Book: Famous Men of the Middle Ages
Author: John Henry Haaren





Famous Men of the Middle Ages By John Henry Haaren

Format: Global Grey free PDF, epub, Kindle ebook
Pages (PDF): 134
Publication Date: 1904

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Summary:

This book contains short biographies of famous men from the middle ages such as: Alaric The Visigoth; Attila The Hun; Justinian The Great; Mohammed; Charlemagne; William The Conqueror; Canute The Great; Robert Bruce; Marco Polo, and many more. Aimed at older children, but still holds many interesting facts that will entertain adult readers too.



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Excerpt:

I

THE time came when the people of Western Europe learned to believe in one God and were converted to Christianity, but the old stories about the gods and Valkyries and giants and heroes, who were half gods and half men, were not forgotten.

These stories were repeated from father to son for generations, and in the twelfth century a poet, whose name we do not know, wrote them in verse. He called his poem the Nibelungenlied (song of the Nibelungs). It is the great national poem of the Germans. The legends told in it are the basis of Wagner's operas.

"Nibelungs" was the name given to some northern dwarfs whose king had once possessed a great treasure of gold and precious stones but had lost it. Whoever got possession of this treasure was followed by a curse. The Nibelungenlied tells the adventures of those who possessed the treasure.

II

IN the grand old city of Worms, in Burgundy, there lived long ago the princess Kriemhilda. Her eldest brother Gunther was king of Burgundy.

And in the far-away Netherlands, where the Rhine pours its waters into the sea, dwelt a prince named Siegfried, son of Siegmund, the king.

Ere long Sir Siegfried heard of the beauty of fair Kriemhilda. He said to his father, "Give me twelve knights and I will ride to King Gunther's land. I must win the heart of Kriemhilda."

After seven days' journey the prince and his company drew near to the gates of Worms. All wondered who the strangers were and whence they came. Hagen, Kriemhilda's uncle, guessed.

He said, "I never have seen the famed hero of Netherlands, yet I am sure that yonder knight is none but Sir Siegfried."

"And who," asked the wondering people, "may Siegfried be?"

"Siegfried," answered Sir Hagen, "is a truly wonderful knight. Once when riding all alone, he came to a mountain where lay the treasure of the king of the Nibelungs. The king's two sons had brought it out from the cave in which it had been hidden, to divide it between them. But they did not agree about the division. So when Seigfied drew near both princes said, 'Divide for us, Sir Siegfried, our father's hoard.' There were so many jewels that one hundred wagons could not carry them, and of ruddy gold there was even more. Seigfied made the fairest division he could, and as a reward the princes gave him their father's sword called Balmung. But although Siegfried had done his best to satisfy them with his division, they soon fell to quarreling and fighting, and when he tried to separate them they made an attack on him. To save his own life he slew them both. Alberich, a mountain dwarf, who had long been guardian of the Nibelung hoard, rushed to avenge his masters; but Siegfried vanquished him and took from him his cap of darkness which made its wearer invisible and gave him the strength of twelve men. The hero then ordered Alberich to place the treasure again in the mountain cave and guard it for him."

Hagen then told another story of Siegfried:

"Once he slew a fierce dragon and bathed himself in its blood, and this turned the hero's skin to horn, so that no sword or spear can wound him."

When Hagen had told these tales he advised King Gunther and the people of Burgundy to receive Siegfried with all honor.

So, as the fashion was in those times, games were held in the courtyard of the palace in honor of Siegfried, and Kriemhilda watched the sport from her window.

For a full year Siegfried stayed at the court of King Gunther, but never in all that time told why he had come and never once saw Kriemhilda.

At the end of the year sudden tidings came that the Saxons and Danes, as was their habit, were pillaging the lands of Burgundy. At the head of a thousand Burgundian knights Siegfried conquered both Saxons and Danes. The king of the Danes was taken prisoner and the Saxon king surrendered.

The victorious warriors returned to Worms and the air was filled with glad shouts of welcome. King Gunther asked Kriemhilda to welcome Siegfried and offer him the thanks of all the land of Burgundy.

Siegfried stood before her, and she said, "Welcome, Sir Siegfried, welcome; we thank you one and all." He bent before her and she kissed him.

III

FAR over the sea from sunny Burgundy lived Brunhilda, queen of Iceland. Fair was she of face and strong beyond compare. If a knight would woo and win her he must surpass her in three contests: leaping, hurling the spear and pitching the stone. If he failed in even one, he must forfeit his life.

King Gunther resolved to wed this strange princess and Siegfried promised to help him. "But," said Siegfried, "if we succeed, I must have as my wife thy sister Kriemhilda." To this Gunther agreed, and the voyage to Iceland began.

When Gunther and his companions neared Brunhilda's palace the gates were opened and the strangers were welcomed.

Siegfried thanked the queen for her kindness and told how Gunther had come to Iceland in hope of winning her hand.