It is dated to the early 11th century, because that was the time when the ordeal by boiling water made its appearance in Scandinavia and the poet speaks of it as a practice of foreign origin. According to Henry Adams Bellows, the poem is based on material that came from northern Germany, where the ordeal by boiling water had long been current. He adds that it has so little local colour that it was probably composed based on a story that the poet had heard from a German.
The Guðrún lays show that the hard-boiled heroic poetry of the Poetic Edda also had place for the hardships of women.
Herkja, one of Atli's former concubines, was serving as a maid at his court. She reported to Atli that she had seen Guðrún together with King Þjóðrekr, which made Atli very angry. He approached Guðrún and she asked him what was the matter.
Guðrún answered that she was innocent and could swear on the sacred white stone that she had not been with Þjóðrekr in that way. She had only talked with Þjóðrekr about their sorrows in secret. Þjóðrekr had arrived with thirty warriors and he had lost all of them, while Atli, her husband, had murdered all her brothers and all the men of her people. Gunnarr could no longer come, and she could no longer greet Högni. She had lost both her beloved brothers and she would like to avenge Högni with her sword. She declared that she wanted payment for her sorrows and she suggested the ordeal of boiling water, for which Atli should summon Saxi, the king of the Southrons, who could hallow the kettle. Then, the poem passes to the execution of the ordeal and what happened to Herkja:
^Bellows notes that the identity of Saxi is not clear. However, the poem clearly points out that the ordeal by boiling water was still regarded as a southern and foreign institution and they needed a southern and Christian king to administer the ordeal. The introduction of the ordeal followed the introduction of Christianity.