drink the streaming blood. Albeit he was little used thereto, he deemed it right good. ’God quit thee, Sir Hagen!’ said the weary man, ’I have learned a good drink. Never did I taste better wine. If I live, I will thank thee.’

When the others heard his praise, many more of them drank the blood, and their bodies were strengthened, for the which many a noble woman paid through her dear ones.

The fire-flakes fell down on them in the hall, but they warded them off with their shields. Both the smoke and the fire tormented them. Never before suffered heroes such sore pain.

Then said Hagen of Trony, ’Stand fast by the wall. Let not the brands fall on your helmets. Trample them with your feet deeper in the blood. A woeful hightide is the queen’s.’

The night ended at last. The bold gleeman, and Hagen, his comrade, stood before the house & leaned upon their shields. They waited for further hurt from Etzel’s knights. It advantaged the strangers much that the roof was vaulted. By reason thereof more were left alive. Albeit they at the windows suffered scathe, they bare them valiantly, as their bold hearts bade them.

Then said the fiddler, ’Go we now into the hall, that the Huns deem we be all dead from this torment, albeit some among them shall yet feel our might.’

Giselher, the youth, of Burgundy, said, ’It is daybreak, I ween. A cool wind bloweth, God grant we may see happier days. My sister Kriemhild hath bidden us to a doleful hightide.’

One of them spake, ’I see the dawn. Since we can do no better, arm you, ye knights, for battle, that, come we never hence, we may die with honour.’

Etzel deemed the guests were all dead of their travail and the stress of the fire. But six hundred bold men yet lived. Never king had better knights. They that kept ward over the strangers had seen that some were left, albeit the princes and their men had suffered loss and dole. They saw many the walked up and down in the house.

They told Kriemhild that many were left alive, but the queen answered, ’It cannot be. None could live in that fire. I trow they all lie dead.’

The kings and their men had still gladly asked for mercy, had there been any to show it. But there was none in the whole country of the Huns. Wherefore they avenged their death with willing hand.

They were greeted early in the morning with a fierce onslaught, and came in great scathe. Stark spears were hurled at them. Well the knights within stood on their defence.

Etzel’s men were the bolder, that they might win Kriemhild’s fee. Thereto, they obeyed the king gladly; but soon they looked on death.

One might tell marvels of her gifts and promises. She bade them bear forth red gold upon shields, and gave thereof to all that desired it, or would take it. So great treasure was never give against foemen.

The host of warriors came armed to the hall. The fiddler said, ’We are here. I never was gladder to see any knights than those that have taken the king’s gold to our hurt.’

Now a few of them cried out, ’Come nigher, ye heroes! Do your worst, and make an end quickly, for here are none but must die.’

Soon their bucklers were filled full of darts. What shall I say more? Twelve hundred warriors strove once and again to win entrance. The guests cooled their hardihood with wounds. None could part the strife. The blood flowed from death-deep wounds. Many were slain. Each bewailed some friend. All Etzel’s worthy knights perished. Their kinsmen sorrowed bitterly.

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Chicago: "Thirty-Sixth Adventure," The Nibelungenlied: Translated by Margaret Armour Original Sources, accessed September 29, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=H6GVVL4H8PPAT9W.

MLA: . "Thirty-Sixth Adventure." The Nibelungenlied: Translated by Margaret Armour, Original Sources. 29 Sep. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=H6GVVL4H8PPAT9W.

Harvard: , 'Thirty-Sixth Adventure' in The Nibelungenlied: Translated by Margaret Armour. Original Sources, retrieved 29 September 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=H6GVVL4H8PPAT9W.