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Thursday, November 15, 2012

Tolkien on Norse Legend

The Legend of Sigurd and GudrunThe Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun by J.R.R. Tolkien
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

JRR Tolkien made famous by his Hobbit book the the Lord Of the Rings trilogy, was an author who created his own world complete with a set of gods, languages and people. He has several sources of inspiration and one of those sources is Norse Mythology. JRR now undertakes a retelling of a famous Norse tale.

The retelling of this story was unearthed by Christopher Tolkien who found several of his father's notes. This mark another posthumous publication. JRR culled this retelling from a variety of sources. The most famous of these resources being the Poetic Edda. He also pulled from the Lay of the Volsungs and the Lay of the Niblungs. Before launching into the retelling we are treated to a rather boring an loing forward by Christopher Tolkien which is unsuitable unless one is a super scholar. JRR himself gives an introduction somehow pulled from sketching and notes of speech he devlivered. Two important thing s that I learned is that the Scandinavians and the Germanic tribes once having been the same branched off and became two different people. The Germans built their lavish castles and kingdoms and dominated the European landscape. The Scandinavians were more pastoral an tened to be much poorer and more peaceful until they became Vikings. An analysis of the Pagan practices tells us that belief in the Ancient gods was all but dead or a fossil before they became Christians. They were a godless people who believed in self-reliance and indomitable will.
The story starts off in the area of the Volsungs. 10 brothers venture over to another kingdom based on peaceful premises only to be tricked. The brothers are bound in the forest and everyone but Sigmund gets devoured by a wolf. There is a sister who predicted this all and she gets revenge. She bears a sun named Sinjotifil and together him and Sigmund wreak havoc on the kingdom . When all is settled Sigmund takes a wife from the enemy camp who is somewhat resentful at the forced marriage and the death of her brothers and father. She gets her revenge by poisoning Sigmunds nephew. But no bad deed goes unpunished. As Sigmund gets older he marries a young woman and she conceives. Unfortunnately he dies during a battle thanks to the treachery of Odin. Odin has a nasty habit of killing those that are loyal to him so that he can claim them for Valhalla. These warrior will later fight in the Ragnarok where everyone get's killed.
This young wife is first brought to another kingdom as a vassal and then is made the wife of a king. The son of Sigmund named Sigurd is given to Regin as a fosterling. Regin teaches Sigurd about Runes , magic and fighting. Sigurd during this time receives a horse named Grani and a sword called Grim. Regin makes the sword himself. Finally when Sigurd is older Regin convinced him to go up against a dragon named Fafnir.
Now there is some backstory that needs to be covered here. First off at the beginning Odin went travelling to the realm of the dark elves along with Loki, and a very not oft mentioned God Hoenir. Loki , a trickster, a manages to kill an otter that is killing a salmon. Turns out that this otter is the some of Hreidmar a demon. He catches the three of them and they are bounded. The ransom for this killing an otter skin full of gold. Loki steals this from the dwarf Andvari along with a ring that is cursed. Loki gioves over the gold and all are free. Greed overtakes Fafnir who slays Hreidmar and he takes all the gold and hides it in a cave.
Sigurd kills Fafnir only to realize that later on Regin was a brother to Fafnir. Sigurd does not give him the gold. They do eat Fafnirs heart. Sigurd it should be mentioned is of Odin's seed. He will a play a part in Ragnarok. A word from the birds sends Sigurd to awaken a sleeping beauty, one who is a warrior Valkyrie that is forced by Odin to give up fighting and wed. She will not marry nayone unless they are a king and so Sigurd meets up with the Gjuking and conquers back his kingdom. The Gjuking have a beautiful daughter named Guden. Grimhild is a sorcereress who gives Sigurd a potion that makes him fall for Guden. As fate would have it Brinhilde the sleeping beauty gets married by Gunnar the king. She wanted Sigurd. Though wile and deception she convinced Gunnar to kill Sigurd. Gunnar realizes his mistake at the end and both Sigurd and Brinhilde die together.
Several years later Attila the Hun is laying waste to Europe. Gunnars kingdom is taken over and Guden is forced to marry Attila the Hun. She gets her revenge with sorcery

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One blond hair blue eyed Calfornian who totally digs the Middle East.
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