Gudrun (Old Norse Guðrún) or Kriemhild (Middle High German Kriemhilt) is the wife of Sigurd/Siegfried and a major figure in Germanic heroic legend and literature. She is believed to have her origins in Ildico, last wife of Attila the Hun, and two queens of the Merovingian dynasty, Brunhilda of Austrasia and Fredegund.

In both traditions, Gudrun/Kriemhild is the sister of the Burgundian king Gunther/Gunnar and marries the hero Siegfried/Sigurd. Both traditions also feature a major rivalry between Gudrun and Brunhild, Gunther's wife, over their respective ranks. In both traditions, once Sigurd has been murdered, Gudrun is married to Etzel/Atli, the legendary analogue of Attila the Hun. In the Norse tradition, Atli desires the hoard of the Nibelungen, which the Burgundians had taken after murdering Sigurd, and invites them to his court intending to kill them. Gudrun then avenges her brothers by killing Atli and burning down his hall. The Norse tradition then tells of her further life as mother of Svanhild and enemy of Jormunrekr. In the continental German tradition, Kriemhild instead desires revenge for her brother's murder of Siegfried, and invites them to visit Etzel's court intending to kill them. Her revenge destroys both the Huns and the Burgundians, and in the end she herself is killed.

In Richard Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, Siegfried's wife is known as Gutrune. She fulfills the role of Gudrun/Kriemhild in the first half of the legend.

Some of the differences and similarities between Gudrun and Kriemhild in the Scandinavian and continental Germanic traditions can be seen in the following two stanzas taken from original sources. The first is Kriemhild's introduction in the Nibelungenlied:

Ez wuohs in Burgonden ein vil edel magedîn,
daz in allen landen niht schoeners mohte sîn,
Kriemhilt geheiezen. si wart ein schoene wîp.
dar umbe muosen degene vil verliesen den lîp.

And this is how Gudrun is described at the end of the Eddic poem Atlakviða:

Fullrœtt er um þetta:
ferr engi svá síðan
brúðr í brynio
brœðr at hefna.
Hon hefir þriggia
banorð borit,
biǫrt, áðr sylti.

The whole tale is told:
never after her
will any wife go thus in armour
to avenge her brothers.
She caused the death
of three kings
of a nation,
bright lady, before she died.

This page was last edited on 19 June 2018, at 10:40 (UTC).
Reference: under CC BY-SA license.

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