Myths and Legends of All Nations Famous Stories from the Greek, German, English, Spanish, Scandinavian, Danish, French, Russian, Bohemian, Italian and other sources
Page: 107THE GREAT KNIGHT SIEGFRIED
Once upon a time there lived in the Netherlands, in Xante, a wonderful castle on the river Rhine, a mighty king and queen. Siegmund and Sieglinde were their names, and far and wide were they known. Yet their son, the glorious hero Siegfried, was still more widely celebrated. Even as a boy he performed so many daring feats that his bravery was talked of in all German lands.
The two most remarkable of these feats were the slaying of a frightful monster known as the "Dragon of the Linden-tree" and the capture of the rich treasure of the Nibelungs. The hoard was an ancient one and had this wonderful property—that no matter how much was taken from it the quantity was never less.
All this happened before Siegfried reached the age of manhood. When it was time for the youth to be knighted, King Siegmund sent invitations far and wide throughout the country, and a great celebration took place. Siegfried was solemnly girded with a sword and permitted to take his place among the warriors of the kingdom. Then there was a great tournament, a wonderful occasion for Siegfried, who came off victor in every encounter, although many tried warriors matched their skill against his. Altogether the festivities lasted seven whole days.
After the guests had departed, Siegfried asked permission of his parents to travel into Burgundy to seek as bride for himself Kriemhild, the maiden of whose great beauty and loveliness he had heard.
Gunther, the king of Burgundy, recognizing the young[Pg 215] hero, went out to meet him and politely inquired the cause of his visit. Imagine his dismay when Siegfried proposed a single combat, in which the victor might claim the land and allegiance of the vanquished. Neither Gunther nor any of his knights would accept the challenge; but Gunther and his brother hastened forward with proffers of unbounded hospitality.
Siegfried lingered a year in Gunther's palace, and though he never caught a glimpse of the fair maid Kriemhild, she often admired his strength and manly beauty from behind the palace windows.
One day a herald arrived from King Ludeger of Saxony and King Ludegast of Denmark, announcing an invasion. Gunther was dismayed; but the brave Siegfried came to the rescue, saying that if Gunther would give him only one thousand brave men he would repel the enemy. This was done and the little army marched into Saxony and routed the twenty thousand valiant soldiers of the enemy's force. All the men did brave work, but Siegfried was the bravest of them all.
When the hero returned, a great celebration was held in his honor, and Kriemhild, Ute and all the ladies of the court were invited to be present at the tournament. It was there that Siegfried first saw the fair maiden. Her beauty was more wonderful than he had ever been able to imagine. What was his delight, then, to learn that he had been appointed her escort.