Siegfried


Siegfried
/sig"freed, seeg"-/; Ger. /zeek"frddeet/, n.
1. (in the Nibelungenlied) the son of Sigmund and Sieglinde and the husband of Kriemhild. He kills the dragon Fafnir, acquires the treasure of the Nibelungs, wins Brünnhilde for Gunther, and is finally killed by Hagen at the behest of Brünnhilde, whom he had once promised to marry: corresponds to the Sigurd of the Volsunga Saga. Cf. Brünnhilde (def. 1).
3. a male given name.

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Hero of German and Old Norse mythology noted for his outstanding strength and courage.

He is one of the heroes of the Poetic Edda and the Nibelungenlied, and he figures in many different, sometimes inconsistent, legends. In the earliest stories, Siegfried is presented as a boy of noble lineage who grew up without parental care, but other accounts provide elaborate detail of a courtly upbringing. One legend tells of his battle with a dragon, and another of his acquiring treasure. He also plays a part in the story of Brunhild, in which he meets his death. He is the hero of Richard Wagner's operatic tetralogy The Ring of the Nibelung. See also Kriemhild.

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▪ Germanic literary hero

      figure from the heroic literature of the ancient Germanic people. He appears in both German and Old Norse literature, although the versions of his stories told by these two branches of the Germanic tradition do not always agree. He plays a part in the story of Brunhild (q.v.), in which he meets his death, but in other stories he is the leading character and triumphs. A feature common to all versions is his outstanding strength and courage.

      One story tells of Siegfried's fight with a dragon, and another of how he acquired a treasure from two brothers who quarreled over their inheritance. These two stories are combined into one in the Norse Poetic Edda and told in detail, whereas in German literature, where they are kept entirely separate, the information is scant and largely contained in allusions.

      Siegfried plays a major part in the enlied (Nibelungenlied) (q.v.), where this old material is used but is much overlaid with more recent additions. Das Lied vom hürnen Seyfrid, not attested before about 1500, also retains the old material in identifiable form, although the poem's central theme is the release of a maiden from a dragon; and an Edda poem tells how Sigurd awakened a Valkyrie maiden from a charmed sleep. Here, too, many critics have tried to establish a connection between German and Norse; but besides important differences, there is doubt about the antiquity of both poems.

      In the original stories Siegfried was presented as a boy of noble lineage who grew up without parental care; this background shows through clearly, although in the full accounts in both Norse and German it is overlaid with elaborate accounts of his courtly upbringing. It is still disputed, as with Brunhild, whether the figure of Siegfried is of mythical or historical (Merovingian) origin.

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Universalium. 2010.

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