Hagen and Siegfried – Symbols of the Self

We see in ‘Dark Age Heroes’ two central characters that hold the story together: they are of course the “noble” Siegfried and the “wild” Hagen. These two characters dominate the story not only due to their power and prowess but also because they represent, at a deep level, different states of being that interact within the human self. Siegfried is often described in spiritual or deified language: the “immortal” and he is literally charmed with invulnerability. He is morally righteous and sometimes acts instinctively. He is symbolic of the higher elevated self, as a spiritual person I would quantify him probably as the ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ of the human being, due to his indestructible quality. However psychologists may prefer the Freudian term Super Ego. Hagen represents the Id, the darker internal beast that lurks within. The frequent allusions to animals and bestial behaviour in his descriptions and actions throughout the novel underline this association. Indeed in ‘Dark Age Heroes’ Hildebrand remarks after Hagen utters a battle-cry: “That sound was made by a human being, how can you be sure?” He is highly destructive and eventually his destructive nature reaches the point where it is unleashed on Siegfried. The metaphor here is truly that the darkness within consumes the spirit, however, as the spirit is immortal: even in death the body of Siegfried chokes with blood in identification of the murderer.

 Hagen, as a destructive individual, brings about a cycle of death and bloodshed which not only brings doom upon his friends, but also massive damage on a cataclysmic scale to the lands of the East. In the words of the original poem of ‘The Nibelungenlied’: “Christian and heathen, wife, man and maid were seen weeping and mourning…Let the dead lie.” As we see Hagen’s ‘Id’ like quality causes his destruction to branch out and bring about the fall of others who had much hope and potential, such as Giselher who is engaged to marry Dietlind upon his return: “Even as he drove his sword again and again into men’s guts…he thought only of Dietlind.” a grotesque and yet powerfully romantic image. However, what could have been a budding relationship that benefitted Worms is cut short by Hagen’s detrimental attack. It is he who initiates the fighting with the Huns in the Church when he bellows: “To hell with this!”

 All in all Dark Age Heroes is a story of people, and Siegfried is a powerful force of good, if he had lived then no tragedy could have occurred, which is why he has to die. As in Romeo and Juliet the awesome Mercutio must perish before the true darkness can commence. With the death of the spirit, comes utter annihilation…


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