18 July 2009

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun Review

I was very excited when J.R.R. Tolkien's book The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun came out. I was a little leery because Christopher Tolkien filled in the blank places and added commentary. In the past I have not been overly fond of his commentaries, but this was different. The information that Christopher Tolkien added was very helpful in reading this different poetic style.

The tales are written in an ancient Norse poetic style called Elder Edda. The style is very direct unlike other ancient poetic styles that contain a lot of flowery descriptions. What makes this style difficult is that is assumes prior knowledge of the legends. The book contains brief introductions to the tales to help, but I found myself going back to reread the introductions and then rereading the tales. I also had difficulty keeping the characters straight. Their names were very similar. For example, there is a Sigmund, Signy, Siggeir, and Sinfjotli.

This is a slow, but very good read. I love folklore and mythology and The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun introduced me to new tales. Christopher Tolkien did a fine job at inserting just the right amount of explanation before letting the tales speak for themselves. He also compiled old lectures from J.R.R. Tolkien on Old Norse poetry. For ancient language buffs, you'll love these lectures and tales.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for this review. I am an mad keen fan of J.R.R. but not a big fan of Chris, I have tended to avoid much of the material he has published on his old man's behalf.