Definitions

Gudrun

Gudrun

[good-roon]
Gudrun or Kudrun, in Germanic literature. 1 Heroine of the Icelandic epic, the Volsungasaga. 2 Heroine and title person of an anonymous Middle High German epic written shortly after and strongly influenced by the Nibelungenlied (see under Nibelungen). The epic tells the story of Hilde, Hagen's sister, and of the abduction of her daughter Gudrun. 3 Principal character of the Icelandic Laxdaelasaga, introduced to English readers by William Morris through his "Lovers of Gudrun" in The Earthly Paradise. Wagner's Gutrune (in the Götterdämmerung) is not Gudrun but corresponds to Kriemhild of the Nibelungenlied.

In Norse mythology, Gudrun, who is called Kriemhild in the Nibelungenlied, was the sister of Gunnar. She is loosely based on the princess Ildico in her role as the wife of Attila the Hun. Gudrun fell in love with Sigurd, who didn't care for her, because he was in love with the valkyrie Brynhild, to whom he gave the ring Andvarinaut.

Norse mythology

Her brother Gunnar, however, decided to marry Brynhild, but this was impossible because Brynhild swore, knowing that only Sigurd could do so, that she would only marry the man that could defeat her in a fair fight. Brynhild had a magic belt which made her stronger than any man.

In another version, Brynhild is imprisoned inside a ring of fire as a punishment by Odin. Sigurd had already gone through the fire once and promised his marriage to Brynhild, but he is cursed by Andvarinaut and bewitched, and switched bodies with Gunnar for a time. In the guise of Gunnar, he rides through the fire and Brynhild is forced to marry Gunnar.

Gudrun's mother Grimhild, who is called Ute in the Nibelungenlied, gave her a love-potion and Sigurd forgot his love for Brynhild. Gunnar allowed a marriage between Gudrun and Sigurd under the condition, that Sigurd would win the hand of Brynhild for him. Sigurd succeeded in doing so; taking the shape of Gunnar, he took Andvarinaut from Brynhild and gave it to Gudrun as his morning gift. Both Queens, Gudrun and Brynhild, were married on the same day.

After the death of Sigurd, Byrnhild had his three year old son Sigmund murdered. Gudrun later married the king Atle (loosely based on Attila the Hun), who is in the northern version responsible for the death of her whole family, who did inherit the name Völsunge/Niebelungen from the gold. The queen took revenge for her family by killing her and Atli's two sons Erp and Eitil and serving them as dinner to him at a feast in his hall. Later, when he was solidly drunk, she broke the news to him:

"Thou giver of swords, / of thy sons the hearts
All heavy with blood / in honey thou hast eaten;
Thou shalt stomach, thou hero, / the flesh of the slain,
To eat at thy feast, / and to send to thy followers.

Thou shalt never call / to thy knees again
Erp or Eitil, / when merry with ale;
Thou shalt never see / in their seats again
The sharers of gold / their lances shaping,
(Clipping the manes / or minding their steeds.)"

(Atlakviða, stanza 39--40.)

She then set fire to the hall of Attila, thus killing him along with and all of his men. Subsequently, she tried to drown herself by jumping into the sea with an armful of stones, but the waves found her revenge fitting, and instead carried her to Sweden, where she married another king, Jónakr, with whom she had three sons Hamdir, Sörli and Erp.

Svanhild, her daughter by Sigurd, was wooed by Ermanaric, but was accused wrongly of adultery and was killed by her husband. She also had a son by Sigurd named Sigmund (named after Sigurd's father).

Then her three sons were killed when they avenged Svanhild (see Jonakr's sons).

In the southern version Gudrun, here Kriemhild, kills her brothers to get the Niebelungen-gold back, for this she is killed by Dietrich von Bern.

A south German/Austrian epic called Kudrun or Gudrun also has a principle female character called Gudrun but her story is quite different.

Some scholars see the Queen Brunhilda, wife to the Frankish King Sigibert I, and Ildiko or Hildico, last wife to Attila as influences on the character of Kriemhild and Fosse.

Popular Culture

Family Relations

  • Gjuki (father)
  • Grimhild (mother)
  • Gunnar (brother)
  • Hogni (brother)
  • Gundy/Gullrond (sister; rarely mentioned)
  • Gotthorm (maternal half-brother; slayer of Sigurd)
  • Brynhild (sister-in-law; sister of Atli, wife of Gunnar)
  • Sigurd (first husband)
  • Sigmund (son with Sigurd; murdered at Brynhild's behest)
  • Svanhild (daughter with Sigurd)
  • Atli (second husband)
  • Erp (son with Atli)
  • Eitil (son with Atli)
  • Jonkar (third husband)
  • Hamdir (son with Jonkar)
  • Sorli (son with Jonkar)
  • Erp (son with Jonkar)
  • Hniflung (nephew via Hogni; helped her kill Atli)
  • Solar (nephew via Hogni; mentioned in Atlakvitha En Grönlenzka)
  • Snævar (nephew via Hogni; mentioned in Atlakvitha En Grönlenzka)
  • Gjuki (nephew via Hogni; mentioned in Drap Niflunga)

Notes

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