Nibelungs - George Upton




The Queens' Quarrel

When on the next morning Kriemhild repaired with her women to the cathedral, Brunhild was before her, and stood at the door with all her train clad in their costliest robes, whereat the people wondered greatly, for the two Queens were wont to walk side by side in stately procession. Kriemhild was about to ascend the steps when Brunhild in a loud voice bade her stand aside, since it was not seemly that the wife of a vassal should go before the Queen of Burgundy into the house of God. This went to Kriemhild's heart, for she felt the rude speech injured her beloved Siegfried more than herself. Beside herself with anger, she cried out:

"Vassal or no vassal, yet my lord is greater than thine: for know, if thou must, it was he who overcame thee and delivered thee up to Gunther!

At this Brunhild burst into tears, and Kriemhild, not desiring to prolong the quarrel, passed into the church. Brunhild followed, but so filled with burning rage was she that little did she hear of sermon or of song. When the service was ended she awaited Kriemhild at the door and overwhelming her with passionate reproaches, demanded the proof of her words.

Now, Siegfried had given to his wife the ring and girdle he had taken from Brunhild. During the service Kriemhild's anger had cooled, and her wish was to depart in peace; yet since Brunhild would not permit this, but grew more and more violent, in the end Kriemhild drew forth the ring and showed it to her rival, saying: "If thou wilt have the truth, by this token was it Siegfried who did conquer thee!"

"Then, forsooth, hath it been stolen from me!" retorted Brunhild, changing color.

But now Kriemhild also produced the girdle; whereupon Brunhild, wringing her hands, burst into a passion of tears, and both Queens went upon their way.

Hastily summoning Gunther, his weeping spouse related to him all that had passed, adding that Siegfried himself must have devised this means of publicly affronting her. Whereupon Gunther forthwith sought out Siegfried, and he, knowing naught of the matter, was much disturbed to hear of the quarrel.

Nevertheless, he bade his comrade soothe the anger of Brunhild, and vowed therewith soundly to reprove his wife for her rash speech. Then was King Gunther glad once more, for he loved Siegfried and was loath to be at enmity with him. But all Gunther's efforts to make peace were useless. Brunhild refused to be appeased; and when Hagen came to visit her she told him of the insult that had been offered her, protesting that Siegfried alone had been the cause thereof. Whereupon Hagen fell into a terrible passion and swore to avenge his Queen's dishonor.

Then came Giselher, and when he had heard all, he warned Hagen not to be blinded by sudden anger, dwelling on the goodwill and favor Siegfried had ever borne the King and all the land. Meanwhile other chiefs came forward, and now Ortwin spoke out, saying:

"An the King so wills, by my hand the traitor shall perish; nor shall his mighty strength avail to save him!"

Yet none was there that found this saying good, save Hagen, the grim. But with crafty words day after day he urged Gunther on to revenge, dwelling on the wealth and power that would be his were Siegfried's lands with all the Nibelung treasure to become his own, until at last the temptation grew too strong for the King, and he yielded himself to Hagen's will.