The Nibelungenlied

Melvyn Bragg and guests discuss The Song of the Nibelungs, a twelfth century German epic, full of blood, violence, fantasy and bleakness. It is a foundational work of medieval literature, drawing on the myths of Scandinavia and central Europe. The poem tells of two couples, Siegfried and Kriemhild and Gunther and Brunhilda, whose lives are destroyed by lies and revenge. It was extremely popular in its time, sometimes rewritten with happier endings, and was rediscovered by German Romantics and has since been drawn from selectively by Wagner, Fritz Lang and, infamously, the Nazis looking to support ideas on German heritage.

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  • Sarah Bowden No other episodes
    Reader in German and Medieval Studies at King's College London
  • Mark Chinca 2 episodes
    Professor of Medieval German and Comparative Literature at the University of Cambridge
  • Bettina Bildhauer No other episodes
    Professor of Modern Languages at the University of St Andrews

Reading list

  • Medieval Things: Agency, Materiality, and Narratives of Objects in Medieval German Literature and Beyond
    Bettina Bildhauer (Ohio State University Press, 2020) Google Books →
  • The Nibelungenlied: The Lay of the Nibelungs
    Cyril Edwards (trans.) (Oxford University Press, 2010)
  • Brides and Doom: Gender, Property and Power in Medieval German Women's Epic
    Jerold C. Frakes (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994) Google Books →
  • Rules for the Endgame: The World of the Nibelungenlied
    Jan-Dirk Muller (trans. William T. Whobrey) (Johns Hopkins University Press, 2008)
  • Women and the Medieval Epic: Gender, Genre, and the Limits of Epic Masculinity
    Sara S. Poor and Jana K. Schulman (ed.) (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) Google Books →
  • Gender Bonds, Gender Binds: Women, Men, Family in Middle High German Literature
    Sara S. Poor, Alison L. Beringer, and Olga V. Trokhimenko (eds.) (De Gruyter, 2021) Google Books →
  • The Dark Queens: A Gripping Tale of Power, Ambition and Murdeous Rivalry in Early Medieval France
    Shelley Puhak (Head of Zeus, 2022) Google Books →
  • Narrating Law and Laws of Narration in Medieval Scandinavia
    Roland Scheel (ed.) (De Gruyter, 2020) Google Books →
  • Das Nibelungenlied: Mittelhochdeutsch, Neuhochdeutsch
    Ursula Schulze (ed.) and Siegfried Grosse (trans.) (Reclam, 2011) Google Books →
  • Medieval Literature on Display: Heritage and Culture in Modern Germany
    Alexandra Sterling-Hellenbrand (Bloomsbury, 2020) Google Books →

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Hello (First sentence from this episode) Hello. The Nibelungenlied is a 12th century German epic full of blood, violence, fantasy and bleakness and it's a foundational work of medieval literature.