Meantime Der Ring des Nibelungen was rapidly approaching completion, and on the 13th of August 1876 the introductory portion, Das Rheingold, was performed at Bayreuth for the first time as part of the great whole, followed on the 14th by Die Walkiire, on the 16th by Siegfried and on the 17th by Geitterdiimmerung.
In the north, indeed, the name Grimhildr continued to have a purely mythical character and to be applied only to daemonic beings; but in Germany, the original home of the Nibelungen myth, it certainly lost all trace of this significance, and in the Nibelungenlied Kriemhild is no more than a beautiful princess, the daughter of King Dancrat and Queen Uote, and sister of the Burgundian kings Gunther, Giselher and Gernot, the masters of the Nibelungen hoard.
The story of Siegfried in Richard Wagner's famous opera-cycle Der Ring der Nibelungen is mainly taken from the northern version; but many features, especially the characterization of Hagen, are borrowed from the German story, as is also the episode of Siegfried's murder in the forest.
As she appears in the Nibelungen legend, however, Kriemhild would seem to have an historical origin, as the wife of Attila, king of the Huns, as well as sister of the Nibelung kings.
Herr Abeling's theory of the sources of the Nibelungen story is one among many; but, as it is one of the latest and not the least ingenious, it deserves mention.
His Gedichte (1837), if anything, increased his reputation; his epics, Die Nibelungen inn Frack (1843) and Der Pfaff vom Kahlenberg (1850), are characterized by a fine ironic humour.
Gudrun is composed in stanzas similar to those of the Nibelungenlied, but with the essential difference that the last line of each stanza is identical with the others, and does not contain the extra accented syllable characteristic of the Nibelungen metre.
It is only of late years that criticism has tended to revert to the standpoint of Muller and Leichtlen and to recognize in the story of the Nibelungen as a whole a misty and confused tradition of real events and people.
But with Der Ring des Nibelungen Wagner devoted himself to a story which any ordinary dramatist would find as unwieldy as, for instance, most of Shakespeare's subjects; a story in which ordinary canons of taste and probability were violated as they are in real life and in great art.
The first plan of building a new theatre for the purpose in Munich itself was rejected, because Wagner rightly felt that the appeal of his advanced works, like the Nibelungen trilogy, would be far stronger if the comparatively small number of people who wished to hear them were removed from the distractions of a large capital; Bayreuth possessed the desired seclusion, being on a line of railway that could not be approached from any quarter without changing.