A new verse translation of the great German epic poem that inspired Wagner's Ring Cycle and J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings No poem in German literature is so well known and studied in Germany and Europe as the 800-year-old Das Nibelungenlied. In the English-speaking world, however, the poem has remained little known, languishing without an adequate translation. This wonderful new translation by eminent translator Burton Raffel brings the epic poem to life in English for the first time, rendering it in verse that does full justice to the original High Middle German. His translation underscores the formal aspects of the poem and preserves its haunting beauty. Often called the German lliad, Das Nibelungenlied is a heroic epic both national in character and sweeping in scope. The poem moves inexorably from romance through tragedy to holocaust. It portrays the existential struggles and downfall of an entire people, the Burgundians, in a military conflict with the Huns and their king. In his foreword to the book, Michael Dirda observes that the story "could be easily updated to describe the downfall of a Mafia crime family, something like The Godfather, with swords." The tremendous appeal of Das Nibelungenlied throughout the nineteenth and twentieth centuries is reflected in such works as Richard Wagner's opera tetralogy Der Ring des Nibelungen, Fritz Lang's two-part film Die Nibelungen, and, more recently, J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.
On the negative side, I really hated reading it. None of the characters were particularly sympathetic. Siegfried was an ass and I wanted him dead even before he raped Brunhild. Kriemhild had potential, but I never understood her selfish/selfless devotion to Siegfried (because he was an ass). At first, Brunhild was kind of awesome in a Xena Warrior Princess sort of way, but after she was tricked/forced into marriage with Gunther she became surprisingly malicious. I still found her to be an interesting protagonist, but then she completely disappeared in the second half. I actually kind of liked Hagen in the first part, probably because he was conspiring against Siegfried (who was an ass), but in the second part where we're supposed to recognize Hagen's heroic qualities, he seemed like a completely horrible person.
Which all probably just goes to show how much the idea of heroism and morality has changed over the past millennium, so I'm glad I read this in the sense that I learned a lot. However, I can't ever see myself reading it again or recommending to anyone (unless they're really into gender studies or medieval history).
I don't know if it was the way it is written, or the time, or just the strange use of language, but it was hard for me to actually understand a good part of the book.
The plot though, it's interesting, a little unfair towards the female part of it, but interesting after all.