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Concepts of historicism from the Middle Ages: Gudrun am Meer

The Kudrunlied (also Gudrun or Gudrunsage ) is an anonymous strophic heroic epic in Middle High German and thus the second great heroic epic of medieval German literature next to the Nibelungenlied .

Origin and tradition

The work, which was created in the Bavarian-Austrian region around 1230/40, is partly based on older sources from the legends of the North Sea and is only passed down as a copy in the Ambraser Heldenbuch ; Hans Ried worked on the manuscript between 1504 and 1515 on behalf of Maximilian I. Whether the copy is a draft or the final version is disputed in research. A fragment of 280 stanzas from the holy part of the Kudrun legend is also preserved in Middle High German / Yiddish and Hebrew script from the 14th century. The manuscript of the so-called Dukus Horant comes from a Cairo synagogue and is now in the library of Cambridge University . Among the Gottscheers in today's Slovenia , the folk song of the " Meererin " (Də mêrarin) , which was passed down orally in the Gottscheer dialect, with echoes of the Kudrun saga, persisted into the 20th century.


Family tree of the Kudrun legend

The work is divided into three parts, the Hag part, the Hild part and finally the Kudrun part.

Hag part

In the first part, the unknown author reports from Hagen von Irlande (the identity with today's Ireland is disputed), the son of King Sigebants and Queen Utes of Ireland, who was stolen by a griffin as a young boy during a tournament . On an island, Hagen escapes the griffin and meets three princesses who were also stolen by him; he finally succeeds in defeating the griffin family and stopping a pilgrim ship that takes them to Ireland. Once there, Hagen marries Hilde of India, the oldest and most beautiful of the princesses. They have a daughter who they also call Hilde.

Educational part

The daughter Hilde grows up to be a beautiful young woman. Many suitors ask for their hand, but Hagen has all suitors killed. When King Hetel von Hegelingen was looking for a bride, he did not advertise the beautiful Hilde openly, but instead sent his husbands Wate , Frute and Horand out to win the king's daughter through a trick. Disguised as merchants, the three messengers set sail for Ireland. They hide their armed entourage below deck. Through various lists they win the favor of the court, the king and his daughter. Full of wanderlust and bewitched by Horand's wonderful singing, Hilde decides to travel to Hetel voluntarily. Another ruse separates her from her parents while visiting the Danish ships, and the ships suddenly set sail. Although Hagen's fleet was leaked by Frute, the chase followed the next day and a heavy fight soon after, in which Hetel and Hagen were also wounded. At Hilde's request, Hagen makes peace with Hetel and gives him his daughter as a wife.


Herwig and Ortwin find Kudrun, illustration from 1851 in Schwerin Castle

Hetel and Hilde have a son, Ortwin, and a daughter, Kudrun. This is promoted by three parties, namely Siegfried von Môrlant, Hartmut von Ormanîe and Herwig von Sêlant. They are all turned away. Finally, Herwig attacks Hetel, achieves peace and also that Kudrun is betrothed to him.

Siegfried then invades Herwig's country and a protracted fight ensues between Siegfried on the one hand and Herwig and Hetel on the other.

Hartmut von Ormanîe uses Hetel's absence to break into his castle and kidnap Kudrun and her maidens. Hetel heard of these events and immediately made peace with Siegfried in order to hurry after the kidnappers. Hetel, Herwig and Siegfried now fight on the Wülpensand against Hartmut, whose father Ludwig kills Hetel. The kidnappers escape; Now there is a 13-year break from fighting, during which Hilde and her family plan a major campaign against Hartmut.

During this time, Kudrun is at Hartmut's court, but constantly refuses to take him as a husband, although Gêrlint, Hartmut's mother, leaves no stone unturned in persuading Kudrun to do so: for example, she has to do lower duties and do laundry on the beach to wash.

There they also discover the messengers Hildes, Ortwin and Herwig, who set out for Ormanîe with a huge army. Kudrun then throws the laundry into the sea, whereupon Gêrlint threatens her with great punishment. She escapes this with a trick: she pretends to want to marry Hartmut after all, and is then bathed and festively prepared.

Meanwhile, Hilde's army advances to Ludwig's castle, and the final battle ensues, which the Hegelingen win. Among others, Ludwig von Herwig and Gêrlint von Wate are killed. Hartmut is spared, but kidnapped in Hildes Land.

The big wedding now comes: Kudrun founds wedding alliances to reconcile the enemies: Kudrun himself marries Herwig, her brother Ortwin marries Hartmut's sister, Ortrun , Hartmut marries Hildburg, Kudrun's companion, and finally Siegfried von Môrlant marries Herwig's sister.

Interpretation and classification

Although the Kudrun is commonly regarded as the work of the German heroic epic, the epic also contains elements of the courtly novel , the minstrel sepic and the hagiography . Courtly and knightly motifs in the Kudrun always play an important role; for example in the description of ceremonial acts at the royal courts, farewells and greetings as well as knightly minne service. The courtship scheme is taken up several times in various modifications and additions. Christian elements also appear again and again; Hagen is only recognized as a human being on the Griffin Island through his confession to God and Kudrun is addressed by an angel in the shape of a sea bird during her hostage in Ormania in a way that is reminiscent of the English greeting to Mary . The fact that the Kudrun is still classified as a hero epic is mainly due to the text form (stanzan structure), the intertextual references to Old Norse legendary figures of the Edda and the anonymity of the author (s) . These three constituents are decisive for whether the text belongs to the heroic epic tradition.

None of the motifs mentioned (courtship, heroic deeds, Christian or courtly values) determines the course of the overall text as the main motive. Rather, individual action segments, each of which formulate a motif and suggest others, are lined up episodically, which are connected to one another by the characters. The Kudrun is not and probably does not want to be a coherent "realistic" text . Figures only age when a plot requires it, and not through the passage of time (elapsed periods of time are mentioned several times that add up to several decades, but Wate is old and vigorous and remains old and vigorous).

Intertextual problem

German research generally sees the Kudrun as an alternative to the Nibelungenlied . While the heroic principle of vengeance and retribution dominates in this with the tragic fall of the Burgundy, in the Kudrun there are - in addition to the classic heroic epic elements - also moments of reconciliation. The idea of ​​the Kudrun as an “anti-Nibelungenlied” is supported by parallel motifs, similarly laid out figures or figure constellations of the two epics; for example, Wate and Gerlint are equivalent to Hildebrand and Kriemhild. In addition, the Kudrun is interpreted as committed to the tolerance idea of Willehalm Wolfram von Eschenbach , as the women in the story admonish on various occasions to protect the opponent, similar to Gyburc in the Willehalm.

The repeatedly fundamental research problem of the Kudrun's intertextuality - the question of whether, and if so, how the Kudrun can be compared with other texts - was summarized by Kerstin Schmitt under the catchphrase “Poetics of Montage” ( see literature ). By this, she understands a rather random assembly and mutual supplementation of genre-specific motifs (such as the courtship scheme or the heroic actions of individual characters), in a difficult-to-grasp genre assignment of the entire work and inconsistencies in the course of action and in the biographical development of individual characters results (for example, Hagen is both an archaic fighter, a courtly educated king and a jealous bride's father). An uncritical juxtaposition of individual episodes of the action of the Kudrun and a comparative text is therefore only possible to a limited extent, since the actions of individual characters are often determined by the action structures used, which do not allow any deviations.


The actions of the central figure, the Kudrun, are interpreted in many different ways by research; it ranges from downright admiration for the bride, who is committed to the courtly ideals of loyalty, sincerity and mercy, to an interpretation as a modern, self-confidently decisive woman, to condemnation as a fickle, undisciplined and easily influenced girl. In the older German studies in particular, Kudrun was revered as a symbolic figure for the supposedly natural virtues of German women; later she was considered a downright emancipated woman with a strong will of her own. Modern research sees Kudrun's actions less as newly conceived by the author or even as socially critical, but tied to individual storylines of the narrative structures and motifs used as well as the legends.

The three hero figures correspond in their speeches, decisions and actions as prototypical examples for:

  • Hagen - topical Christian hero
    • Baptism (22)
    • Abduction by the Devil's Envoy (54)
    • God-devoted endurance, suffering as a test (62)
    • God's rule, goodness and grace (68, 69, 73, 74, 81, 105, 121, 125)
    • Christianity (76, 78, 111)
    • Church enthronement
    • his name and his quality as a wild (25 times "wild" in 500 stanzas), superhumanly strong, cruel ruler who kills the courtiers for his daughter Hilde, belongs to the tradition of Hildestoff
    • Depiction of Hagen's youth history up to the sword line, which deviates from the Hilde tradition, is a "free invention" of the Kudrun author
  • Hetel - topical court hero
    • Feudal lord who listens (too much) to his relatives (648)
    • Superior ruler: "the künic was sô biderbe, one gefriesch never bezzer landes gentlemen." (565,4)
    • Hagens takes on the rejection of the courtiers, but without killing
    • exemplary warrior who avoids battle rather than seeks it
  • Wate - old-fashioned hero
    • when introducing "old" (240) (often as a contrast to "the old Wate ./. the young Hetel")
    • rather direct and open than sneaky (253)
    • Characterization in scene with Hilde (from 340), e.g. Sometimes in a dialogical way through others reporting: he prefers to fight than sit with women, is married, has children, "as gentle as he is born, he is a marvelous man." (348.4)
    • medically educated (529)
    • Educator of Hetel and his son Ortwin (574)
    • Revenge and direct confrontation (825, 884) (instead of possible courtly substitute rituals)
    • releases energy in combat (always referred to as grimm e.g. 882)
    • Pragmatism: more important than worship (838, 843), fleet program (945)
    • Hero's anger and cockiness become the role of the situation

Artistic arrangements

Musical arrangements

In 1868 Mathilde Wesendonck published her play in 5 acts Gudrun .

Eberhard Kummer , singer and expert on medieval music, set the entire epic to music and performed it at Ambras Castle or at the Wolkenstein Society. As a melody he used a minimally changed version of the Hildebrandstones .

There are also various opera adaptations of the Kudrun song from the 19th century: Carl Amand Mangold completed the opera Gudrun in 1849 , followed by Oscar Block in 1865, August Reissmann in 1871, August Klughardt , whose Gudrun opera premiered in 1882, Felix Draeseke , who completed his setting of the material in 1883, and Hans Huber , whose Kudrun opera was written in 1894.

Literary adaptations

The Austrian author Alma Johanna Koenig retold the Gudrun legend in 1928 as Gudrun. Pride and loyalty . A reference from 2017 can be found in the novel SpielRaum by Alex Acht: The figure of the contemporary "old Wate" in Acht corresponds in the main to the figure Wate in the Gudrunlied.


Secondary literature

  • Adolf Beck: Revenge as a motive and problem in the 'Kudrun'. Interpretation and legendary outlook. In: Germanic-Romanic monthly. Neue Episode 6 (1956), pp. 305-338.
  • Ellen Bender: Nibelungenlied and Kudrun. A comparative study on the representation of time and the interpretation of history. Lang, Frankfurt am Main 1987, ISBN 3-8204-9901-6 .
  • Ingrid Bennewitz: Kriemhild and Kudrun. Heroine epic instead of hero epic. In: Klaus Zatloukal (Ed.): 7. Pöchlarner Heldenlied Discussion. Middle High German heroic poetry outside of the Nibelungen and Dietrich circles (Kudrun, Ornit, Waltharius, Wolfdietriche). Fassbender, Vienna 2003, pp. 9–20.
  • Friedrich Michael Dimpel: Hartmut - the poet's favorite? Sympathy management in the 'Kudrun' . In: Journal for German Antiquity. Volume 141, 2012, pp. 335-353.
  • Werner Hoffmann: Kudrun. A contribution to the interpretation of the post-Nibelung hero poetry. JB Metzler, Stuttgart 1967.
  • Werner Hoffmann: The 'Kudrun': An answer to the Nibelungenlied. In: Heinz Rupp (ed.): Nibelungenlied and Kudrun. Wissenschaftliche Buchgesellschaft, Darmstadt 1976 (= ways of research; Volume 54), ISBN 3-534-02808-2 , pp. 599–620.
  • Hugo Kuhn: Kudrun . In: Heinz Rupp (ed.): Nibelungenlied and Kudrun. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1976 (= Paths of Research; Volume 54), ISBN 3-534-02808-2 . Pp. 502-514.
  • Christoph LandoltHildedichtung and Hildesage. In: Reallexikon der Germanischen Altertumskunde (RGA). 2nd Edition. Volume 14, Walter de Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999, ISBN 3-11-016423-X , pp. 561-565.
  • Jan-Dirk Müller: Farewell to the myth. To the Hagen episode of Kudrun. In: Udo Friedrich, Bruno Quast (ed.): Presence of the myth. Configurations of a way of thinking in the Middle Ages and early modern times. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 2004. pp. 197-217.
  • Theodor Nolte: found sisters and liberated bride. Kudrunepos and ballads. Helfant, Stuttgart 1988, ISBN 3-925184-34-1 .
  • Leopold Peeters: Historical and literary studies for the third part of the Kudrunepos. PDF; 3.9 MB. Meppel 1968.
  • Kerstin Schmitt: Old fighters - young knights. Heroic masculinity designs in the 'Kudrun'. In: Klaus Zatloukal (Ed.): 7. Pöchlarner Heldenlied Discussion. Middle High German heroic poetry outside of the Nibelungen and Dietrich circles (Kudrun, Ornit, Waltharius, Wolfdietriche). Fassbender, Vienna 2003, pp. 191–212.
  • Kerstin Schmitt: The Poetics of Montage. Figure conception and intertextuality in the 'Kudrun'. Erich Schmidt, Berlin 2002, ISBN 3-503-06142-8 .
  • Ursula Schulze: "Nibelungen" and "Kudrun". In: Volker Mertens , Ulrich Müller (ed.): Epic materials of the Middle Ages (= Kröner's pocket edition . Volume 483). Kröner, Stuttgart 1984, ISBN 3-520-48301-7 , pp. 111-140.
  • Karl Stackmann : Kudrun . In: Author's Lexicon, Volume 5. Second edition. De Gruyter, Berlin / New York 1999. pp. 410-426.
  • Helge-Maria Umbreit: The epic predictions in the Kudrun. Freiburg i. Br., Univ., Diss., 1961.
  • Ludwig Wolff: The Kudrun song. After a lecture . In: Heinz Rupp (ed.): Nibelungenlied and Kudrun. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1976 (= Paths of Research; Volume 54), ISBN 3-534-02808-2 . Pp. 435-454.

Text output

Web links

Commons : Kudrun  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Karl Stackmann: From the introduction to the Kudrun edition. (1965), in: Heinz Rupp (ed.): Nibelungenlied and Kudrun. Scientific Book Society, Darmstadt 1976, ISBN 3-484-20215-7 . Pp. 561-590, here pp. 563-566.
  2. ^ Karl Julius Schröer: The continuation of the Kudrun saga. Germania, XIV, 1869. Də mêrarin: p. 333 ff.
  3. ^ Mathilde Wesendonck: Gudrun. Play in 5 acts Schabelitz'sche Buchhandlung, Zurich 1868. Digitizedhttp: //vorlage_digitalisat.test/1%3D~GB%3D~IA%3D~MDZ%3D%0A10123043_00005~SZ%3D~ double-sided%3D~LT%3D~PUR%3D
  4. S. Hartmann, U. Müller: KUDRUN: A modern first performance by Eberhard Kummer. In: Yearbook of the Oswald von Wolkenstein Society. 16 (2006/2007), pp. 449-450. s. a .: http://wolkenstein-gesellschaft.com/jahrbuch.php
  5. ^ Alan H. Krueck: The Gudrun operas of the 19th century: Text arrangements and text comparisons. In: Deutsche Oper between Wagner and Strauss - Conference Report Dresden 1993 with an appendix to the Draeseke Conference Coburg 1996. Gudrun Schröder Verlag, pp. 95–114. At: http://www.draeseke.org/operas/AKgudun_ed.pdf
  6. ^ Alma Johanna Koenig: Gudrun. Pride and loyalty. Picture jewelry Willy Planck. Franckh'sche Verlagshandlung, Stuttgart 1928, p. 149 .
  7. Alex Acht: SpielRaum . BoD, 2017, ISBN 978-3-7431-5643-2 , pp. 228 .