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Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 621


Siegfried (ZEEG-freed), a prince of Niderland whose heroic achievements include the winning of the great treasure hoard of the Nibelung. Having bathed in the blood of a dragon he slew, Siegfried is invulnerable except for a spot between his shoulders where a linden leaf had fallen. He goes to Burgundy and there wins Kriemhild as his wife. Later, he is treacherously killed by a Burgundian knight.


Kriemhild (KREEM-hihlt), the beautiful sister of the king of Burgundy. She marries Siegfried and is subsequently tricked into revealing the secret of his vulnerability. After a long period of widowhood and mourning, she becomes the wife of the king of the Huns. Still seeking vengeance for Siegfried’s death, she invites the whole Burgundian court to Hunland. In the final bloody combat, all the Burgundians are killed, and Kriemhild herself is slain by her husband’s order.


Gunther (GEWN-tehr), king of Burgundy. He promises that Siegfried shall marry Kriemhild in return for aiding him in winning Brunhild. With Siegfried’s aid, Gunther overcomes Brunhild in her required feats of skill and strength. After the double wedding, Siegfried is again needed to impersonate Gunther in subduing Brunhild, who has determined never to let Gunther share her bed. Gunther is killed in the final bloodbath in Hunland.


Brunhild (BREWN-hihlt), the daughter of Wotan, won by Gunther with Siegfried’s help. Wishing to see Siegfried again, she plans a hunting party to which he and Kriemhild are invited. A great rivalry develops between the women; Kriemhild takes revenge by telling Brunhild the true story of her wedding night. Though Gunther and Siegfried settle the quarrel to their own satisfaction, it becomes a source of trouble among Gunther’s brothers.


Hagen (HAH-gehn), a retainer of the Burgundians and a crafty and troublemaking knight. It is he who slays Siegfried. Hoping to get the Nibelungen treasure, now Kriemhild’s, for himself, he orders it dropped into the Rhine. He is slain by Kriemhild herself, and with him dies the secret of the treasure’s hiding place.


Gernot (GEHR-noht) and


Giselher (GEE-seh-lehr), brothers of Kriemhild and Gunther. Convinced by Hagen that Siegfried has stained the honor of their house, they plot with Hagen to kill him. Later, they fall victim to Brunhild’s revenge.


Etzel (EHT-tsehl), also known as Attila, king of the Huns, Kriemhild’s second husband.


Ortlieb (OHRT-leeb), Kriemhild’s small son. Etzel gives him to the Burgundians as a hostage, and he is killed by Hagen when the fighting begins.


Dankwart (DHANK-vahrt), the brother of Hagen. He too is killed in Hunland.

Sir Dietrich

Sir Dietrich (DEE-trihkh), a knight who warns the Burgundians that Kriemhild still plots vengeance. As a result, they refuse to give up their weapons.

Sir Bloedel

Sir Bloedel (BLEW-dehl), a knight who comes to Dankwart’s quarters demanding vengeance for Kriemhild. He is killed by Dankwart, and thus the final bloody combat begins.


Iring (IH-rihng), one of Kriemhild’s heroes.


Hildebrand (HEEL-deh-brahnd), a retainer of Etzel. At a sign from Etzel, he ends Kriemhild’s life.


Hunold (HEW-nohlt), a Burgundian hero.

Queen Uta

Queen Uta (EW-tah), the mother of Kriemhild.

King Siegmund

King Siegmund (ZEEG-mewnt), the father of Siegfried.

Queen Sieglind

Queen Sieglind (ZEEG-lihnt, the mother of Siegfried.


Ludger (LEWT -gehr), king of the Saxons. After spending a year in the Burgundian court, Siegfried aids Gunther in overcoming the Saxons. In the celebrations that follow,...

(This entire section contains 621 words.)

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Ludger sees Kriemhild for the first time.


Gelfrat (GEHL-fraht), a Burgundian slain by Dankwart in a quarrel at the start of the journey to Hunland. This and other evil omens are ignored.


Albric (AHL-brihk), a dwarf from whom Siegfried wins a cloak of invisibility.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1921

Alberich The dwarf who was the Lord Treasurer of the Nibelung dynasty. When Siegfried conquered the Nibelung brothers, he took his magic cloak of invisibility and made Alberich Lord Treasurer of the Nibelung treasure.

Aldrian Hagen and Dancwart's father.

Amelung This is the name of Dietrich's dynasty. It applies to his vassals as well.

Astolt One of the lords of Melk.

Attila the HunSee Etzel

Balmung The name of Siegfried's sword. In heroic legends, swords were often given names. After Siegfried's death, Hagen steals Balmung. When Hagen is captured at the end of the epic, Kriemhild uses the sword to kill Hagen.

Bloedelin Etzel's brother. Dancwart kills him in battle in Chapter 32.

Brunhild The Queen of Iceland, a beautiful maiden of almost superhuman strength. Gunther, king of the Burgundians, travels to Iceland to win her hand in marriage. He must perform certain acts of strength and skill in order to marry the Queen. His friend Siegfried helps him perform these tasks while wearing the magic cloak of invisibility, so it appears as if Gunther is acting alone. Siegfried also helps Gunther subdue Brunhild and possess her sexually after they are married (again hidden in the magic cloak), which brings about the loss of her extraordinary strength. Brunhild is not aware of Siegfried's role until she is taunted about it by Kriemhild. The argument that follows between the two women results in Siegfried's death and in the downfall of the Burgundians.

Dancrat Deceased father of Gunther, Giselher, and Gernot, kings of the Burgundians, and the husband of Uote.

Dancwart Hagen's younger brother and also a vassal of the Burgundian kings. He kills Gelphrat in Chapter 8 and often aids his brother. He is challenged by Bloedelin in Chapter 32, and killed. This is the beginning of the final confrontation between the Huns and the Burgundians. Dancwart is killed by Helpfrich, Dietrich's vassal, in Chapter 38.

Dietrich Lord of the Amelung dynasty. He is engaged to Herrat and lives in exile at Etzel's court. When the Burgundians come to visit Kriemhild in Chapter 28, he tells the kings that she still mourns her dead husband Siegfried, and warns them that their visit may not be a pleasant one. He is also an old acquaintance of Hagen and greatly respected by all the Huns. He helps Kriemhild and Etzel escape when fighting breaks out between the Huns and Burgundians, and is finally responsible for the capture of Hagen and Gunther.

Eckewart A military governor for the Burgundians. He brings Kriemhild to Hungary to marry Eztel. In Chapter 26 he is discovered on Rudiger's frontier. The narrator does not tell us how he came to be separated from Kriemhild's household. His character may have been conflated with another historical figure.

Else Brother of Gelpfrat and Lord of the Marches on the Bavarian bank of the Danube River. He flees Hagen's men in Chapter 26 after Dancwart kills his brother.

Etzel King of the Huns in Hungary. Marries Kriemhild after his wife Helche dies.

Gelphrat Military governor of Bavaria and brother of Else. Gelphrat attacks Hagen and his men after Hagen kills his ferryman. Gelphrat is in turn killed by Dancwart in Chapter 26.

Gerbart One of Dietrich's vassals.

Gere A military governor and kinsman of the Burgundian kings. In Chapter 12, after the marriage of Siegfried and Kriemhild, he travels back to the Netherlands to invite them to visit the Burgundians.

Gernot Brother of Gunther, Giselher, and Kriemhild. Second-oldest of the brothers, he is killed by Rudiger in Chapter 37.

Giselher The youngest brother of Gunther, Gernot, and Kriemhild. He is betrothed to Rudiger's daughter in Chapter 27, but is killed by Wolfhart in Chapter 38.

Gotelind Wife of Rudiger, military governor and Etzel's vassal. Her daughter is betrothed to Giselher.

Gunther Eldest king of Burgundy; brother of Gernot, Giselher and Kriemhild; son of Dancrat and Uote. He wins the hand of Brunhild in marriage with the help of Siegfried. He is then complicit in the death of Siegfried, and dies by order of Kriemhild in Hungary. Before he dies, he and Hagen defend themselves in Etzel's hall, and are responsible for killing many Huns. Gunther's character is problematic, as many critics have considered him to be weak and ineffectual.

Gunther Son of Siegfried and Kriemhild. He is born and grows up in the Netherlands, Siegfried's kingdom.

Hadeburg The name of the water-faerie in the Danube river who warns Hagen that the journey to Hungary will end in disaster.

Hagen Brother of Dancwart, eldest son of Aldrian, and chief vassal of the Burgundian kings. Also called the Lord of Troneck. He was once a hostage at Etzel's court. He is responsible for Siegfried's death and is the object of Kriemhild's revenge-plot. He discourages the Burgundian kings form travelling to Hungary upon Kriemhild's invitation, but is not heeded. Then he is warned by water-faeries that the journey will end in tragedy. Kriemhild kills him with Siegfried's sword in Hungary.

Hawart A Danish prince who lives in exile at Etzel's court and is overlord of Iring. He is killed by Hagen in Hungary.

Helche Etzel's first queen. She is already dead when Etzel enters the narrative.

Helmnot One of Dietrich's vassals.

Helpfrich One of Dietrich's vassals. He kills Dancwart, Hagen's brother, in Chapter 38.

Herrat Niece of Helche, Etzel's first wife. She is betrothed to Dietrich. Her father is Nantwin.

Hildebrand Vassal and Master-at-Arms of Dietrich of the Amelungs. He is also Wolfhart's uncle. He and Dietrich are the last to fight with Hagen and Gunther before the Burgundians are captured. He executes Kriemhild in the last Chapter.

Hornboge One of Etzel's vassals.

Hunold Lord Chamberlain of Burgundy.

Iring Vassal of Hawart, a Danish prince living in exile at Etzel's court. Iring is killed by Hagen in Chapter 35 when he tries to fulfill Queen Kriemhild's wishes.

Irnfried Also referred to as the Landgrave of Thuringia. He lives at Etzel's court, in exile. He is killed by Volker.

Kriemhild Princess of Burgundy, sister of Gunther, Giselher, and Gernot, and daughter of Uote and Dancrat. She is sought in marriage by the renowned warrior Siegfried, who remains in the Burgundin court for a year in the hope of meeting her. Kriemhild and Siegfried marry after Siegfried helps her brother Gunther to win the hand of the Icelandic queen Brunhild.

The main action of the Nibelungenlied—the violence between the Burgundians and Huns—is started by the bad feelings that arise when Kriemhild and Brunhild argue, first over whose husband is the greater, and then over Siegfried's role in Brunhild's marriage to Gunther. After Siegfried's death Kriemhild marries Etzel of Hungary (Attila the Hun), always planning her revenge on her brother's wife and liegemen for Siegfried's death. She has a son (Gunther) by Siegfried, and another son (Ortlieb) by Etzel. She kills Hagen with Siegfried's sword in Chapter 39 and is subsequently killed by Hildebrand.

Liudegast King of Denmark, brother of Liudeger. He declares war on Burgundy and is captured by Siegfried.

Liudeger King of Saxony and brother of Liudegast. He is captured with his brother while at war with the Burgundians.

Margrave A title given to a military governor of a border province. It is roughly equivalent to a British marquess. The wife of a margrave is called a margravine.

Nantwin Father of Herrat, who is betrothed to Dietrich. He is also a vassal of Etzel.

Nibelung The name given to the lords of Nibelungland, Kings Schilbung and Nibelung, to whom was bequeathed the treasure of the Nibelungs by their father, King Nibelung. The term also describes the members of the dynasty of Nibelung and their followers. Later in the poem, the term is used to describe the Nibelung followers who became Siegfried's vassals when he conquered their lords. When Kriemhild went to live with Etzel, the Nibelungs did not accompany her, and so the term is sometimes used as an alternative name for the Burgundians after her departure.

Nuodung A kinsman of Gotelind, wife of Rudiger. He does not appear in this story except by implication. He is said to have died earlier, and his shield is given to Hagen when he visits Rudiger. Nuodung's betrothed is later promised to Bloedelin by Kriemhild to lure him into battle with Hagen.

Ortlieb Kriemhild's son by Etzel. He is around six years old when he is killed by Hagen, and plays a very minor role in the story.

Ortwin Hagen's nephew, Lord High Stewart of Burgundy and Lord of Metz.

Bishop Pilgrim Bishop of Passau and Uote's brother. He is the uncle of Kriemhild, Gunther, Giselher, and Gernot, all of whom stop to visit on their respective ways to Hungary.

Ramung One of Etzel's vassals and Duke of Wallachia.

Ritschart One of Dietrich's vassals.

Rudiger A vassal of Etzel, margrave and lord of Pochlarn and husband to Gotelind. He travels to Burgundy to ask for Kriemhild's hand in marriage on behalf of Etzel of Hungary. He betrothes his daughter to Giselher but in Chapter 37 is slain by Gernot, whom he kills at the same time. He is a heroic figure who must in the end decide whether to acknowledge his feudal oath of loyalty to Kriemhild, or his oath of friendship and kinship to the Burgundians.

Rumold Vassal of the Burgundians and Lord of the Kitchen in Burgundy. Gunther appoints him regent to look after the kingdom when the kings leave for Hungary.

Schilbung One of the Lords of Nibelungland, son of Nibelung (also the name of his brother). He is killed by Siegfried, who takes over his lands and treasure.

Schrutan One of Etzel's vassals.

Siegfried Son of Siegmund and Sieglind, and lord of the Netherlands, Norway and Nieblungland. He marries Kriemhild, princess of Burgundy, and helps King Gunther to win Queen Brunhild's hand in marriage. He is later killed by Hagen. Kriemhild's avenging of his death forms the majority of the story. The name Siegfried is also given to King Gunther's son by Queen Brunhild.

Sieglind Queen of the Netherlands, wife of King Siegmund, and mother of Siegfried. This is also the name given to the water-faerie that prophecies the fall of the Burgundians to Hagen.

Siegmund King of the Netherlands, husband of Sieglind and father of Siegfried. He visits the Burgundian kingdom with his son and Queen Kriemhild after they are married, and then returns to the Netherlands after Siegfried is killed.

Sindold A vassal of the Burgundians and Cup-Bearer of Burgundy.

Swemmel Etzel's minstrel. He travels to Burgundy with Werbel to invite Kriemhild's kinsmen to visit for the summer festival.

Theoderic the GreatSee Dietrich.

Uote Widowed Queen of Burgundy, mother of Gunther, Giselher, Gernot and Kriemhild. She is sister to Bishop Pilgrim of Passau. She is the one who interprets Kriemhild's dream at the beginning of the story, and tries to warn her sons not to travel to Hungary after she has a dream that indicates the journey will end in tragedy.

Volker A vassal of the Burgundians, lord of Alzei. He is Hagen's chosen comrade in arms and stands guard with Hagen to protect the Burgundian warriors at Etzel's court. He is also referred to as "The Minstrel" or "The Fiddler" for his musical ability. He is killed by Hildebrand in Chapter 38.

Waske The name given to Iring's sword.

Werbel Etzel's minstrel. He travels with Swemmel to Burgundy to invite Kriemhild's kinsmen to Hungary for the summer festival.

Wichart One of Dietrich's vassals.

Wolfbrand One of Dietrich's vassals.

Wolfhart Nephew of Hildebrand, and Dietrich's vassal. He goads Hagen and the Burgundians into a fight in Chapter 38, wherein he and Giselher kill each other.

Wolfwin One of Dietrich's vassals.




Critical Essays