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The Nibelungenlied: The Lay of the Nibelungs (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 11 Feb 2010

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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: OUP Oxford (11 Feb. 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0199238545
  • ISBN-13: 978-0199238545
  • Product Dimensions: 19.3 x 1.8 x 12.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 486,487 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description


It makes for glorious reading. (Yann Martell, 'What is Stephen Harper Reading?')

A new translation by Cyril Edwards, the most faithful to date to the Nibelungenlied. (Bettina Bildhauer, TLS)

For a taste of the original style in English, Edwards's is now the best translation. (Bettina Bildhauer, TLS)

This magnificent brought to an English speaking audience in a new translation by Cyril Edwards, (is) the most faithful one to date... the Nibelung legend is still li ttle known in the anglophone world (except to Wagnerians). But a narrative of such splendour and importance deserves a wide audience outside the walls of the academy. (Bettina Bildhauer, Times Literary Supplement)

The power and immediacy of this translation offers unparalleled insight into a forgotten world. (Editor's Choice, Good Book Guide)

A gripping tale, packed with violent incident...the poem's history is fascinating. (Editor's Choice, The Good Book Guide)

About the Author

Cyril Edwards is a Lecturer in German at St Peter's College, Oxforrd, a Senior Research Fellow of Oxford's Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, and an Honorary Research Fellow of University College London. He has published widely on the medieval lyric, Old High German, and the supernatural in medieval literature. His translations include Parzival and Titurel for Oxford World's Classics and Hartmann von Aue's Iwein or the Knight with the Lion.

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3 of 8 people found the following review helpful By M. Ives on 14 Nov. 2011
Format: Paperback
This is really an all time classic that puts the sad imitation of a film to shame.
Well written, couldn't put it down - just a simple masterpiece really.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 4 reviews
36 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Good Literal Translation 29 Mar. 2010
By Karen M. Carlson - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
When the upcoming publication of this new translation was announced, I wondered how it would compare with Hatto's translation from the 1960s. The short answer is: it is more literal, keeping closer to the sentence-for-sentence structure of the original Middle High German poem. This makes it seem perhaps a bit choppy or less polished than Hatto. That is not to say it is not as good, however; I like that it keeps very close to the original.

The introductory matter and appendices are relatively slight. The introduction briefly covers the basics, then has a couple of short sections on interesting tangents having to do with modern derivative works. In places, the introduction and appendices are a bit unclear.

The notes to specific words and lines are helpful and interesting. I would have preferred that they be presented as footnotes rather than end notes, but that is a minor quibble.

If you want to read the story, either this or Hatto's translation will serve you well. For more voluminous editorial material, get Hatto. For a more literal rendering, get this one.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
The past is a different country. 14 Jan. 2014
By Peter S. Bradley - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
This was my first go at the Nibelungenlied, and I was surprised in so very many different ways.

First, I was surprised at the story. Somehow, I had thought it would be the epic of Siegfried (or Sivrit, in this translation.) The story involves Sivrit for approximately the first half as Sivrit helps Gunther woo and win and tame Brunhilde (Prunhilt in this translation), the Queen of Iceland. Again, I was surprised because somehow I had heard of Serried and Brunhilde and had thought they were the "love interest of the story. In fact, it was Siegfief/Sivrit and Kreimhilt and Gunther and Brunhilde/Prunhilt.

After being a "guy's guy" for the first half of the story, the "hero Hagen of Tronege" is induced by Prunhilt to trick Kreimhilt into revealing the one spot that Sivrit failed to bathe in the blood of dragon (a story that happens prior to the Nibelungenlied) and then runs Sivrit through with an epic backstab that ends Sivrit's involvement in the story.

The second and major part of the story a political revenge thriller as Kreimhilt plots revenge against Hagen and his lords - her brother Gunther, the King of the Burgundians. This part of the story involves much foreshadowing as the band of Burgundian heroes travel to the land of the Huns, where Kreimhilt's waits after marrying Etzel, the heathen king of the Huns. This part of the story is filled with treachery and blood and gore and casual killing that would make Quentin Tarantino blush.

Second, I was surprised how much I enjoyed the story. The first part was a struggle for me as listening about how manly and amazing Sivrit was got old. Also, I could only take listening to how generous Sivrit was in giving away clothes and gold and the like only so often. (The author of the Nibelungenlied would have been a fashion designer if he had lived in 20th Century New York.)

On the other hand, I found myself drawn into the over-stylized, epic slaughter and betrayal in the second part, even with the ham-handed foreshadowing that promised us that "because of this many would die" at the end of most chapters (known as "Adventures" in the Nibelungenlied.)

I have read something that described the Nibelungenlied as a kind of mafia crime drama, and that seems like a good way to think of the story, particularly since the hero of the second part is really that backstabbing bastard Hagen of Tronege. One would think that murdering an epic hero good-guy like Sivrit would leave a black-mark on one's reputation as a "hero" - and Hagen makes no bones about murdering Sivrit and flaunting the sword that he took off of Sivrit's corpse before Kreimhilt - but a bold and dashing hero Hagen is and remains throughout the story.

Third, the story reads as a fascinating demonstration of how different - and unChristian - our medieval ancestors were. There are occasional references to the fact that the Burgundians are Christian, particularly when Kreimhilt weighs whether she should marry the heathen Etzel. But aside from that, there really is no Christian religion or mores in the Nibelungenlied. The one mention of a priest comes with an attempt by Hagen to murder him in order to test the prediction of a water sprite.

The mores of the Nibelugenlied seem pagan. The great virtue is a kind of "potlatch" generosity, as a great leader shows his greatness by giving away vast amounts of treasure. Loyalty to the lord and war band may be a virtue, but loyalty to friends - as shown in the example of Rudiger's moral conflict about betraying the Burgundians (or Nibelungens, as they are dubbed by this point in the story) because he was their host and had given them rich gifts.

More obvious is the cruel and amoral behavior that these people apparently held up as either normative or, at least, not particularly note-worthy. Hagen and Sivrit are friends, but because Kreimhilt and Prunhilt have a spat about whether Sivrit deflowered Prunhilt, Hagen decides to murder Sivrit. Gunther - the beneficiary of Sivrit's many generosities - goes along with this plan. Rather than confronting Sivrit directly - which would obviously be folly - Hagen slams a javelin into Sivrit's back when he is stooping for a drink of water.

We moderns would view that as a major character flaw, and we would be looking for some sign of remorse or come-uppance on the part of Hagen. Failing that, we would not feel that Hagen was a particularly sympathetic character. But, apparently this was not how our medieval ancestors felt. Hagen was, in essence, a "Rock Star" of the age - a noble warrior hero - and lesser mortals did not judge him but, rather, aspired to be like him, or at least to get a share in the hand-outs of phellel-silk and red gold and sumptuous clothes. Given our modern ability to forgive the crimes of our modern celebrities - think about Roman Polanski getting a lifetime achievement award thirty years after fleeing a 90 day jail sentence for sodomizing of a thirteen year old girl - and perhaps we don't have that much to feel superior to them about.

Another point is to note the primitive nature of the story-telling craft displayed in the Nibelungenlied. Sivrit is two-dimensional, at best, and the author has a "tell-don't show" style. There are a lot of asides about how things are just too good for the poet to even attempt to describe. The author lathers the dramatic foreshadowing as if his audience hasn't been paying attention. Long story short, we've come a long way in the craft of writing...however, even as a sophisticated modern, I found myself ultimately sucked into the story, finding in myself a keen desire to find out what would happen next.

It's worth reading the Nibelungenlied from the standpoint of getting something of an inside view of that culture, which is like but not like ours. On which point, there is a scene in the Nibelungenlied where Kreimhilt discovers that Hagen murdered Sivrit. This moment occurs when Sivrit's corpse begins to bleed in the presence of Hagen.

I found this interesting because in Trent 1475: Stories of a Ritual Murder Trial by R. Po-chia Hsia, the authorities use a similar technique to assign blame to the Jews accused of murdering Simon of Trent. The Nibelugenlied was composed in written format in 1200, and, so, we see almost 300 years later, the survival of this bit of Germanic folklore.

This copy of the book included some very helpful material explaining the significance of the Nibelungenlied and its origin and variations in other sagas. There were some good notes - albeit I could have used more - that were hyperlinked for easy access. These notes were extremely useful in pointing out aspects of the story that I would have completely missed.

One final point, I comletely missed how the term "Nibelungs" went from referring to dwarves in a land conquered by Sivrit to referring to the Burgundians. Perhaps it happened with the transfer of the "hoard of the Nibelungs" from the land of the Nibelungs to the possession of Gunther and Hagen - through yet another ruse perpetrated against the multiply-afflicted Kreimhilt. Perhaps the name follows the hoard? That was never cleared up for me, but it seems important since it seems that the "song of the Nibelungs" is referring to the Burgundians and not the dwarves.
Interesting. 11 Jun. 2014
By J. Bowles - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Old German fables, poetry, tales of olde. Interesting lore. It is from another age and probably something you might read along while reading other books. It is pretty easy to read considering how old it is.
I highly recommend it! 14 Sept. 2013
By Anna A. Grotans - Published on
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
Excellent translation! Extremely accurate and easily accessible for a modern audience, yet also giving a good feel for the original text.
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