A long time ago, in a land near the ocean, there lived a king called Sigeband. He was a very rich and powerful king and had many knights in his army.
Often he held tournaments, so that his knights might show their skill in the use of sword and spear and battle-ax.
Once he held a tournament that lasted a week. Hagen, the king’s little son, who was some day to be king of the land, ran about among the horses and knights.
He looked at the sharp swords and shining armor. He heard the jingling of the golden spurs. He saw the gay plumes on the helmets and wished that he too were a man.
He patted the shining coats of the war-horses and was never tired looking at them.
One day he forgot to follow the men into the palace. There was a feast that day, and no one saw that the little boy had not come in.
The king and queen sat at the middle of the table. On either hand sat long rows of knights. All were jesting and laughing.
Suddenly the windows were darkened as if a cloud had come over the sun. A roar that shook the palace sounded through the air.
Out rushed the knights with their swords in their hands. The king and queen followed them. They saw that a huge griffin was carrying away the little prince.
It was too late to do anything. The brave knights could only look after the little Hagen.
The king and queen went away sadly because they never expected to see their son again. The griffin carried Hagen to an island far out in the ocean and gave him to its young ones for food.
As one of the young griffins hopped about in a tree it dropped the little boy. He hid in the bushes and the griffins could not find him.
At night he found a cave. In the cave there were three maidens who had been carried away by the griffin.
They were older than Hagen, and took care of him until he was old enough to take care of them.
One day while the griffins were away, Hagen went down to the sea-shore. There he found that a ship had been wrecked.
A dead knight lay upon the sand. Hagen took off the knight’s armor and put it upon himself.
Just as he picked up the sword he heard a roar and saw the old griffin coming.
But he struck the griffin so hard with the sword that it fell dead. Very soon he slew the other griffins.
Then he and the maidens went down to the shore and watched all day for a ship. After a long time a ship came for water.
At first the sailors were afraid to land. They thought the three maidens were mermaids because they were dressed in seaweed.
Hagen begged them to come ashore and showed them the armor and the sword. Then they were not afraid.
The commander of the ship gave them beautiful clothes when he heard that their fathers were kings. But he was at war with Hagen’s father. So he wished to keep the young man prisoner.
Hagen ordered the sailors to sail to his home. They refused, and Hagen threw thirty of them into the sea.
Then the commander let him have his own way.
When Hagen came into his father’s palace, his mother knew him at once by a little mark on his neck.
Then King Sigeband made a great feast because his son had come back. The doors of the palace stood wide open, so that any one who wished might come.
Soon Hagen was made knight. One of the girls who had been on the island became his wife.
When King Sigebancl grew old and died, Hagen was king.
Hagen had one daughter called Hilde. She was the most beautiful girl in the world. Every knight who saw her wished her for his wife.
But Hagen did not think any one good enough. Every one who came had to fight with Hagen. He was the strongest man in the land and he overcame them all.
Hetel, who was king of the Hegelings, heard of Hilde’s beauty and wished her for his queen.
He called his vassals, Horant and Prut, from their homes and told them his wish. They told him to send for the wise old warrior, Wat of Sturmland.
When Wat found that Hetel was willing to have him risk his life in a fight with Hagen, he was angry and would not go.
By Frut’s advice they built a large ship. In the hold they hid armed men and sailed to Hagen’s kingdom.
When they came to that country they showed the costly goods they had brought, and people thought they were merchants.
They sent Hagen a war-horse as a gift. To the queen and the princess they sent silks and jewels.
The queen called them into the palace to thank them. There they saw the beautiful princess Hilde.
After that they were permitted to stay in the palace.
One evening Horant sang. So sweet was his voice, that the night had passed before they knew it.
When the sun rose, the birds were quiet to hear him. The cattle left their pasture and came into the palace yard. The fish swam to the edge of the fountain.
The next day Hilde called the young man to sing to her alone. Then he told her that King Hetel wished her for his wife.
Hilde said she would go if Horant promised to sing to her every day. Horant told her that King Hetel had twelve better singers than he was, and that the king could sing most sweetly of all.
In a short time the knights were ready to go back to their own country.
Wat went to King Hagen to say good-bye. He asked the king to let Hilde go on board the ship before they started. This the king allowed, because he never refused his daughter anything.
Everything was ready. As soon as Hilde was on board, they set sail.
Swiftly they sailed, but Hagen followed them as swiftly. The day after they landed Hagen’s ships came in sight.
Hetel’s army went down to the shore to meet them. Hagen was so angry that he sprang into the water and all his army followed him.
A fierce battle was fought. Both the kings were wounded. Then Hilde begged them to stop fighting, and they became friends for hersake.
King Hetel had two children, a boy and a girl. The boy was called Ortwein and the girl Gudrun.
Gudrun was even more beautiful than her mother. King Hetel would not allow her to become the wife of any king in all that land. He thought no one was good enough for her.
Three kings, Siegfried of Moorland, Herwig of Seeland, and Hartmut of Normandy, came to ask for her. King Hetel refused them all.
Herwig returned to his home, but he came back to Hetel’s kingdom with three thousand knights. A battle was fought by the castle gate. Hetel and Herwig fought hand to hand.
Gudrun saw the fight from her window. She ran out and begged the two kings not to kill each other.
For her sake they became friends. Hetel promised to give Gudrun to Herwig.
As soon as Siegfried of Moorland heard of this, he gathered an army and went to Herwig’ s kingdom.
When Herwig could fight no longer, he sent to Hetel for help.
King Hetel went with his army and left only a few knights to guard the castle.
Hartmut of Normandy heard of this and came to Hetel’s kingdom with a great army.
They captured Gudrun and carried her to Normandy, with sixty of her maidens.
Hilde sent word to Hetel. Very soon he set sail to Normandy with all his warriors.
Hartmut’s army came down to meet them. A battle was fought on the sea-shore. So many men were slain that the waves were red with blood.
At last Hetel was killed. The Hegelings went back to their own land sadly, and left Gudrun in Normandy.
The knights went to their homes, but they did not forget that their princess had been carried away and their king killed. Gudrun lived in the castle with Hartmut’s mother, but she would not be Hartmut’s wife.
After a time Hartmut’s mother grew angry and did not treat her as a princess.
Gudrun was made to do work like a servant. All the maidens who were taken with her were set to spinning flax and weaving cloth.
Gudrun swept the floors and made the fires. For thirteen years she did this work, but she would not be Hartmut’s wife.
By that time the boys in Hetel’s kingdom had grown to be men. Wat of Sturmland led another army against King Hartmut.
Gudrun was down at the sea-shore washing clothes. As she worked, a beautiful bird swam to her. The bird sang of the great army that was coming to take her home.
When Gudrun went to the castle that night, the queen scolded her because the work was not all done.
Next morning the ground was white with snow, but the queen sent Gudrun to the sea-shore to finish the washing.
Soon she saw her brother and Herwig coming in a boat. The two men did not know her.
They were surprised to see so beautiful a maiden doing such work.
They asked her name and who dared treat her so. She answered that she was one of the maidens King Hartmut had carried away from the land of the Hegelings.
At this the young men’s eyes filled with tears to see a maiden of their own land standing barefoot in the snow.
When Gudrun saw the tears in their eyes, she told them who she really was. Herwig wanted to take her away at once, hut Ortwein would not let him.
He told Gudrun to go back to the castle and wait till they came with the army.
Gudrun threw the clothes into the sea. The queen saw her coming back without them, and sent a servant to whip her with a rod. But Gudrun said she was ready to be Hartmut’s wife. Then beautiful dresses were given to Gudrun and her maidens.
Hartmut sent his best knights away to ask people to come to the wedding.
Herwig and Ortwein went back to the army and told what they had seen. The Hegelings were so angry that they would not wait for daylight, but set off at once.
Early in the morning Gudrun looked out and saw the sun shining on the armor just outside the castle-wall.
Soon the Norman knights were ready. They rode out with Hartmut and his father at the head.
Then old Wat of Sturmland blew his bugle so loud that it was heard for thirty miles around and the battle began.
Hartmut’s father was slain. Old Wat cut his way through the knights to Hartmut. Hartmut fought for his life, but old Wat was the stronger.
Hartmut’s sister, who had always been kind to Gudrun, looked out and saw that her brother would be killed.
She ran to Gudrun and begged her to save his life. Gudrun called Herwig to ask Wat to spare Hartmut’s life.
Wat struck Herwig for asking, but he stopped fighting and took Hartmut prisoner.
Then the queen threw herself at Gudrun’s feet and begged to be saved from Wat. But Wat cut her head off with his sword.
When Gudrun reached home her mother was standing on the shore waiting for her. Soon she became Herwig’s wife.
The queen sent Hartmut back to his own land. But his sister, who had always been kind to Gudrun, stayed in the land of the Hegelings.