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The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún Hardcover – May 5, 2009
An Amazon Book with Buzz: "Sweet Sorrow" by David Nicholls
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The first, longer, poem concerns the Norse heroes Sigmund and Sigurd, in stories quite different from the stories in the _Nibelungenlied_ or the _Ring des Nibelungen_. While Odin (pardon; Odín, but I'm going to stop using the accent marks except for first introduction of a name because they're a big pain on this keyboard) does indeed manipulate the events - indeed, in a much more hands-on manner than in the operas - there's no Rhinegold, no building of Valhalla (Valhöll), and while there are many cognate scenes they are, not only in detail but in significance, quite different.
The second takes place after the deaths of Sigurd and Brynhild at the hands of the Gjúkings (well, Brynhild dies by her own hand, but it's the fault of the Gyuking women really). Gudrún, who was briefly married to Sigurd, becomes "wild and witless" for a time, then settles down to weave a tapestry summarizing the first poem. But her brothers and scheming mother determine that she must marry Atli (Attila the Hun) for political reasons. She resists at first but ultimately cannot refuse her mother. And all is well until Atli decides that he wants the Nibelungs' gold (complicated, it was the hoard of Fáfnir - no Fasolt, here, though he *does* murder a brother- and wound up with the Gyukings, who are apparently the Nibelungs also...), and comes up with a scheme to get it by ransoming the brothers. It winds up with the brothers all dead, and Atli murdering Atli's sons, feeding their blood to him, and murdering him in his sleep.
Good clean fun in the nifty Norse manner.
The poems are written in stanzas (staves?) of eight alliterative half-lines each, quite skillfully wrought. There are occasional variations in the stanza form, but most of the poem by far is in this form and it never becomes tedious.
Then there is the (inevitable) apparatus surrounding them. Christopher Tolkien (whom I shall refer to as "Christopher" and his father as "Tollkien" because why not?) provides a lengthy introduction, incorporating Tolkien's various notes on the Eddaic and other Norse poems, as well as the Nibelunginlied - oddly, there are almost no notes or workings surviving regarding the two poems.
In this introduction, as well as the copious footnotes and the first Appendix, Christopher uses available lecture notes and similar to reconstruct Tolkien's views of the origins of and "proper" content of the stories here related. As a result, we do not get Christopher's opinions on the matter; nor do we get Tolkien's opinions on the matter; what we get is Christopher's (well-informed) opinions of Tolkien's opinions on the matter.
...which has, really, been true of almost everything Christopher has edited since his father's death in 1974. I'm just dumb enough not to have realized it till now. Never really thought about it.
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.
Top international reviews
Apart from enjoying the ancient stories told herein it gave me some insight in the origins of Tolkien's own mythology - getting a sense of recognition as rings, dragons, isolated lands of the gods, magic swords and the like turn up. Even 'Mirkwood' is featured here!
Still, don't expect anything like The Lord of the Rings. This book is suitable only for those who like mythology and don't mind poems on an epic scale.
This is exactly the kind of literature which inspired Tolkien to his own mythology. If his own mythology is as sound as brass, this is as brilliant as gold. In his version, Tolkien has captured the incandescent power and energy, and brutality, of Northern verse. Lacking in particles as well as rhyme, the alliteration and rhythm punch out of the pages like the pagan warriors it depicts.
Glimpses of Tolkien's genius appeared in his Sir Orfeo and Gawain and the Green Night; but this is concentrated verse of hoary origin and terrible power. It may be too strong a stuff for many, and certainly this is not for children. This is Tolkien the academic, the philologist, and poetic visionary. These are NOT his own myths and stories (which in fact merely seved as a backdrop for his linguistic adventures, which are indeed derived from sources such as the Edda) - these are, to be pictorial, the loins from which the very civilisation of the North had sprung.
Besides, the book itself is simply beautiful and arrived in perfect condition, luckily and thanks to the seller careful wrapping.
Äußerlich im hübschen Einband aufgemacht, wird "The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún" mit großen Zeilenabständen, dickem Papier und großer Schrift à la Modernes Antiquariat aufgeblasen, um den Preis höher zu setzen. Schade.
Auch beim Inhalt wird eher gespreizt. Sohn Christopher hat Tolkien-Texte aus dem Nachlass gehoben und mit umfangreichen Kommentartexten versehen. JRR T war ja u.a. Professor für die altenglische Sprache bzw. Altnorwegisch.
Kern des Buches sind Tolkiens teils eher freie Übersetzungen aus der Edda. Er nimmt und interpretiert hierbei verschiedene Texte in norwegische Versmaße. Das "moderne" Englisch wirkt eher wie 18. Jahrhundert, einige Vokabeln sind so altertümlich, dass der Herausgeber Christopher T. sie erklärt. Er versieht die Texte aus Tolkiens Schublade - Vorlesungsnotizen sind die andere Art der Tolkien-senior-Texte - mit Erläuterungen wie allgemeinen Einleitungstexten. Für Laien werden die sprachlichen Ausführungen zum Altnordisch etwas arg speziell, doch Christopher müht sich redlich, vergleicht die verschiedenen Formen und Wiedergaben etc. Wer Wagner oder Nibelungenlied dagegenhielte, nähme übrigens viele Unterschiede wahr.
The short-short: Essays on Norse/ Icelandic lays (Gudrún and Sigurd/ Siegfried) by Tolkien senior and son, plus the text translated by JRR T himself - no hobbits, but enlightening, yet definitely rather for students, scholars etc.