The disrupted dinner in the Nibelungenlied: The development of a tragedy in the heroic context, reflected in the metaphors of the hunt, the kitchen, the dinner preparations, quenched fires, and spoiled banquets

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This article demonstrates that a focus on metaphors based on food, food preparation, the dinner, etc. in the interpretation of the Nibelungenlied offers intriguing anthropological perspectives pertaining to the performance of the protagonist Siegfried in the first part of the epic, and of the Burgundians in the second part. Food strongly reflects a specific stage in a society's cultural development, and illustrates to what extent there is a sense of community and mutual respect. As the Nibelungenlied indicates, parallel to many other medieval texts, semiotics of food played a significant role both in the heroic and in the courtly world as indicator of the disruption and ultimately destruction of the entire community. For instance, whereas Siegfried foolishly ridicules the Burgundians during the hunt, Hagen uses the lack of wine as the ingenious ploy to set up a trap for the protagonist and to kill him. But in the second part we also observe that the Burgundians' Armageddon is anticipated in the disorderly, subsequently even murderous banquet set-up. As the anonymous poet indicates, the disrespect of food and its entire semantic context signals fundamental fissures within society.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-397
Number of pages17
JournalNeuphilologische Mitteilungen
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 1 2007


ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Linguistics and Language

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