Guðrúnarkviða II is the twenty-seventh part of the Older Edda (OE) or Poetic Edda.
INTRODUCTORY NOTE by Henry Adams Bellows
It has already been pointed out (introductory note to Guthrunarkvitha I) that the tradition of Guthrun's lament was known wherever the Sigurth story existed, and that this lament was probably one of the earliest parts of the legend to assume verse form. Whether it reached the North as verse cannot, of course, be determined, but it is at least possible that this was the case, and in any event it is clear that by the tenth and eleventh centuries there were a number of Norse poems with Guthrun's lament as the central theme. Two of these are included in the Eddic collection, the second one being unquestionably much the older. It is evidently the poem referred to by the annotator in the prose note following the Brot as „the old Guthrun lay,“ and its character and state of preservation have combined to lead most commentators to date it as early as the first half of the tenth century, whereas Guthrunarkvitha I belongs a hundred years later.
The poem has evidently been preserved in rather bad shape, with a number of serious omissions and some interpolations, but in just this form it lay before the compilers of the Volsungasaga, who paraphrased it faithfully, and quoted five of its stanzas. The interpolations are on the whole unimportant; the omissions, while they obscure the sense of certain passages, do not destroy the essential continuity of the poem, in which Guthrun reviews her sorrows from the death of Sigurth through the slaying of her brothers to Atli's dreams foretelling the death of their sons. It is, indeed, the only Norse poem of the Sigurth cycle antedating the year 1000 which has come down to us in anything approaching complete form; the Reginsmol, Fafnismol, and Sigrdrifumol are all collections of fragments, only a short bit of the „long“ Sigurth lay remains, and the others--Gripisspo, Guthrunarkvitha I and III, Sigurtharkvitha en skamma, Helreith Brynhildar, Oddrunargratr, Guthrunarhvot, Hamthesmol, and the two Atli lays--are all generally dated from the eleventh and even the twelfth centuries.
An added reason for believing that Guthrunarkvitha II traces its origin back to a lament which reached the North from Germany in verse form is the absence of most characteristic Norse additions to the narrative, except in minor details. Sigurth is slain in the forest, as „German men say“ (cf. Brot, concluding prose); the urging of Guthrun by her mother 2nd brothers to become Atli's wife, the slaying of the Gjukungs (here only intimated, for at that point something seems to have been lost), and Guthrun's prospective revenge on Atli, all belong directly to the German tradition (cf. introductory note to Gripisspo).
In the Codex Regius the poem is entitled simply Guthrunarkvitha; the numeral has been added in nearly all editions to distinguish this poem from the other two Guthrun lays, and the phrase „the old“ is borrowed from the annotator's comment in the prose note at the end of the Brot.
Eddukvæði II, Hetjukvæði, Jónas Kristjánsson og Vésteinn Ólason gáfu út, p. 352-361, Íslenzk fornrit, Reykjavík 2014.
Nivlungernes drab (Dráp Niflunga), Det gamle Gudrunskvæde II (Goþrúnarkviþa en forna II), tr. G.A Gjessing, Kristiania 1899.
DRAP NIFLUNGA , The Slaying of The Niflungs; GUTHRUNARKVITHA II, EN FORNA, The Second, or Old, Lay of Guthrun, tr. Henry Adams Bellows, in the Poetic Edda, the American-Scandinavian Foundation, 1936.
Input by Angela Kowalczyk, August 14th, 2016.