Nibelungenlied, Das

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Nibelungenlied, Das


a masterpiece of the German heroic epos named after the Nibelungs, a mythical race of dwarfs who owned and guarded a treasure. The poem was written down around 1200 and was first published in 1757 by J. J. Bodmer.

The sources of the Nibelungenlied lie in folklore, but the poem was considerably influenced by later feudal and courtly ideology and culture. The first part tells of the feats and death of the knight Siegfried; the second part relates the revenge of his wife Kriemhild and the tragic conclusion of bloody strife that reflects historical legends about the destruction of the Burgundian state by the Huns. The magic motifs associated with the figure of Siegfried are especially pronounced in Scandinavian versions of the story and in the German saga Der hörnen Sewfriedt (1557).

On the question of the origin of the Nibelungenlied, modern scholarship supports the views of A. Heusler, who determined the principles governing the development of short epic songs into long epics. Many authors, among them F. La Motte-Fouqué, C. Hebbel, R. Wagner, and H. Ibsen, have made use of the Nibelungenlied. The fascist literary scholars who attempted to depict the epic’s heroes as spokesmen of a distinctive “Nordic spirit” ignored the similarities between the Nibelungenlied and the epics of other nations.


Das Nibelungenlied. Leipzig, 1964. In Russian translation: Pesn’ o Nibelungakh. Leningrad, 1972.


Heusler, A. Germanskii geroicheskii epos i skazanie o Nibelungakh. [Translation from German; introductory article and notes by V. M. Zhirmunskii.] Moscow, 1960.
Panzer, F. Das Nibelungenlied: Entstehung und Gestalt. Stuttgart and Cologne, 1955.
Bekker, H. The Nibelungenlied. Toronto [1971].
Abeling, T. Das Nibelungenlied und seine Literatur: Eine Bibliographie und vier Abhandlungen. New York [1970].


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.