There are two Theodorics in Gregory of Tours's history - the king of the Visigoths, and the king of the Ostrogoths, both of whom lived in the fifth century. One of them, or perhaps it took parts of both, became in legend Dietrich Von Bern, the man who Kriemhild asks to avenge Siegfried by killing Hagen in The Song of the Nibelungs.
The Song of the Nibelungs is like Beowulf in which there is a powerful and noble warrior famed for his deeds as well as his dragon. Like Beowulf, certain characters in the story were people who were confirmed to have existed like Attila the Hun, called Etzel in this story. This is where the subject becomes larger than I can cover in one half page of writing - identifying and discussing the other people in the Nibelunglied who have a place in history and their mutation into the subjects of fable. The Nibelungs are also known by another more recognizable name: Burgundians.
Details about the other Theodoric may have crept into the legend of Dietrich because it was he that fought Attila the Hun at the Battle of the Fields of Cataluanian, called that in Jordanes's history but named as the Fields of Moirey by Gregory. This Theodoric died in the battle, which strongly calls to mind the death of Theoden in the Battle of the Pelennor Fields. He is notable for another reason and that is that he is the son and heir of Alaric, the Visigoth whose sacking of Rome in 410 A.D. heralded the beginning of the period we call the Middle Ages.
The Ostrothic Theodoric had a daughter Araigna, who he married to Sigismund, the King of Burgundy. Araigna resembles in no way the name of Kriemhild but the father of the legendary Siegfried is called Siegmund. Since there is no standard spelling for names and things; spelling varies a great deal depending on the writer at this time. However the Nibelungenlied calls this Siegmund 'King of the Netherlands' and his son Siegfried is born in Xanten along the Rhine, now part of Germany. To this I would add that Clovis's queen, Clotild, was a Burgundian princess and the history of the Merovinians may have been added to the soup.
Gregory had little to say about either Theodoric. To know more, you have to turn to Jordanes's The Origins and Deeds of the Goths, a book written around 551 A.D. probably in Constantinople. It is a summary of a multi-volume work by the scholar Cassiodorus in the service and at the court of Dietrich. The history written by Cassiodorus is lost and all that remains now is the summary written by Jordanes as a favor to a friend.
If you wonder what happened to many of these books, look no further than the book burners at the Catholic Church. "What has Ingeld to do with Christ?" was the famous pronouncement of Alcuin of York. the Church burned many a book that they deemed was not suitably Christian in nature. St. Patrick of Ireland himself destroyed 71 books! I find it ironic that a man, whose life is so celebrated in Ireland, did so much to destroy its culture and heritage. I cannot bring myself to drink green beer anymore since I read about this in a preface to a book by Peter Berresford Ellis.
I am stopping here but there clearly is more to say on the topic of both Theodorics.
Beatles Song of the Week
"Fuit viginti anni abhinc hodie,
Centurion Piper docuit symphoria ludere,
Agebant interior et exterior moris,
Sed sponsi sunt subrisum tollere.
Tunc licet ad vos tradere,
Actores sciebatis pro omnibus his annis,
Centurion Piperi Cordum Solitariorum Symphonia."