Zénaïde A. (Zénaïde Alexeïevna) Ragozin.

Siegfried, the hero of the North, and Beowulf, the hero of the Anglo-Saxons online

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trees often growing in Germany to almost
as great a size and age as the lordly oak.
All the country around was kept in dread
by the fierce and murderous " Linden-
Dragon." But nobody was brave enough
to go into the forest and fight him. So
young Siegfried did his people a great
service by his daring in seeking out the
Dragon and killing him ; and it was no
wonder they praised him and loved him,
and boasted of him to their neighbours.
But he was to reap some good for him-
self too from his brave deed. He noticed
that wherever the Dragon's blood had
touched his flesh the skin had become
hard and unfeeling. So he bathed his
whole body in the blood, face and all, and
became as though coated with a thin cas-
ing of horn, which made him invulner-
able, that is, not to be hurt by the cut
or thrust of any weapon whatever.

Young Siegfried's other adventure
brought him even greater glory, besides
such wealth and power as never were
man's before or after him ; yet, in the end,



Boyhood and Youth 5

in far remote later days and through
many strange happenings, it was also to
bring sorrow and destruction on himself
and many brave men, both true and false.
Siegfried loved to ride out alone, hunt-
ing, or simply to see the world, and take
any chance to display his great strength
and daring. Once, when he had ridden
farther than usual, he found himself in
the land of the Nibelungs, where lived
wizards, and giants, and dwarfs, and
things were generally queer and uncanny.
When Siegfried arrived, the old king had
just died, and he found the king's two sons
quarrelling over the division of his treas-
ure. It was an ancient and a mighty
hoard ; not a hundred farm waggons could
have carried all the gold and jewels. And
it had this wonderful property : that no
matter how much was taken from it, the
hoard never grew less. But a curse had
been laid on it in olden times, that it
should work nought but harm to whom-
soever was the owner of it. Wherefore
the old Nibelung king had had it hid
away from sight and use in a deep mount-



6 Siegfried

ain cave. Now it had been brought
forth, and lay spread out in glittering
heaps before the two heirs and their
knights. They haggled and wrangled,
and could not come to an understand-
ing. So when Siegfried suddenly stood
before them, they were glad, and asked
him to divide the treasure between them;
and, to show how thankful they would be,
they at once presented him with their
father's own good sword, named Balmung.
But Siegfried, try as he would, could not
get them to agree, they were so greedy
and unreasonable ; and when he spoke to
them sternly, they grew angry, and their
people began to threaten him. Then
Siegfried's blood was up. Grasping his
new prize, Balmung, he attacked that
armed band single-handed.

o

Now there was magic power in the
sword, which had been forged in olden
times by a wizard with many a strong
spell. And magic work it did in the
young hero's hand, laying low twelve
chosen knights and many of the Nibe-
lung men, and lastly the two young kings



Boyhood and Youth 7

themselves. After that the warriors were
cowed into submission, and gave up to
Siegfried the treasure and the whole
country, with all its castles. Only the
faithful dwarf, Alberich, still fought furi-
ously, bent on avenging his young mas-
ters. It was like a mouse fighting a great
lion, and would have been laughable but
for the poor dwarfs devotion, which made
him forgetful of his own life. Siegfried
admired him heartily, and not only spared
him, but asked him if he would not like
to take service with himself. The dwarf
replied that, now his masters were dead,
there was no hero he would as lief serve as
Siegfried, for none was worthier. Then
Siegfried, after binding him with many
strong oaths, made him his Keeper of the
Hoard, which was forthwith taken back
to the cave in the mountain. Alberich
wore the famous tarn-cape the cloak
which makes the wearer invisible and
Siegfried took it from him and carried it
home, together with the good sword Bal-
mung, as proud trophies of his ride into
the land of the Nibelungs. Ah me, little



8 Siegfried

he thought what grievous harm was to
come of that fateful ride !

At length young Siegfried arrived at the
age of manhood, when noble youths are
wont to be solemnly girded with the sword
and to take their place among the warrior
worthies of their country. Then King
Siegmund sent forth heralds through his
own lands and those of his neighbour
kings, to give notice of the great festival
to be held at his court, and to invite all
the high-born youths of the same age as
Siegfried to come and receive the sword
of manhood together with him. Four hun-
dred young heroes prepared to answer the
King's call. And many a fair maiden and
grave matron bent for many a day over
loom and broidering-frame, that the youths
might bear themselves bravely at feast and
dance in richest robes and mantles glitter-
ing with cunning work in gold and flashing
with gems. Their fathers saw to their
steeds and armour, and never had so gal-
lant a troop gathered to do honour to so
young a prince.

Seven days there was high feasting, and



Boyhood and Youth 9

there were knightly games and tourna-
ments, that the young warriors might dis-
play their grace and prowess ; and gifts and
praise were showered on winners and losers
alike, for all did well. And the memory
of Siegfried's knighting lived long in the
land.




II

SIEGFRIED GOES A-WOOING

ABOUT this time it came to pass that
a rumour reached the Netherlands, of
the most beauteous royal maid Kriemhilde,
only sister of the three wealthy kings of
Burgundy, the brothers Gunther, Gernot,
and young Giselher. So wondrous fair
was she said to be, that not a month went
by but some noble or princely suitor rode
to Worms on the Rhine, to ask her in
marriage of her brothers, the kings. But
each and all rode away disappointed, for
the right suitor had not come yet, and
Kriemhilde would not wed unless she
loved.

Siegfried grew thoughtful as he listened
to the tales of the lady's beauty and her
pride, till one day he declared to his father,



10



Siegfried Goes A- Wooing n

" This oiaiden I will wed, or none." King
Siegmund was sorely grieved and tried
hard to make him change his mind, " for,"
he said, u both Gunther and his brother
Gernot are haughty men ; I have known
them long. And so are their knights, and
first among them Hagen, fiercest and
haughtiest of them all. I fear me much
that evil may come of this wooing."

"What's the odds?' 1 Siegfried replied.
" If I may not win the maid in kindness,
my strong right arm shall help me to my
bride, aye, and to her brothers' lands."

" Nay, speak not so," King Siegmund
warned ; " for should such words be carried
across the Rhine, never shouldst thou ride
into King Gunther's land. The maiden
is not to be had by force. But if thou
must e'en take thine own way, I will send
to all our friends, that they may provide
thee with a seemly following."

" Not so ! " cried Siegfried ; " I will do
my wooing myself. Twelve knights, no
more, twelve trusty comrades, I will take.
These, father, give me, and thy blessing."

Tearfully, and sore oppressed at heart.



12 Siegfried

the King and Queen bade their dear son
Godspeed. But he comforted them with
words of loving cheer :

" Ye shall not weep for me, nor fear for
my life. Good tidings shall ye hear, of
how we did you honour in the land of the
Burgundians."

On the seventh morning of their journey
the little band rode into Worms by the
Rhine. All silk and gold their raiment,
silk and gold their horses' bridles and
breast-gear ; their burnished shields and
helmets flashing in the sun, their long
swords clanking against their spurs,- -thus
they made their entrance into King Gun-
ther's city. All the folks ran out into the
streets to gaze at them.

Soon they were met by knights and
squires from the palace, who bade them
welcome to their master's land and courte-
ously offered to relieve them of their
shields and take their chargers' bridles.
But Siegfried curtly bade them let the
horses stand and not carry away the
shields, but take word to the King that a
strange knight would fain have speech
of him.



Siegfried Goes A- Wooing 13

King Gunther was even now standing
with his most trusted peers at a window
of his palace, and looking out on the no-
ble guests, as they stood by their steeds,
watchful and observant. Not one of the
Burgundians could tell who they were or
from what country, except only Hagen,
Lord of Tronje, the wise and crafty ; he
at once knew Siegfried, though he had
never seen him, by his matchless beauty
and right royal mien. He told of the
battle with the Dragon and the adventure
with the Nibelungs, and gave it as his
advice that the young hero should be re-
ceived well and honourably, and great
care taken not to provoke him to anger.

" We will go down to meet him," said
the King.

" You may well do that," said Hagen,
" for he comes of a noble race, and is the
son of a power r Ml king. And, from his
looks, methinks it is no idle errand which
brings him to us.

Then King Gunther, his brothers, and
his peers went down into the palace yard
where Siegfried stood on guard, and
greeted him most courteously.



14 Siegfried

" Whence, noble Siegfried, came you to
our land ? ' the royal host kindly asked,
" and what seek you here at Worms by the
Rhine?"

" That," spoke the guest, " shall not be
kept from you. I have heard it said in
my father's land, that at your court were
found the boldest champions ever king
won for his own : that is what brings me
hither. And of yourself I hear great
praise for manly worth ; folks say no king
so brave was ever seen in all these lands.
I cannot rest until I find out the truth.
I, too, am bold and brave, and am, some
day, to wear a crown. Fain would I have
men say of me that I am fit to rule my
life and honour on the venture. There-
fore, if so be you are all that rumour tells,
I challenge you to combat, my inheritance
against your land and castles."

The King was dumb with wonder, and
so were all his men it was so strange
and unforeseen. But the knights began
to show signs of anger and could hardly
be held back while Gunther and Gernot
spoke mild and reasonable words, wishing



Siegfried Goes A- Wooing 15

to turn Siegfried's perverse mood. But
the Lord Ortewein, of Metz, the King's
marshal and Hagen's nephew, spoiled all
by a rash and insulting speech, which met
with a quick retort, when there were calls
to arms and the uproar became so violent
that Gernot's sternest command did not
for a while avail to lay it.

11 No rashness, on your lives !' he cried,
when he at last gained a hearing. "The
noble Siegfried has done us no wrong as
yet, nor will he do us any, I feel sure ; we
shall, I trust, win him for our friend yet."

" Most princely hero," said young Gisel-
her, King Gunther's youngest brother,
gentle and winsome in looks and manner,
now speaking for the first time, "you shall
be our right welcome guest ; so shall your
trusty comrades. We would gladly serve
you in all things, my friends and I."

And as he spoke, cupbearers appeared
and King Gunther's noblest wine was
handed around. And the royal host was
first to pledge the strangers.

"All that is ours, so you ask for it in
courtesy, shall be yours as well ; we will



1 6 Siegfried

share with you freely our blood and
goods."

Siegfried could not but feel shamed at
so much forbearance and gentleness. Be-

o

sides, he thought of the fair maiden he
came to woo, and, falling into a milder
mood, suffered himself and his knights to
be led into the palace. There they stayed
week after week, and the time sped away
unheeded, in feasts, athletic games, and
knightly exercises. In these Siegfried
showed himself skilful far beyond not only
his own coorades, but the most famed
champions among the Burgundians. The
ladies of the court often graced the ring
where the youths held their friendly con-
tests, and when one or other would ask,
" Who is the knight so noble of presence,
so rich of garb ? ' somebody would be
sure to answer, " That is young Siegfried,
the hero from the Netherlands."

Siegfried was always ready for anything
that was proposed, be it ride or hunt or
joust ; but he often fretted in his heart
because he had never been thrown in
the Lady Kriemhilde's way yet, and felt



Siegfried Goes A- Wooing 17

too bashful to ask plainly for an intro-
duction.

So a whole year passed away, and the
hero had as yet had no glimpse of the
maiden from whom so much joy and so
much woe were to come to him.




Ill



FRIENDSHIP

AND now it came to pass that strange
tidings stirred men's minds in Bur-
gundy. Messengers came with words of
anger and defiance from Ludeger, King
of the Saxons, and his brother Lude'
gast, King of the Danes. Not without
trembling did they declare their errand
when they were brought before King
Gunther, for he was known to have a
violent temper. They brought a formal
challenge and declaration of war. Within
twelve weeks the two kings would pitch
their tents before Worms by the Rhine ;
let King Gunther look to his crown.

With a heavy heart the King called his
friends together and asked their advice.
His brother Gernot took the news lightly :

18



Friendship 19

" We have our good swords," he said,
"and we must all die some day. Let
us then not forget what is due to our
honour and give the foe a hearty wel-



come.'



But Hagen the wary looked on the mat-
ter more soberly :

" I am sorry for this," he said. " Lude-
gast and Ludeger are overbearing men
and very powerful. We cannot get ready
in so short a time. Better call in Sieg-
fried and tell him the news," he added,
after a moment's thought.

This advice pleased Gunther greatly.
He went himself to seek Siegfried, who
quickly cheered him with words of com-
fort and friendship.

" Let not your hearts be troubled,"
the young hero said, " but leave the mat-
ter to me. I will engage that the foe
shall never even see your country. Let
them come thirty thousand strong, I will
be a match for them with one thousand.
That thousand you must give me of
your men, since I have only twelve of
my own ; and let Hagen come with me,



20 Siegfried

his brother Dankwart, and his nephew
Ortewein ; also worthy Folker, to bear
the banner."

King Gunther now sent for the messen-
gers, and thus spoke to them :

" Tell your kings to think twice before
they start on this venture, or they may
rue the day, unless, indeed, all my friends
run away from me."

With this he dismissed them, to their
great joy, with a safe-conduct and many
rich gifts. And when they returned to
Denmark and reported to King Ludegast
how they had sped on their errand, they
told him that Gunther had many a bold
champion at his court. " Towering among
the others," they said, "was one who stood
nearest before the King ; people said his
name was Siegfried, the hero from the
Netherlands."

Then Ludegast was sorry he had sent
so rude a message. But what was done
could not be undone, let him regret it ever
so much, and the only sensible thing now
was to hasten and strengthen the prepara-
tions. When the two kings joined forces,



Friendship 21

they found themselves at the head of forty
thousand men, and they did not tarry a
day on the march to Burgundy.

But Siegfried was even quicker. He
had promised Gunther the enemy should
not see his country, and he was as good
as his word. He made such good speed
with Gunther's army that he surprised
the two kings before they could ride forth
out of Saxony. He had the good fortune
to meet King Ludegast of Denmark in
the very first battle, and took him prisoner,
sorely wounded, with his own hand, him-
self untouched, for every blow fell harm-
less on his broad burnished shield.

King Ludegast was taken to the rear
of the Burgundian army. There Sieg-
fried hurriedly commended him to Hagen's
care, but would not tarry a moment him-
self for rest.

" I have much more to do before night,"
he cried, " so life and limb be safe. Many
a maid and matron will mourn this day
in Saxony."

And he rushed back into the fray, the
princes of Burgundy close at his side.



22 Siegfried

The Saxons now had joined the Danes,
and both stood their ground bravely,
giving blow for blow. Three times Sieg-
fried with his own twelve knights had cut
his way into the Saxon ranks, and had
been repulsed as many times, before they
caught sight of King Ludeger and were
seen by him.

But when the Saxon did perceive the
hero from the Netherlands, with his match-
less sword Balmung swung high above his
head, he was filled with rage. The two
champions rode at each other with such
a furious shock that both the armies
fell back, leaving the field free for them
and their chosen knights. Ludeger plied
his sword so well that Siegfried's horse
fell under him ; but it rose to its feet the
next moment. Again and again the two
rode at each other, and all around them
spears flew, swords clashed and clanged
in mortal strife. Many a shield was bent,
many a helmet cleft, and knight after
knight dropped headlong from the saddle.
At last King Ludeger stayed his hand and
called aloud to his men :



Friendship 23

" Cease from the strife, my liegemen
all ! King Siegmund's son, the mighty
Siegfried, is against us- -it was an evil
wind that blew him hither."

He commanded the banners to be low-
ered, and sued for peace. His prayer was
granted, but Siegfried ordered him to fol-
low him as hostage to Burgundy. Five
hundred captives went with the kings.
The Danes, shamed and crestfallen, re-
turned home to Denmark.

Siegfried and Gernot sent fleet mes-
sengers to Worms with the glad tidings
and to bid King Gunther prepare for their
coming. There was much wondering and
questioning, and the women could not
hear enough of the glorious tale.

One of the messengers was secretly
taken to the Lady Kriemhilde, for there
was one to whom she had silently given
her heart and of whom she would fain
hear more, unwatched and at her ease.
She asked who of all the princes and the
knights had borne himself best in the
great battle.

" Noble lady," answered the messenger,



24 Siegfried

" all did well ; but if I may speak the
whole truth, no one compared with the
noble stranger from the Netherlands.
What our knights achieved,- -Dankwart
and Hagen, and all the King's liegemen,
-was but as wind to the prowess of Sieg-
fried, King Siegmund's son. The great-
est battle ever seen was fought by him
against the two kings, Ludegast and Lu-
deger. Both were made captive by his
strong hand and will rue it to the end of
their days that they sought to quarrel
with our kings. Never yet so many pris-
oners came to this country as he is bring-
ing even now. Five hundred and more,
sound of limb, and at least eighty sorely
wounded, on stretchers,- -that is mostly
Siegfried's work. And so those who
challenged us out of sheer arrogance are
coming as captives to King Gunther's
land."

As the Lady Kriemhilde heard the won-
drous tale, she blushed rosy red, and
spoke graciously to the messenger :

" Thou hast brought me joyful news,
indeed. For thy guerdon I shall send



Friendship 25

thee handsome garments and ten marks
in gold."

When King Gunther asked how many
had fallen in the field, it was found that he
had lost only sixty men, none among them
of great note. In his joy he bade that the
wounded be cared for by his most skilful
surgeons, friends and captive foes alike.
A great court festival with tournaments
was announced and the term fixed six
weeks from date, so all might have time
for proper rest and healing, and those who
so wished might go to their homes to be
tended.

Then Siegfried would have taken his
leave. But King Gunther prayed him
most lovingly to tarry yet a while. He
could not offer to reward him his guest
was too great for that ; but in all friend-
ship and honour he and his brothers
showed their sense of his services, and
so did their peers. Now Siegfried had
not been bent in earnest on departing, for
thoughts of the maiden filled his heart,
and so he was fain to stay.

And Gernot, who may have guessed



26 Siegfried

what was in his inmost thoughts and what
would please him best, spoke secretly to
the King :

" Gunther, my dear brother, we owe
the hero who has so freely done us such
great service a token of regard that will
make him proud before all the other
knights. Let us take him to our sister.
Let her, who never yet received knight
in her bower, give him kindly greeting,
that we may win him for our friend for-



ever.'



When the message was given young
Siegfried, he was so overcome with joy
that he could hardly master it enough to
bear himself with proper dignity. And
when he actually stood before Kriemhilde
and heard her sweet voice bid him " Wel-
come, Lord Siegfried, noblest of knights !'
he could only bow low and look with
speechless longing in her lovely, blushing
face. He had seen her before from a dis-
tance, when she walked from the palace
to the ladies' seats to view the tourna-
ments, with her mother, Queen Ute, and
with her kinswomen and attendants, and










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Friendship 27

he had thought then that she shone forth
among them as the dawn from among
sad-coloured clouds. But it was a very
different thing to stand before her as her

o

special, much-honoured guest, and be al-
lowed to touch her delicate hand. He
thought that in all the years to come no
summer day or May morning ever could
yield him half the delight that filled
him now. They made so fair a sight as
they thus stood in the middle of the hall,
that of all the gathered guests not one
had eyes for any but the stately pair.
But when the maiden, at her brother's
bidding, granted the hero whom they
wished to honour the sweet greeting of
her lips, King Ludegast broke into the
bitter words :

" To win the noble Siegfried so high a
favour, many a brave man had to take
death or wounds at his hands. The Lord
keep him from ever again coming near
the Danish lands ! '

But now the ushers called out to make
way for the Princess, that she might
proceed to the minster, to hear high



28 Siegfried

mass, and Siegfried fell back among the
other guests, who followed in stately pro-
cession.

But after mass he was again bidden to
attend the Princess ; and now they found
the courage to have some talk together.
Kriemhilde began :

" The Lord repay you, Sir Knight, for
your generous service, for which my
brothers and our friends will be faithfully
beholden to you unto death."

Siegfried looked in the beautiful face as

o

he replied :

" Ever will I serve them, nor lay my head
down to rest unless they bid me, now and
as long as I live. This will I do, Lady
Kriemhilde, for the love of you."

Through all the twelve days of the great
festival Siegfried was the royal maiden's
chosen squire : by her side at the banquet,
her partner in the dance, her knight in the
games.

Meanwhile the two kings, Ludegast
and Ludeger, being now well of their
wounds, prayed King Gunther to name
their ransom and the conditions of an hon-



Friendship 29

curable peace, so they might ride home and
be free. It had now grown into a fixed
habit with the Burgundian to take his
guest's advice on every matter of any im-
portance, so he sought out Siegfried and
forthwith laid the case before him.

" Our guests," he said, "would fain de-
part to-morrow, and would know on what
terms we are willing to let them go, and
let peace be between our countries. So
now, friend, advise me what to do. What
they offer I will tell thee : gold, as much
as five hundred mares can carry. This
they deem a ransom fair and meet."

But Siegfried shook his head.

" Not so. Let the noble brothers de-
part in peace, so they pledge themselves
not again to bear arms against thy land,
and give thee their hand on it."

" So let it be," spoke the King, and
parted in brotherly friendship from those
who but so lately were his sworn foes.

Then once again Siegfried spoke of
taking his leave, for he was a timid wooer
and dared not speak the desire of his
heart, lest it should be refused him. The



30 Siegfried

King was grieved ; but young Giselher
well knew how to win him to stay.

" Whither," he pleaded, " whither, noble
Siegfried, would you ride away ? Hear


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Online LibraryZénaïde A. (Zénaïde Alexeïevna) RagozinSiegfried, the hero of the North, and Beowulf, the hero of the Anglo-Saxons → online text (page 2 of 14)