Guðrúnarkviða III


Guðrúnarkviða III

"Guðrúnarkviða III", "The Third Lay of Gudrun", is a short Old Norse poem that is part of the "Poetic Edda". It has not left any traces in "Völsunga saga" and was probably not known by its compilers.

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. [The article "Gudrunarkvida" in "Nationalencyklopedin".]

ynopsis

Herkja, [Bellows notes that this is the historical Kreka and the Helche of the "Nibelungenlied". In the "Niebelungenlied", she is Etzel's (Atli's, Attila's) first wife.] 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 [Bellows comments that it may be same stone as the "ice-cold stone of Uth" which is mentioned in an oath in "Helgakviða Hundingsbana II".] 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, [For the loss of Þjóðrek's men, see "Guðrúnarkviða II".] 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. [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.] Then, the poem passes to the execution of the ordeal and what happened to Herkja:

Notes

References

* [http://www.sacred-texts.com/neu/poe/poe32.htm The Third Lay of Guthrun] Henry Adams Bellows' translation and commentary
* [http://www.northvegr.org/lore/poetic2/035.php The Third Lay of Gudrún] Benjamin Thorpe's translation
* [http://home.earthlink.net/~wodensharrow/gudhrunarkvidha3.html The Third Lay of Guthrún] Translated by Lee M. Hollander
* [http://etext.old.no/Bugge/gudrun3.html Guðrúnarkviða hin þriðja] Sophus Bugge's edition of the manuscript text
* [http://www.heimskringla.no/original/edda/gudrunarkvidaintridja.php Guðrúnarkviða in þriðja] Guðni Jónsson's edition with normalized spelling


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