The Song of the Nibelungs, written down around the year 1200, is the most important medieval heroic epic poem in German. It is comparable in significance with the Ancient Greek saga of the Trojan War. In 2009 it was declared a UNESCO Memory of the World document.
Like Homer’s “Iliad”, the Song of the Nibelungs is about love, power and a thirst for revenge that leads to disaster. In 39 aventiuren (sections or chapters), an unknown poet tells the story of the treacherous murder of the hero Siegfried and of Kriemhild’s brutal revenge. The poet makes Worms the main setting for his story.
The rediscovery of the manuscript in the 18th century sparked off a wave of enthusiastic interest in the Nibelungs. During the Weimar Republic (1919-1933) and the time of Nazi rule (1933-1945)), this enthusiasm turned into political fanaticism. The Nibelungs were given a nationalistic interpretation and the legend was misused for ideological purposes.
New and timeless masterworks have been created in literature, the fine arts, film, theatre and in music, such as Friedrich Hebbel’s tragedy Die Nibelungen, Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld’s frescoes, Fritz Lang’s classic film “The Nibelungs’ Saga” and Richard Wagner’s Ring cycle (“The Ring of the Nibelung”).