Sunday, May 24, 2009

Marjorie Burns reviews The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún

In the Wall Street Journal yesterday, I happened upon a review of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún by Marjorie Burns. Marjorie was a particularly good choice (as was Shippey in the TLS) to review this work, because of her own background in Norse literature and mythology. For those who haven’t read it, definitely make the time for her own book, Perilous Realms: Celtic and Norse in Tolkien’s Middle-earth. In the present review, Marjorie provides the all but obligatory allusion to Richard Wagner and William Morris, but she explains the distinctions between their versions of the legend and Tolkien’s quite well:
Unlike Wagner, the sometimes heavy-handed librettist, and unlike Morris, whos long lines and rhymed stanzas hold to Victorian tastes, Tolkien aimed for directness an authenticity. He did so by imitating poetic meters used by the early Norse—meters that (much like those in Old English) depend on alliteration (rather than rhyme) and a spacing of pauses and beats.
She also suggests that not all of Tolkien’s alterations to the traditional story may be to everybody’s liking. As an example, she highlights Tolkien’s diminution of the werewolf episodes (clearly among her own favorite scenes). Marjorie closes the review by acknowledging the enormous value of Christopher Tolkien’s foreword, commentaries, notes, and appendices. I would definitely echo this myself. To those already familiar with the Völsung material, they are very helpful indeed; but to those who are not, they’re nothing less than indispensable.


  1. Happy belated blogiversary, sweetheart. I'm so proud of you! :) Love, your FishWife

  2. Thank you, darling! It’s funny, but I was apparently still logged into Blogger when you came by to leave this very sweet comment, so it ended up looking almost like I left it for myself, hahae. And some of you who know me wouldn’t exactly be surprised by something like that. ;)