Kriemhild Gretchen (KRIEMHILD•GRETCHEN) is the witch form of Madoka Kaname. She appears in second and fourth timelines of Episode 10; a witch form of Madoka (whether she can be considered Kriemhild is up for debate) also appears in episode 12.
In the second timeline, her formation involves thunderclouds coalescing initially into a giant humanoid and then she seems to form a mountain-like being.
In the fourth timeline, she is shown as a giant creature, actually the size of a mountain. Her name was not shown at all during initial broadcast, but was added in the fourth timeline in a webcast version one week later. According to Kyubey, strength of this incarnation of hers is of such a magnitude that she could obliterate the planet within ten days.
Her appearance in both timelines is essentially identical (if one looks closely at her fourth timeline appearance, they will see the head at the top of the shadow between the outstretched arms), though in the second timeline only her head was really shown at all, with the body still forming.
In episode 12, Madoka's all-powerful witch form, who may or may not be considered another form of Kriemhild Gretchen, appears at the end of the universe, born from all the grief Madoka had shouldered from the magical girls she had saved, due to her supremely hopeful wish. She inhabits a comet-sized grief seed and, unlike the second and fourth timelines' versions of Kriemhild, has a fully-shown face (although the left half is either blank or covered in shadow); her head is sun disc-shaped, her open mouth resembles the moon, and her right eye resembles the earth. She is slain by the "goddess" form of Madoka before she can consume the earth.
Witch of salvation. Her nature is mercy. She absorbs any life on the planet into her newly created heaven--her barrier. The only way to defeat this witch is to make the world free of misfortune. If there's no grief in this world, she will believe this world is already a heaven.
The Witch of Despair. Her nature is direct petition. The mouthpiece for all the unfulfilled hopes of all spent magical girls. If a hope is born that can rewrite the universe, then at the same time, it is born from the mud of despair. Everlasting wailing fills her body, a continuously swelling, empty doll. At the end of a magical girl’s karma, this witch continues to swell to absurd sizes. And in the end, her body could even destroy the galaxy.
The Minion of the Witch of Salvation. Their task is measurement. They can expose the [impurities] of the hearts of those who go to Heaven by weighing the sins place on their scales. The sinful are perhaps granted even more profound mercy than from the witch.
- In Episode 1, shortly after the runic text reading "Prologue in Heaven", we see the upside-down form of a giant shadow above Walpurgis Night's spell circle (the symbols seen behind Walpurgis Night). Based off her appearance and her desire to create "heaven", it can only be concluded that this shadow is Kriemhild Gretchen.
- Kriemhild can only be defeated if the world is rid of all misfortune within the ten days it will take for her to destroy it. This could mean that the only feasible way of defeating her is by having a girl become a magical girl with the wish to rid the world of misfortune (or, alternately, to just kill Kriemhild outright -- which would probably make the new magical girl a witch even more powerful than Kriemhild herself).
- Since she rids the world of misfortune herself in given time that means the witch might just die out once her job is done and all the Incubators would have to do is pick up her huge grief seed afterwards.
- It's probable that when Kyubey says Kriemhild will "destroy the planet" he simply means that Kriemhild's barrier will grow to encompass it or that she will wipe out all life on it in favor of her dream world barrier. In the event the latter were the case, Kriemheld could be likened to the biblical Apocalypse. All sinners (misfortune) are destroyed before paradise itself (the witch's barrier) settles on Earth for those still alive.
- In Episode 12, Madoka, upon absorbing all the grief of fellow magical girls, transforms into an "ultimate witch" (see picture below). The name of this witch is not known and her appearance is also substantially different - however, her actions correspond well to the description on this card - she was born from all the grief of the world, and is defeated by rewriting the rules of the universe.
- Kriemhild's Grief Seed has a symbol that resembles a shooting star. Shooting stars are associated with wishes.
- In Goethe's Faust, Gretchen, also known as Margarete, was the name of Faust's lover. She dies at the end of Part 1 of Faust, but returns at the end of Part 2 as a Pentinent in heaven. She is allowed to lead Faust's soul into heaven's higher spheres.
- Some studies suggest that Faust refers to the girl as Margarete (meaning pearl) at the beginning because of her purity and innocence, and changes to the diminutive Gretchen after their intercourse, to point out her spoiled purity. In the same way, the fact that this witch is named Gretchen, rather than Margarete, could represent the corruption of Madoka's soul.
- Kriemhild, also known as Gudrun, is a figure from Norse Mythology. She is an important character in the epic poem Nibelungenlied. Note also that Kriemhild comes from the German words for "mask" and "battle".
- Some have come to believe that the mask shown at the end of the ending credits is actually Kriemhild's face, considering "Kriemhild"'s meaning of "battle mask".
- In the Madoka Magica Online game an accessory named "Faust's Masked" (ファソトマスク) appeared for a limited time. The mask is halved, like Ultimate Kremhild's, and can be equipped to any Magical Girl's face.
- Kriemhild Gretchen's appearance as a giant shadow may be based off the phenomenon known as a Brocken spectre. In both German folklore and Goethe's Faust, Walpurgis Night occurred on the Brocken, a mountain peak in Germany. The conditions on the Brocken often cause Brocken spectres, which are magnified shadows of climbers being projected onto mist or clouds. Kriemhild Gretchen appears after the witch known as Walpurgis Night is defeated. If this is true, it's also possible that Kriemhild is not as large as she appears.
- Meine Göttin ("My Goddess"), also a poem written by Goethe on 15 September 1780 and sent at once to Charlotte von Stein. It was first published in 1789 in Goethes Schriften. Written in hymnic form, the poem is a panegyric of the poetic imagination.
- According to witch animator and designer InuCurry, Walpurgis Night's and Kriemhild Gretchen's silhouettes are supposed to make a pair.
- Puella Magi Production Note further reveals that Kriemhild Gretchen is meant to look like the lower half of a sand timer, while Walpurgis Night looks like the upper half. Interestingly, Homura's shield has also been described as a sand timer.
- In the Madoka Magica Portable Game, in addition to her ribbon, Kriemhild Gretchen's grief seed is shown with black wings in the Kyoko route. It's also shown with black wings for the witch kiss available in the PSP custom themes available with the limited edition version of the game. Art from Inu Curry's special gallery game bonus reveals another depiction of the grief seed and the interior of the Kriemhild Gretchen, otherwise known as the Witch of Salvation.
Anime and Manga Official Gallery
Kriemhild Gretchen as seen just before Homura resets in the fourth timeline in the Nicovideo Channel broadcast.