Update 2015-11-25

A report on historical Nibelungen including these links

Translation from the Didriks Chronicle
A currently updated Approach to Frankish History: Merovingians by the Svava
Geographic Glossary with GPS data
The Nibelungen Saga:
The True Core by the Svava?

by  Rolf Badenhausen

[ Deutsche Fassung ]

The author has released these books on Nibelungen research:
Die Nibelungen - Dichtung und Wahrheit.

Das Exposé zum Buch

Gebundene Ausgabe, 301 Seiten
58 Abbildungen (Fotos, Karten, eine Diagramm- u. Tabellenstatistik)
ISBN 3-86582-044-1      Euro 29.00
Sage und Wirklichkeit. Dietrich von Bern und die Nibelungen.

Leseprobe 'Sage & Wirklichkeit ...'

Kapitalband, 574 Seiten
ISBN 978-3-86582-589-6      Euro 39.00
This saga is one of the greatest sagas which have been written in German language...

Here you can hear about those occurrences by narration of German men, even by a lot born in Soest where those actions took place, who have seen unbroken the places where those occurrences happened, where Hagen fell and Irung was slain, and the Snake Tower wherein Gunter had to face his death, and the garden that is still called Niblungs Garden. And all's standing in the same place as in former times when the Nibelungen were slain; even the gates: the eastern gate where the battle began at first, and the western gate called Hagen's Gate which the Nibelungen broke down into the garden; all that is called similarly as it happened formerly. Even those men told us about it who were born in Bremen and Münster Castle. They did not know of each other for sure, but all of them told about it in the same way. Most of it does even correspond with old German ballads by wise men who rhymed about the big events that happened in this country.

Þiðreks saga.

Multiple medieval manuscripts are providing stories about the Nibelungen. An army of merited and self-appointed experts has been attempting to take out the historical core of such literary renditions. However, all these specialists soon must state that they have to do with uneasy unravelling 'adaptation on adaptation'.

Nonetheless, two professionals have been contributing outstanding results to disentangle this most popular German saga: 

In 1931 Prof. Aloys Schröfl submitted that the second part of the Nibelungenlied called 'Der Nibelunge Nôt' (Grimhild's revenge and the Nibelungen Downfall) cannot be the right sequel of the first (Sigfrid's life and death), because the second one appears initiated by Pil(i)grim von Aribon, Bishop at Passau on the Danube in 10th century. [Aloys Schröfl: Und dennoch – die Nibelungenfrage gelöst (1931);  Der Urdichter des Liedes von der Nibelunge Nôt und die Lösung der Nibelungenfrage (1927).]

The lay actually refers to some topical cultural and political item of 10th century, which, however, had become less significant or obsolete already in 12th/13th century. Furthermore, considering connotative cultural and historical environment of Ottonian German Empire, Schröfl found conclusive circumstantial evidence in the Nibelungenlied that Pilgrim intended to use his version as 'the carrot' for the court of Hungary. With it, as Schröfl conclusively points out, Pilgrim intended to enlarge his influence on this country that was about to be christianised. According to this certainly interesting research, the later formed and most discussed lay, necessarily drawn up to glorify the ancestors of the Hungarians, might be evaluated today as an early political flyer. 

The lay's eldest extant manuscript ('redaction'), obviously written in the time of Passau Bishop Wolfger von Erla, do reveal also that this poetry came into fashion in 12th/13th century. Thus, regarding characteristic plagiarism, assimilation and assemblage of compiled medieval heroic epics, the postulated prime version must have been transformed to 'updates' due to the spirit of high medieval times. Schröfl's special research into the politico-religious 10th-century relations of German Empire with Hungary is mainly focussing on connective approach to motive and authorship of the archetype source, which, however, has been either scholarly suppressed or apodictically negated through non-convincing Germanistic evaluation. Schröfl fairly underlined that the original creators of the Nibelungenlied are explicitly quoted in its Lament work KLAGE as 'Bischof Pilgrin von Pazzowe' and his 'Master(-writer) Kuonrat'. Karl J. Simrock, well-known German translator of the Nibelungenlied, already connected both names with heyday of Upper German Clerical Poetry of 10th/11th century.

The lay's first part, however, was principally not subject to Schröfl's research. He rather distilled out a distinctive archetypal Upper German version from the lay's second part serving as its source (as a missing Latin Nibelungias has been already postulated).

Heinz Ritter († 1994), philologist and scientist from German Schaumburg on the Weser, seems to have got the historical core of the real Nibelungen by his impressive publications and lectures. His long and meticulous work, done over many decades, led him to various Nordic texts, especially to the manuscript known as Old Norse 'Membrane' (perg. fol. nr 4, usually completed with younger Icelandic texts) and two Old Swedish manuscripts at the Stockholm Riksarkivet he shortly called 'Svava'. As Ritter points out, these texts cannot refer to Theodoric the Great of Ravenna, but rather an equally named Franco-Rhenish king of Germanic Migration Era who had his first residence somewhere between the Eiffel and the Rhine. 

The Svava (or the Didrikskrönikan) and the Membrane, popular name of the oldest manuscript of Þiðreks saga, provide narration about the historical Nibelungen, as classified by progressive German research following Ritter ('Ritter-Schaumburg'). The Svava reports less pompous than the more longwinded Membrane, but both relate quite more objective than the so-called MHG (Middle High German) sources. The archaic version of both manuscripts was certainly known before or in the era of Charlemagne who had initiated the recording of historical traditions to great extent, as Ritter argues in his book Sigfrid ohne Tarnkappe, 1992. 

This book reveals a very imposing correlation between action and topography related to the Nibelungen, Sigfrid's life and death. 

The basic Evaluation of the Nordic Manuscripts

Ritter's method of dealing with Thidreks saga is principally based on his answer to the cardinal question whether a tradition assumed being remarkably pregnant with historical facts may be dissected in twilight mixture of mythological narratives. As Ritter expressively underlined at his lectures, rather less significant as well as detectable non-contemporary implementations by an evident group of Norse editors might have induced scholarly evaluation to consider Thidreks saga for the most part as less authentic or fabulous pool of mostly unrelated single tales. Beside other indication, Ritter regards the source the Old Swedish manuscripts principally 'guiding' Thidreks saga, and he considers all these texts of such recognizable literary selectivity that subsequently will allow efforts to estimate them as historiographical sources.

Theodore M. Andersson, reviewer of a symposium-based comprehensive supplement edited by Susanne Kramarz-Bein for Walter de Gruyter's encyclopaedia of Germanic antiquity, comments the contradicting scholarly cataloguing of Thidreks saga. Andersson, obviously seeing a clear literary difference between 'Old Norse' and 'of Norway', was obviously remembering Ritter's publications with this introductory remark of 1996: »... Þiðreks saga, which had not received much scholarly attention for several decades, came back into fashion about ten years ago ...«

This English review, available at http://userpage.fu-berlin.de/~alvismal/7susanne.pdf [2005], follows Heinrich Beck's position by means of his paper Þiðreks saga als Gegenwartsdichtung? who, stringently against Ritter's postulation and reasoning, notoriously exposes Thidreks saga to the light of Nordic poetry and heroic narrative somewhat and somehow inspired by history. Andersson recites: »... Heinrich Beck's "Þiðreks saga als Gegenwartsdichtung?" ... points out that Þiðreks saga ... synchronizes events from legendary prehistory with near-contemporary events in the twelfth century (campaigns against the Slavs on the eastern frontier of Germany). Time in Þiðreks saga is thus a variable quantity ...«

Moreover, Heinrich Beck classifies the message of Þiðreks saga expressively more subtle than its naïve reader would imagine. Addressing Ritter, he will underpin Germanism's fundamental attitude towards the general understanding of SAGA with this manifesto: »Germanistic saga research has recognized long since (...) that saga tradition is not an ancient forwarding but derives from topic adoption.« (Translated quotation from Zur Thidrekssaga-Diskussion in: Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie, 1993 vol. 112  pgs 441–448.)

The Germanistic and other scholastic strategies launched against the research of Ritter seem to ignore the fact that the Old Norse scribes evidently used to translate, catalogue and title historiographical and chronicled material as 'saga'. Thus, critical research is not willing to disregard the Thidreks saga as a more credible historical source and, in so far, would not follow subtle explorations of the Old Norse texts as provided by Heinrich Beck and other scholars in literature agreeing with his questionable basic position. 

Ritter's translation of the Old Swedish Didriks chronicle was not called in question on literary subject. For elaborating research he therein left his comparing analysis of both chronological and historiographical structures of the Svava and Thidreks saga manuscripts. In the addenda provided with his translation (pgs 399–455), he exemplarily scrutinises and refutes the Svava's dependency from the Membrane and Icelandic manuscripts against scholastic evaluation of Scandinavian and German researchers. Ritter also implemented into his posthumous publication Der Schmied Weland, published by his son Hans Martin Ritter at Olms, Germany (1999), a supplementary analysis that points out the different literary style of these texts anything but less insignificant through exemplary synoptic studies providing Thidreks saga's predilection for certain subjective notional forwarding and, as a result, also for mythologizing, cf. Quotations from Der Schmied Weland (German)

Seasoned practitioners have not rejected Ritter's methodical deciphering of 'the geographical and ethnic names in the Didriks Saga', an analysis of noteworthy consistency that considers rational contemporary circumstances of time and location. In 1959 William J. Pfaff had already introduced an equally titled book with 'a study in Germanic heroic Legend', who, however, failed in geostrategical plausibilities for the unbelievable Ostrogothic milieu attributed by means of Upper German poetry.

Thus, the revising research would hardly believe that the Old Norse editors had done more than a mere translation of an imported tradition, mainly a Lower German Historia Dietrich von Bern; especially considering that, apart from only a very few cases of Ostrogothic misunderstanding and misinterpreting, the translators obviously never attempted to change any location name there. To boot, it seems implausible that the Old Norse scribes of King Hákon IV would have had any good reason to implant any own narration or compilation on such unfamiliar small locations as Vernica, Thorta or Brictan, such rivulets as Duna, Wisara or Eydissa, such mountain forests as the Osning or (by Ritter:) Valslanga

The Nibelungen Origin Place
As Ritter refers to the Svava and the Nibelungen by means of his comprehensive publication Die Nibelungen zogen nordwärts (Herbig, 1981), the Nibelungen home location as well as name giving to them will be related to a rivulet called Neffel (*) that springs in the outer Eiffel near Zülpich. Thus, Ritter follows the localization of Franz Joseph Mone, Professor in History and eminent German philologist of 19th century. 
Zülpich: Weihertor. Photo by the author. Ritter identifies the Nibelungen residence on its suburban location Virnich or Virmenich – on well known Roman main roads of both Cologne–Trier and Cologne–Rheims.
Mone explicitly favours the region of Neuss that Gregory of Tours quotes Nivisium (Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der teutschen Heldensage, 1836.) Henri Grégoire, another researcher and philologist, has connected that subject with Nivelle, castle and town of Belgium. The records about persons of this place show epithet donation as Nivellung, respectively Nibelunc (whom Charlemagne proudly called his uncle), as these names were given to Pepins in 7th and 8th century. (The Pepins were forming most influential 'mayor-domus' family serving as Mayor of the Palace Charlemagne and other preceding Frankish rulers.) Grégoire, although trying a suspect relocalization of Burgundia, basically agrees with Emil Rückert who published in 1836 (in the same year as F. J. Mone) his ethnological and genealogical discoveries by his book Oberon von Mons und die Pipine von Nivella – Untersuchungen über den Ursprung der Nibelungensage. Furthermore, Mone connects Gilibach rivulet, today called 'Gillbach' that springs c. 20 miles to the north of Zülpich, with Nibelungen origin. The district of this watercourse was recorded Giliovi pagus, pago Gilegoui in Middle Ages. Earlier spelling forms of this region called nowadays die Gilbach are unknown. Nonetheless, some reader may think of the origin location of Gibica or Gibich, the latter provided as Middle High German name of the 'Nibelungen father'.

Challenging the findings of Grégoire, Ritter recognizes the historical Nibelungen seat just 80 miles farther to the east, since an eye-catching number of location names in the region of German Zülpich must be seriously taken into consideration for verifying those Norse-Nordic texts related to King Gunter's family. For example, there is an old place called Juntersdorf, formerly spelled 'Guntirsdorp' (dorp = village). The name of the Niflunga maternal grandfather King Yrian, as provided by the Old Swedish manuscript A, seems to correspond well with a former location Iriniacum. Heribert van der Broeck, author of 2000 Jahre Zülpich (Publisher: Kölnische Verlagsdruckerei, 1968) ascribes this name to a Celtic individual Irinus. The manuscripts remark also that Hagen's father was originally spelled Elf, Elff(e) or Albe, as this name appears closely related to Elvenich. In former times, this place was testified as Albinacum or Albihenae. Van der Broeck reckons this location to a Celtic place of worshipping, since those ‘nich’ or ‘ich’ endings are very typical for Roman-Celtic influence on contemporary spelling. 

Old settlements called Irnich (today: Burg Irnich), Vernich (etymologically based on a Roman fundator called Varinius), Virnich (at Zülpich-Schwerfen) and Virmenich (now Firmenich) can be found there. These names correspond well with the Nibelungen residence originally spelled Vernica, Verniza, Vermintza

Ritter does also detect a correlating basic item which indicates the region of Zülpich as the original home location of the historical Nibelungen: The manuscripts note brightest full moon night when these folk met the Rhine at Duna Crossing on their fateful march to Grimhild and her spouse Attala ('Attila', Old Swedish Aktilius, Atilius, Icelandic MS B: 'Attala' as preferred by Ritter), king of that part of Saxony the Old Swedish scribes call Hunaland: Since important campaigns were usually planned to start at full moon in Late Antiquity as well as medieval times, the Nibelungen with polished armour underneath their garments could have covered only c. 30 miles from their capital place! 

The Nibelungen region of Zülpich and Nivisium, recognized by Ritter, Mone and other researchers, formerly pertained to eastern Frankish territory. Regarding space and time, a 5th–6th-century ruler called King Sigebert – Gregory of Tours remarked him 'the Lame' – was residing at Cologne before he was eliminated by Frankish King Clodovocar I. The Waltharius, a poetry definitely elder than the Nibelungenlied, titles the Nibelungen as leaders of a Frankish tribe. Thus, we should make an effort to encounter Merovingians by the Svava in an early history of the Franks. 

Regarding research into the early history of Pepin Family, some more interesting indications should be considered for correlation with the Nibelungen history: 
1. The Pepins are undoubtedly related to the region of Zülpich. For example, a former church of Juntersdorf (Guntirsdorp) was dedicated to their patroness Gertrud of Nivelles.
2. The Svava and Membrane texts note Hagen's son Aldrian, the only known descendant of the Nibelungen, a long living successor and ruler of their realm.
3. The western borderline of the Nibelungen realm was not noted, but Sigfrid (Aldrian's slain uncle) has to be considered heir of maternal family property.
Juntersdorf: A view from the Neffel to the landscape.
Photos by
the author.
Irnich Castle at Virnich.
Virmenich Castle.

The Svava quotes about the last Nibelungen Ride – the undercover campaign to their downfall – with this text:

...so they rode to the Rhine, where Duna meets the Rhine...

The Duna may not be taken for the Danube in this connection, rather for Dhünn river (recorded as Duone in 1117) falling till 1830/1840 into the Rhine at Leverkusen, the town to the north of Cologne. Incidentally, Ritter underlined this location as an important crossing point of former times.

Other researchers generally agree with Ritter: Walter Böckmann, book author and documentary film maker, and Ernst F. Jung, historian and philologist, largely share Ritter's revision of the Nibelungen factual history. Roswitha Wisniewski, Prof. PhD, found strong indication that in first half of 13th century a comprehensive manuscript dealing with the vita and epoch of Dietrich von Bern was transferred as a chronicle from Wedinghausen monastery at Arnsberg, Westphalia, to Scandinavia where it was re-narrated by Old Norse and Icelandic writers, as the authoress notes well in her postdoctoral thesis. These medieval scribes evidently titled imported historiographical material as saga.

Soest by Merian.

The Svava: Sigfrid ('Sigord') and the Nibelungen

A short summary

Note: 'Svava' means the the region of the northern Suevi whose settling territory might have included the region between Bode and Saale rivers in Migration Period.

Sigfrid's father Sigmund is King of Tarlunga. (Nowadays, the Lower Saxon towns Wolfsburg and Braunschweig may be found in this region formerly called 'Darlingau' and 'Derlingau'.) 

Sigmund enters in matrimony with Sissibe, daughter of King Nidung of Haspengau: Hesbaye, the region on the Meuse (Maas) between Namur and Maastricht. King Sigmund receives the half of King Nidung's realm as gift. Sissibe, however, becomes victim of an intrigue initiated by the noblemen Hartwen and Herman. King Sigmund, who went out to warring, had appointed them to his representatives. However, Hartwin will annex Tarlunga with Sissibe for his spouse – but she refuses all the time. The counts pretend infidelity of Sissibe to their returning king who, deeply shocked, allows them to abandon her somewhere in a woodland. There, on a river, she gives birth to Sigmund's son. Hartwin will cut out her tongue, but his accomplice Herman will not agree with mutilation. In the end, he can behead Hartwin in a fierce fight who, however, has kicked the baby – embedded in a vessel of glass – into the river. Sissibe, mentally and physically stressed, dies of shock.

A hind finds the baby and breastfeeds it a year. As a result, it grows up four times faster. A smith called Mymmer (Mime) raises the child the Old Swedish texts call occasionally Sigord Swen1.

Sigfrid's choleric nature is certainly basing on frustration by the 'gilded cage' his childless foster-father Mime2 has obviously made for him. At the forge, he lets off steam by beating up Mime's best foreman. Mime has also to recognize that his huge and strong adoptive son would never become a good smith. Moreover, Mime's customer Queen Brynhild (Brynilla or Brynilda in the Old Swedish texts) seems to attract his pet. In the end, Mime has to admit that he cannot hold Sigfrid any longer, but he rather wants him dead than having lost: So the sly smith sends Sigfrid for charcoal burning to the area of Regen3, who was believed Mime's brother as well as 'man-killing dragon-worm'. 

Sigfrid meets Regen and kills him. (The cheeky young man certainly knows that there is no witness to confirm his version that the bloody brew4 from Regen has made his skin not only horny and invulnerable, but also sharpened his mind to understand bird language.) 

Sigfrid brings Regen's 'special head' to Mime and tells him to pick it. Mime, however, is tremendously afraid of expecting Sigfrid's revenge. Therefore, he promises him a precious armour he has just made for a king, his best sword Gram(er), and Grane, a stallion from the stud of Queen Brynhild. 

Sigfrid takes the byrnie that Mime puts him on. The smith also hands him over the sword, but Sigfrid swings Gram to kill his foster-father. 

Thereupon he violently enters Brynhild's castle to get the stallion.5 After he has killed seven gate guardians and scuffled with the queen's knights and squires, she manages to stop him. Much impressed by the intruder, she sends for the stallion and enlightens Sigfrid about his descent. 

Sigfrid moves with Grane to Bertanga, Icelandic spelling of German Bardengau, today the region between Hamburg and Wittingen on Elbe river. He there takes up service at King Isung who allows him to bear his own shield banner, a dragon, half red and half brown, on red background. 

King Theoderic of Bern6 (Didrik by the Svava) receives information about Sigfrid's power and heroic actions. He makes up his mind to go out and measure himself against him. These are some of the Twelve of his followers: Gunter (in the manuscripts Gunnar), King of the Nibelungen 'Niflungi' (Nyfflinga, Niflunga), his brother Gernholt, both sons of King Irung (Mb 2), and their half-brother Hagen, the Old Norse Hogni7. Heim the Magnanimous, or the Fierce, is mentioned as a relative of Brynhild. His blue shield shows a stallion. Wideke, son of Weland, is the owner of Mimming (Mimung), the legendary sword already made of hardest steel. Incidentally, as the Didriks chronicle also remarks, Sigfrid's cockiness had turned out Weland, creator of Mimung, from Mime's smithy.

Didrik camps within sight to Isung's castle8. Sigfrid masquerades as modest horseman and rides down to spy them out. He demands an appropriate present ('toll and tribute') from the arrivals for his king. Didrik's noble knights throw dices for it, and Sigfrid receives Amling's horse and shield. However, 'Amlung' follows King Isung's special agent with Wideke's white horse Skimling to get back his own whatever may come. Sigfrid defeats Amlung as they meet in the woodland nearby. He discloses his identity to his pursuer, and gives back the horse to its owner because he remembers Amlung's father Hornboge as good kinsman. Wideke had also recognized Sigfrid, but both do not report on this incident to the Franco-Rhenish king. 

King Isung agrees with a tournament. He nominates his eleven sons and Sigfrid. Didrik cannot defeat him with his sword on first and second day. Therefore, he goes to Wideke and insists on handing over the Mimung. At the beginning of the third day of tournament, Didrik swears off to use that sword, but takes it nonetheless. 

After King Didrik has seriously hit Sigfrid five times, the beaten recognises the wilful deceit and surrenders. For all that perjury, Sigfrid freely offers his service to the Franco-Rhenish king. 

Sigfrid enters in matrimony with Grimhild (Crimilla in the Old Swedish texts) by instigation of his new king. As doing so, Sigfrid receives the half of Niflunga realm that King Didrik has promised him.9

King Sigfrid, just married, loves to be the broker for the marriage of King Gunter and Brynhild. This service is delicate insofar as Sigfrid had sworn her faithfulness before his own marriage, and so she gives him now a good talking to his broken oath of love! 

The kingly marriage was performed between Gunter and Brynhild, but she successfully refuses every night. Gunter confides his problem to Sigfrid who discloses that she might lose her power at her first physical contact. Gunter thus entrusts Sigfrid with further proceeding. However, Brynhild does not refuse against Sigfrid. 

Grimhild later finds Sigfrid's trophy of that hot lovers' tryst: Brynhild's ring. It triggers off dispute and deepest odium between Grimhild and Brynhild. In the end, basically in parallelism with the Nibelungenlied, Sigfrid will be killed by Hagen's spear. 

Grimhild swears revenge and marries King Aktilius (in other texts Attala, 'Attila'). He is descendant of a mighty Frisian ruler family and the ruler of a large region belonging to today's Netherlands and Lower Saxony. Seven years later, she attracts her brothers to meet her at the residence of her spouse: Susa(t) (Soest of German Westphalia), centre of the so-called Hunaland or Hymaland.

King Gunter combines the great chance to take over the realm of his brothern-law, although Hagen and Queen Oda warn him in vain. So the Niflungi finally accept the invitation and move out with 1,000 fighters. Hagen meets two fortune telling women on that ride at a river lake on the Rhine. He slays them after a trivial dispute about their ominous prophecy, and, only a short time later, the ferryman at Duna mouth crossing point. 

After a half day ride, the Niflungi meet Margrave Rodinger (the Old Swedish Rodgerd) at Bakalar ('Becculær', 'Pæclar' in the texts) that Ritter identified in today's region of Bergisch Gladbach. After a short stay they follow the Duna (dwna), passing Thorta (Dortmund) on their route to Susat. There the Niflungi fate is sealed in the heavy battle against the folk of King Attala, who, nonetheless, must give the lives of 4,000 fighters for his victory.

At the banquet, where Providence was tempted, Grimhild wins her little son Aldrian to punch on Hagen's chin for funny encouragement. However, the irritable Niflung becomes so tremendously enraged by the boy's action that he beheads him and his tutor. In reply, King Attala gives immediately order to slay all Niflungi

Already on the first day of the battle, Gunter must surrender to the fighters of Duke Osid, nephew of Attala. They throw him into the Schlangenturm ('Snake Tower', apparently not far from the so-called Irungs Wall)10  by order of Attala, where the king of the Niflungi dies. Grimhild kills her brother Gislher (Gynter by the Old Swedish manuscripts) by driving a burning log into his throat. She already did the same to Gernhold who had been slain by Hildebrand (in the texts Hillebrand), follower and advisor of Didrik. 

Thereupon Didrik slays Grimhild on Attala's demand. Hagen, seriously wounded by Grimhild's loyal follower Lord Irung whom he had slain, surrendered to Didrik after his last fight against the Franco-Rhenish king, who, nevertheless, cares well for him. Hagen wishes for a young woman to be his nurse. He is able to beget a son in the last night of his life, and hands over the keys to Sigfrid's Hoard to the expectant mother of the child, a promised son to be named Aldrian.

Young aged, about 12, Aldrian attracts King Attala, his aging foster-father, to that three-doors treasury cave and locks him there. Thereafter Adrian reports that Revenge of the Niflungi to Brynhild who rewards him generously. Then he takes over the Nibelungen realm as good king. 

The location of the Niflunga Hoard11 was kept as a secret and the cave never entered again. Its position cannot be estimated being far from King Attala's residence.12


Annotations: Questions & Findings
Nordharz Map of 1968

* Neffel - Niflung

According to German Wikipedia 'Neffelbach' (retrieved 2012-07-26), the name of this rivulet is based on Nevvel = fog, because 'the banks of this stream are frequently covered with fog in the morning'. A legend rooted in the region of the rivulet's source tells about two influential underground dwarf rulers Niff and Neifel. Obviously picking up this context, the Nibelungenlied provides a more or less splendid allusion with two dwarves called Nibelung, father and son. The latter had a brother called Schilbung, possibly derived from a place named 'Schievelsheide' nearby. Their father left an immense treasure captured later by Siegfried. Interestingly, the 350th stanza of the Nibelungenlied reads Nebelkappe = fog cap instead of Tarnkappe = stealth cap: ...with it everybody could do anything of his courage – apparently a further allusion to this Neffel region. (It seems also comprehensible that dense fog can make particular smaller creatures less visible.) The author(s) of the elder Waltharius, Upper German poetry ascribed to 9th or 10th century, nicknamed the Nibelungen - Niflungen Franci nebulones.

A rather objective initial interpretation that unmasks the Neffel dwarf legend follows ore processing being proved there at an early date, in this region already applied in Roman times. Thus, it seems consistent that small people simply called dwarves did their jobs in underground mining or 'in the caves'. And they might have been commanded by those potential, smart and skilled individuals of same body size who were masterly engaged in profitable iron and fine art metal works.

Regarding the etymological side of word forms beginning with nifl- , Jan de Vries rightfully connects original meaning with both dark and foggy, as the former adjective might correspond well with traditional mining work in this region (J. de Vries: Altnordisches Etymologisches Wörterbuch).
In comparison with Heinz Ritter's localization of Sigfrid's childhood and forging episode, dragon fight and treasure capture (see annotations 1 to 3), the Neffel region as well as locations called Rheinbach (early recorded as Reginsbach) and Wormersdorf, both nearby, seem to gain in archaic background.

1  Sigfrid 

His birth and fate as a baby appears as an adaptation of Frankish Genoveva legend enriched with motives of the birth of Moses and the saga of Romulus and Remus.

Ritter pleads for the northern Harz as the venue of Sigfrid and Mime the Smith, as he points out a deserted settlement Siewershausen (see X- mark on the linked Nordharz map) which was named originally Sigefrideshuson maps.
Siewershausen, deserted settlement. A view to SE.
Photos by the author.
Minsleben – "Mynnersleben" on the Holtemme rivulet.
A view to the mountains where to find the rocky ground of Ilsenstein Castle.

Sigfrid's Size

Mime takes a byrnie he has just made for a king, puts it on Sigfrid, and it does fit. Moreover, it obviously fits so well that he can move with it to Brynhild's castle. If he were aged as a boy, he could certainly not slay seven guardians and go at loggerheads with some knights and squires on the queen's castle. What are the mathematical probabilities that both the king and Sigfrid may have same size of just about a giant's? There is much impressing description of Sigfrid's size, as Lord Brand recites at the Grand Banquet for King Didrik's followers and friends (Sv 177&178). Does that speech might rather spring from boating yobbos who are much overrating themselves? Only a short time later these guys have go home with a shaming man-to-man result of a trial of strength at King Isung: They had lost not less than nine of twelve fights! Besides, Hagen and King Gunter were defeated. Didrik's fight may be left aside here for his wilful deceit by broken oath. 

2  Mime

Mime seems not to be any old smith who has to do his every day's job for the villagers. Rulers of far regions obviously know about his excellent works.

Mime seems to coddle Sigfrid who certainly has not to work at his forge. His adoptive son, obviously frustrated, thanks his foster-father's questionable tenderness by hanging around, poking his nose into the smithy now and then, where he does nothing else than vastly enervate and beat Mime's workers. Just at that point, as Sigfrid was hardly to control for his enormous puberty, Mime is going to teach him working at the anvil.

According to early documented testimonies, a village called Minsleben – just a few miles far from Siewershausen – does belong not only to the eldest settlements of that region, but is also closely related to iron works of early times. Ritter was witness of scientific diggings and analysis of ferrous slag found at Minsleben, whose suffix leben is a derivation from Thuringian leva or leven. Ritter notes well that Mime was written down as Mymmer or Mynner in the Old Swedish manuscripts. 

An intriguing localization of Mime's smithy has been pointed out by Rudolf Patzwaldt: 
Liegt das „Rheingold“ in Rheinbach-Loch bei Bonn?
http://www.wingarden.de/wing/germanen/art-nibelungen2.html  (retrieved 2015-02-09).

Referring to the Reginsmál and Fáfnismál of the Elder Edda (Codex Regius), a ruler named Hjalprek put Regin(n)  (intertextual character corresponding with Mime) in charge of raising up Sigurð. Regarding Ritter's schedule of Thidreks saga, this Hjalprek should be considered as early Salian King Childeric I. Both historiographical and poetical texts localize his activities also in Saxony and Anglo-Saxon campaigns. Following the texts written by Gregory of Tours, Childeric's territory or influence might have included the Eiffel. Regarding that passage provided by the Elder Edda's lays, we could identify the Eiffel locations Worm ersdorf and Rheinbach, the latter formerly certified as Regin(s)bach (= 'Regin's rivulet'), as place of Sigfrid's foster father. This implicates in so far an important area of narration provided by some heroic lay of the Edda.

On the subject of the slaughter of Sigfrid, Patzwaldt also focuses on intertextual etymological details provided by the Nibelungenlied and Thidreks saga. Subsequently, he points out the Eiffel as more believable origin location of some of the lay’s most dramatic parts. 

3  The Regenstein, the venue suggested by Ritter

Seven miles to the southeast from Minsleben, the Regenstein rises up as a small woodland mountain with steeply ascending rocks. 

The 'Feuerland' forest surrounds the Regenstein. Photo by the author.

Imposing caves are crossing the Regenstein foot area that is nicknamed Feuerland ('Fireland'). They could have been serving for places of Germanic worshipping, e.g. Thing ritual. 
 Photos by the author.

Today, just a mile far from the Regenstein, ponds and marshy places fill the little valley of Goldbach rivulet. Old land registry maps specify its parcels as Drachenkopf (Dragonhead) and Drachenloch. The latter, 'Dragon Valley', rolls approximately a third mile. Forest rangers of this district still use these names. Today, this area is privately run and restricted. 
The  impressing 'Dragon Valley' rolls about a third mile.    Photos by the author who thanks the proprietors of this 
   land for the release of both photos.

Was Regen a solitary protozoon or rather the Count of Regenstein?

There might have been an ideal habitat for the first named possibility. Although the manuscripts report on Regen as a brother of Mime, this context could mean spiritual brotherhood: Had Mime some slyness and cunning of a reptile? 

On the other hand, Hatebold alias the first Count of Regenstein (s. below), a homeless parvenu who recently had received that location probably without remarkable means, could easily and specially protect his area by making good use of the ghastly natural scenery surrounding his castle: As most important performer, he just needed the completing 'dragon' to horrify (and rob?) unexpected visitors – certainly by masquerade. There are some tortuous items supporting such theory of an unreal dragon, cf. original quotations in Sv 158 and Sv 304. 

The German translation of the Vǫlsunga saga, ch 18, quotes this speech by the 'dragon': 

'Haven't you heard how that all folk was afraid of me and my shocking helmet?'
[Retranslated by the author. However, the Vǫlsunga-saga-translators William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson (Walter Scott Press, London, 1888) like to give less exact translation by this speech of Fafnir: 'Hadst thou never heard how that all folk were adrad of me, and of the awe of my countenance?']

A robber masqueraded as a dragon, as some authors conjecture, would never dare to chose his hidey-hole on the foot of a feudal lord's castle or somewhere nearby; and a wary Mime, heaping up an enormous mass of profit by his 'High-tech smith works company', would never entrust neither a robbing kinsman nor any unfamiliar person with that means in order to keep it far away from his questionable or curious workers and, generally, any kind of temptation. Nonetheless, Mime would certainly do accordingly with his brother who ought to meet contemporary VIP class as well: Regen – Count of Regenstein.

The above mentioned passage of the Vǫlsunga saga enlightens us on the incentive related to the smith and his brother. The latter or the 'dragon-worm', basing on narration by Fáfnismál of the Elder Edda, makes this confession towards Sigfrid who has wounded him lethally:

'I had on the shocking helmet to protecting myself against all folk for all the time I was keeping my brother's heritage... so that nobody else dared to approach me; no sword was frightening me, and I never found so many men against me, methought being much stronger than them, so all were afraid of me ...' (Translation by the author.)

The Vǫlsunga saga, however, provides a divergent background of the 'brothers’ heritage.

The Regenstein with its ruined castle by Merian, 1654.

There is historical narration about name giving to Regenstein:

In 479 Malvericus, King of Thuringia, started a campaign against the Saxons. However, his army was beaten back at Veckenstedt (Veckenstädt) in the Harz. There, a brave fighting nobleman called Hatebold was rewarded for his service by the option to chose a piece of land for his own residence.
When he found the little rocky mountains, he shouted out, 'This stone is the right ('regen') one for my home!'
After he had built his castle there, he called himself 'Count of Regenstein' (stein: stone).
Source: Sagen um den Regenstein by Hans Bauernfeind, Helga Sorge, Hermann Wehr. Publisher: Schloßmuseum Blankenburg.

Thus, the name of this location was contemporarily known. If just a 'huge reptile' were living at that time somewhere around the Regenstein, it could have been easily named after the short name of its proprietor. 

4  Dragon’s Blood on other spots

Regarding the legendary incredible qualities of Sigfrid's skin, the Svava itself qualifies all those quotations to a reasonable degree when retelling the tournament fight against Didrik, where Sigfrid, even protected by a byrnie, must give up for his wounds! 

Incidentally, by retelling his fable of the 'Dragon Killer' who had taken that special bath from the beast's bloody brew, Sigfrid could certainly make some people believe to have become invulnerable superman just by this thrilling 'excuse': As historians have noted, the Merovingians, most important dynasty of early Frankish rulers, were tainted with hereditary skin disease called 'ichthyosis hystrix'. Its most striking form will make human skin as thick as a swine's rind. This seems to correspond well with Sigurðr’s Old Norse apposition sveinn which, however, is also the word just for a boy rather of bad appearance.

This is translated text from the entry Drache=Dragon by German DUDEN, Edition 1969:

...The victory over the dragon means victory over chaos, darkness, or an old order...

Thus, the dragon represents the bad – and he must not necessarily come out by its natural appearance! 

The 'dragon-worm' as being placed on the Drachenfels 'Dragon Rock' on the Rhine. 
Incidentally, this protozoon sculpture is a detailed reconstruction basing on real skeleton fragments preserved at Senckenberg Museum, Frankfurt, and the Berlin Zoo.
Photo by the author.

Francis P. Magoun Jr reinspected the Old Norse 'itinerarium' Leiðarvísir og Borgarskipan written by Nikulás Bergsson (Bergþórsson). The abbot of  Munkaþverá connected the Gnitaheiðr, where Sigurðr killed 'the dragon' by traditions based on the Edda lays, with places called Horús and, as nearest site to the venu, Kiliandr, explicitly on a route between Pǫddibrunnar (Paderborn) and Meginzoborgar (Mainz). The American scholar recognized Horús as Horohusum at the northeastern foot of the Eresburg at Obermarsberg, its medieval settlement now deserted but already in a certificate by Emperor Otto I, afterwards by Henry II, cf. also Hermann Oesterley, Historisch-geographisches Wörterbuch des deutschen Mittelalters,  1883: 302. Magoun thereby hazarded the hypothesis that the latter site Kiliandr could be identified with Kilianstädten on the Nidda (obviously likewise Rudolf Simek, Altnord. Kosmographie, RGA Erg.-Bd. 1990:484; cf. a review by Dominik Waßenhoven 2008:29–61). Magoun estimates most tentatively that this valley region with suggested medieval name forms like Nitahe or Nitehe might have stood for the heiðr’s Icelandic understanding.

Nonetheless, we may wonder whether this location on the Nidda does also provide a reflection of  the eminent Nidhogg of Old Norse mythology. Apart from that, however, we may take note of E. C. Werlauff: The editor and publisher of the Symbolas ad Geographiam medii ævi ex monumentis Islandicis (1821) likes to connect Kiliandr with Kaldenhart, the former name of Westphalian Kallenhardt, east of Warstein (cf. below). Sigurðr’s decision to slaying also his foster-father, the obvious last confidant knowing of Fáfnir’s place of treasure, could point to the plan to carry off the treasure impromptu and secretly to a hiding place nearby.

Felix Genzmer (Berlin 1927) supplements the slaying of Fáfnir with a passage taken from the Vǫlsunga saga which is quoted here with the translation by Magnusson & Morris:
Then Sigurd leapt on his horse and rode along the trail of the worm Fafnir, and so right unto his abiding-place; and he found it open, and beheld all the doors and the gear of them that they were wrought of  iron; yea, and all the beams of the house; and it was dug down deep into the earth: there found Sigurd gold exceeding plenteous, and the sword Rotti; and thence he took the Helm of Awe, and the Gold Byrny, and many things fair and good. So much gold he found there, that he thought verily that scarce might two horses, or three belike, bear it thence. So he took all the gold and laid it in two great chests, and set them on the horse Grani, and took the reins of him, but nowise will he stir, neither will he abide smiting ...

The Leiðarvísir’s intriguing passage was already challenged by Paul Höfer in 1888 and Otto Höfler (1959,1961,1978) who turn to the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest in order to identify Arminius with Sigfrid and the 'dragon' with the Romans (most extensively Höfler). However, both scholars and their modern followers propagate less convincingly the 'Knetterheide' at Schötmar (Bad Salzuflen) which is on a route rather from Mundioborg (Minden) to Pǫddibrunnar (cf. e.g. Heinrich Beck 1985:92–107).

The Vǫlsunga saga considers the Hindarfjall in narrative environment with both Sigurðr’s fight on the Gnitaheiðr and Brynhildr’s seat. Regarding this geographical context, the author received between March 2012 and 2014 an interpretation from the philologist and book author August Hunt who follows Magoun on Gnitaheiðr and estimates Seeburg on lake 'Süßer und Salziger See' as Brynhildr’s primary residence. Mentioned in A.D. 1043 as lectulus Brunhildi, however, the Großer Feldberg in the Taunus mountains does remember the heroine long since with the so-called Brunhildisfelsen, c. 30 km (18 mi.) far from Kilianstädten. Hence, as proposed by A. Hunt, it seems apt to think about the Hindarfjall, interpreted as mountain of 'female deer(s)', as a composition of Old Norsecelandic Hin(n) = 'The' + Daun... = Taun..., followed by an 'r' as less important binding consonant for fjall (= mountain).

Interestingly, as regards Sigurðr slaying Fáfnir on Gnita heath, it seems less likely that Nikulás had known the Nibelungenlied. However, he notes the Italian thermae Þiðreks bað at Viterbo (→ Bagnoregio, formerly the 6th-century Balneum Regium) which he quotes or suggests as a plausible health resort of the Italian king Theoderic the Great. The Old Norse scribe of the Thidreks saga could have remembered this passage of the Leiðarvísir in so far, albeit there were at least to well-known spas in the kingdom of Frankish king Theuderic: Aquae Granni (Aachen) and the thermae of Roma Secunda (Trier).

5  Brynhild's Castle 

After Sigfrid had slain the 'dragon', he moved with a byrnie from Mime's smithy straight to Brynhild's residence 'Seaguard' in Svava. Ritter identifies the smith near the Regenstein on the north side of the Harz. Consequently, apart from a possible seat in the Taunus and Seeburg in northern Suebia of Migration Period (reasonably suggested by A. Hunt), the other nearest castles would be either the Heimburg (H. Ritter) or Ilsenstein (W. Böckmann); the latter on a mountain in the neighbourhood of the highest of the Harz: the Brocken with its marvellous sight-seeing place. Incidentally, the Nibelungenlied provides Isenstein as Brynhild's residence. According to the Old Norse Thidreks saga, she had also 'a stud estate in the forest nearby' whose horses were much praised for their extraordinary qualities.

Queen Brynhild is known as orphan. Her uncle – who rather might be her brothern-law – is Heim (the) Studder or Heimir. He runs her stud estate, as provided by the Vǫlsunga saga that nicknames Brynhild's castle Shielded Castle or Castle of Shields. Actually, its rocks photographed from the distance do resemble simple shields of Late Antiquity being heaped up irregularly. The position of Heimir's castle, the Heimburg that became related with German rulers Henry IV and Henry the Lion later on, can be verified by a large lake – 'sea' (See) in German language – recently found subterranean only some miles to the north, as the proprietors of Dragon Valley land parcel informed the author. 

Nonetheless, Queen Brynhild might have had no reason to give up I(l)senstein after the death of her parents and move down to her bad- tempered relative on the lower Heimburg (Sv 14), as Walter Böckmann does also believe. This castle might belong to the queen's real estates; but the 'Isenstein', with its surviving rocks and longwinded access of nearly one mile, is in quite more representative landscape position.
Amid the photo the Heimburg cone at an important strategic position.
The Harz rising behind the Heimburg.
 All photos by the author.
Horse Capital of Drübeck Crypt. 
The Heimburg by Merian, 1654.           Ground Plan

The traditional but 'peculiar horse breeding in woodlands and forests' as Tacitus quotes in his Germania, ch 27, is also shown by the Horse Capital at the crypt of Drübeck Cloister Church founded c. 2 miles far from the Ilsenstein. Incidentally, the distance from this place to the Heimburg is approximately 9 miles. 

6  Theoderic or 'Didrik' of Bern

He was proclaimed King of Bern at an age below 20. Already grown older, he has to flee to King Attala who grants him exile at his Soest (Susat) residence for a big threat coming from Didrik's kinsman Ermenrik. Now, in the period of deprivation, Didrik seizes the opportunity to aid Saxon King Attala warring against Baltic tribes. Thereafter he leaves Attala's court for a campaign against Ermenrik. However, the battle at Gransport on the Moselle's mouth results in Didrik's high personal losses. He moves back to King Attala and renounces his restoration to the throne for the deaths of a kinsman and two offspring of King Attala's family. Some years later, after the Niflunga downfall at Soest, he leaves King Attala's country for Bern where he goes out with his new army. He meets the troops of Sevekin, Ermenrik's follower, at Graach on the Moselle and overthrows him. The scriptors relate that Didrik was immediately crowned King of Rome, thereafter even ruling a greater realm. 

Locations of Thidreks saga
Locations of Thidreks saga (Ritter).

Ritter believes in Bonn on the Rhine as place of residence of young King Didrik. He argues that Bern is based on derivation from Latin Verona - Berona as handed down actually in the Middle Ages for Bonn on the Rhine. Nonetheless, we seriously have to consider another quite more precious ancient place for Bern: 'Varne', provable short spelling of the Roman VARNENVM. Another location appearing between Attala's residence and Didrik's Bern is Babilonia. It can be identified as Cologne on the Rhine by clerical messaging of 11th- German century. Thus, the basic connections related to the vita of Franco-Rhenish king Didrik cannot be confused with those of Theodoric the Great. 

7  Hagen

Hagen's father can enter the garden of certainly well guarded kingly castle without any problems for a lovers' tryst! Therefore, he certainly had been introduced to the court, coming across with self-confidence and auspiciousness as a druid (Sv 161). The appearance of a Celtic priest in the Eiffel region of the Niflungi might correspond with those typical spelling relicts in today’s location names there. The former location of Hagen's family, as provided by his name apposition he certainly had received from his father, is occasionally forwarded as 'of Tröya' (Sv 340) or 'of Troja' (Thidreks saga, Mb 395). However, it seems less credible that Hagen's ancestors were of Trojan origin or came from the Colonia Ulpia Traiana of Xanten. We rather should consider Frankish Troyes, Champagne-Ardenne, outstanding Celtic location of the Tricassi. 

8  King Isung's Land

... They were riding across large woodlands and heaths ...

The Svava's description perfectly corresponds with the heath lands of German Lüneburg. Ritter estimates the kingly castle on the Kalkberg of Lüneburg town.

The Kalkberg of Lüneburg by Merian.

Incidentally, Sigfrid reports to King Isung that on the shield of one arrival is 'also a lion of gold with a crown' (Sv 185). Since there was no other subject mentioned afore being in connection with this symbol, it must be King Isung's, too. Actually, we know dynasties with a lion on their heraldic crests that have been ruling this region between Brunswick and Lüneburg. 

9  Sigfrid and Grimhild (and King Attala)

The Svava does not report on any affections for a love match between Sigfrid and Grimhild! 

Due to Ritter's schedule of the Didriks chronicle, Grimhild was aged over 40 when she married King Attala. Considering a health-conscious way of life as well as corresponding genes, she could have given birth to a child, the meaningful son of King Attala, just in time. Nonetheless, we may wonder if the couple were willing to sacrifice him, probably their only heir apparent, for the apparently planned provocation for slaying the Niflungi. If they would not, any suitably aged son of King Attala's concubine(s) could have been publicly introduced as Grimhild's son.

As a heroic lay of the Elder Edda provides, Atli let punish a talkative court-maid who alleged that Gudrun (= Grimhild) was sleeping with Thiodrek at Atli's residence.

Regarding the Niflunga pedigree extracted from the Svava and Thidreks saga manuscripts, however, Grimhild's youngest brother Gislher cannot be the natural son of Queen Oda, spouse of the early died King Irung (Mb 2; Mb 3: 'Alldrian'), as Ritter rightly stated. 

10  Schlangenturm and Irungs Wall

Former existence of a pallatium sive turris (residence building or tower), 'occupied by reptiles and other creatures', is provable to high medieval Soest. Regarding also its homgarðr, William J. Pfaff reasonably agrues (op. cit. p. 175) by means of Henrik Bertelsen's source text transcription and Ferdinand Holthausen's Studien zur Thidrekssaga:

A document on the authority of the archbishop of Cologne (c. 1178) relates that a ‘palace or tower’ next to the old church of St. Peter had been full of reptiles, etc., and was then being used for charitable purposes, probably a reference to the Hohe Spital southwest of the church. There is no trace of the Nibelung name; perhaps
Högnagarðr (B) and Niflungagardr were added when Hom appeared (for bom) and the obscurity had led to confusion with Holm- (II,310) for Norwegian scribes. There is, however, ample evidence that the Norwegian was not inventing these details; Holthausen (464) suggests that the Edda may have taken the snake-pit motif from northern Germany.

Challenging Ritter, Dietrich Hofmann attempted to indicate the possibility that the Soest localities, as specified by the manuscripts, had inspired a high medieval narrator for a pseudo-historical relocation. However, Hofmann did not take into consideration that this reteller, more likely, might have had only very little or no knowledge of the exact townscape in much former times and, therefore, had to refer to contemporary structural development for an impressing imagination of a former 6th-century Franco-Saxon battle which, however, cannot be disproved. Furthermore, it seems less probable that the composer(s) of the Atlakviða, one of the eldest Eddic lays of apparently c. A.D. 900, had taken its ormar garðr motif from an apparently later erected Episcopal site pallatium sive turris which was reported unkempt and, thereafter, noted on its restoration in 1178. (Dietrich Hofmann, “Attilas Schlangenturm“ und der “Niflungengarten“ in Soest in: Jahrbuch des Vereins für niederdeutsche Sprachforschung, 1981 vol. 104  pgs 31–46.)

A plan with contour lines of the old centre by municipal registry of 1830. Hofmann regards a corresponding reconstruction drawing by F. W. Landwehr, cf. p. 40. See Ritter 1981:193 who does not take the large building at the Episcopal place of residence ('Pfalz') for Gunnar’s 'snake tower', cf. pgs 199–203.
Dr Heinrich ten Doornkaat Koolman, a former Mayor of Soest, wrote on the obvious relicts of an elder or, relatively, the eldest known wall:
Wie in der Zeitschrift des Soester Geschichtsvereins Nr. 14 Seite 22 ff. berichtet wird, kamen 1884 bei den Ausschachtungsarbeiten für ein neues Pfarrhaus an der Ecke des Petrikirchhofes und der Hospitalgasse alte Mauerreste zum Vorschein. Gücklicherweise hat man den Fund sorgfältig aufgemessen, und eine von dem Baumeister Lange am 16.7.84 angefertigte maßstäbliche Zeichnung ist in dem Heft 14 S. 24/25 wiedergegeben.
     Danach hat eine von Norden nach Süden verlaufende, 1,80 m in die Tiefe reichende Mauer den Petrikirchhof von dem zum Hohen Hospital gehörenden Gebiet geschieden. In einer anschließenden von Osten  nach Westen verlaufenden, aus großen behauenden Quadern aufgeführten Mauer von reichlich 1 m Dicke befanden sich unter der Erdoberfläche zwei etwa 2,20 m hohe und etwa 1,80 m weite rundbogige Torbogen. Weiter befand sich ein Haufen Bauschutt untermischt mit Resten verkohlten Gebälks.
     In dem Bericht ist weiter vermerkt, diese Mauer müsse zum Hohen Hospital in Beziehung gestanden haben, wenn sie auch keineswegs einen Teil des Gebäudes gebildet habe. Dafür, daß dies nicht der Fall gewesen, spreche die völlige Verschiedenheit des Mauerwerks.
     Dies Alles deutet auf eine ältere Burganlage hin, die vor der Errichtung der merowingischen Pfalz bestanden hat.
(Heinrich ten Doornkaat Koolman, Soest die Stätte des Nibelungenunterganges?  Rochol  Soest 1937, cf. pgs 10–11.)

Drawings on the right are taken from the article quoted by H. ten Doornkaat Koolman.

Ritter supplements on this article another excavation, commissioned by the „Historischer Verein“ of Soest in 1951/1952, whose experts had uncovered a wall (c. 2.5 m thick) even under the foundation level of the Pfalz. As Ritter summarizes from the excavation report, the archaeologists found under this wall layers with relicts of carbonized material and scattershot skeleton fragments and, thereupon, drew the assumptive conclusion that on this location 'heavy combats had taken place in the Early Middle Ages'. Omitting bibliographical reference to this excavation of 1951/1952, Ritter quotes as follows from its report (1981:198):
Unter den Fundamenten fanden sich unter einer gleichmäßig waagrechten, tiefschwarzen Holzkohlenschicht von 2 cm Dicke in 1,30–2,30 m Tiefe »(...) in ihrer ganzen Stärke, besonders aber nach unten hin, wahllos zerstreut, menschliche Knochenreste, die zumeist, auch die Schädel, zertrümmert und zum Teil auch angebrannt waren. In 2,20 m Tiefe konnte noch eine 1–2 cm starke, scharf abgesetzte Holzkohlenschicht festgestellt werden, unter welcher unmittelbar wieder menschliche Schädel- und Knochenfragmente lagen. Da diese Schichten nur an der Südseite der sogenannten ›Wittekindsmauer‹ auftreten und noch weiter in die Tiefe gehen, liegen sie im Innern im Keller eines alten Bauwerks, das als Vorläufer des ›Hohen Hospitals‹ (= Veste) angesehen werden muß. (...) Das ganze Auftreten dieser Schichten mit ihrem auffallenden Inhalt in den Kellern eines Bauwerks, dessen Mauern 8 Fuß = rund 2,50 m breit waren, läßt an dieser hervorragenden Stelle des alten Burgbezirks schwere Kampfhandlungen im frühen Mittelalter vermuten.«   


11  Sigfrid's Niflunga Hoard

The hoard, most probably a cave, should meet these requirements:

1. That location must be easily reachable from starting point, King Attala's residence, for a twelve years old boy and an elder man on horses, but without an escort or entourage.
2. The position and inlet of the cave must not be found with ease in the natural environment.
3. The cave must contain mortal remains of a man covered with earth or other natural material after passing one and a half millennium.
4. The position of the dead body must not indicate a burial.
5. The dead may not be as died young. His date of death must be verifiable to pre-christian time of that territory.
6. Considering the secret trip to the cave, the remaining personal accessories of the dead must be ascribable to a ruler of 6th century.

A cave which meets these conditions was found in a rocky hill at Kallenhardt, Warstein, in 1926:

In the tunnel of that Hohler Stein ('Hollow Rock'), mortal remains of a man were found in an undisrupted stratum. Nonetheless, a burial had been impossible for that position. The age of the dead was determined to nearly 50. The jewellery found at his skeleton, a rune fibula, an arm ring, a finger ring and knobs, as preserved today at North-Rhine-Westphalian museums of Lippstadt and Münster, do correspond with the period of Attala's lifetime and appropriate status of a nobleman on the hunt. Prof Stieren and Dr Julius Andree, his scientific assistant, directed this exploration. On the next official excursion (made in 1933) relicts of a forgery of 30-Years War were found at the western inlet of the cave that still has an unspecified number of tunnels. As Ritter notes in his book on the Nibelungen history, Dr Andree informed him that Prof. Stieren 'certainly had suppressed much' onto the Kallenhardt discovery.

Heinz Ritter-Schaumburg wrote on July 7, 1987, this supplement related to the dating of the bronze ring found at the skeleton:
  Der verschwundene Bronzering mit der »Kreuz«-Verzierung ist wiederaufgetaucht. Er befindet sich jetzt im Museum in Olpe (Sauerland). Er wurde von dem Archäologen Dr. Hömberg als »ein üblicher Ring des 6. und frühen 8. Jahrhunderts« eingestuft. Damit gehört er in die gleiche Zeit wie die Funde in den Soester Frauenkammergräbern. Bisher hatte man die Fundstücke im Hohlen Stein in die Zeit um und vor Christi Geburt datiert. Das trifft also auf den Bronzering nicht zu. Im übrigen kann ein Schatz, den »viele Könige und Herren zusammenbrachten«, auch sehr alte Stücke enthalten haben.
Den Ring umlaufen 6 Einritzungen, fünf Schrägkreuze und ein Schrägstrich. Das können keine Verzierungen sein, weil ihnen die Regelmäßigkeit fehlt. Auch die Schrägkreuze sind ungleichmäßig: die Striche sind verschieden lang und die Schnittpunkte einmal mehr auf dieser Seite und dann wieder mehr auf der anderen. Sie berühren sich auch nicht. Ich halte sie daher für Runen. Es ist die Glücksrune X (G), wie sie auch auf der Soester Rundfibel eine wichtige Rolle spielt, und sie ist also etwa gleich alt mit den dortigen Runen. Es sind 5 Schrägkreuze, so viele, wie der Fibel-Name ATANLO Zeichen hat, und es könnte eine Beziehung zu diesem Namen gemeint sein. Der Schrägstrich beendet diese Reihe und ergänzt zur Sechszahl. Der Ring ist ein Hinweis dafür, daß zwischen den Geschehnissen im frühen Soest und denen im Hohlen Stein eine Beziehung besteht.
 Bricked wall           x  Position of the dead man
Author's copy from the cave's ground plan as given by Eberhard Henneböle, historian of that region. Photos by the author. 

12  Graves, Soest 6th7thcentury

If survivors of the Soest Battle had wanted to leave a solid message about those dramatic events to the far posterity by the techniques of that era, they surely would have resigned themselves to do so by gravely limited choices. 

At that time, in other epochs as well, characteristic features of dead persons were often expressed by precious burial objects, nonetheless – fortunately. 

Which would be the least significant arrangements if to proceed to the kingly family of Soest in this way?

1. No male kingly burial chamber since Attala died in Sigfrid's treasure cave.
2. For that reason not less than two noble female burial chambers to be found side by side, because Attala married the mother of Hagen's son Aldrian after the death of Grimhild.
3. Since Aldrian, the obvious son of Attala and Grimhild, died early by Hagen's sword, his grave must be found close to one female burial chamber – the 'royal' one.
4. Regarding an important symbol for King Attala's death, one female burial chamber, that of the concubine who shared with Hagen his deathbed, ought to contain a piece that either shows or is a key.
5. The female burial chamber of previous item should contain otherwise or in addition a symbol expressing an intimate ratio for the generation of Aldrian, designated avenger whose father's coat of arms features an uncrowned eagle.

In springtime of 1930, about a mile to the south of the old town centre of Soest, a burying place was found at excavation work for a prospective building. Prof. August Stieren also directed the diggings and examination of this special discovery. Apart from unknown spatiotemporal relationship, its basic properties, at least partially reckoned to Frankish burying, are meeting the aforesaid conditions: There was a small male but distinguished burial chamber, archaeologically catalogued as a boy's grave no. 17, between two noble female chambers (no. 106 and 105).

Soest Chamber Graves:  1, 13, 18, 165, 170, 180 are female. Male chamber 179 is less precious for minor weapon parts of iron.

A. Stieren estimates that some of these wooden burial chambers must have belonged to a burial mound. Furthermore, prints of a wooden bench were incontestably found in the female chamber no. 105. Hence, this chamber could have been accessible for a certain period after the time of burial. As regards numismatic dating, a coin or some other burial gift could have been deposed later. Some German criticism against Ritter levelled at the key or other grave goods of chamber no. 105 (cf. items 4–5, a picture of its amulet below) appears inconsistent, however: The key could be either a symbolic replica or the death and burial of the involved person took place after Aldrian's revenge.

       The Golden Almandine Fibula

This so-called garnet or Cloisonné fibula of burial chamber no. 106, a picture below, appears as the most attracting piece. The younger solidus of this chamber, found close to this fibula, is a mint of East Roman Emperor Justinian I (527–565). It displays almost no evidence of usage. The elder solidus is a worn coin of Roman Emperor Valentinian I.

As regards the specific history and dating contexts of the Cloisonné fibula and its chamber no. 106, however, it seems less likely that either this brooch or its youngest rune engraving should have been created in the Christian reigning periods of the Austrasian kings succeeding Theudebert I (533–547/548). About A.D. 525 his father Theuderic himself was already on a Christianizing mission to Cologne. With respect to chronological specifics related to this brooch, the archaeological expert Daniel Peters, German LWL organization, deduces:
Hier sprechen Abnutzungsspuren und mehrphasige Beschriftung mit Runen für eine spätere Deponierung eines benutzten persönlichen Besitzes (2011:151).
Referring to the cross-type monogram on the fibula, he constates:
Dieses Runenkreuz, als eine Art Verschlüsselung oder Geheimzeichen, ist zeitnah nur in einem weiteren Fall, dem Schretzheimer Männergrab 79 der zweiten Hälfte des 6. Jhs., bekannt geworden und wurde dort anhand der Kenntnisse der Soester Inschrift entziffert (2011:57),
Eine wenige Funde umfassende frühe Gruppe begegnet im nordgermanischen Gebiet bis etwa 500 n. Chr., die Soester Fibel ist dagegen einem schwerpunktmäßig in Südwestdeutschland verbreiteten Horizont von etwa 60–80 Inschriften zuzuordnen, die auf Gegenständen der relativ kurzen Zeitspanne von 530/40 bis 600/20 n. Chr. vorliegen (2011:55)

Max E. Martin connects the rune inscriptions on fibulas of an early Christian horizon of the Franks with the 'beginning of Merovingian rune writing of c. A.D. 530/40', as Theuderic's conquests of Thuringian territories seem to indicate the geocultural context of rune usages also in more northern regions. Regarding bow fibulas with rune inscriptions, which have been found commonly in southern areas of Germany, Martin assumes that its former upper class leadership, eventually related with northern dynasties, might have played a transferring rôle. Furthermore, it seems noteworthy to remark that Volker Bierbrauer, another modern archeologist, describes a fibula of Dunningen, Black Forest, whose basic structure on its obverse is formed by five concentric circles. Thus, this piece of the Dunningen parish grave no. 17 does correspond well with the very noticeable pattern of the Soest version, albeit the inner circular area of the former is domed shaped and, therefore, may point to a younger creation of c. A.D. 600.

As far as presently known, apart from speculative estimations based on relative dating, absolute physicochemical dating methodologies have not been applied for skeleton fragments and inorganic material of the aforementioned chamber graves. Regarding numismatic aspects, the youngest coin of grave 106, of Justinian I period (527–565), could have been already available for Frankish acquisition in the early 2nd half of 6th century. 


Volker Bierbrauer: Alamannischer Adelsfriedhof und frühmittelalterliche Kirchenbauten von St. Martin in Dunningen in: Heimat an der Eschach, 1986  pgs 19–40.
Max Martin: Die Runenfibenn aus Bülach Grab 249 (...) in: K. Stüber, A. Zürcher (Hrsg.), Festschrift f. Walter Drack (...). Zürich 1977, S. 120–128; id.: Kontinentalgermanische Runeninschriften und „alamannische Runenprovinz“ aus archäologischer Sicht  in: Alemannen und der Norden (...) RGA Supplement vol. 43  2004  pgs 165–212.
Daniel Peters: Das frühmittelalterliche Gräberfeld von Soest. Aschendorff 2011.
Heinz Ritter-Schaumburg: Die Nibelungen zogen nordwärts. 1981 pgs 203–216.
August Stieren: Ein neuer Friedhof fränkischer Zeit aus Soest. Germania, Korrespondenzblatt der Römisch-Germanischen Kommission des Deutschen Archäologischen Instituts, XIV 1930. Heft 3. (Pgs 166–175.)
Top picture on the left: The medallion (c. 10 cm in diameter) of burial chamber no. 105 which also contained an iron made key.
Top picture on the right: The filigree disc fibula of grave no. 165 (c. 3.5 cm in diameter).
Both photos by the author.
Pictures below: Golden Cloisonné rune fibula of chamber no. 106 and its contour sketch from the reverse (c. 5 cm or c. 2 inches in diameter). Several rune-reading analysts read the cross-type engraving A-T-A-N-O  or  A-T-A-L-O. (See also: Further information to read the fibula.)


Final Remarks and Reactions

In comparison with MHG works such as the Nibelungenlied, the Old Norse and Swedish manuscripts appear as objective as a police report. We also must state that historiographical and bibliographical characteristics of medieval literature allow to conclude that stylistically drier traditions were rather serving for embellished adaptations of sophisticated epic poetry. Furthermore, the long-established scholarly opinion that the historical core of the Nibelungen downfall were the defeat of Burgundian King Gundahari by West-Roman and following Hunnish troops in 435/436 appears as de facto less homogenous identification referring to transfigured erroneous appropriation being based upon recognizable deceptive instrumentation and destination of the Nibelungenlied (notably Aloys Schröfl and Bálint Hóman, allusively Ritter and other authors). Moreover, the literary research has come to realize that the writing artists concerned with 'courtier’s poetry' would have thought hardly of any atavism back to literary style of Thidreks saga. Ernst F. Jung, expert in Roman and early Merovingian history, has evaluated the research of both Wisniewski and Ritter. He points out the most significant difference between the Thidreks saga and the Nibelungenlied with this statement: 'Their historical panorama of space and time is absolutely unlike. The Thidreks saga relates chronicled events being connected with North-Rhine Westphalia while the Nibelungenlied is basing on poetical fantasy playing at the Danube ...'  („das Gesamtpanorama raumzeithistorischer Art ist ganz und gar verschieden. Die Ths. spielt auf Chronik-Basis in NRW, das Nl. als Spiel dichterischer Phantasie im Donauland ...“) 

Peter Arens, historian at German TV-channel ZDF, remarks upon the fall of the historical Burgundians in his book Sturm über Europa (2001): 'It is interesting that this ferocious attempt of people-murdering was ascribed to Attila afterwards, although the battle took place before his regency.' (Interessant ist, daß dieser ruchlose Völkermordversuch im Nachhinein Attila zugeschrieben wurde, obwohl die Schlacht vor seiner Regentschaft lag.“) The Bibliotheca of Photios, Byzantine historian of 9th century and Patriarch of Constantinople who fragmentarily provided the records of Olympiodorus the Elder, allow to conclude that the historical Burgundians were (also) settling in the region of Moyndiakon – Mundiacum, cf. today's locations 'Müntz' and 'Mündt' between the Eiffel and the lower Rhine. As Ritter has shown, the Mundia of Thidreks saga covers residence location of the Niflungi.

Regarding the martial expeditions provided by the Thidreks saga and the so-called Svava, Ritter decidedly ascribes the geographical and chronological accounts of these manuscripts into 5th–6th century. This allocation does basically concern the reign of Theuderic I. Regarding both archaeological findings and historiographic sources, in first third of 6th century this Frankish king finally took over not only today's Westphalian regions east of the Rhine. Into this spatial period Ritter dates the expedition of the Niflungi crossing the Rhine eastwards, as these people and their leaders are nowhere mentioned as 'Burgundians' in the Old Norse and Swedish manuscripts. Conclusively, there might have been an obvious lost archaic rendition serving for the works written by the postulated Lower German provider and Old Norse/Swedish scribes and those Upper German authors, because the Nordic traditions do augment with some receptive detail definitely conveyed by the Nibelungenlied resp its suggested earlier version.

Regarding discussions and interpretations of Nibelungen traditions, however, the experts go at it hammer and tongues to maintain or defend their position: Aloys Schröfl had his own publisher company to make known his findings. In the end, his contemporary critics paid some tribute to his work. 

The notable research of Heinz Ritter has been subsequently calling for reliability and reviewing the doctrinal foundation of Germanistic profession that, however, has not been ready to receive him for some obvious consequences. Thus, an institute of Siegen University, Germany, put a sharp defamatory flyer in circulation to bawl out Ritter's analysis of Thidreks saga that certainly seems poisonous to Germanistic research. The authors of that leaflet were not only students. Nevertheless, Heinz Ritter's bibliographical work instigated many German reactions published by private researchers. One of most interesting contributions, besides attempting to emendate him for some more or less controversial attitude, was written by Rudolf Patzwaldt (see above). He also provides a captivating intertextual analysis of some geographical items related to the Nibelungenlied and Thidreks saga.

Heinz Ritter was honoured with German Bundesverdienstkreuz (Federal Service Cross of Germany) and the Verdienstorden des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (Order of Service of North-Rhine Westphalia) for his meritorious literary research. 


Excerpt from the Didriks chronicle: The Niflunga Saga (Verbatim Translation)
Merovingians by the Svava
Dynasties: Sigfrid & Nibelungen
Nordic Map of Bern
Geographical and Ethnic Glossary of Thidrek saga and 'Svava'
The Ritter Schedule of Thidrek saga and 'Svava'
Map of northern part of the Harz

German contributions by the author:

Dietrich von Bern – Chronicle or Poetry?
German Review on Ritter
Ritter about his Principle and Position of Researching the Thidreks saga
Ritter's Priority of the Old Norse and Nordic texts – An extract from Der Schmied Weland
The Steel of Weland the Smith – Summaries of Scientific Analyses
Zur Schuldfrage von „Attila“ und Grimhild, Atli und Gudrun
Swanhilds Spuren in der Thidrekssaga?
Zwölf um Dietrich von Bern - Heldenphysiognomie aus der Retorte?
Zur Transmission der altschwedischen Didrikskrönikan
Die Mosel im Licht von Thidrekssaga und Dietrich-Chronik: Thidrekssaga-Mosel.pdf
Wadhincúsan, monasterium Ludewici: MonasteriumLudewici.pdf