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The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún Hardcover – May 5, 2009

4.3 out of 5 stars 102 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"Will appeal strongly to readers already haunted by the deeper, more sombre musics of Middle-earth" The Times "This is the most unexpected of Tolkien's many posthumous publications; his son's 'Commentary' is a model of informed accessibility; the poems stand comparison with their Eddic models, and there is little poetry in the world like those" Times Literary Supplement "The compact verse form is ideally suited to describing impact! elsewhere it achieves a stark beauty" Telegraph

Book Description

HMH hardcover 2009
Previous ISBN 978-0-547-27342-6
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 377 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (May 5, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0547273428
  • ISBN-13: 978-0547273426
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.6 x 1.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (102 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #167,640 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Michael B. Sullivan on May 8, 2009
Format: Hardcover
A few corrections need to be made to the reviews already here.

First: This book is NOT a translation. It is a set of two original poems by Tolkien, with supplemental materials. The poems retell one of the most famous stories in Norse legend--the sources are the two Eddas, the Volsunga Saga, and others--but Tolkien gives here his own version. The poem is in the medieval Norse meter and style, but it is a new version, again, not a translation.

Second: These poems are not epics. I have already read a couple of reviews complaining that for epic poetry it isn't "epic" enough. But they aren't intended to be epic. As the introduction makes clear, Norse poetry had no epic mode (although Old English did). What epic verse does for some cultures the Saga did for the Norsemen. These poems are lays, which have a different intended effect, which is discussed in the introduction.

Who needs to read this book? Certainly people who like The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings but hated The Children of Hurin when it came out recently, and who never got through the Silmarillion, will most likely not want this. If, when you read The Lord of the Rings, you skip the poems and songs, you should definitely skip this. On the other hand, if the Tolkien's poetry is especially attractive to you this may interest you. If you're interested in Tolkien's other writings, though, you probably will want this. For instance, if you've read vol. 3 of The History of Middle Earth, The Lays of Beleriand, you will know the sort of thing you're in for. On the other hand, if you don't care or don't know much about Tolkien's own invented mythology, this book will still fascinate you if you have an interest in Old English or medieval Icelandic literature.
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So you liked THE LORD OF THE RINGS and THE HOBBIT, and now you want another great reading of Tolkien fantasy? Be careful of THE LEGEND OF SIGURD AND GUDRON. It is a scholarly work. If you are interested in Norse mythology, though, and enjoy reading a good translation of Beowulf (which although not Norse mythology has a lot in common with Old Norse poetry) you will love this book. The tales of Odin and company were told and retold by many poets and saga writers, working hundreds of years apart. Many of their tellings are often contradictory. What Tolkien has done is to recreate a unified Norse mythology and given us new lays, written in English, but following the classic 8 line stanzaic style of the Elder Eddas, the Old Norse poetry form. This also means that there is none of the end rhyming we usually associate with poetry. No, these new lays use alliteration, just as in the Old English Beowulf. It really is a treat to get that style of poetry rendered in English. ( Imagine yourself in an old mead hall, while a gifted bard recites in this long-ago verse form. Better yet, read it out loud and become the bard.)

J.R.R. Tolkien's son, Christopher, has provided fascinating introductory information and explanatory notes that really make the reader feel like a serious student of Norse mythology and Old Norse poetry. This material occupies at least as many pages as the poems themselves. Without this extra material, much of the impact and complexity of the poems would be lost.

If you are serious about understanding the life's work of perhaps the greatest author of the 20th Century and the influences that helped lead him to Middle Earth, take a chance on THE LEGEND OF SIGURD AND GUDRUN.
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Format: Hardcover
When J.R.R. Tolkien wasn't teaching philology at Oxford or penning classic fantasy novels, he did some retellings of old poetry. VERY old poetry.

"The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun" is one such work: a verse working of the Norse legend of the hero Sigurd and his adventures, as well as the two doomed women who loved him. The wording is a bit awkward in places, and a good chunk of the book's content is commentary by his son Christopher Tolkien -- but the deep-rooted mythic story and Tolkien's vivid prose are gorgeous.

After exploring the gods and their glittering Valholl, Tolkien introduces the bitter dwarf Andvari and his magic ring, the greedy dragon Fafnir, and the tragic tale of Sigmund, Sigurd's daddy. Sigurd was tricked into slaying Fafnir for his treacherous foster father, and gained a hoard of cursed gold and a roasted dragon heart. Then he learns of the beautiful Valkyrie Brynhild, who is doomed to "wed the World's chosen" only, and sleeps in a fortress of flames.

Though he wakes Brynhild, Sigurd claims that he isn't going to marry her until he has a kingdom of his own -- and he gets one too. But in the process, he falls in love with the beautiful Gudrun and marries her. When his brother-in-law Gunnar wants the finest woman in the world, Sigurd tricks Brynhild into marrying Gunnar instead. This betrayal -- and a cursed ring given to both Gudrun and Brynhild -- leads to lies, hatred, death, and a devastating tragedy that destroys more than one person's life.

"The Lay of Gudrun" is a sort of sequel to the Sigurd legend: after Sigurd dies, Gudrun goes a little nuts in her woodland house and ends up being wed against her own wishes (courtesy of her witchy mom) to the king of the Huns, Atli.
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