Update 2022-07-18


The Nibelungen Saga:

The True Core by the Svava?

by  Rolf Badenhausen

[ Deutsche Fassung ]

Title Image
Die Nibelungen - Dichtung und Wahrheit.


Hardcover Edition, 2005
301 pages [ISBN 978-3-86582-044-1]
€ 19,90
[Shipping only within Germany.]
Sage und Wirklichkeit. Dietrich von Bern und die Nibelungen.


Hardcover Edition, 2007
574 pages [ISBN 978-3-86582-589-6]
€ 24,90
[Shipping only within Germany.]
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 Hǫgni (→Hagen) fell and Irung was slain, and the Snake Tower wherein Gunnar (→Gunther) 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 Hǫgni’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 medieaval 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, only a few philologists 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, known as Der Nibelunge Nôt (Grimhild’s revenge and the Nibelungen Downfall), cannot be the right sequel of the first (Sigfrid’s life and death) for legendary coherency, because the second one appears initiated by Pil(i)grim von Aribon, Bishop of Passau on the Danube in 10th century for his special political ambitions in the Ottonian German period. (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 contexts 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 Empire, Schröfl claimed at hand of the 13th- century Nibelungenlied conclusive circumstantial evidence remaining in its stanzas that Pilgrim obviously intended to use a former contemporary version as ‘the carrot’ for the court of Hungary. With it, as Schröfl conjectures, Pilgrim intended to enlarge his influence on this country that was about to be christianised. According to this certainly interesting context, the putative Ottonian version of the lay could have been created to glorify the ancestors of the Hungarians and might be evaluated today as an early political flyer.

The lay’s eldest extant manuscripts or ‘redactions’, that might have been renovatingly written in the time of Wolfger von Erla, Bishop of Passau, seem to reveal that this ‘regenerated poetry’ came into fashion at the beginning of the 13th century. Thus, regarding characteristic plagiarism or ‘copying’, assimilation and assemblage of compiled mediaeval heroic epics, the postulated prime version must have been transformed to ‘updates’ due to the spirit of high mediaeval times. Yet, Schröfl’s research into the politico-religious 10th- century relations of German Empire with Hungary is mainly focussing on connective approach to motive and authorship which, however, has been either scholarly suppressed or apodictically negated through non-convincing Germanistic evaluation. Nonetheless, Schröfl fairly underlined that the previous 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, has already connected both names with heyday of Upper German Clerical Poetry of 10th/11th century.

According to the studies of the most important 13th- century manuscripts made by the journalist and book author Walter Hansen (Die Spur des Sängers, 1987, p. 221f.), the narrative topographical details provided with the verses on Kriemhild’s journey to Etzel may intriguingly point to the poet’s location in today’s Low Austria, whom he identified with Konrad von Fußesbrunnen (re-)creating the lay in behalf of bishop Wolfger von Erla. Moreover, the literary scholar Peter H. Andersen, Prof. PhD, University of Strasbourg, has recently recognized this Chuonrat von Fuozesbrunnen as the most likely author, who already rhymed the more than 3000 verse epic Die Kindheit Jesu and a secular work in Wolfger’s time: Nibelungenlied und Klage: eine niederösterreichische Doppeldichtung? in: Die Bedeutung der Rezeptionsliteratur für Bildung und Kultur der Frühen Neuzeit (1400–1750). Beiträge zur sechsten Arbeitstagung in St. Pölten (May 2019), pgs 451–510.

However, due to research findings on the Nibelungenlied and the Dietrich von Bern poetry, a distinction must also be made between archaic sources and contemporary motif structures that were specifically implemented into the redactions of the high mediaeval Nibelungenlied.

Heinz Ritter († 1994), philologist from German Schaumburg on the Weser, seems to have uncovered 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 which 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 eldest extant manuscript of the Þiðreks saga, provide narration about the historical Nibelungen, as classified by progressive research that follows H. Ritter (‘Ritter-Schaumburg’). The Svava reports shorter than the more longwinded narrating Membrane, but both versions relate quite more objective than the so-called MHG (Middle High German) sources. The archaic version of both manuscripts was certainly known either 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 the Þiðreks saga is principally based on his answer to the cardinal question whether a tradition being assumed remarkably pregnant with historical facts may be dissected in twilight mixture of mythological or fabulating narratives. As Ritter has expressively underlined at his lectures, rather less significant as well as detectable noncontemporary adapting implementation by an evident group of Old Norse editors might have induced the majority of scholars to estimate the Þiðreks saga basically as less authentic or fabulous pool of originally unrelated single tales. Furthermore, Ritter regards the source of the Old Swedish manuscripts principally ‘guiding’ Þiðreks saga, and he considers these texts of such recognizable literary style and selectivity which subsequently may allow efforts to estimate them as historiographical sources.

Theodore M. Andersson, reviewer of a symposium based supplement edited by Susanne Kramarz-Bein for Walter de Gruyter’s encyclopaedia of Germanic antiquity, comments the contradicting cataloguing of the Þiðreks saga. Andersson was apparently 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  (retrieved May 2005), follows Heinrich Beck’s general position by means of (e.g.) his paper Þiðreks saga als Gegenwartsdichtung? who, stringently against Ritter’s postulation and reasoning, notoriously exposes the Þiðreks saga to the light of poetry which appears somewhat and somehow inspired by history. Andersson writes:

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. Obviously addressing Ritter, he underpins Germanism’s fundamental attitude toward 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.« 
(Transl. from  Zur Thidrekssaga-Diskussion, in: Zeitschrift für deutsche Philologie. 112, 1993, pgs 441–448.)

However, Ritter’s research does not disregard the fact that the Old Norse scribes evidently processed to title translated historiographical and chronicled material as ‘saga’. Thus, in so far, critical research would be not satisfied with some subtle or at least ‘very interpretative’ explorations of the Old Norse texts which have been provided by Heinrich Beck and other scholars

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 the Þiðreks saga manuscripts. In the addenda provided with his translation (pgs 399–455) he calls into question the Svava’s dependency from the Membrane and Icelandic manuscripts against scholastic evaluation of mainly Scandinavian researchers. He also implemented into his posthumous publication Der Schmied Weland exemplary synoptic studies that point out the different literary styles of these texts which, for instance, provide the Þiðreks saga’s predilection for certain subjective notional forwarding and, presumably, for mythologizing.

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 geographical study in Germanic heroic Legend, who, however, failed in geostrategical plausibilities when turning to the less believable Ostrogothic milieu, as this has been scholastically but undifferentiatedly attributed to the texts by means of Upper German poetry in particular. As regards the source material of the Þiðreks saga, there is no evidence that the Old Norse editors had done essentially more than a mere translation of an imported tradition which appears as a Low German Historia Dietrich von Bern – even considering that, apart from only a (very) few cases of Ostrogothic misunderstanding and misinterpreting, the translators obviously never attempted to change the most important location names which have been re-allocated plausibly by Ritter. 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, Brictan, such rivulets as Duna, Wisara, Eydissa, such mountain forests as the Osning and Valslanga.

The Nibelungen Origin Place
Zuelpich, Weihertor 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, besides, the Frankish historiographer Gregory of Tours quotes Nivisium (Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der teutschen Heldensage, 1836, p. 31f.) 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 the original area of the Nibelungen. 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 seat of the Nibelungen 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 Grimhild’s and Gernholt’s maternal grandfather King Yrian (Irian), 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 this folk met the Rhine at Duna Crossing on their fateful march to Grimhild and her spouse Atala (‘Attila’, Old Swedish Aktilius, Atilius, Icelandic MS B: Attala), king of that part of Saxony which the Old Swedish scribes call Hunaland: Since important campaigns were usually planned to start at full moon in Late Antiquity as well as mediaeval 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 spatiotemporal history, 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 Chlodovocar I (‘Clovis’). 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 Meroving(ian)s by the Svava in the 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, as 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) could be considered heir of maternal family property.
The Neffel, Juntersdorf or 'Guntersdorf'
Juntersdorf: A view from the Neffel to the landscape.
Photos by
the author.
Irnich Castle
Virmenich Castle
Irnich Castle at Schwerfen, adjacent to Virnich.
Virmenich Castle.

The Svava quotes about the last ride of Nibelungen – 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 in former times.

The Niflungen then moved to Margrave Rodinger's seat. Just south of the Dhünn dam was an early medieval settlement at Bechen. A Bekelar or Bechelar – name-giving was the once flowing Beche there – results with the ending ‘lar’ in preferred meaning for a mostly water-related or swampy forest area. The other local meaning of this old-language ending refers to a delimited area. This Beche, so the medieval place name, had a special strategic importance, because here was a roadblock, a border marker in the form of a modernly called Landwehr on the old army route from Cologne via Wipperfürth to Soest. So we may this location compare with the derivation of (lat.) Praeclara for Pöchlarn to Bechelâren on the Danube, as propagated from the Nibelungenlied as the literary original. The Germanist and Scandinavian medievalist Andreas Heusler recognized in the Þiðreks saga, respectively its source material, a preliminary stage of the Nibelungenlied, cf. Hans Peter Wapnewski, Deutsche Literatur des Mittelalters. Ein Abriß. Göttingen 1960, p. 71.

Other researchers generally agree with Ritter. For example, Walter Böckmann, book author and documentary film maker, and Ernst F. Jung, historian and philologist, largely share Ritter’s revision of a more authentically appearing history of the Nibelungen or Niflungs. The Germanist and medievalist Roswitha Wisniewski found narrative indications 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 Westphalian monastery Wedinghausen to Scandinavia where it was re-narrated by Old Norse and Icelandic writers, as the authoress notes well in her postdoctoral thesis. As already mentioned, these mediaeval scribes used to title imported historiographical material as saga.

Soest by Merian
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 Low 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. Then 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, a spelling form 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, which shows a dragon, in 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 Niflungs (Nyfflinga, Niflunga), his brother Gernholt, both sons of King Irung (Mb 2), and their half-brother Hagen, the Old Norse Hǫgni7. 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 recognizes 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 the Niflungs' 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 Low 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 Niflungs 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 Niflungs 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 fate of the Niflungs is sealed in the heavy battle against the folk of King Atala, 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 Atala gives immediately order to slay all Niflungs.

Already on the first day of the battle, Gunter must surrender to the fighters of Duke Osid, nephew of Atala. They throw him into the Schlangenturm (Snake Tower, apparently not far from the so-called Irungs Wall)10  by order of Atala, where the king of the Niflungs 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 Atala’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 Atala, his aging foster-father, to that three-doors treasury cave and locks him there. Thereafter Adrian reports this revenge of the Niflungs 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 Atala’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 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).
Map of 'Reginsbach and Drachenfels'
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.
Minsleben on the Holtemme
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 an 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.

Sigfrid does not belong to the workers of Mime. Obviously frustrated by hanging around, Sigfrid pokes 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, 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.

Another 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 timline of Þiðreks saga, this Hjalprek may be considered as the 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 Þiðreks 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.

Feuerland, Regenstein
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.
Cave, Regenstein
Caves, Regenstein
 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.
Dragon Valley, Regenstein
Goldbach, Regenstein
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 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, 18, quotes this speech by the ‘dragon’:

Haven't you heard how that all folk was afraid of me and my shocking helmet?
[Translation 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 toward 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.)

However, the Vǫlsunga saga provides a divergent background of the ‘brothers heritage’.

The Regenstein by Merian
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’.
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 an invulnerable superman just by this thrilling excuse: As historians have noted, the Merovings, 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 on the Drachenfels
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 mediaeval 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 mediaeval 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, 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. For the ‘Hirschkuhberg’ = Hindarfjall associated with Brunhild’s seat, there is also – only a few kilometers east of Bad Honnef – at least a name similarity for a mountain that was later renamed Himmerich; cf. Johann Joseph Brungs, Berg- und Flurnamen aus dem Bereich des Siebengebirges (1931) pgs 12–13.

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 Þiðreks 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 mountain 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 Þiðreks 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 an 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. Its rocks photographed from the distance seem to resemble simple shields of Late Antiquity being heaped up irregularly. The position of Heimir’s castle, the Heimburg which became related to 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 the 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.
A view from the Regenstein to the Heimburg
A relict of the Heimburg
Amid the photo: The Heimburg cone at an important strategic position.
The Harz rising behind the Heimburg.
 All photos by the author.
Horse Capital, Druebeck Crypt
Heimburg Castle by Merian
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 Atala 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 Atala warring against Baltic tribes. Thereafter he leaves Atala’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 Atala and renounces his restoration to the throne for the deaths of a kinsman and two offspring of King Atala’s family. Some years later, after the downfall of the Niflungs at Soest, he leaves King Atala’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 (= Trier), thereafter ruling even a greater realm.

Locations of Thidreks saga
Some locations of Þiðreks saga (Ritter and other authors).

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 Atala’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 Niflungs 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’ (Þiðreks 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.

The old spelling form ‘Hǫgni’, with a lower-o-ogonek, is commonly typed ‘Hogni’.

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.

Kalkberg by Merian
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 Atala)

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

Due to Ritter’s timeline of the Didriks chronicle, Grimhild was aged over 40 when she married King Atala. 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 Atala, 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 Niflungs. If they would not, any suitably aged son of King Atala’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 pedigree of the Niflungs, as extracted from the Svava and Þiðreks 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

A former existence of a pallatium sive turris (residence building or tower), ‘occupied by reptiles and other creatures’, is provable to high mediaeval 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 (Christian-Albrechts-Universität zu Kiel, German and Scandinavian studies) introductorily attempted to indicate the possibility that the localities of Soest, as specified by the manuscripts, had inspired a high mediaeval narrator for a pseudo-historical relocation.

However, Hofmann then turned to considering 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. Proceeding form this constellation it seems less probable that the composer(s) of the Atlakviða, one of the eldest Eddic lays of around 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.
Hofmann therefore argues onto the main pretensions that, first, ‘the people of Westphalian Soest had taken outlandish legends for own historical accounts’ and, second, ‘they had little or no knowledge of their own history’:
However, the two statements are still to be modified a tad. On the one hand, we may assume that some people in Soest and elsewhere knew better about the true history of the city than the narrator of the Niflungs history. Because of the conditions of ownership, not only the archbishop of Cologne but also the Soest clergy ought to have been more accurately informed about the ‘snake tower’ than anybody else. It is rather to be expected that the belief in the historicity of the Niflungs history as a local history of Soest should have been widespread and strongly rooted in the people’s mind. Otherwise the narrator would not have been able to express himself so convincingly, as this version had apparently spread even far beyond Soest. Some ‘intellectuals’, on the other hand, could not argue to the contrary. The oral tradition was a great power in the Middle Ages because it was thought to be historical and largely supported. There was no other form of historical tradition since centuries – even millenniums. The gradually developed written tradition was not accessible to most of the people. Thus, they had scarcely any means of examining and correcting the oral tradition in the matter of historical facts. For this reason, the statements made above on the conception of history might not only concern the citizens of Soest in 12th/13th century, but generally the perceptive opinion of history in the broad population of the Middle Ages.
Ritter is, to a certain extent, still right by further necessary modification of the two statements. One must also query how it could have happened at all that the Soesters had a reception of a foreign legend as their own story. The existence of remains of old walls and an abandoned tower in which snakes were living is by no means sufficient to explain this. We can only proceed on the assumption that old traditions were extant in Soest and esteemed there as historical before the reception of the Nibelungensage; for instance, stories about a mighty king in the pre-Christian era, about heavy fighting on the western wall at the old fortifications of the inner city, etc. Similarities in the course of action and the constellation of persons could have led to the fact that the Nibelungensage, spread mainly by minstrels all over Germany and beyond, was identified in Soest with stories of own tradition, presumably with ballads. Of course, identical or similar names of acting persons could significantly induce the identification and therewith the reception of the Nibelungensage.
From this point of view it is by no means absurd, albeit purely hypothetical, to argue with the name At(t)ano on the disk fibula, dated into the end of 6th century, as Ritter has done it, see pp. 207f. In the Middle-Low-German period, the name would have developed to the form *Attene which might well have given an inducement to an identification with Attila. This, incidentally, is a literary influenced form which shows that in Þidreks saga’s presentation a portion of scholarship was involved who, however, obviously did not affect the believe in the correctness of the oral tradition (…) Of course, as regards the Soest part of the Niflungs history, comparably the same influenced constituents being localized in other places and regions of Westphalia and the Rhineland, on which Ritter’s book as well as his previous treatises provide important awarenesses. It seems clear that the stories could also have gotten into the influential circle of the Nibelungensage which, however, had no inherent correspondences such as, potentially, a local tradition about the walled-up dead in the Kallenhardt cave ‘Hohler Stein’ in the Sauerland, and which could have been transferred to Attila.
(Dietrich Hofmann, “Attilas Schlangenturm“ und der “Niflungengarten“ in Soest   in: Jahrbuch des Vereins für niederdeutsche Sprachforschung, 1981, vol. 104, pgs 31–46. Translation from pgs 44–45.)
  A plan with contour lines of the old centre by municipal registry of 1830. Hofmann refers to a corresponding reconstruction drawing by F. W. Landwehr, see p. 40. See Ritter 1981:193 who does not estimate the large building at the episcopal place of residence ‘Pfalz’ as Gunnar’s ‘snake tower’, see also pgs 199–203.

According to the manuscripts Hǫgni had left in Soest the obvious most impressive actions, as these are his bursting through the western wall, fighting ferociously against Irung and then Þiðrek, and, finally, generating a son for revenge on the patron, ‘father’ or ‘Ata’ of Soest. Since the place of Hǫgni’s ancestors has been suggested at Troyes, we should think more complexly about the reasons why Archbishop Bruno of Cologne had the mortal remains of St. Patroclus transferred from Frankish Troyes via Cologne to Soest as its new Christian patron. This ‘installation’ extended from 962 to 964.
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, see pgs 10–11.)

Drawings on the right are taken from the article quoted by H. ten Doornkaat Koolman.
Elder Wall of Soest
[Transl.: As reported in the magazine of the Soester Geschichtsverein, No. 14, page 22f., 1884, old fragments of the wall came to light during the excavation work for a new vicarage at the corner of the Petrikirchhof and the Hospitalgasse. Fortunately, this find was carefully measured, and a scaled plan drawn on 16 July 1884 by Mr. Lange, master builder, is reproduced in issue 14, pgs 24–25.
   According to that a wall extending from north to south, reaching a depth of 1.80 m, separated the Petrikirchhof from the area belonging to the Hohen Hospital. In an adjoining wall extending from east to west, not less than 1 m in thickness and consisting of large chiselled cuboids, two bows of arched gates, c. 2.20 m high and c. 1.80 m wide, were found under the ground. There was also a heap of building rubble mixed with the remains of charred timberwork.
    The report also notes that this wall must have been related to the Hohen Hospital, even though it was by no means a part of the building, as this might be supported well enough by the complete difference of the stonework.
    All this points to an older fortification which existed before the erection of the Merovingian Palatinate.]
Ritter supplements on this article an obvious later excavation, ‘commissioned by the Historischer Verein of Soest in 1951/1952’ as he writes, whose experts had uncovered a wall (c. 2.5 m thick) even under the foundation level of the Pfalz. Ritter summarizes that the archaeologists of this excavation found under this wall strata with remains 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, 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.«
[Transl.: Downward the foundations (…) under a deep black charcoal stratum of 2 cm thickness, running undisturbed horizontally at a depth of 1.30 to 2.30 m were found (…)
«in all of its dimension, increasingly downward, randomly scattered human bone remains and skulls which were smashed and partly burned. Further, then at a depth of 2.20 m, a sharply stepped 1 to 2 cm thick charcoal stratum was localized again with fragments of human skulls and bones. Since these strata were found only under the south side of the so-called ‹Wittekindsmauer› and lie farther in the depths, they meet the inner domain of the basement of an old structure which must be regarded as the previous building of the ‹ fortification =)› ‹Hohen Hospital›.»
 (…) «The whole appearance of these strata, with their striking contents in the basement of a building, whose walls were 8 feet or 2.50 m wide, admits to presume heavy fighting in the early Middle Ages at this eminent place related to the old fortification.»]

11  Sigfrid’s Niflunga Hoard

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

1. This location must be easily reachable from starting point, King Atala’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. The procedure of a burial appeared impossible for the position and environment of the remains. The age of the dead man was determined to nearly 50. The jewellery found at his skeleton, which are a rune fibula, an arm ring, a finger ring and knobs, are preserved today at North-Rhine-Westphalian museums of Lippstadt and Münster. Prof Stieren and Dr Julius Andree directed this exploration.

On the next official excursion (made in 1933) relicts of a forgery of the Thirty 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 Nibelungs' 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 finger ring found at the skeleton of the dead man in the tunnel of the Hohler Stein:

Hans Schumann (2016, Repro of finger ring ATM unverified). OL4991 specifics notably by Peter Pieper (1987, 1989), Martin Findell (2010). The carvings on the finger ring may be compared with those of the rune bone OL4991 (partial view) found on the Lower Weser at Hammelwarden, Brake.
. 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.

However, as contextually remarked in the German article, it seems less likely that the mighty king of Soest had worn a bronze finger ring instead of e.g. a golden one.
Ground plan: Hohler Stein
Hohler Stein, view A
 Bricked wall           x  Position of the dead man
Author’s copy from the cave’s ground plan by Eberhard Henneböle, local historian. Photos by the author. 
Hohler Stein, view B
Hohler Stein, view C

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 must have resigned themselves to do so by gravely limited choices.

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

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

1. No male kingly burial chamber since Atala died in Sigfrid’s treasure cave.
2. Since Aldrian, the obvious son of Atala and Grimhild, died early by Hagen’s sword, his grave must be found close to one burial chamber of a noble woman.
3. Regarding an important symbol for King Atala’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.
4. 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, less than one mile south of the old town centre of Soest, a burying place was found at excavation work for a prospective building. Prof. August Stieren directed also these diggings and examinations of this discovery. Its basic properties, at least partially reckoned to Frankish burying, are meeting the aforesaid conditions: For instance, 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).

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

According to conclusive indication based on strontium isotope analysis, the female chamber No. 106 belonged to woman who grew up in the area of Soest. Thus, this chamber seems not to be Grimhild’s final resting place. Nonetheless, this item does correspond with two Old Norse traditions, the Atlakviða and the Atlamál, which relate that Grimhild = Gudrun survived the battle of their brothers against the Hunas at the seat of her husband Atli. According to the Atlakviða and also the later written Vǫlsunga saga, she got married a third time. However, the scribes of the Nibelungenlied maintain that Grimhild was killed by Hildebrand, but according to the Thidrekssaga and the Old Swedisch transmission she said to be slain by Dietrich himself. It therefore seems obvious that her death was made up by the authors of these traditions.

Prof. August 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.
Medallion of grave 105
Filigree disc fibula of grave 165
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.)
Rune fibula of grave 106 (Obverse) Rune fibula of grave 106 (reverse)

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. Further, as regards historiographical and bibliographical characteristics of mediaeval literature, we should seriously question whether stylistically drier traditions were serving for rather embellished adaptations of sophisticated epic poetry. Thus, some literary research has come to realize that the author of the Nibelungenlied would have thought hardly of any atavism back to literary style of Þiðreks saga. In contrast, the old philological view that the historical core of the downfall of the Nibelungs should represent the defeat of the Burgundian king Gundahari in 435/6 against Western Roman and Hunnic troops appears as a not necessarily convincing monocausal appropriation – at least because of the research-ideological connection of this folk with a rhyming epic that moves the venues to a more southern region.

Ernst F. Jung, historian in Roman and early Merovingian history, has evaluated the research of both Ritter and Roswitha Wisniewski. He points out the most significant difference between the Þiðreks saga and the Nibelungenlied with this statement:

The historical panorama of space and time ‹ of both transmissions › is absolutely unlike. The Þiðreks 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 ...“]

Jung quotes in his publication Der Nibelungen Zug durchs Bergische Land  (pgs 113–114) from a paper Merkblatt by Ritter (dated 1985-12-26) which he subtitled Die Überlieferung der Thidreks saga resp. Dietrich von Bern und die Nibelungen (cf. original German text):

The so-called Thidreks saga or Didrikschronik is a report about events of past times, which take place in the Low German area. It is preserved only in the Old Nordic languages, but emphasizes in various passages that it comes from German sources and is based on Old German lores, which were written soon after the reported events. These tell of the life of the legendary king Dietrich of Bern, whom Upper German tradition likes to equate with the Gothic king Theoderic the Great. A part of the saga also tells of Sigfrid and the Nibelungen-Niflungs, who perished here in Soest.
    The Thidreksaga gave some riddles. Many of its details were not understandable. Especially the much disputed passage about the ride of the Niflungs belonged to it, as it tells this: 'Thus they rode always their way, until they came to the Rhine, there where Duna and Rhine meet'. Whoever started from the Nibelungenlied, understood the Danube under the 'Duna' and sensed geographical ignorance. Therefore, the Thidreksaga was believed to have been created by an unsuspecting Nordic 'saga man', who in the 13th century, with the help of German tradesmen in the old Hanseatic city of Bergen, had compiled the oldest Thidreks saga manuscript, the so-called 'Membrane'.
    But that venue was not meaningless; the Thidreks saga rather meant the North German area. Really, the Dunfluss, today's Dhünn, flowed into the Rhine at Wiesdorf-Leverkusen, and ancient ferries and fords are attested at this point. The naming of this spot proves exact knowledge of this area in early times, and all allocations of the Thidreks saga are correct to it. This place is a pivotal point for the understanding of the Thidreks saga. From here the Niflungs ride, passing Thorta castle (Dortmund), to Susat (Soest) and perish there in wild battles.
      (Note by Jung: H. Ritter's researches ultimately revolve around the literarily and historically significant question: which is the original, historically significant source of the German heroic saga: the Nibelungenlied or the Thidreks saga Chronicle? He comes to the conclusion:)
    The Thidreks saga was proved as the mother of all saga tradition...!
    Especially the places mentioned in the Thidreks saga refer to a very early time. They all are very old. None of the many cities, palaces and abbeys founded by Charlemagne appears in the Thidrek saga. This means that the Thidreksaga knows only the pre-Carolingian state of these areas.
    But old are especially the name forms of the Thidreks saga. 'Thorta' is one of the oldest names of Dortmund. 'Ballofa' corresponds to the oldest name form of Balve. 'Brictan' (north of Dortmund on the river Lippe) is the early form of the place name Brechten, the former centre of this whole area. Tyr, Ram, Puli' are very old forms of names, and the name of the Niflungen castle 'Vernica' goes back to the Roman 'Verniacum'.
    Regarding compound name forms, the Thidreks saga knows only the oldest ones: many with -borg, two each with -stein (sten), -fils, -gard, one each with -saela, -lar, -port (on the Moselle), none with -dorp (except for a late mention in Denmark), one with -heim (south of the Moselle), but none of the later so common compounds with -ingen, -hausen, -hoven, -weiler, -rode, -bach, -tal, -berg, -feld, -bruch, -scheid etc. This means: The Thidreks saga has a very old name stock, which could not be taken up in later centuries.
    From all this it is to be concluded that Thidreks saga's tradition must originate from the time before Charlemagne.
       (Note by Jung: There is no doubt about the saga's statement that it is derived from Old German lores, which originated soon after the narrated events. In the end, they lead back to the time of the Frankish land seizure at the turn of the 5th to the 6th century.)
    Rather, Charlemagne let collect and and write down lores in German, which in his time were already regarded as 'antiquissima carmina', that is, as 'ancient'. In these lores the deeds and wars of the early kings are sung about. But exactly these make the contents of the Thidreks saga: the deeds and wars of the early kings. And it is inconceivable that such exciting and dramatic reports as the downfall of the Niflungs should not have been among these traditions.
    So it is incorrect to speak of the 'emergence' of the Thidrek saga around 1250 and to assume a 'Norse saga man' as the creator of the Thidreks saga. Whoever does this defends a point of view that has been overcome and shows that he has not taken note of the ‹ my › foregoing studies that have been available since 1979. The Thidreks saga is a German tradition of pre-Carolingian times. This is the core thesis of my books.
    It follows by the way that hat king 'Dietrich of Bern' – living and acting in this Low German environment – cannot be Theoderic the Great, the Huns (hynir) cannot be the southeastern Huns, the king Attala-Attila-Atilius coming from Frisia cannot be the Hunnic king Etzel. I have shown in detail that not the Burgundians but only the 'Niflungs' can be meant, and their castle should be called 'Vernica' but not Worms.
    After all it is self-evident that the Nibelungenlied cannot have been the source of the Thidreks saga. It is much more probable that, conversely, the Thidreks saga's tradition was the main source of the Nibelungenlied and other medieval epics.

Thus, at least two contexts may be additionally queried to the myth of the Burgundians and the Huns, which has been widely praised by poetry and philological research:

 1. According to the 5th-century historian Olympiodoros of Thebes, in 411 the Alans leader Goar and the Burgundian leader Gundahar elevated the Gallo-Roman Jovinus to their counter-emperor at Mundiacum in the province Germania II. However, this place name was reinterpreted as ‘Moguntiacum’ for ‘Mogontiacum’ = Mainz. This was done however without regard to the probability that Frankish-Burgundian peoples could have settled (also) the Germania II. Thus, it seems obvious that Mundiacum cannot be ruled out as a name patron for places there, such as Mündt and Müntz in the region Mönchengladbach–Jülich.
 2. The herioc poem Waltharius, written in the 10th century before the available manuscripts of the Nibelungenlied, refers to a Gibbich (‘Gibicho’ in the poem) as the father of Gunther (‘Guntharius’) from the tribe called Franci Nebulones. The poet of the Nibelungenlied, however, does not make Gibbich a Burgundian, for he refers to Dankart as the father of the royal siblings. This genealogical constellation also speaks for different spatiotemporal narrative relations between the Thidrekssaga, the Waltharius and the Nibelungenlied.

This context was approached remarkably early. For instance, Julius R. Dieterich connects  Mundiacum to the region of Müntz, north of Jülich, as the area of a more probable Burgundian settlement region of the 5th century in his publication Siegehard von Lorsch – Der Dichter des Nibelungenlieds (Frankfurt / Darmstadt 1923). He further refers to the possibility that the ‘authoritative writer’ of the Nibelungenlied, whom he estimates at the monastery of Lorsch, may have borrowed the heroic seat of Worms from the Waltharius, the long known poetry at that time. One year after Dieterich’s contribution followed the more text-critically cited publication by Reiner Müller: Die Burgunden am Niederrhein 410–443 (Jülich 1924).

Some historical and current philological receptions:
The Old Norse and Swedish texts compared with eastern Frankish history

Regarding the martial expeditions provided by the Þiðreks saga and the so-called Svava, Ritter ascribes the basic chronospatial accounts of these manuscripts to 5th–6th century.

The Frankish expansion of power in the early 6th century to the region of Cologne, notably the treacherous murder of the Rhenish king Sigebert, that was schemed in secret by Merovingian king Clovis I and carried out by middlemen or noble confidents on the hunt (cf. Gregory of Tours), may not be disregarded in view of a historical relevance of the Niflungs' campaign. This report must therefore by no means be excluded as the historical basis for Sigfrid's slaying.

This period does also concern the reign of Theuderic I, the eminent eastern Frankish successor of Clovis. After their military campaign in southern Gaul against the Visigoths, which ultimately failed, Theuderic was in narrative offside over a longer period of time to our accredited historians; but then this Frankish Dietrich re-appeared as a mighty ruler of the Franks. According to archaeological findings and reliable historical facts, in Theuderic’s reign significant Frankish migration and invasion movements took place in Central German areas which extended over today’s Low German and Hessian regions to Thuringia and the western Harz foreland. These movements, notably appearing at the end of the first third of 6th century, were continued by his successors.

The period between Clovis' takeover of Sigebert’s kingdom of Cologne and the Thuringian campaign of the Frankish Dietrich indicate clearly the eastern Frankish expansion period. Accordingly, the Niflungs – marching at that time into a Westphalian region to be conquered – are nowhere called ‘Burgundians’ in the Þiðreks saga and the Swedish texts. The Atlakviða, the oldest tradition of the fall of the Niflungian duo Gunnar and Hǫgni, calls Gunnar a 'vinir Borgunda', a 'friend' (!) of the Burgundians. This also convenes with Clovis' reign, in which Franks and Burgundians fought together against the Visigoths in 507/508 and finally against the Ostrogothic king Theoderic the Great, who had moved as far as to southern Gaul for military support.

With a fundamental research perspective and parallel on Ritter-Schaumburg's analysis of the Þiðreks saga, the Germanist Hilkert Weddige quotes his fellow researcher Reinhard Wenskus on the connective heroic figure Iring in historiography and heroic tradition (Heldensage und Stammessage, Tübingen 1989, p. 69). Wenskus assumes direct influences of historical reality on the transmission of heroic sagas. These were ‘living traditions of certain groups of people, whose history was also reflected in the further developments and variants’. The source material may include the Upper German Nibelungen and Dietrich epics to a certain degree.

The philologist Hanswilhelm Haefs (Thidrekssaga und Nibelungenlied, 2004) has critically questioned Ritter-Schaumburg's findings about the historicity of the Þiðreks saga. Also according to this, Haefs rejects the highly stylized claim that Ritter basically ignores reliable literary-historical findings about the saga and real history of the Germanic-speaking peoples. He rather points out that such oppinion appears as an uncritical sweeping judgment that lacks a differentiated examination of his research.

By means of linguistic research and localizations from historical sources and oral traditions, the historian and medievalist Hans Georg Kirchhoff comes to the conclusion that a Lower Rhine homeland seems more probable for the Nibelungen-Niflungs than the Burgundian Worms.

Heinz Ritter’s bibliographical work instigated some remarkable reactions published by private researchers. One of the most interesting contributions, apart from some attempt 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 Þiðreks saga.

Heinz Ritter was honoured with German Bundesverdienstkreuz (Federal Cross of Merit) and the Verdienstorden des Landes Nordrhein-Westfalen (Order of Merit of North-Rhine Westphalia) for his life’s work.


Excerpt from the Didriks chronicle: The ‘Niflunga Saga’
Merovingians by the Svava
Dynasties: Sigfrid & Nibelungen
Nordic Map of Bern
Geographical and Ethnic Glossary of Þiðreks saga and ‘Svava’
Ritter's Timeline of Þiðreks 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 Þiðreks 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