mtvessel: (Default)
Dec 2012
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun - J.R.R. Tolkien, ed. Christopher Tolkien - HarperCollins, 2009
* * * *
Thanks to the efforts of his executors, J.R.R. Tolkien has been a much more prolific author since his death than he was before it. On the whole, I do not approve. With the possible exceptions of The Children of Hurin (which I haven't read) and The Silmarillion (which I have, but found so dull that I remember nothing of it), there is little in his posthumous publications that is of interest to people who are not Lord of the Rings obsessives.

For this one, however, I think an exception can be made, for it is a genuine work of scholarship. Tolkien was known as a professor of Anglo-Saxon rather than Old Norse but this book shows that his talents extended beyond his speciality. It is a telling of the tale of Sigurd the Dragonslayer, the Valkyrie Brynhild, the Niflung Gunnar and his sister Gudrun, and their tragic interaction caused by a ring cursed by the dwarf Andvari when his treasure is taken by Loki to pay a ransom. This story would become better known in its Germanic form as the plot of Wagner's Ring Cycle. One rather pleasing addition is the tale of what happens to Gudrun after Sigurd's passing. She is forcibly married to Atli (Attila the Hun) and takes horrible revenge when he murders members of her family.
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