Science Fiction and Fantasy Association of New Zealand

Legend Of Sigurd And Gudrun The Legend Of Sigurd And Gudrun
by J. R. R. Tolkien
Harper Collins

Supplied for review by Harper Collins New Zealand

Reviewed By: Simon Litten

Contrary to expectation The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun is not another chapter in the unending saga that is J.R.R. Tolkien’s magnum opus The Lord of The Rings. No, this new book is a scholarly rendition in English, using a traditional Viking poetry style, of the two inter-related Eddaic poems The Lay of Sigurd and The Lay of Gudrun (with apologies to scholars for the vernacular names).

At over fifteen hundred years the poems have a history that is older than most Scandinavian and, because of the poems historical roots, German cities. Mr Tolkien has done an excellent job with his rendition making the new Anglicised versions an easy, pleasant read.

But there is more to this book than the poems. As the renditions were intended as a scholarly exercise J.R.R.’s son Christopher, as compiler of the book, has included as much historical and scholastic material as he deemed sensible to put the renditions into perspective. Not only is this material fascinating, it is neither too much nor too little.

The source material for Sigurd & Gudrun was the German epic poem Das Nibelungenlied, however, I was unaware till this book that Wagner based his opera series (or cycle as he pompously called it) of the same name on the Icelandic version (and one of the two sources for Tolkien’s work) of that poem. This small fact explained the hitherto unexplained presence of Norse gods in the German opera. Sigurd & Gudrun also acted as a base, via Fafnir and his hoard, for the dragon Smaug in The Hobbit and elsewhere as the fore-story to The Lord of The Rings.

J.R.R. Tolkien was a brilliant linguist, but this book proves that his creative spark as an author was burning brightly well before his two most popular books were ever started as bedtime stories.

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