How Kriemhild Thought
To Avenge Her Wrongs.
Online Medieval and Classical Library Release #31
With great worship of a truth they lived together until the seventh year. In this time the queen was delivered of a son, at which King Etzel could not have been more joyful. She would not turn back, until she brought it to pass that Etzel's child was christened after the Christian rite. Men named it Ortlieb; (1) at this great joy arose over all of Etzel's lands. Whatever courtly breeding Lady Helca had possessed, Dame Kriemhild practiced this full many a day. Herrat, the exiled maid, who in secret grieved full sore for Helca, taught her the customs. Well was she known to the strangers and the home-folk. They vowed that never had a kingdom had a better or more bounteous queen. This they held for true. She bare this praise among the Huns until the thirteenth year. Now wot she well, that none would thwart her, as royal men-at-arms still do to a prince's wife, and that all time she saw twelve kings stand before her. Over many a wrong she brooded, that had happed to her at home. She thought likewise on the many honors in the Nibelung land, which she had there enjoyed and of which Hagen's hand had quite bereft her at Siegfried's death, and if perchance she might not make him suffer for his deed. "That would hap, if I might but bring him to this land." She dreamed that Giselher, her brother, walked often with her hand in hand. Alway she kissed him in her gentle slumber; later suffering came to both. I ween, the foul fiend did counsel Kriemhild this, that she withdrew her friendship from Giselher, whom for forgiveness' sake she had kissed in the Burgundian land. At this hot tears again gan soil her robe. Early and late it lay within her heart, how without fault of hers they had made her wed a heathen man. Hagen and Gunther had brought her to this pass. This wish she seldom gave over in her heart. She thought: "I am so mighty and have such great wealth, that I can do my foes an injury yet. Full ready would I be for this towards Hagen of Troneg. My heart doth often yearn for my faithful kin. Might I be with those who did me wrong, my lover's death would be well avenged. Scarce can I abide this," spake Etzel's wife.
All the king's men, Kriemhild's warriors, bare her love in duty bound. Of the chamber Eckewart had charge, which won him friends. None might gainsay Dame Kriemhild's will. All time she thought: "I will beg the king, that he in kindly wise may grant me to bring my kinsmen to the Hunnish land." None marked the evil purpose of the queen. One night when she lay by the king, and he did hold her in his arms, as he was wont to love the noble dame, who was dear to him as life, the high-born lady thought her of her foes. To the king she spake: "Dear my lord, I would fain beseech you, by your grace, that ye would show me that ye did love my kinsfolk, if I have earned the favor."
Then spake the king (true was his heart): "I'll give you to know however well the knights may fare, I may well have joy of this, for never have I won better kin through woman's love."
Again the queen spake: "It hath been well told you, that I have high-born kin; therefore do I grieve that they so seldom reck to see me here. I hear the folk aver that I be banished."
Then spake king Etzel: "Dear lady mine, and it think you not too far, I'll bid hither to my lands, from across the Rhine, whomso ye be fain to see."
The lady joyed her when she heard his will. She spake: "Would ye show me your faith, my lord, then send envoys to Worms across the Rhine, through whom I may tell my kinsfolk what I have in mind. Thus there will come hither to our land many a noble knight and a good."
He answered: "It shall hap whenso ye bid. Ye might not be more glad to see your kin than I to see the sons of the noble Uta. It doth irk me sore, that they have been strangers to us so long a time. If it please you, dear lady mine, I would fain send my minstrels for your kinsmen to the Burgundian land."
He bade the good minstrels be fetched straightway. Quickly they hasted to where the king sate by the queen. He told the twain they should be envoys to the Burgundian land and bade full lordly weeds be made ready for them. Clothing was prepared for four and twenty warriors, and the message was told them by the king, how they should bid Gunther and his liegemen hither. Kriemhild, the queen, talked with them apart. Then spake the mighty king: "I'll tell you what to say. I offer to my kin my love and service, that it may please them to ride hither to my land. But few such welcome guests have I known, and if they perchance will fulfill my wish, tell Kriemhild's kinsmen that they must not fall to come this summer to my feast, for much of my joy doth lie upon the kinsmen of my wife."
Then spake the minstrel, the proud Swemmel: "When shall your feasting be in these lands, that I may tell it yonder to your kin?"
King Etzel answered: "On next midsummer's day."
"We'll do as ye command," spake then Werbel.
The queen bade them be brought secretly unto her bower, where she then talked with the envoys. From this but little joy happed to many a knight. To the two messengers she spake: "Now earn ye mickle goods, in that ye do my pleasure full willingly and give the message which I send to my native land. I'll make you rich in goods and give you the lordly robes. And if ye see any of my kin at Worms upon the Rhine, ye must not tell them that ye ever saw me sad of heart. Tender my service to the heroes brave and good. Beg that they do as the king doth bid and thus part me from all my grief. The Huns ween, I be without kith and kin. Were I a knight, I'd visit them myself at times. And say to Gernot, too, the noble brother of mine, that none in the world doth love him more. Beg him to bring with him to this land our best of friends, that it may be to our honor. Say also to Giselher, that he remember well, I never gained grief through fault of his. Therefore would mine eyes fain sue him. For his great loyalty I would gladly have him here. Tell my mother also of the honors which I have, and if Hagen of Troneg be minded to stay at home, who then should lead them through the lands? From a child he knoweth the roads to Hungary." (2)
The envoys wist not, why it was done, that they should not let Hagen of Troneg stay upon the Rhine. Later it repented them full sore. With him many a knight was doomed to a savage death. Letters and messages had now been given them. They rode forth rich in goods, and well could lead a sumptuous life. Of Etzel and his fair wife they took their leave, their persons adorned full well with goodly weeds.
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(1) "Ortlieb" is not historical, and in the "Thidreksaga" Etzel's son is called Aldrian. Bleyer, "Die germanischen Elemente der ungarischen, Hunnensage", PB. Beit. xxxi, 570, attempt to prove the identity of the names by means of a form "*Arda", giving on the one hand Hungarian "Aladar", "Aldrian", on the other German "Arte", "Orte". (2) "Hungary". According to the account in "Waltharius", Hagen spent his youth as a hostage at Etzel's court.