Guðrúnarkviða III is the twenty-eighth part of the Older Edda (OE) or Poetic Edda.
INTRODUCTORY NOTE by Henry Adams Bellows
The short Guthrunarkvitha III, entitled in the manuscript simply Guthrunarkvitha, but so numbered in most editions to distinguish it from the first and second Guthrun lays, appears only in the Codex Regius. It is neither quoted nor paraphrased in the Volsungasaga, the compilers of which appear not to have known the story with which it deals. The poem as we have it is evidently complete and free from serious interpolations. It can safely be dated from the first half of the eleventh century, for the ordeal by boiling water, with which it is chiefly concerned, was first introduced into Norway by St. Olaf, who died in 1030, and the poem speaks of it in stanza 7 as still of foreign origin.
The material for the poem evidently came from North Germany, but there is little indication that the poet was working on the basis of a narrative legend already fully formed. The story of the wife accused of faithlessness who proves her innocence by the test of boiling water had long been current in Germany, as elsewhere, and had attached itself to various women of legendary fame, but not except in this poem, so far as we can judge, to Guthrun (Kriemhild). The introduction of Thjothrek (Theoderich, Dietrich, Thithrek) is another indication of relative lateness, for the legends of Theoderich do not appear to have reached the North materially before the year 1000. On the anachronism of bringing Thjothrek to Atli's court cf. Guthrunarkvitha II, introductory prose, note, in which the development of the Theoderich tradition in its relation to that of Atli is briefly outlined.
Guthrunarkvitha III is, then, little more than a dramatic German story made into a narrative lay by a Norse poet, with the names of Guthrun, Atli, Thjothrek, and Herkja incorporated for the sake of greater effectiveness. Its story probably nowhere formed a part of the living tradition of Sigurth and Atli, but the poem has so little distinctively Norse coloring that it may possibly have been based on a story or even a poem which its composer heard in Germany or from the lips of a German narrator.
Eddukvæði II, Hetjukvæði, Jónas Kristjánsson og Vésteinn Ólason gáfu út, p. 362-364, Íslenzk fornrit, Reykjavík 2014.
Gudrunskvæde III (Goþrúnarkviþa III), tr. G.A Gjessing, Kristiania 1899.
GUTHRUNARKVITHA III, The Third Lay of Guthrun, tr. Henry Adams Bellows, in the Poetic Edda, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1936.
Input by Angela Kowalczyk, August 14th, 2016.