German Hero-Sagas and Folk-Tales Critical Context - Essay

Barbara Leonie Picard

Critical Context

The value of German Hero-Sagas and Folk-Tales lies in how it makes accessible to young audiences a culture far removed from their own. Heroic society with all its accoutrements comes alive in Barbara Leonie Picard’s retelling—the food and clothing, the journeys and festive diversions, the sordid and bloody feuding, the terrible and exacting oaths, the foundation and collapse of vast empires. Because she has had to reduce massive amounts of material to a manageable size (the Nibelungenlied in the original Middle High German consists of more than 2,300 stanzas), one could quibble over the criteria that have determined Picard’s choice of abridgments. It is odd, for example, that she has given her rendering of the Nibelungenlied the title “Siegfried,” when this figure is not present for the entire second half of the story (neither in the original nor in Picard’s version) and Kriemhild is patently the focus of attention for most of the work. Other modifications indicate most likely, and perhaps justifiably, Picard’s attempt to adapt her versions specifically to a young readership: At the end of Picard’s retelling, Hildebrand cuts off Kriemhild’s head, while in the original poem Kriemhild is hewn to pieces. Nevertheless, Picard’s adaptations of sagas and folktales should be considered among the most informed and proficient attempts to acquaint juvenile and young adult audiences with these standard works of Germanic culture.