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The Nibelungenlied is an epic poem in Middle High German taking Burgundian kings as its subject matter. It is the work of an anonymous 13th century poet from the Danube area. He re-worked various pagan heroic motifs into a work of courtly poetry.

The word Nibelungen has several meanings, referring to the Burgundian kings portrayed in the poem, and to the followers of Siegfried, and to a legendary race of Germanic dwarfs.


Sigurd proposes to Kriemhild, the beautiful sister of Gunther, Gernot and Giselher, three Burgundian kings. He is allowed to marry her after he defeats Brünhild, the queen of Iceland, with the aid of a cloak which lets him become invisible. Brünhild becomes Gunther's wife.

Kriemhild lets slip the secret in a row with Brünhild, and Hagen decides to kill Sigurd. He finds out his most vulnerable spot and kills him while they are hunting.

Attila the Hun now proposes to Kriemhild, and she invites the Burgundians to a feast in Hungary. There is a huge fight, and everyone is killed except Gunther and Hagen who are captured by Dietrich of Bern.

Kriemhild demands the return of the Nibelungen treasure (stolen by Hagen). When she fails to get it back, she arranges for Gunther to be killed and cuts off Hagen's head with Sigurd's sword. She in turn is killed by Hildebrand, Dietrich's armourer.

The Niebelungenlied served as source material for Wagner's "Ring Cycle" (The Ring of the Nibelung also known as Der Ring des Nibelungen).

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