"Mit (un)lobelichen êren": Authority, Gender, and the Cause of Siegfried's Death in the Nibelungenlied

Casey Alexis McCreary, University of Colorado

Abstract

Although centuries have passed since the Nibelungenlied has been written, this text continues to provoke much debate amongst scholars. This thesis dissects the events leading up to the death of Siegfried in order to answer the question: why did Siegfried die? Through the use of medieval gender theory according to Thomas Laqueur and authority models, such as Max Weber's charismatic and traditional authorities, this thesis shows that these competing views of authority and morality lead to a necessary end for Siegfried. It is further shown that characters within the Nibelungenlied are often cast within rigid archetypes, despite their more complex principles. Gunther is not the rex iniquus that he is often claimed to be, and Brünhild cannot be reduced down to being a tíuvéles wîp. Through these findings (and through sources describing medieval culture and law), a sense moral reception of the Nibelungenlied emerges.