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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Tolkien's genius proven yet again, Feb. 24 2011
By 
D Glover (northern bc, canada) - See all my reviews
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There is a fair bit of dry commentary in this volume. Some of it is interesting and all of it is genuinely informative, though no doubt it will be much more appreciated by someone who is at least somewhat familiar with the progression of Norse Mythology scholarship. However, the reason for purchasing this volume is first of all to read some excellent stories. The tales of Ancient Norse heroes and villains, gods and monsters, treasures and battles, is not only engaging on its own merits but it is fascinating to pick up themes and events that have been borrowed by more modern myth-makers such as C.S. Lewis and Tolkien himself. These are just really good stories. But the other reason to read this book is to witness Tolkien's genius and skill in crafting these poems (the stories are told in poetic form). Tolkien has recreated these stories in poem form in English in a meter that matches the pattern of the old Norse. It goes without saying that this must have been some feat. The version is high English, and can take a bit of getting used to. It's a bit like listening to Yoda tell you a story..."Tragic, it is. Backwards, it seems." Well, its not really like that but I think you get the idea. Anyway, these are great epics or sagas (can't recall from the book what Tolkien's version ought to be called) and the format not only suits these tales but serves to showcase Tolkien's genius yet again. If at first you find them difficult to get into, persevere and the stories will reward you. And don't be intimidated by all the notes on Tolkien and his lectures and commentary compiled and edited by his son, Christopher. I read them and they are interesting in their way even for a layman, but you certainly don't need to read them. You can skip straight to the good stuff. If I could I'd give this 3.5 stars (4 for the poems and 3 for the notes).
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars there is crying of ravens, cold howls the wolf, June 6 2009
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
This review is from: Legend Of Sigurd And Gudrun (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. Of course, everything goes wrong for the poor woman -- and her brothers Gunnar and Hogni rush to attack Atli.

"The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun" is not for those who only like to read Tolkien's Middle-Earth stories. Sure, there's a cursed ring and a mention of "Mirkwood," but the rest of it is pure Norse saga infused with gods, sorrow, magic and ancient battles. But it's a fascinating story, and you can hear the ring of the elves and the Rohirrhim in some of the stately passages ("Hail O sunlight/and sun's rising").

It's also very complex story, with lots of gory battles, doomed love affairs, and everybody involved ending up miserable and/or dead -- in particular, the bleak yet exquisite finale of "The Lay of Gudrun" is astonishing. And Tolkien does make you feel for the two lead characters of Sigurd and poor, tragic Gudrun (whose only crime was to love her husband), even if Sigurd is kind of a jerk. Brynhild just comes across as a snotty ice queen.

And Tolkien's wordcraft is pretty smooth, easily read if you're used to epic poetry. There are a few awkward moments ("Last night I lay/where loath me was/with less liking/I may lay me yet"), but most of it is easy to decipher and to follow. And the words are usually quite vivid, beautifully written ("gleaming robed/as flower unfolded/fair at morning") and evocative ("his beard was grey/as bark of ash"), with many moments that are simply beautiful.

For the record: "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun" has a LOT of Christopher Tolkien's forewords, commentary and Tolkien's own information on Norse mythology (for the record, "midgardsormr" means the serpent around the world). There's fifty pages to wade through before the poem even starts. Those with little experience in Norse myth might find it handy, but anyone who already knows the story will find it rather dry.

The legendary JRR Tolkien's working of "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun" is a vivid retelling of this saga, and his unmistakable touch is left on the words. If you can handle epic poetry, this one is definitely worth a read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars There is crying of ravens, cold howls the wolf, May 1 2011
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
(TOP 10 REVIEWER)    (HALL OF FAME)   
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. Of course, everything goes wrong for the poor woman -- and her brothers Gunnar and Hogni rush to attack Atli.

"The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun" is not for those who only like to read Tolkien's Middle-Earth stories. Sure, there's a cursed ring and a mention of "Mirkwood," but the rest of it is pure Norse saga infused with gods, sorrow, magic and ancient battles. But it's a fascinating story, and you can hear the ring of the elves and the Rohirrhim in some of the stately passages ("Hail O sunlight/and sun's rising").

It's also very complex story, with lots of gory battles, doomed love affairs, and everybody involved ending up miserable and/or dead -- in particular, the bleak yet exquisite finale of "The Lay of Gudrun" is astonishing. And Tolkien does make you feel for the two lead characters of Sigurd and poor, tragic Gudrun (whose only crime was to love her husband), even if Sigurd is kind of a jerk. Brynhild just comes across as a snotty ice queen.

And Tolkien's wordcraft is pretty smooth, easily read if you're used to epic poetry. There are a few awkward moments ("Last night I lay/where loath me was/with less liking/I may lay me yet"), but most of it is easy to decipher and to follow. And the words are usually quite vivid, beautifully written ("gleaming robed/as flower unfolded/fair at morning") and evocative ("his beard was grey/as bark of ash"), with many moments that are simply beautiful.

For the record: "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun" has a LOT of Christopher Tolkien's forewords, commentary and Tolkien's own information on Norse mythology (for the record, "midgardsormr" means the serpent around the world). There's fifty pages to wade through before the poem even starts. Those with little experience in Norse myth might find it handy, but anyone who already knows the story will find it rather dry.

The legendary JRR Tolkien's working of "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun" is a vivid retelling of this saga, and his unmistakable touch is left on the words. If you can handle epic poetry, this one is definitely worth a read.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Literary Genius!, Feb. 3 2010
This review is from: Legend Of Sigurd And Gudrun (Hardcover)
Tolkien's work in myth and fantasy is unparalleled. This is a beautifully crafted story and one you will remember just as well as LOTR. A great addition to your Tolkien collection.
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Legend Of Sigurd And Gudrun
Legend Of Sigurd And Gudrun by J.R.R. Tolkien (Hardcover - May 5 2009)
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