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Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Nibelungenlied

Read for the Once Upon a Time III and TBR Lite 2009 Reading Challenges.

The Nibelungenlied is an epic German poem written in approximately 1200 AD. If you’ve taken any music history, you’ve likely heard of it through the lens of Richard Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen, though this is only one source for the opera, so anyone coming in with a more mythic perspective of the story (one word: Valkyries) may be a bit disappointed.

The story is split into two parts: the wooing of Kreimhild by Siegfried, which is accomplished when he helps her brother Gunther woo Brunhild, and Siegfrid’s consequent murder; and then Kreimhild’s revenge for Siegfrid’s murder, a.k.a. how to bring down the entire royal house of Burgundy after they’ve betrayed you, killed your husband, and stolen all your treasure.

I’ve had this book following me around for years. I’m not even sure where, how and why I got it, at this point. I’m putting it in my to donate pile once I’m done writing this review. I actually like classic, epic works in translation, but this one didn’t do much for me. The mythic/legendary elements were few, the translator’s overuse of the word adorable to describe women, and the pretty unsympathetic characterizations of most of the characters were all contributing factors. I was actually pleasantly surprised when it turned out the last third of the book was analysis. I will admit the analysis helped bring my appreciation of the story up a few notches, but it’s definitely not one I’ll feel the need to ever read again. I’ll be going back to the Icelandic sources next time I want a good German/Norse mythology fix.

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