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.

The image above is of Siegfried seeing Kriemhild for the first time, a miniature from the Hundeshagenschen Code manuscript dating from 15th Century.

With

Sarah Bowden
Reader in German and Medieval Studies at King’s College London

Mark Chinca
Professor of Medieval German and Comparative Literature at the University of Cambridge

And

Bettina Bildhauer
Professor of Modern Languages at the University of St Andrews

Producer: Simon Tillotson