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Gudrun is a major figure in early Germanic literature, which centered on the hero Sigurd, son of Sigmund. She appears as Kriemhild in the Nibelungenlied and as Gutrune in Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen.
In Norse mythology, Gudrun (Guðrún Gjúkadóttir) was the sister of Gunnar. Gudrun fell in love with Sigurd, who did not care for her, because he was in love with the valkyrie Brynhild, to whom he gave the ring Andvarinaut. Gudrun's brother Gunnar, however, wished to marry Brynhild, but this was impossible because Brynhild had sworn to marry only the man who could defeat her in a fair fight (whom she knew to be Sigurd).
In another version, Brynhild was imprisoned inside a ring of fire as a punishment by Odin. By then Sigurd had already gone through the fire once and promised his marriage to Brynhild, but he was cursed by Andvarinaut and bewitched. He switched bodies with Gunnar, and in this guise rides through the fire and wins Brynhild, who, deceived, marries the real Gunnar.
Gudrun's mother Grimhild, who was called Ute in the Nibelungenlied, gave her a potion to make Sigurd forget his love for Brynhild. Gunnar allowed Sigurd to marry Gudrun under the condition that Sigurd would win 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.
Later, when Brynhild learned that she had been tricked into marrying an inferior man, she exacted vengeance by telling Gunnar that Sigurd had taken liberties with her, and Gunnar had Sigurd killed. Gudrun was so overcome with the grief that she could not weep. The court feared for her life and finally her sister showed Gudrun Sigurd's corpse, and her tears flowed at last. She lamented her lost husband and predicted the death of his killer, her own brother Gunnar.
Gudrun later married the king Atli (loosely based on Attila the Hun). In the northern version, Atli was responsible for the death of her whole family, who inherited the name Völsung / Niebelungen from the Nibelung gold. The queen took revenge for her family by killing her two sons by Atli, Erp and Eitil, and serving them to their father at a feast. Then, when Atli was solidly drunk, she broke the news to him:
She set fire to Atli's hall, killing him along with all of his men. She then tried to drown herself by jumping into the sea with an armful of stones. The waves found her revenge fitting, however, and instead of drowning her, they 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). Subsequently, 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 Nibelung gold back, and is killed in turn by Dietrich von Bern.
A south German / Austrian epic also has a principal female character called Kudrun (a variant of Gudrun), but her story is quite different.
Some scholars argue the character of Kriemhild may have been partly inspired by certain historical figures, including Brunhilda of Austrasia, wife to the Frankish King Sigebert I; Ildiko (or Hildico), last wife to Attila the Hun; and Fredegund, wife to the Frankish king Chilperic I.
The Wild Hunt
- In 1924, Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou produced Die Nibelungen: Kriemhilds Rache (Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild's Revenge). Kriemhild was played by actress Margarete Schön.
- In the 2005 TV epic Ring of the Nibelungs, American actress Alicia Witt played Kriemhild in an adaptation of the Nibelungenlied saga.
- Gudrun plays a very prominent role in J. R. R. Tolkien's adaptation of the Völsung legend, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, released for publication in May 2009.
- In the 2011 TV anime Puella Magi Madoka Magica, the witch form of Kaname Madoka named "Kriemhild Gretchen". She has the power that can destroy the world within ten days.
- In the 1995 Freiwillige Selbstkontroll (FSK) (German Musical Group) song "Red Sonja" which was recorded in the studios of Cracker Frontman David Lowrey in Richmond, Virginia, Gudrun appears in the lyrics as "Red Sonja" a triple entrendre for the mythological figure in Norse/Germanic literature, the warring Amazon in the comic and 1985 film "Red Sonja", and a fictionalized failed female operative in the German Baader-Meinhoff Marxist terrorist organization; which in this song eschews Communism in favor of a BMW, new clothing, and cash, and does so from a covert location—an apartment in the wealthy and unassuming suburban Forest Hill neighborhood of Richmond, Virginia. SOURCE: FSK, "Red Sonja" The Sound of Music. Flying Fish Records, 1995. CD.
- Gjuki (father)
- Grimhild (mother)
- Gunnar (brother)
- Hogni (brother)
- Gudny/Gullrond (sister; rarely mentioned)
- Gotthorm (maternal half-brother; slayer of Sigurd)
- Brynhild (sister-in-law; sister of Attila, wife of Gunnar)
- Sigurd (first husband)
- Sigmund (son with Sigurd; murdered at Brynhild's behest)
- Svanhild (daughter with Sigurd)
- Erp (son with Attila)
- Eitil (son with Attila)
- Jonkar (third husband)
- Hamdir (son with Jonkar)
- Sorli (son with Jonkar)
- Erp (son with Jonkar)
- Hniflung (nephew via Hogni; helped her kill Attila)
- 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)
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Kriemhild.|
- The article Atle in Nordisk familjebok (1904).
- Kveldulf Hagen Gundarsson, "The Folklore of the Wild Hunt and the Furious Host", from Mountain Thunder, Issue 7, Winter 1992. "In Norway, the oskorei [The Wild Hunt] is led by Sigurd Svein and Guro Rysserova ("Gudrun Horse-tail") — the Sigurdhr Fáfnisbani and Gudhrun Gjúkadottir of the Eddic lays."