[Review] The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun by J. R. R. Tolkien

Publisher and Publication Date: Mariner Books. First Mariner edition 2010. First published 2009.
Genre: Fantasy fiction. Poetry.
Pages: 381.
Format: Paperback.
Source: Self-purchase.
Audience: Tolkien readers. Readers of myths and legends. Readers of Old Norse poetry.
Rating: Very good.

Link for the book @ Amazon.

J. R. R. Tolkien Goodreads author page.

The Tolkien Estate, the official site.

This link is to read an article about Tolkien from the Smithsonian Magazine: How J. R. R. Tolkien Came to Write the Stories of The Rings of Power.

Summary:

The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun is Tolkien’s version of ancient Dane stories. The Danes were an ancient Northern Germanic people who lived in what we now call the modern countries of Denmark and the southernmost area of Sweden. Their time period is roughly 500 BC to 1050 AD.

His story is told in two poems. Lay of the Völsungs. Lay of Gudrún.

These poems are from the heroic age of Vikings, after 700 AD.

They are in verse form, an old 8-line stanza. And each line is 3 to 4 words.

Even though there are old sources that these new poems loosely came from, it is stated in the Foreword: “He scarcely ever (to my knowledge) referred to them.” This book of Tolkien’s’ poems is not to be thought as “translations” of the previous. They are new. Tolkien called them “New Lays.” Tolkien possibly wrote them in the 1930s.

My Thoughts:

Reading through the book is the easy part. Understanding what I have read is difficult because I have little knowledge of Dane history, culture, society, and literature. I focused on reading for pleasure. I have since reread the Foreword and Introduction and this has helped. In addition, there is a commentary chapter after each of the two poems. My advice is to read these features.

I feel like I’ve been on an adventure reading these two poems.

The poems are dramatic, masculine, vivid, physical, and haunting. The words in the poems are purposeful in carrying the serious dark nature of their world.

I don’t consider the poems to be ethereal or romantic.

The poems are not to be compared to Tolkien’s well-known Lord of the Rings books.

Some of my favorite lines are in reference to the dragon, Fafnir. I love reading about dragons!

I believe this is a perfect book to read aloud. I’d love to hear it read through Audible.

Themes in the poems are injustice, betrayal, death, marriage, courage, and bravery.