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Shift of Loyalty From the Gods to the Queen – The Transition of Germanic Culture to a Courtly Christian Culture

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  • Category: Loyalty

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Song of the Nibelungen

There was a cultural change due to the shift from the Germanic Warrior culture to a Courtlier culture which helped assimilate the German culture into the elite class. However, there were still some aspects of Germanic warrior ethos found in the courtly culture. This can be seen in Nibelungenlied, which translates to the “Song of Nibuelungen”. This was a piece written in around 1205 by an anonymous author which became very popular during the middle ages. The narrative describes the shift of the Germanic Warrior culture to Courtly culture through the plot and the action of the characters in the “Song of Nibeulungen”.

The Germanic Warrior culture was more barbaric than the Courtly Christian culture. The courtly culture was a very new concept for people to understand because it exemplified the elite. The Germanic culture were living as an individual tribe that lacked sophistication, while the Courtly culture would assimilate into with the elite class. In addition, the Courtly culture also thought that beauty and sex were very important. It usually involved the Germanic Warrior being loyal to his wife or in the case of Nibelungenlied, a queen. The shift of loyalty from gods to a queen was due to shift of Germanic warrior culture to Courtly Christian culture during that time. For example, in the Nibelungenlied, this is shown through the relationship between Brunhild, and Tronje who is her loyal knight. The whole Epic is based on the idea of loyalty, which was the ultimate virtue in the Germanic Warrior culture. Siegfied broke his loyalty with his wife Kriemhild by sleeping with Brunhild, which caused Kriemhild’s brother to murder him. Kriemhild decides to plot revenge to avenge the death of her husband. So, she decides to marry Attila, who was the king of the Hund, to maintain her power. She invites Brunhild to her Atill’as Court. Brunhild accepts the invitation and brings his knight Hagen with him. Hagen knows that he won’t make back home, but without any hesitation or doubt follows his queens’ orders. This was the idea that Germanic warriors always followed. This was the idea of Ragnarok which was the final battle which certain doom was inevitability coming. Ragnarok was a myth that played a very important rule in the Germanic warrior ethos. However, the popularity of Ninelungenlied diminished eventually, until the Holy Roman Empire collapsed, and it became a tool of hope for Germans in a dark time in German history.

Napoleon led the French to victory over the Prussian forces in 1806, which ultimately led to the fall of the Holy Roman Empire. This was a very dark time for Germany. However, the Nibelungenlied was resurrected around this time to give the German people a sense of hope and remind the German people about their rich history. It helped give the people of Germany hope, but also helped unite the distraught Germans. Sadly, it was also used as a tool to personify racial purity. In 1812, a famous literacy scholar named August Wilhelm Schegel convinced people that Nibelungenlied should be taught in schools. The goal was to teach young German children about the rich history of their ancestors. However, they were taught a rather skewed version which exaggerated racially driven beliefs. A century later, during World War I, the Nibelungenlied was revived once again. The German army used it as a way to teach how they wanted their soldiers to act during battle. It was used to show German soldiers the virtues of loyalty and being fearless of death during battle. It’s unclear to say whether the historical tale influenced the soldiers to fight harder, but the political heads still enforced the tale heavily. Throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, not everybody who supported the Nibelungenlied were Nazis, however, the mission to try and return Germany to their former glory days ultimately lead to the creation of the Nazi party.

The Nibelungenlied helped shift in the Germanic culture in the medieval ages and continued to be a major influence during the time up to World War II. The shift from the Germanic warrior culture to the Courtly culture helped give the German people become more sophistication. However, most importantly, the Courtly culture made sure to keep some of the Germanic warrior ethos with them instead of taking them all away. There are even traces of the ethos visible in recent events as recent as World War II, where the Germans did not give up in battle even though defeat was inevitable, just like how the fallen warriors fought a losing battle in which they knew they were going to lose to keep honor and respect in Ragnarök.

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