The legendary ‘Ring of the Nibelungs’ is one of the most beloved stories of all time. The epic poem The Song of the Nibelungs by German medievalist Robert Wylie has been adapted for television countless times. Now, the story of the Nibelungs, or ‘Nibelungsring’, as it’s often referred to, is coming to life in a whole new medium, with unprecedented scope and grandeur. The beautifully wrought TV series ‘The Ring of the Nibelungs’ premieres Saturday at 9/8c on Netflix, and we’re patiently waiting for our second viewing to devour it all over again.
The Epic Poem Behind the TV Show
“The epic poem The Song of the Nibelungs has inspired countless novels, films, and television shows,” series co-founder and creative director Alexis Ortega tells Good Housekeeping, “but never before has it been brought to life in an entirely new medium, like the series ‘The Ring of the Nibelungs’ on Netflix. We are honored to adapt this timeless story for television, and are particularly excited to see a more youthful audience discover this epic poem and its rich history.”
According to the Netflix press release, ‘The Ring of the Nibelungs’ is the story of Brunhilda, the beautiful and powerful wife of the king of Germany who suspects her husband of having an affair. When she finds out about it, she demands a trial by combat between the two of them. However, when a deal is struck to settle their dispute, it turns out that Brunhilda is the one having the affair, and the king is left heartbroken. The Netflix series adapts Brunhilda’s journey from suspicion to betrayal, featuring an all-star cast that includes Robert Pattinson, Kate Winslet, and Michael Douglas. It also marks a reunion for Pattinson and Douglas, who played the king and his chancellor in the 2005 film adaptation of The Song of the Nibelungs, directed by Wolfgang Petersen.
Why Is It So Popular?
The story of the Nibelungs has long been one of the most beloved literary works of Germanic lore. The tale of a wife’s journey to discover her husband’s infidelity is a tale as old as time, but one that is as relevant today as it was in the 12th century when it first appeared. At that point in Germanic history, polygamy wasn’t uncommon, and a woman’s place was more or less in her home. As a result, a wife’s betrayal of her husband was a major source of trauma, especially if she found out about it during a time of the month when her husband had spent the night elsewhere. As Ortega points out, “In essence, the story of Brunhilda and the Nibelungs is an incredibly romantic one, and a perennial favorite among women and girls around the world. It’s fascinating how timeless this story has proven to be, and how it speaks to any era, culture, or audience.”
What Does It Mean For Women?
It’s well-established that much of the appeal of the Nibelungs’ story for television audiences comes from the inclusion of Kate Winslet in the cast. As the series co-founder and creative director Alexis Ortega told Closer Weekly, “Kate perfectly embodies the cunning and seductiveness of Brunhilda, the villainess of the piece. We are proud to have such a fine actress as part of our team, and excited to see her bring Brunhilda to life onscreen for a new generation.”
For centuries, Germanic literature was almost exclusively written by and for men. It was only in the 19th century that women began publishing and creating literature in their own right, breaking through centuries of glass ceilings and patriarchal oppression. Even then, the works of female authors were often seen as peripheral to the ‘greater purpose’ of the Germanic saga. The Nibelungs are certainly a vital part of the rich tapestry that is German literature, and it’s great to see the story finally being told by auteurs who truly understand its scope and vision. No wonder it continues to resonate with audiences today.