Kudrun (sometimes known as the Gudrunlied), is a Middle High German epic, written probably in the early years of the 13th century, not long after the Nibelungenlied, the influence of which may be traced upon it.
It is preserved in a single manuscript, which was prepared at the command of Maximilian I, and was discovered as late as 1820 in the Ambras Castle in Tirol. The author was an unnamed Austrian poet, but the story itself belongs to the cycle of sagas, which originated on the shores of the North Sea.
Some have viewed Kudrun as not unworthy to stand beside the greater Nibelungenlied, and it has aptly been compared with it as the Odyssey to the Iliad. Like the Odyssey, Kudrun is an epic of the sea, a story of adventure; it does not turn solely round the conflict of human passions; nor is it built up around one all-absorbing, all-dominating idea as the Nibelungenlied is. Scenery and incident are more varied, and the poet has an opportunity for a more lyric interpretation of motive and character.
But what makes Kudrun significant is that women are portrayed in dominant roles. Not only are they the prizes that motivate the action of male warriors, as would be expected in chivalric romance, but in the case of Kudrun herself as well as her mother Hilde, they direct important episodes and determine the final outcome.
Kudrun is composed in stanzas similar to those of the Nibelungenlied, but with the essential difference that the last line of each stanza is identical with the others and does not contain the extra accented syllable characteristic of the Nibelungen metre. The name Kudrun, and hence the title, is rendered as "Gudrun" in most older English translations. But today the form "Kudrun" is preferred because Gudrun is the name of an unrelated character in Norse mythology.