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Definition: Nibelung from Merriam-Webster's Collegiate(R) Dictionary

(1814) 1 : a member of a race of dwarfs in Germanic legend 2 : any of the followers of Siegfried 3 : any of the Burgundian kings in the medieval German Nibelungenlied


Summary Article: Nibelung
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

In Scandinavian and Germanic mythology, one of a race of dwarves whose hoard of gold is obtained by Sigurd (German Siegfried); in the Nibelungenlied, a member of the line of Burgundian rulers descended from Prince Nibelung.

Scandinavian version In the Icelandic Poetic Edda, Odin, Loki, and Hoenir have to pay compensation to the giant Hreidmar for killing his son. Loki forces Andvari, a dwarf in the form of a pike, to surrender his hoard of gold and his magic ring, giving these to Hreidmar. However, these objects bear Andvari's curse, and Hreidmar is promptly slain by his sons Fafnir and Regin. Fafnir seizes the hoard, assuming the shape of a dragon, and Regin schemes to make his foster son, Sigurd (one of the Volsungs), secure the gold. Sigurd kills both Fafnir and Regin, so gaining the ring and treasure. Sigurd then discovers Brynhild in a magic sleep within a fortress of shields gleaming like fire; he frees her, they exchange marriage vows, and he gives her Andvari's ring. Sigurd then disguises himself as Gudrun's brother, Gunnar, and passes through the magic fire to secure Brynhild for marriage to Gunnar. He takes Andvari's ring from Brynhild and gives it to Gudrun. Later the women quarrel, and Gudrun shows the ring to Brynhild to prove that Sigurd had tricked her. Brynhild contrives Sigurd's death and then kills herself on the funeral pyre.

German version In the 12th-century Nibelungenlied, Siegfried, Prince of the Netherlands, has killed the Nibelungs and seized their treasure, along with a cape that makes its wearer invisible won from the dwarf Alberich. At Worms, Siegfried then seeks the hand of the Burgundian princess Kriemhild. In order to gain her, he has to help Gunther to win Brunhild, Queen of Iceland, as his wife. This Siegfried does, wearing Alberich's cape, first in three games of strength and then by wrestling with her. Having subdued her, he steals her ring and girdle and later, when the two queens quarrel about the relative standing and valour of their husbands, Kriemhild produces these, as if proving that Brunhild had been Siegfried's mistress. Hagen, Gunther's chief vassal, tricks Kriemhild into revealing the vulnerable point in Siegfried's magically protected body, treacherously kills him, and steals the Nibelungs' hoard, sinking it in the Rhine. In revenge, Kriemhild marries Attila (Etzel), and uses her position to lure the Burgundians to their doom in Hungary.

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