Guðrúnarkviða I – The First Lay of Gudrún

Illustration by Johann Heinrich Füssli. Click the picture to go to the Wiki.

Guðrúnarkviða I or the First Lay of Guðrún is simply called Guðrúnarkviða in Codex Regius, where it is found together with the other heroic poems of the Poetic Edda. Henry Adams Bellows considered it to be one of the finest of the eddic poems with an “extraordinary emotional intensity and dramatic force”. It is only in this poem that Gjúki’s sister Gjaflaug and daughter Gollrönd are mentioned, and the only source where Herborg, the queen of the Huns, appears. The Guðrún lays show that the hard-boiled heroic poetry of the Poetic Edda also had a place for the hardships of women.

Bellows considers it to be one of the oldest heroic lays and with very few Scandinavian additions. Brynhild’s only role is the cause of Sigurd’s death and Guðrún’s enemy.

Alfred Tennyson‘s poem Home They Brought Her Warrior Dead was inspired by Benjamin Thorpe‘s translation of the lay.

Guðrúnarkviða I, II and III are three different heroic poems in the Poetic Edda with the same protagonist, Gudrun.

In Guðrúnarkviða I, Gudrun finds her dead husband Sigurd. She cries and laments her husband with beautiful imagery.

In Guðrúnarkviða II, she recapitulates her life in a monologue.

In Guðrúnarkviða III, one of Attila’s (Atli) bondmaids accuses her of infidelity with king Theodoric (Þjóðrekr) of the Goths. Gudrun proves her innocence by picking up gems from the bottom of a boiling cauldron with her bare white hands.