There are several variations of the medieval legend of Siegfried and the accursed treasure of the Nibelungs, from Norse mythology to Wagner’s four-part opera. But across these many versions, some things never change: it always ends in tragedy, and the Burgundian warrior Hagen von Tronje (or Högni) plays a significant role in it.
Hagen von Tronje’s reputation varies. He is a cold-hearted villain in Siegfried’s story, but in the standards of contemporary German warriors he is also considered a hero. And the city of Worms in Germany is quite possibly the only place in the world that holds a statue dedicated to this particular figure.
In the 13th-century epic poem Nibelungenlied, the dragon-slaying hero Siegfried visits Worms to marry the Burgundian princess Kriemhild. He is promised the princess’ hand in marriage on one condition: that he help her brother, King Gunther, win the heart of Brünhild, the warrior-queen of Iceland. Siegfried succeeds in his goal, but causes a bitter rivalry between Kriemhild and Brünhild, resulting in his assassination by the king’s most loyal vassal: Hagen von Tronje. Hagen proceeds to steal the Nibelung hoard from Kriemhild and dump it into the Rhine.
This iconic scene marks the climax of Act I of the poem, to which Wagner’s famous Das Rheingold refers. The German sculptor Johannes Hirt made a bronze statue of this moment, which has stood in the city park of Bürgerweide since 1905. Called the “Hagendenkmal,” or Hagen Statue, it commemorates the city’s association with the Nibelungenlied.