11 of 12 people found the following review helpful
From Attila to Tolkien,
This review is from: The Nibelungenlied (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Wagner's operas and Tolkien's tales are modern incarnations of legends that have evolved in the European consciousness for centuries, in much the same way as the Arthurian cycle of stories. The Nibelungenlied (Song of the Nibelungs), which dates from around 1200 CE and probably originated in Austria, is one of the best known and most significant versions of those legends. It takes as its main theme the life and death of the hero Siegfried and the revenge of his widow Kriemhild. It also incorporates characters and events based on the lives of Atilla the Hun and Theodoric the Great.
This is a valuable insight into how literature evolved in Medieval Europe. If you are a Wagner or Tolkien fan, or a lover of epic fantasy, you will want to read it, both for historical interest and for the beauty and strangeness of some of the imagery. The inconsistencies in its plot and characterizations are a consequence of the poet trying to merge contradictory sources and also to present a version of pagan legends that would be acceptable to a Christian audience. The result is sometimes awkward but always interesting.
A.T Hatto's Penguin edition is definitely the one to get. There is a brief forward, then the story itself, and then more than 100 pages of editorial, giving you a glossary of character's names, the history of the poem, etc, etc. Probably more than you ever wanted to know about medieval German literature. (Although, having said that, it is odd that there is no mention of the Volsung Saga, which is really needed to complete the picture).
This is a lively, readable and authoritative prose translation. If, like me, your medieval German is less than fluent and likely to remain so, then this is the version to read.