Zénaïde A. (Zénaïde Alexeïevna) Ragozin.

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

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my prayer : stay here with King Gunther
and our friends. Here are many fair la-
dies, and they will make you welcome, be
assured."

And once again the doughty Siegfried
spoke :

" Then let the horses stand in their
comfortable stalls, and put away the
shields. I did mean to ride home, but
young Giselher's loving-kindness holds
me, a willing bondsman."

So the hero stayed, to please his friend.
And things were so ordered that scarce a

o

day went by without his seeing the Lady
Kriemhilde and having speech of her.



IV



BOUND FOR ICELAND

SOON after these things had happened
by the Rhine, it began to be rumoured
that King Guntherwas thinking of taking
to himself a wife ; wherefore there was great
joy in Burgundy. But his mind did not
incline to any of the daughters of the
land.

There lived a maiden queen on an is-
land beyond the sea ; so beautiful, yet so
strange in her ways, there was no other
like her in the whole wide world. She
was stronger than most men and better
skilled than most in warlike exercises.
Few could have matched her in throwing-

o

the spear. But her favourite feat, wherein
she had no equal, was this : she would
hurl a heavy stone disk to a great distance

31



32 Siegfried

and give at the same time such a mighty
leap that she would land on her feet by
the very spot whereon the disk had just
fallen. She had published far and wide
that she would wed no man but one who
should win three athletic games against
her. Any man was welcome to try, but
if he lost, the forfeit was his head. Many
a noble suitor had gone to Iceland to woo
Queen Brunhilde, and had never been
seen again. And the Queen was still
unwedded.

One day King Gunther sat taking his
ease among his friends. Somehow they
came to talk about his marrying, and each
had some noble maiden or other to pro-
pose. The King listened for some time
in silence, then suddenly declared :

" I will sail across the sea and woo
Queen Brunhilde. I will chance my life
on the venture, for I care not to live un-
less I win her for my wife."

" That I would not advise," Siegfried
broke in ; " the Queen is fierce of tem-
per ; the cost is too high. Cast out all
thought of her, I pray."



Bound for Iceland 33

" The woman is not born," Gunther
retorted, " let her be ever so strong and
bold, whom I cannot master easily, single-
handed."

" Speak not of what you know nothing
about," Siegfried warned again. " Four
such as you could not stand against her
anger. Wherefore, out of my love, I
pray you, attempt not so mad a thing ;
let Brunhilde alone."

" Be she never so fierce and strong,"
spoke Gunther, now thoroughly aroused,
" I go. To win so rare a creature, some-
thing may well be risked. Who can say
but I may win, and she may follow us to
the Rhine?"

" Then let me advise," began Hagen,
who had not spoken yet, " that you beg
Siegfried to share the venture with you.
It is the wisest thing you can do, since he
alone knows so much about Brunhilde."

The King at once turned to his guest :

" Most noble Siegfried, wilt thou help
me woo and win the lady ? Do so, and I
will be beholden to thee forever, with love
and life and honour.'



34 Siegfried

Then answered Siegfried, King Sieg-
mund's son :

" I will, so thou promisest me thy sister
as my guerdon, Kriemhilde, the fair royal
maiden. No other meed do I desire, no
other will I take."

" I promise," spoke Gunther joyfully,
" and here is my hand on it."

The friends joined hands and swore to
stand by each other. Then they at once
began to consult about the best way to
carry out the undertaking. Gunther pro-
posed to take over an army of thirty
thousand men. But Siegfried would not
hear of it.

" Let us," he said, " do this thing after
the fashion of true knight-errantry. We
will go, just the two of us, and two more
-Hagen, I should say, and his brother
Dankwart, brave men both, - and I will
dare any thousand men to stand in our
way."

King Gunther was greatly taken with
the idea. And now they began forthwith
to consider the question of clothes, most
important for heroes bound on such an



Bound for Iceland 35

errand. Gunther was for asking his lady
mother to provide them with a proper
wardrobe, in which they might appear
with dignity and to advantage before
Brunhilde and her ladies. But sly Hagen
advised him to ask his sister instead ; she
would know better what would be becom-
ing and after the latest fashion ; the young
understand one another best on such an
occasion.

So Gunther and Siegfried sought Kriem-
hilde in her apartments, and the three had
a long consultation, which ended in her
promising to have ready twelve suits for
each of the four companions, to be worn
during four days, three for each day,
such as they need not be ashamed to be
seen in at Brunhilde's or any other queen's
court, provided she was supplied with
enough gold, silver, seed pearls, and
precious stones ; of stuffs and embroidery
silks she had sufficient store.

As soon as the two friends had taken
their leave, Kriemhilde called to her thirty
young maids, her companions, all skilled
in finest needlework. They took silk



Siegfried

stuff of Arabia, white as snow, and velvet
green as clover, and embroidered them
lavishly with gold and many-coloured
stones. Kriemhilde cut the garments with
her own hand. They also took skins of
rarest fishes and made pouches thereof,
working them with silks, to carry gold in ;
the effect against the light-coloured gar-
ments was most striking. There was no
stint of silk stuffs from Morocco, and
from Libya too, such as only royal youths
were wont to wear ; neither did Kriemhilde
spare her own store of ermine pelts, to
provide the knights with rich and stately
mantles. In seven weeks' time the work
was done and a messenger sent to bid the
knights, who, in the meantime, had been
busy building and equipping their ship,
come and survey their new wardrobe and
try the garments on, for any alterations
that might be needed. But nothing more
perfect in fit and workmanship had ever
been seen, so everybody declared ; and
when the heroes, after giving the noble
maids due thanks in courtly words, began to
say farewell, many a tear-dimmed eye was



Bound for Iceland 37

bent on them where they stood, so hand-
some and so brave. And suddenly Kriem-
hilde threw her arms around her brother's
neck.

" Oh, dearest brother mine," she said
with breaking voice, ''go not from me,
from thy land and thy friends ! There be
women enough nearer home, and nobly
born, to be wooed and won without vent-
uring life and limb."

Her tears fell fast, and dimmed the
gold chain on her breast, for something
in her boding heart told her darkly of the
evil that was to come to them all from
this fateful wooing. But quickly control-
ling herself, she turned to the royal guest
from the Netherlands :

" Noble Siegfried, to your true and
loyal care do I commend my dearest
brother : keep him from harm in Brun-
hilde's land ! "

The hero held out his hand :

" So long as breath is in me, you may,
noble lady, rest free from care. I will
bring him back to you unharmed, here,
to the Rhine. My life on it."



38 Siegfried

Eleven days and nights the royal suitor
and his three friends were carried smoothly
before the wind, towards Iceland's shores.
On the twelfth morning they beheld the
green and prosperous isle, studded with
strong castles, among which towered one,
grander and more splendid than the rest,
beetling almost over the water's edge.

"This," spoke Siegfried, to whom alone
the land was known, "this is Isenstein,
Queen Brunhilde's own residence and
stronghold. Keep your wits together, so
you are not dazzled with the bevy of fair
women whom you will see assembled
there. And hark : one word of advice be-
fore we land. When we are asked our
names and errand, we will all hold to the
one tale : that Gunther is my liege lord,
and I am his vassal. It is best so. All
this mislikes me sore," he added, when
they had promised to do as he bade them ;
" nor would I embark on it, Gunther,
merely for love of thee. But thy sister,
the lovely maid, is as my life to me, my
very soul, and I would fain win her for
my wife."




v



GUNTHER'S WOOING

MEANWHILE the ship was nearing
the strand. It passed so close un-
der the castle that the friends could see
the beautiful ladies who were crowding the
windows and peering curiously at the new-
comers. Siegfried pointed them out to
the King.

11 Take a look at them," he said, " and
tell me which would be your choice at the
first glance."

" I see one at yonder casement," Gun-
ther replied quickly, " in snowy gown ;
she is so stately and graceful : she would
be my choice if my eyes were the only
umpires."

Said Siegfried :

" Your eyes have not misled you ; yon

39



40 Siegfried

beauteous maiden is indeed Queen Brun-
hilde."

While they were conversing, the Queen
bade the maidens retire from the win-
dows ; she deemed it unseemly for ladies
to take note of the doings of strange men.
But they had had time to see how the
four stepped ashore, how Siegfried led
forth from the ship a handsome charger,
and held the bridle while Gunther mount-
ed ; not often before had the noble youth
done such squire's service to living man.
He soon forgot it ; but Brunhilde never.

Siegfried and Gunther were both clad
in spotless white ; their shields silver, and
milk-white their steeds, as like as though
they had been twins. Hagen and Dank-
wart, on the contrary, were clothed in
sable from head to foot, and mounted on
chargers black as night.

They found the gates of the great cas-
tle, with its eighty-six towers, wide open.
Brunhilde's men hastened to meet the
guests as they rode into the castle yard,
to take their horses and their shields.
They were also requested to yield up their



Gunther's Wooing 41

swords and cuirasses. Hagen at first an-
grily refused, but Siegfried explained that
such was the law of the land, and that no
guest might enter the presence of the
Queen except unarmed.

When the knights had taken due rest
and refreshment, they were ushered into
the great reception-hall, the walls of which
were cased with priceless green marble,
and soon Brunhilde entered, attended by
one hundred maidens in gay and rich ap-
parel, and by five hundred of Iceland's
bravest warriors, sword in hand. The
sight was not pleasing to the four.

As Siegfried was the only one known
to Brunhilde, she addressed her welcome
to him, and of him inquired the object of
their voyage.

" I thank you humbly, Lady Brun-
hilde," he replied, "that you deign to
greet me before this noble knight ; the
honour, in truth, belongs to him, for he
is my liege lord. His name is Gunther,
King of Burgundy by the Rhine. For
love of you he has made the long voyage,
for he desires to wed with you. I came



4 2 Siegfried

because I am his vassal, and he bade me.
Else most certainly had I stayed away."

" If such be his desire," the Queen re-
plied, " he must play against me the games
which I shall propose. If he wins the
match, I will be his wife. If he loses, the
forfeit is his life and that of all his com-
panions. And with your lives you lose
your knightly honour as well. Therefore
pause and reflect betimes."

Siegfried quickly went up to Gunther
and whispered in his ear :

" Speak to the Queen freely and fear-
lessly, and let nothing trouble you : I
will guard you and help you out with
certain wiles known to me."

Thus encouraged, Gunther answered,
nothing daunted :

" Most noble Queen, I accept the chal-
lenge and the conditions. Life is worth-
less to me if I cannot win thee for my
wife."

Forthwith the Queen retired to arm
her for the game. Hagen and Dankwart
stood apart the while, silent and sullen.
The thought of both was, " In an evil




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Gunther's Wooing 43

hour we embarked on this quest " ; but
they would not utter it.

Siegfried meanwhile quietly slipped
away and hurried to the ship, where he
had left the tarn-cape- -that wonderful
cloak which not only makes the wearer
invisible, but increases his natural strength
twelvefold. When he returned to the
hall, he could mix with the crowd and
observe all that was done and said, him-
self unseen. A vast circle had been
drawn, and around it pressed over seven
hundred warriors, in full armour.

When Brunhilde re-entered the hall,
she looked as though she were going to
fight for the lands of all the kings on earth.
Over her silken tunic she wore mail ar-
mour of finest golden wire. The shield
that was brought her was of polished gold,
but under the gold there was hard steel
of great thickness. Four men carried it

with effort, but she slung- it with ease over

&

her shoulder by a broad baldrick, richly
worked in emeralds. Then three attend-
ants brought her the spear which she was
wont to throw, a most grim and grewsome



44 Siegfried

weapon, with its double-edged head, to
the making of which had gone a hundred
pounds of iron.

As Gunther looked, his brow grew
darker and darker. " What is all this?"
he thought. " The Devil himself could not
stand against her. Were I but safe and
sound at home by the Rhine, long might
she live and prosper, unwooed of me."

Hagen and his brother Dankwart whis-
pered together in helpless rage. " Had
we but our swords," they said, " the beauti-
ful fiend should die before harm came to
our dear lord, though we had sworn a
hundred oaths to keep the peace."

Brunhilde heard them, and looked at
them smilingly over her shoulder.

" Since they think themselves so
mighty," she said to her attendants,-
44 bring them their armour, and give them
back their swords. I do not care whether
they are in full armour or bare to the skin.
I never yet met the man whose strength I
need dread. I do not think King Gunther
will be the first."

Last of all the disk was brought in. It



Gunther's Wooing 45

was so large and heavy that twelve men
could hardly carry it. Yet they were
valiant men and strong in battle. Then
a great fear came over the Burgundians :
" What manner of woman is this our King
would woo ?' Hagen spoke out loud.
" Would she were down below, the Devil's
own bride ! '

And now she rolled her sleeves up her
snowy arms, took her stand, holding the
shield with her left, and with her right
swung high the spear : that was the signal
to begin. Gunther shuddered at the
sight. But suddenly he felt a hand touch
his own, and Siegfried's voice spoke low in
his ear :

" It is I, thy comrade. Have no fear
whatever. Let go the shield, I will hold
it. And keep in mind what I now say :
make thou the motions ; I will do the
work. But never let the Queen know of
these my wiles, or she will surely be re-
venged on thee."

Never had Gunther heard more welcome
words. Just at this moment Brunhilde
hurled the spear with such force and such



46 Siegfried

perfect aim that it pierced through the
centre of the shield which Siegfried held
before the King, striking sparks from the
steel, and both men were thrown off their
feet by the shock and the weight. But
for the tarn-cape they had both been surely
killed.

Siegfried pulled the spear out of the
shield, and thinking, " I will not slay the
maiden ; it were a pity, she is so fair,"
turned it and hurled the shaft end against
her armour, bringing her to the ground.
She sprang to her feet in an instant and
cried : " I thank thee, noble Gunther, for
thy courtesy ! ' She gave him all the
credit, little dreaming that she had been
thrown by one far mightier than he.

She was on her mettle now, and as she
took up the heavy disk, put forth all her
strength. Never had she thrown it so
far, or leaped so lightly, her golden armour
clanging as she landed on her feet. The
disk had fallen fully twenty fathoms away,
and she had leaped beyond that mark.
Gunther, with unseen Siegfried by his
side, ran to where lay the monster stone.



Gunther 1 s Wooing 47

He went through all the motions of
weighing, balancing, and throwing it, while
Siegfried performed the act. Both throw
and leap left Brunhilde's mark far behind
a great wonder, when one thinks that,
in leaping, he carried Gunther along. As
they stood by the disk Gunther alone was
seen.

Brunhilde's lovely face flushed dark
with anger, for Siegfried had saved the
King from death. When she saw him
standing safe and sound at the very end
of the circle, she turned to the crowd and
spoke :

" Ye all, my friends and liegemen, step
near : from henceforth ye are King Gun-
ther's subjects."

Then all laid down their swords and
did homage at the feet of Gunther, the
wealthy King of Burgundy. With courtly
grace he greeted them as he took their
Queen's right hand.

Suddenly Siegfried appeared with most
unconscious mien, and, walking up to the
King, asked him why he tarried so long
with the games, as it were well the mat-



48 Siegfried

ter were decided. He acted ignorance to
perfection.

" What ! " cried the Queen, " is it possi-
ble, Lord Siegfried, you did not see the
games which King Gunther won ? Where
could you have been ? '

Hagen, as usual, was ready with an an-
swer :

" Our noble Siegfried had gone to look
after the ship ; that is why he saw nothing
of the games to his loss and our grief."

"This is joyful news indeed, fair lady,"
cried blunt-spoken Siegfried, " that there
is an end of your overbearing ways, and
that one is found fit to be your mate and
master. And now, noble Queen, you will
follow us to the Rhine."

He had better have left such words un-
spoken. Brunhilde was not one to forget
them, though now she answered mildly
enough :

" That may not be yet a while. I can-
not leave my kingdom on such short no-
tice. My kinsmen and vassals must be
sent for first."

Messengers were sent out, and in a few



Gunther's Wooing 49

days troops of warriors, both knights and
squires, well armed, well mounted, began
to arrive. This made the friends some-
what uncomfortable, and Hagen, who was
prudent and given to see the dark side of
things, gave voice to the feeling :

" Woe is us, what have we done ? Who
can tell what the Queen is scheming ?
What if she be wroth with us ? '

But Siegfried was undaunted.

" Be not troubled for so little," he said ;
" I will go and bring you help, a thou-
sand choice men. Ask me not who they
are or whence they come ; and when I am
gone, make no sign. I shall be back be-
fore I am missed."

There was much comfort in these words.
" Only," spoke the King, "stay not away
too long. We may need help."

11 In a very few days ye shall see me
again," Siegfried assured him. " If the
Queen asks for me, say you sent me on
an errand."

4



VI



THE DEPARTURE



'""THOSE who happened to look out on
1 the sea the next morning, at dawn,



beheld a sight which made them rub their
eyes in wonder and doubt : they saw a
ship, with all sails set, rapidly driving be-
fore the wind, from the harbour into the
open sea, without a sailor on deck or a
pilot at the rudder. It was the ship of
the Burgundians, and Siegfried, made in-
visible by his tarn-cape, was steering it.
One day and night of fair weather and
favourable wind brought him to the land
of the Nibelungs, where the great treasure
lay hidden and well guarded.

As he made fast the ship in a sheltered
cove, it occurred to him to test the loyalty
of his men. He walked to the castle gate
and, with his features concealed by the



The Departure 51

visor of his helmet, disguising his voice,
asked for admission as any wayfarer
might. The warder, seeing a knight of
tremendous size, in full armour, refused,
and fought with all his might when the
stranger broke open the gate. Sooth to
say, Siegfried had to put forth his great
strength to throw the man and bind him.
This was good service, and he vowed in
his heart he would not forget it.

The noise of the fighting had been
heard in the mountains by the dwarfs
who guarded the hoard, and Alberich, the
keeper, hastily donning armour, came
running to the castle, where he attacked
Siegfried with the only weapon he could
use with any effect, on account of his size :
a heavy whip with golden handle and
seven lashes ending in hard knobs. With
this he belaboured the stranger till his
shield was all out of shape. Siegfried
would not hurt the faithful dwarf, so he
just pulled his beard and bound him as he
had bound the giant warder, then stopped
to recover his breath and rest his badly
bruised limbs.



52 Siegfried

" Who are you ? " gasped the dwarf.
" Had I not pledged my service to the
greatest hero in the world, I would will-
ingly serve you till I die."

Siegfried uncovered his face.

" I am Siegfried. Methinks you might
have known me. And now," he said as
he untied the dwarf, "run to the mount-
ains and bring me here in shortest time
one thousand Nibelung warriors, the pick
of the host."

Three thousand came. But Siegfried
would have no more than one thousand,
and these he equipped most gorgeously,
filling their pouches with gold and silver.
Nor did it take long to provide ships and
all necessary supplies. Was not the treas-
ure there which never grew less, no mat-
ter how much was taken from it ?

Great was the wonder in Iceland when
a large fleet, with swelling, snowy sails, was
seen to glide along the sunlit waters, mak-
ing for the harbour.

" That is my military escort," King
Gunther explained to Brunhilde ; " I left
it not far from here, and now have sent



The Departure 53

for it. See Siegfried standing on the
prow of the foremost ship. I wish you to
go down to meet them in the castle yard
and give them courteous greeting, so they
may know you are glad to see them."

And now the Burgundians began to
hurry Brunhilde, for they did not feel at
ease in her country and were anxious to
get home. They hardly left her time to
set matters in order and dispose of her
treasure, her rich wardrobe, and great store
of precious things. She gave away much ;
the rest mostly silks, gold, and jewelry
was packed in twenty large chests and
stowed on board the royal ship. Her Isle
of Iceland she placed under the rule and
care of her own uncle, until such time as
the new lord, her husband, should send a
governor of his own choice. For her
escort, to match the thousand Nibelung
warriors, she selected two thousand men
of the best. She also took along eighty-
six ladies and a hundred maidens, all young
and fair, that she migfht have a court and

o

attendance of her own in the strange new
land.



54 Siegfried

Many tears were shed, by those who left
and those who stayed, there on Iceland's
rocky strand, when the hour of parting
came. Full lovingly the royal maid bade
farewell to her people and her country.
She was to see both nevermore.




VII

BETROTHED

voyage was prosperous and gay,
with smooth waters and gentle, fa-
vourable breezes, and there was music and
singing on the ships. But on the ninth
day Hagen sought Gunther and reminded
him that it was high time to send off a
messenger to Worms with the joyful
tidings.

" Right, friend Hagen," assented the
King ; " and no messenger could be
more welcome than yourself. Therefore
hasten home at once, and tell them we are



coming."



But that did not suit Hagen's plans.

" Not so, my dear lord," he replied ;
" I should make but a poor messenger ;
that is not my line. Let me be treasurer

55



56 Siegfried

and chamberlain. I will remain with the
ships and look after the women's safety
and comfort. Send Siegfried instead.
And should he refuse, then beg him for
love of your sister to do you this one
more service. He will not say nay to
that."

It all happened as the crafty Burgun-
dian had foreseen. Siegfried did not like
the idea of being sent on errands like a
mere retainer ; but the name of Kriem-
hilde, the hope of seeing her several days
sooner, and the thought of the pleasure
his news would bring her and of the bright
looks she would give him for his pains,
overcame his pride, and he said "yes' to
all. Then Gunther proceeded to give him
most detailed instructions :

" Tell my mother, Queen Ute, that I
am happy beyond words. To my brothers
and all our friends say how we have pros-
pered in this wooing. Bid Ortewein, my
loving cousin, see that a great stand is
built by the landing-place on the Rhine,
for our friends and liegemen ; he must
send them word betimes. And tell Kriem-



Betrothed 57


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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 3 of 14)