There doesn't seem to be one dominant story about the origin of bagels, though a common thread weaves through them all. In her book, Jewish Cooking in America, Joan Nathan says, "The boiled and baked roll with a hole dates possibly from the Roman period."
However, the bagel in America is apparently a descendant of Polish ancestors. It dates back to 1863 when the Polish general, John Sobieski, rescued Vienna from the Turks. When Sobieski returned from his victorious battle and rode his horse through the town, the grateful populace clung to the stirrups of his saddle, which were called "breugels." In honor of this triumphant deed, they fashioned bread in the shape of his stirrups and called it by that name. Eventually, the stirrup shape became round and the name became "bagel." (Some historians think the French croissant shape also attributes its origin to the replica of a stirrup.)
Another story is that the word derives from the German word, "beigen", which means "to bend", and that the bagel is a descendent of the pretzel. Still another story is that the bagel's round hole developed so that street vendors could pile the bread on poles and carry them around more easily to sell from their carts.
Continued In About Bagels - History 2
The Best Bagels Are Made At Home by Dona Z. Meilach Isbn 1-55867-131-5