Nibelungs - George Upton

King Etzel Woos Kriemhild

In those days there reigned over the Huns a mighty King who was called Etzel (Attila). His royal castle, Etzelburg (now called Ofen), was on the Danube, and his kingdom stretched far beyond the boundaries of what is now known as Hungary. Great was his fame and many were the lands over which he held sway, so that not only had he dukes and margraves as his subjects, but also kings did homage to him. His good Queen Helcha was dead, and such were the tales that reached him of the beauty and virtue of Kriemhild that he resolved to seek her hand; accordingly, Margrave Rudiger, one of his richest and bravest knights, was sent to lay his suit before her.

When at the end of their long journey Rudiger and his followers rode into the courtyard of the castle at Worms, none knew him. Hagen was therewith sent for, and he, having many years before lived for a space at Etzel's court, declared the stranger knight to be Rudiger, and counselled the King to receive him well. Thereupon the margrave was conducted to the great hall, where Gunther gave him kindly welcome, seated him near his own person, and caused wine to be served him from his own flagon. After they had sat for a time Rudiger arose and made known his errand, namely, that King Etzel desired to make Kriemhild his wife. Gunther promised him an answer in three days, and therewith took counsel privately with his brothers and nearest of kin.

All were agreed that it would be well for the King's widowed sister to wed the King of the Huns, save Hagen, who stoutly declared the betrothal should in no wise be permitted, protesting that evil would surely come of it, for Kriemhild would find means to avenge herself upon them. To this Gunther replied that Etzel's kingdom was too remote to be a danger to them, and Giselher rebuked Hagen, saying:

"Methinks my sister hath already suffered enough at thy hands. Seek not to thwart what yet perchance may bring her joy!"

Still Hagen maintained that they one day would rue it if they scorned his counsel; but none the less the princes resolved that Kriemhild should make her own choice. The Margrave Gere was sent forthwith to acquaint her with King Etzel's desire. The sorrowing Queen at first deemed it but another plan of Hagen's to mock her grief; but when Gere assured her that it was no jest, she replied that she had no wish to wed, but sought only to spend her days in mourning her dead lord.

The next day came Rudiger himself to urge his master's suit. Kriemhild greeted him kindly, but bade him tell King Etzel that none who knew her grief for Siegfried would seek to win her hand. Thereupon Rudiger sought to tempt her with the wealth and honor that would be hers as the wife of the mighty Etzel, but all in vain; nor were the counsels of her mother and brothers of any avail to move her from her purpose. Still Rudiger did not despair, but again making plain to her the power she would have as Queen of all the Huns, added significantly:

"Moreover, gracious lady, hadst thou e'er a wrong to be avenged, thou couldst depend on my good sword."

At these words Kriemhild's hatred against Hagen blazed up more fiercely than before. With flashing eyes she called on Rudiger to pledge his word thereto; and this he did, little foreseeing in what manner he should one day be called upon to redeem it.

Thereupon Kriemhild consented to become the wife of King Etzel and, bidding farewell to all her kin, departed with Rudiger for the land of the Huns.