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The Tolkien Fan's Medieval Reader: Versions in Modern Prose (Cold Spring Press Fantasy) Paperback – April 6, 2004


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Product Details

  • Series: Cold Spring Press Fantasy
  • Paperback: 416 pages
  • Publisher: Cold Spring Press (April 6, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1593600119
  • ISBN-13: 978-1593600112
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.7 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,750,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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28 of 28 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 2, 2004
Any die-hard "Lord of the Rings" fan with functioning brain cells to rub together knows that fantasy writer J.R.R. Tolkien drew extensively on old myths and legends. But the "Tolkien Fan's Medieval Reader," compiled by Turgon, lets Tolkien fans get their eager hands on some of the legends and poetry that inspired his works.

Tolkien's love of medieval literature was especially strong for epics like "Beowulf" and the Norse Eddas, which were sprawling mythologic poems and legends. (Try to see how many Tolkien dwarf names you can find in the Poetic Edda) But Turgon -- who is one of the sweet folks on exceptional Tolkien site TheOneRing.net -- doesn't stop there.

He includes other old English tales, and some Middle-English stories like "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight" and parts of "The Canterbury Tales." He also includes an excerpted story from the Kalevala, an ancient Finnish text credited with part of the inspiration behind "Lord of the Rings." And to round it out are some Celtic stories, such as the Welsh Mabinogion, and the early story of "Kilhwch and Olwen," which was also the first Arthurian story.

Okay, all these stories are in the public domain -- obviously something written in the thirteenth century can't pull in royalties. But Turgon's compilation does serve a purpose: bringing together a bunch of old texts that fans may have heard of, but probably have never actually read. It's not a replacement for the real thing, but serves as an introduction.

Since language changes over time, and some translations are a bit rough, Turgon has smoothed out the old linguistic wrinkles. Nothing that really changes the meaning, but enough to keep readers from going "Huh? What's that word mean?
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36 of 40 people found the following review helpful By David Bratman on August 6, 2004
A book like this is an excellent idea, for few of Tolkien's current readers are well-versed in the medieval literature that was one of his strongest inspirations. Anyone interested enough in Tolkien to want to read more like him should at least sample the medieval literature here. It has much more to offer than the average post-Tolkien fantasy.

The problem lies in the fact that most of the works are given in

a) very old

b) prose

c) translations.

a) very old: done for copyright reasons, but unless there's no choice readers should read translations into their own idiom, and these century-old versions, although Tolkien often read them himself, are no longer in our idiom. Translations of old works offer a bridge, but these bridges reach to the 19th century, not the 21st.

b) prose: some of the original works are in prose, of course, but many are verse. The editor holds that complex medieval verse forms can be a stumbling block, and that a prose translation will at least give you the story. I disagree. If you ONLY want the story, read a retelling, not a translation. A prose translation will have all the verbal complexity of the original, but without the verse forms that give structure to that complexity and allow it to make sense. So it can be more of a stumbling block than a verse translation. And prose translations can suck the life out of an original, but a good verse translation can be wonderful. For Chaucer, for instance, don't read the prose translations here: get the vivid contemporary verse version by Nevill Coghill (a friend of Tolkien's, incidentally).
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7 of 13 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 29, 2004
This book is essential for any Tolkien fan who is unfamiliar with Tolkien's medieval sources, or who would like a well-selected collection of the most important influences on Tolkien's fiction. The selections here are very readable and will increase any fan's appreciation of Tolkien's work.
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7 of 16 people found the following review helpful By C Ross on March 31, 2004
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This book is full of amazing detail and incites on both the works of Tolkien and on European history. It is a must have for any Tolkien and history fan with looks into Old English, Middle English, Old Norse, Old Celtic and Finnish that just wets the appetite for more!
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