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THE POETIC EDDA (Old Norse poems from the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius based on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends) - Annotated ICELANDIC ORIGIN PDF, ePub eBook

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THE POETIC EDDA (Old Norse poems from the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius based on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends) - Annotated ICELANDIC ORIGIN

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THE POETIC EDDA (Old Norse poems from the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius based on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends) - Annotated ICELANDIC ORIGIN PDF, ePub eBook THE POETIC EDDA TRANSLATED FROM THE ICELANDIC WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES (IN TWO VOLUMES) The Poetic Eddas are the Old Norse oral literature of Iceland, which were finally written down from 1000 to 1300 C.E. The Eddas are a primary source for our knowledge of ancient Norse pagan beliefs. This translation of the Poetic Eddas by Henry Adams Bellows is highly readable. THE POETIC EDDA TRANSLATED FROM THE ICELANDIC WITH AN INTRODUCTION AND NOTES (IN TWO VOLUMES) The Poetic Eddas are the Old Norse oral literature of Iceland, which were finally written down from 1000 to 1300 C.E. The Eddas are a primary source for our knowledge of ancient Norse pagan beliefs. This translation of the Poetic Eddas by Henry Adams Bellows is highly readable. The poems are great tragic literature, with vivid descriptions of the emotional states of the protagonists, Gods and heroes alike. Women play a prominent role in the Eddic age, and many of them are delineated as skilled warriors. The impact of these sagas from a sparsely inhabited rocky island in the middle of the Atlantic on world culture is wide-ranging. Wagners' operas are largely based on incidents from the Edda, via the Niebelungenlied. J.R.R. Tolkien also plundered the Eddas for atmosphere, plot material and the names of many characters in the Hobbit, and the Lord of the Rings.

30 review for THE POETIC EDDA (Old Norse poems from the Icelandic mediaeval manuscript Codex Regius based on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends) - Annotated ICELANDIC ORIGIN

  1. 4 out of 5

    Wood Wroth

    PLEASE NOTE: Due to poor organization of translations on this website, I must note that this is a review of Andy Orchard's translation of the "Poetic Edda", which he has titled "The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore". Being familiar with Andy Orchard's handbook on Norse mythology ("Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend", 1997) and finding it to be a nice middle ground between Rudolf Simek's deeply flawed handbook and the limited scope of John Lindow's own, it was with high hopes that I waited for PLEASE NOTE: Due to poor organization of translations on this website, I must note that this is a review of Andy Orchard's translation of the "Poetic Edda", which he has titled "The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore". Being familiar with Andy Orchard's handbook on Norse mythology ("Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend", 1997) and finding it to be a nice middle ground between Rudolf Simek's deeply flawed handbook and the limited scope of John Lindow's own, it was with high hopes that I waited for Andy Orchard's 2011 English translation of the Poetic Edda, or, alternately, as Orchard has chosen to go with here, the "Elder Edda". Specifically I had hoped that Orchard's 2011 Penguin Classics translation would be a superior alternative to Carolyne Larrington's commonly available Oxford World's Classics translation (titled "The Poetic Edda" and first published in 1996). Unfortunately, Orchard's translation not only continues most of the problems found in Larrington's translation, but also introduces a variety of new issues. Let's begin with the title. This translation of the Poetic Edda is titled "The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore", and the material contained within is frequently referred to as "viking lore" throughout. Referring to these poems as "viking lore" may have been a marketing decision intended to move units, but it is unfortunately misleading; the lore in question primarily dates from the Viking Age, sure, but elements of the compositions date at least as far back as the Migration Period (the 5th to 9th century CE) and other elements are from a few hundred years after the Viking Age ended (the Poetic Edda was compiled in the 13th century and the Viking Age is held to have ended in the 11th century). Further, famous as the vikings are, they made up a small fraction of Scandinavian society at their greatest. Daily life among the vast majority of the North Germanic peoples was focused squarely on matters pastoral and agricultural and had little to do with this specific class of Norsemen. Anyway, a minor gripe, but it needs to be pointed out. The introduction essay is considerably more hairy. The first major issue here is Orchard's handling of weekday names. Orchard makes it seem as if the English days of the week are of Old Norse origin (p. xvii) and, consequently, that modern English "Friday" is named after the goddess Freyja. In actuality, these weekday names were put in place by way of a process known as interpretatio germanica. This occurred in nearly all recorded Germanic languages and well before the Viking Age. As a result, the English weekday names are not a product of Old Norse influence but arose natively, and so bear the names of native Anglo-Saxon deities. As a result, English "Friday" in fact translates to 'Frige's Day'. Old English "Frige" is linguistically cognate to the name of the Old Norse goddess "Frigg", and not that of the Old Norse goddess Freyja. Why Orchard offers this muddled commentary rather than simply pointing out how closely related the English and the Norse were I do not know. It would have likely have whetted the interest of the reader to point out that, as is the case with all Germanic languages and mythologies, the Anglo-Saxons and the Norse were fellow siblings of a Proto-Germanic mother. Later in his introduction, Orchard offers up some curious personal commentary as simple fact. The first incident of this occurs when Orchard discusses women in the mythological poems contained within the Poetic Edda. According to Orchard, "in the mythical world of the Codex Regius [the most important Poetic Edda manuscript], women are largely scheming and suspect, when they are not simply victims or the objects of unwanted sexual attention" (xx). From Freyja's ferocious refusal to be downtrodden in "Þrymskviða" (p. 98), to Odin's reminder that men can be just as untrustworthy as women in "Hávamál" (p. 27), to Odin's dependence upon the wisdom of an ancient, dead female völva in "Völuspá" (pp. 1-14), this is a particularly dubious interpretation of the role of the numerous goddesses, valkyries, and other strong-willed, strong-minded female beings depicted in these poems. True, the female aspect of Germanic mythology is far under-represented in these poems, but so are most things that don't relate to the god Odin or royalty, likely due to the source of their recording (skalds of particular royal courts). Orchard might have pointed out the strong female component found in our records of Germanic paganism and its mythology. Beginning with veneration of Nerthus as recorded by Tacitus in 1 CE (Germania) on to repeated references to a strong tradition of powerful, intelligent seeressess wielding power throughout the records of the heathen Germanic peoples (such as Veleda, Albruna, Waluburg, Ganna, and Gambara), and reaching all the way up to our records of Norse mythology, it is clear that women were no lesser beings to the pre-Christian Germanic peoples. In the same section is Orchard's commentary on what he calls "the twin fatal flaws of Norse pagan belief" (p. xxxv). Orchard says these two flaws were that Norse pagan beliefs were "fragmented" and also "had an uncertain future". Regarding his first point, Orchard claims that since Germanic (or specifically Norse) paganism appears to have been fragmented and non-unified, it was destined to be replaced by Christianity. However, what he neglects to mention is that while few surviving sources on continental Germanic paganism exist, these sources frequently seem to closely parallel the Old Norse material (i.e. the Merseburg Incantations, Nerthus>Njörðr, etc.), which points to more unity than Orchard is willing to give credit for here, despite the vast distances in time and place between these attestations. Orchard's second point revolves around Norse afterlife beliefs, which he describes as a simple Valhalla-Ragnarök model (on an apparently linear timescale). Orchard briefly compares this to Christianity's afterlife narrative, which he evidently deems to have offered more to believers and thus insinuates that it was therefore more attractive. This is problematic for multiple reasons, but the primary reason is that the Germanic afterlife beliefs were clearly nowhere near as simple as Orchard here says (which the Poetic Edda alone makes perfectly clear). From references to reincarnation and reduplication of mythical elements (and so to the potential of cyclic time), to several distinctly different methods of burial on the archaeological record, to references in the Poetic Edda to ill-defined afterlife locations such as Freyja's afterlife field Fólkvangr (notably, Orchard ignores that Odin is in fact attested as having to cede half of his harvest of the dead to the goddess, even though he takes the time to problematically render Fólkvangr as--groan--"Battle-Field" (p. 52)), this is a gross simplification on the part of Orchard that is entirely misleading and does not help his audience in understanding the material he presents. Yet what is perhaps most striking about Orchard's claim of "twin fatal flaws" is that he for some reason neglects to mention the primary reason for this shift in religion: the systemic, bloody, and much-resisted process of the Christianization of Germanic Europe. From Charlemagne's crusade against the pagan Saxons, waged with extermination orders for those that refused Christianization in hand (see Charlemagne's infamous "Capitulatio de partibus Saxoniae" and the Massacre of Verden), to archaeological finds of mass employment of emblematic replicas of Thor's hammer all over Scandinavia as a defiant responses to enclosing Christian crosses, and references to death-or-conversion throughout the Old Norse record, it is inappropriate for Orchard to fob off these events with a poorly-supported theory of supposed "flaws". It is further crucial to mention that, despite the Christianization process, elements of these beliefs continued to live on in folklore and folk practice, where deity names are recorded as in use until as late as the 19th century in Germanic-language speaking areas, sometimes exactly in the context of Old Norse attestations (!). These beliefs have also been the source in modern times for modern reconstructionist Germanic pagan groups. In fact, as Orchard mentions his fondess for taking trips to Iceland in his translation, he should well be aware that a modern Norse heathen movement now makes up the second largest religious group in the country; the ever-growing Ásatrúarfélagið. And they are hardly alone. Groups inspired by Germanic paganism now exist in every country in Europe, throughout the United States, South America, and as far away as Australia. Why does this sizable cultural shift get no mention here? While Orchard does mention that the Poetic Edda has had much literary influence through the years, it is by no means an overstatement to say that the Poetic Edda has been influential well beyond those dusty circles, and that the work remains a potent cultural force. Moving on to the "A Note on Spelling, Pronunciation, and Translation" section, Orchard details some of his translation choices. Unfortunately, Orchard has decided to arbitrarily and inconsistently translate some of the proper names in the text to whatever he has most preferred. Mind-bogglingly, Orchard admits that this practice is "frankly indefensible" (p. xliv) but goes ahead and does it anyway! What exactly does this mean for the reader? Well, for example, the proper name Gullveig is rendered as "Gold-draught" (p. 8), despite the fact that it is just as likely that "Gullveig" could be rendered as something like "Gold-strength" or even (by way of semantic value) "The Bright One". Additionally, since these are proper names that may have been archaic in their time, this practice is a lot like referring to your 20th century pal Alfred as "Elf-Counsel", yet with far more etymological certainty than is available in most of the etymological troublesome proper nouns Orchard handles in his translation. Restricting this sort of tomfoolery to the Index of Names section in the back of the book would have avoided any confusion nicely, and Orchard's earlier handbook contains plenty of etymologies to draw from. Adding to this unfortunate decision is Orchard's choice to continue the practice of inappropriate and unhelpful glossing found in some other translations. For example, the glosses "giant" and "ogre" (both derived from Greco-Roman mythology) are slapped on top of various words for a variety of beings specific to the mythology, such as "thurs", "jötunn", "risi", and "troll", rendering exactly what is being referred to unclear and the semantic context totally indiscernible. Even the place name "Jötunheimr" is rendered as "Giants' Domain". Besides, the source text is entirely unclear how "giant" any of these beings were considered at any given time. This poor practice should have been discontinued long ago, even if, yes, a minor note about what the scary, scary word may mean would be required. I mean, do we gloss "valkyrie" as "fury" or "Odin" as "Jupiter"? Fortunately not, and these culturally-specific concepts should be treated with the same level of respect. Considering the whole package, there does not really seem to be a lot of reason for this translation to exist; it offers essentially nothing of particular value that its precursor (Larrington's translation) does not, and it frequently reads much like it. Additionally, it is an entirely bare-boned affair, free of any special media or aesthetic treatment, and the Old Norse is not included (a low-priced dual-edition translation remains unavailable for all current English translations). It further does not offer, say, translations of rarely published poems associated with the Poetic Edda (such as the wonderful "Hrafnagaldr Óðins", unfortunately restricted to some early translations). The inclusion of any of these elements would have set it apart from all other modern English translations. On the up side, it is useful for its footnotes--which, with the issues outlined above as examples, one would do well to eye with caution--and is also mildly useful as yet another translation to compare prior Poetic Edda translations to. Perhaps Penguin simply needed a translation similar to Oxford's Larrington translation and Orchard was up to the task. Whatever the case, the wait for a definitive English Poetic Edda translation continues. I am not advising the reader to avoid this translation. In fact, short of Ursula Dronke's unavailable translation(s), a superior alternative does not come to mind. However, if one does decide to get this translation, he or she will benefit from searching online for Benjamin Thorpe's 19th century translation along with Henry Adam Bellows's early 20th century translation for comparison. Both translations are in the public domain. Due to his avoidance of glossing, Thorpe's translation in particular retains its value, and will counteract some of the confusion to be found here. Lee M. Hollander's mid-20th century translation is still widely available and is also useful for comparison. Otherwise, tread with care.

  2. 4 out of 5

    João Fernandes

    What I love the most about Norse literature and mythology is that the gods are all incredibly... for the lack of a better word, human. They suffer, they lust, they love, and they even seem to be quite mortal as far as gods go. The Elder (or Poetic) Edda is a collection of 'poems' found in an ancient manuscript in Iceland, the Codex Regius. The Elder Edda has a mythological section, with poems about the gods and the start and end of the world (the famous Ragnarok), and a heroic section. I was surpri What I love the most about Norse literature and mythology is that the gods are all incredibly... for the lack of a better word, human. They suffer, they lust, they love, and they even seem to be quite mortal as far as gods go. The Elder (or Poetic) Edda is a collection of 'poems' found in an ancient manuscript in Iceland, the Codex Regius. The Elder Edda has a mythological section, with poems about the gods and the start and end of the world (the famous Ragnarok), and a heroic section. I was surprised to find that the heroic second section of the Edda overlaps a lot with The Saga of the Volsungs: again, it mostly narrates the stories of the last men of the Volsung dynasty. It also contains what to me will always be one of the funniest, albeit tragic, pieces of dialogue ever: Sinfjötli dying due to poisoning and his father Sigmund, too drunk to realise the actual danger, simply tells him to "filter it through your moustache, son". I know it's a tragic death but that line gets me everytime. Like the Volsunga saga, it narrates Sigurd the Dragon Slayer's story, and it offers a different perspective on what is probably the oldest love square story: Sigurd, Brynhild, Gunnar and Gudrún (the Norse Medea). I find their story incredibly compelling, a true Greek tragedy and what was clearly a good cautionary tale at a time when whole families died because they kept avenging each other. If you're a fan of Norse myths, then this is the book for you. My favourite mythological lays were the Hávamál (the Lay of the High One), a list of advice coming directly from the God of autoerotic asphyxiation, Odin; and Lokasenna - Loki in a yelling match with all the other gods, proving he's not a god of destruction but the God of ridiculous and hilarious comebacks.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Markus

    "Wits are needful for someone who travels widely, anything will do at home; he becomes a laughing-stock, the man who knows nothing and sits among the wise." - Hávamál Arguably the greatest mythological masterpiece human civilisation has achieved, in my mind. But I'm biased for a variety of reasons; from being from the north, from researching its history and culture every day as a profession and from this being the main inspiration for my favourite literary author J. R. R. Tolkien. I'll do a more prope "Wits are needful for someone who travels widely, anything will do at home; he becomes a laughing-stock, the man who knows nothing and sits among the wise." - Hávamál Arguably the greatest mythological masterpiece human civilisation has achieved, in my mind. But I'm biased for a variety of reasons; from being from the north, from researching its history and culture every day as a profession and from this being the main inspiration for my favourite literary author J. R. R. Tolkien. I'll do a more proper review of this when I gather some more thoughts. "The corpses of doomed men fall, the gods' dwellings are reddened with crimson blood; sunshine becomes black the next summer, all weather is vicious - do you understand yet, or what more?" - Voluspá

  4. 5 out of 5

    sologdin

    famous for being one of the earliest plagiarisms of professor Tolkien's LotR.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Mike

    The introduction states that the Edda is "a repository, in poetic form" of mythology and heroic lore "bodying forth both the ethical views and the cultural life of the North during the late heathen and early Christian times." It is also, for the most part, boring as fuck. It may be an interesting read if you are a fan of English before it got corrupted by all those French and Latin borrowings, or don't mind stopping several times a page to find out the meaning of an obscure or terribly archaic w The introduction states that the Edda is "a repository, in poetic form" of mythology and heroic lore "bodying forth both the ethical views and the cultural life of the North during the late heathen and early Christian times." It is also, for the most part, boring as fuck. It may be an interesting read if you are a fan of English before it got corrupted by all those French and Latin borrowings, or don't mind stopping several times a page to find out the meaning of an obscure or terribly archaic word or name. Not to depreciate the skill of the translator — I'm sure great skill and care went into the rendition of the original into the current text — but reading these poems rife with unfamiliar accents and names impossible to pronounce undermined for this reader the translator's preservation of the meter of the original. I had hoped to use these poems to peer into a lost era. Instead I muddled through murky events half-seen, a foreign fog poorly illuminated by brief flashes of clarity like a movie viewed while distracted and drunk. There is a catalog of dwarfs at the end, in case you are into that sort of thing.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Roman Clodia

    Then Brynhild laughed - all the hall resounded - / just one time with all her heart: / 'Well may you enjoy the lands and followers / now you've brought the brave prince to his death' Collected in the 13th century in the Codex Regius, the body of poetry here straddles Old Norse myth and heroic poetry from probably around the 10th century, a time when the pagan North was becoming Christianised. The heroic verse is primarily from the complicated tales of Helgi, Sigurd, Gunnar and the valkyrie Sigrd Then Brynhild laughed - all the hall resounded - / just one time with all her heart: / 'Well may you enjoy the lands and followers / now you've brought the brave prince to his death' Collected in the 13th century in the Codex Regius, the body of poetry here straddles Old Norse myth and heroic poetry from probably around the 10th century, a time when the pagan North was becoming Christianised. The heroic verse is primarily from the complicated tales of Helgi, Sigurd, Gunnar and the valkyrie Sigrdrifa usually better known via the Germanic The Nibelungenlied. Other poems have been added to this canon and Larrington includes quest and other poetry. Unlike Snorri's The Prose Edda, the poetry here is not systematic nor connected in any easy way: what we have instead are fragments and tales that might contradict or undermine or supplement each other in a nicely allusive and intertextual way. Different versions of the heroic sagas emerge and diverge: so while this might be comparable to other great mythic collections like Ovid's Metamorphoses or Hesiod's Theogony, this is far more unstable in an interesting way. Source material for The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, this is a fascinating window into Old Norse heroic culture.

  7. 5 out of 5

    John Snow

    The Poetic Edda is not a book you read from beginning to end like a novel. The Poetic Edda contains 35 poems, some of which are very complicated. I usually read and study one or a few poems at a time, put the book aside, and then get back to it later. But the more times I read the poems, the more I appreciate their poetic qualities and the glimpses they give into the deep mysteries and wisdom of Norse mythology. Together with The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, The Poetic Edda is the best medieva The Poetic Edda is not a book you read from beginning to end like a novel. The Poetic Edda contains 35 poems, some of which are very complicated. I usually read and study one or a few poems at a time, put the book aside, and then get back to it later. But the more times I read the poems, the more I appreciate their poetic qualities and the glimpses they give into the deep mysteries and wisdom of Norse mythology. Together with The Prose Edda by Snorri Sturluson, The Poetic Edda is the best medieval source for the study of Old Norse mythology and cosmology. The poems are about the creation of the world, of æsir and vanir (the two kind of gods), of giants, dwarves, elves, volvas, valkyries and all kinds of creatures, including the norns who decide our faith, and Yggdrasil, the World Tree. The poems tell how Thor fights the giants, of Freya's seductive powers, of Siv's beauty, and of Loki's treachery. But first of all the poems are about Odin's obsessive quest for knowledge and the truth about his own death in Ragnarok, the Doom of Goods. The Poetic Edda also tells the stories of Helgi Hundingsbane and his valkyrie bride and the tragic love between Sigurd the Dragonslayer and Brynhild. It may seem out of place to recommend the reading of another book before you read the one which is up for review, but for the first-time reader who knows little about Norse mythology, Snorri's Edda is actually a better starting point. In his book Snorri explains the old poems and the myths, and the mythological stories are retold in plain prose. With this background it is easier to understand the poems in The Poetic Edda. But it definitely helps that the Oxford edition of the poems is equipped with an index, explanatory notes, genealogies, and an introduction. Being accustomed to the rhythm and non-Latinate wordings of Norwegian translations, I find it a bit strange to read English versions of the old poems, but I am in no position to compare Carolyne Larrington's translation with other English translations. It is nevertheless very refreshing to get a new perspective on the poems given by another language. And, as I said in the beginning of the review, the more I read the Edda poems, the more impressed I get.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Briynne

    It turns out that I have a real thing for Scandinavian literature. Reading this and the sagas has made me a little obsessed with the idea of visiting Iceland. It’s hard for me to separate my thoughts on the eddas from my thoughts on the sagas and the most recent Sigrid Undset novel I’m reading, but I’m going to try to keep everything to it’s proper review space. Alright. The Elder Edda (or Poetic Edda) is the written version of the oral-tradition base material from which the later Younger/Prose It turns out that I have a real thing for Scandinavian literature. Reading this and the sagas has made me a little obsessed with the idea of visiting Iceland. It’s hard for me to separate my thoughts on the eddas from my thoughts on the sagas and the most recent Sigrid Undset novel I’m reading, but I’m going to try to keep everything to it’s proper review space. Alright. The Elder Edda (or Poetic Edda) is the written version of the oral-tradition base material from which the later Younger/Prose Edda was constructed. As I understand it, these two eddas are the two most important primary sources for what is known about Norse Mythology. If I can step onto my soapbox for a moment, I think it’s a shame to read those clinical synopsis-type mythologies (i.e. encyclopedia-like entries for each deity and concept) when the source material is so much better. Sure, it can be slightly incomprehensible at times, but you get so much more local color, as it were. The opening poem, the Völuspà , is a knock-out. Really, go find it on the internet and read it. In the poem, a seer-woman spins the future out for Odin and delivers the dark, dismal fate of the gods and the world in a hauntingly ethereal, lyrical style. What I loved about this collection is that the next poem Saying of the High One does a complete 180 in tone and delivers a sometimes-amusing string of advice that could have been taken from the Viking version of the Poor Richard’s Almanac. The comedy roles on with the Lay of Thrym (note: according to the OED a “lay” is “a short lyric or narrative poem intended to be sung” – I had no idea, so I thought I’d share). In this poem, Thor and Loki disguise themselves, badly, as ladies in order to fool a giant. The king of the giants demands the goddess Freyja as his wife in return for giving Thor back his stupid hammer, but since she won’t have anything to do with it, the guys go in her place. It was funny in an absurd way – I kept thinking that the folks in medieval Iceland probably would have really enjoyed Harold and Kumar. The Lay of Harbard also operated on this sort of sophomoric level. Basically, Thor and this guy Harbard stand on opposite banks of a river yelling insults at each other. Thor tries to prove his masculinity or whatever by bragging about various feats of battle, to which Harbard responds by enumerating his various, shall we say, romantic conquests. I honestly kept waiting for him to respond with “yo momma”. Things turned back again in style with The Lay of Alvis, which I really liked. It reminded me of Tolkein, who may not have been as creative as I had originally thought, but he certainly had a good eye for inspiration. The whole poem is dedicated to Alvis listing the names for different things in the various worlds of the Vanir, Æsir, elves, dwarves, and humans; it doesn’t sound interesting, but I found it to be one of the most lovely and poetic of the lays. For instance, when Thor asks Alvis what the sun is called in the different worlds, he replies: “Men call it Sol, and gods the Sun, | The dwarfs say Dvalin’s Delight; | The giants Ever-Glowing, the elves Fair Wheel, | The Æsir Shadowless Shining.” The entire second half of the Edda is devoted to poems of the Volsung saga. I’m still not in love with this story, although I felt like I got to know the story and characters better in this edda, and I’ve warmed up a little. The drama centers around the Sigurd – Gudrun – Gunnar – Brynhild love square, only not really since Gudrun and Gunnar are siblings. It’s a horrible mess and neither the heroic Sigurd nor the high-maintenance valkyrie Brynhild make it out alive. They both get on my nerves, though, so it’s alright. Gunnar is a loser, and Brynhild was probably right to be so scornful of him. But Gudrun I like. She is Sigurd’s wife, and there is a really touching lay describing her silent grief after he is killed. I changed from pitying her to just plain being scared of her pretty quickly, though. The Lay of Atli is like a horror movie. In the poem, Gudrun is married against her will to a barbarian king whom she cannot stand after the death of her beloved Sigurd, at the insistence of her brothers. After a few miserable years together, the king kills Gunnar and the rest of her brothers in some dispute and she just snaps. She murders the two young sons they had together and feeds her husband their blood and hearts in disguise as some sort of delicacy at a feast before killing him and everyone else she could find. Not joking. So, she’s completely crazy, but she provides a great punctuation mark to the sometimes tedious Volsung-themed poems. As a whole, these poems were utterly fascinating. They were strange and beautiful in fairly equal measure, and I’m very glad I tracked this particular translation down through ILL. Seriously, there are some horrific translations out there. I don’t know anything about their technical merits, obviously, but from a readability stand-point this was the best one I could find. I wouldn’t recommend reading this book before you have a little background from either the Prose Edda or one of those anthologies I bashed earlier, because I don’t think it would make a lot of sense without some outside context.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Kate Elliott

    Translations like this are what saves ancient literature otherwise doomed to death by obscurity. Dr. Crawford brings the Poetic Edda to life in a clever way that is easily accessible to all readers, without dumbing it down. Translations of the Edda have a high barrier to entry--they have to presuppose knowledge that casual readers generally neither have nor want, and the language tends to be difficult. This translation beautifully strikes that knife's edge balance between modernization and remai Translations like this are what saves ancient literature otherwise doomed to death by obscurity. Dr. Crawford brings the Poetic Edda to life in a clever way that is easily accessible to all readers, without dumbing it down. Translations of the Edda have a high barrier to entry--they have to presuppose knowledge that casual readers generally neither have nor want, and the language tends to be difficult. This translation beautifully strikes that knife's edge balance between modernization and remaining true to the language and spirit of the original. The introduction at the beginning and between each piece is another excellent feature; Dr. Crawford excels at distilling, summarizing, and then delivering vast amounts of unusual and unfamiliar information understandably and engagingly. This is how you keep literature alive: keep people reading it.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Jason Donoghue

    It's been so long since I read this book, I need to reread it to give it another review.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Biblio Curious

    The first few poems were absolutely amazing & packed with allusions to mythological stories or lines of wisdom. The rest of the poems are mostly unrelated to each other & perhaps are best read separately at your own leisure. This Oxford Edition is rather clumsy because the poems themselves require so many notes to understand what they are referring to. I would have preferred footnotes instead because of how important these notes are for making these poems readable. About halfway through, The first few poems were absolutely amazing & packed with allusions to mythological stories or lines of wisdom. The rest of the poems are mostly unrelated to each other & perhaps are best read separately at your own leisure. This Oxford Edition is rather clumsy because the poems themselves require so many notes to understand what they are referring to. I would have preferred footnotes instead because of how important these notes are for making these poems readable. About halfway through, I stopped reading the endnotes entirely because looking them up ruined the comprehension completely & I was getting nothing from the poems themselves. The endnotes are wildly interesting where they summarize a character's backstory or a key event that is referenced in the poem to 'get you up to speed with what's happening.' Perhaps a modern comparison is, watching an action movie in a foreign language without access to subtitles. You'll miss the plot line but be able to see all the action unfolding. Another way to phrase all of this is to admit the Poetic Edda is a key source for most or all of Norse Mythology. It's essentially a dictionary or reference book that the rest of the Norse Cannon stems from. A great example of this is how widely celebrated the list of names for the Dwarfs are. Without knowing who they are, they are simply a list similar in vibe to the 'who begat who's' from the Bible. If you know their stories or are at a much later point of piecing together how they relate to each other, a single list is incredibly helpful to have. I wouldn't recommend this for people new to Norse Mythology with the exception of the first 2 poems. If you have lifelong connection to Norse Mythology and want to learn about it for years to come, this book could be indispensable for your collection.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Daniel Morgen

    This was a trippy adventure, and there's a lot I want to say about it, but I'll start by saying that it was an incredible read for those with the patience to read ancient literature. And believe me, it takes a lot of patience; it is poetry from a dead language which often doesn't translate in a stirring way. However, after reading the Poetic Edda itself (not really the four additional poems they tack on to the end of this book), you walk away with a feeling about the inescapability of fate. Many This was a trippy adventure, and there's a lot I want to say about it, but I'll start by saying that it was an incredible read for those with the patience to read ancient literature. And believe me, it takes a lot of patience; it is poetry from a dead language which often doesn't translate in a stirring way. However, after reading the Poetic Edda itself (not really the four additional poems they tack on to the end of this book), you walk away with a feeling about the inescapability of fate. Many of the heroes of this book (such as Odin and Sigurd) are admired for their pursuits of wisdom and knowledge of their fates, but they also have the wisdom to know that fate is unavoidable, and the best they can hope for is stoically accepting and embracing their own tailored fates. I would say the main joy of reading it for me was what began as the main detriment: it's a cryptic circle of self-referential material. By that, I mean that it starts by mentioning events that you have probably never heard of if you were not versed in Norse folklore. However, when they make previously-mentioned references later on, you remember some of these secondary characters, and you begin to memorize the events of the major and secondary stories. Other interesting features include different skalds' tellings of these stories and portrayals of characters: Brynhild is sometimes a villainess and sometimes a heroine; the same applies to Gudrun; Atli is greedy for gold, but may actually have sought revenge for Brynhild's death according to some accounts. In any case, you SHOULD READ IF: you are interested in Norse mythology and want to confuse your friends with intentionally cryptic and eclectic lore (or you are looking for inspiration for a best-selling fantasy series). DO NOT READ IF: You have a normal person's attention span and a bad memory.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Cymru Roberts

    The gods of antiquity are our super heroes of today. Marvel has transformed most of the Norse gods into comic book characters, for better or for worse I don't know. I am inspired by the tales of glorious gods and I was interested in any overlap that may occur between the Norse and Greek pantheons. This text met and exceeded my expectations, but contained many lays that would only appeal to a completist or college-level student of Norse mythology. The lays are epic in scope, encompassing the begin The gods of antiquity are our super heroes of today. Marvel has transformed most of the Norse gods into comic book characters, for better or for worse I don't know. I am inspired by the tales of glorious gods and I was interested in any overlap that may occur between the Norse and Greek pantheons. This text met and exceeded my expectations, but contained many lays that would only appeal to a completist or college-level student of Norse mythology. The lays are epic in scope, encompassing the beginning and ending of the cosmos, but relayed in sparse language. The ljothahottr meter and minimal prose leaves much to the imagination, which is good because no one could ever really describe the vastness of the events. This also shows what an amazing job Hollander has done in translating. The book as a compendium is more like a grimoire than a simple bound collection of poems. Hollander's intentional use of multiple translations -- some English, some Old Norse, some a combination of the two -- makes reading this book almost like learning another language, one that is beautiful off the tongue and surprisingly filled with cognates. Hollander is known for aiming to preserve the style of the Old Norse poems, and I think he has succeeded. I was really drawn into the stories. That being said, when the lays drifted from those concerning the gods to those concerning the founding kings of Scandinavia I wasn't as interested. The background information provided by Hollander (along with google and a dictionary app close by) is considerable but helps you understand the text. The more you read the more what you have already read makes sense. You can take it as far as you want.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Kiwi Begs2Differ ✎

    I thought I would enjoy this more than I actually did. Luckily, I already knew about the legends in Norse mythology or I would have given up, I definitely prefer prose to poetry.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Lancelot Schaubert

    Where else can you find a joint source for half of Tolkien's names and a good chunk of Marvel comics? The Poetic Edda is the crux of Norse mythology and I won't presume to aspire to heavy or valued literary criticism here. I appeal as a lay reader to lay readers – you need to work your way through this book as you would any classic piece. You need this book as source material for your own stories, as enjoyment for life, and as a platform upon which to build an understanding of modern stories. As Where else can you find a joint source for half of Tolkien's names and a good chunk of Marvel comics? The Poetic Edda is the crux of Norse mythology and I won't presume to aspire to heavy or valued literary criticism here. I appeal as a lay reader to lay readers – you need to work your way through this book as you would any classic piece. You need this book as source material for your own stories, as enjoyment for life, and as a platform upon which to build an understanding of modern stories. As Lewis said in the intro to Athanasius: "There is a strange idea abroad that in every subject the ancient books should be read only by the professionals, and that the amateur should content himself with the modern books. Thus I have found as a tutor in English literature that if the average student wants to find out something about platonism, the very last thing he thinks of doing is to take a translation of �lato off the library shelf and read the symposium. He would rather read some dreary modern book ten times as long, all about "isms" and influences and only once in twelve pages telling him what Plato actually said. The error is rather an amiable one, for it springs from humility. The student is half afraid to meet one of the great philosophers face to face. He feels himself inadequate and thinks he will not understand him. �ut if he only knew, the great man, just because of his greatness, is much more intelligible than his modern commentator. The simplest student will be able to understand, if not all, yet a very great deal of what �lato said; but hardly anyone can understand some modern books on Platonism. It has always therefore been one of my main endeavours as a teacher to persuade the young that firsthand knowledge is not only more worh acquiring than secondhand knowledge, but is usually much easier and more delightful to acquire. "This mistaken preference for the modern books and this shyness of the old ones is nowhere more rampant than in theology. Wherever you find a little study circle of Christian laity you can be almost certain that they are studying not St. Luke or St. Paul or St. Augustine or Thomas Aquinas or Booker or Butler, but M. Berdyaev or M. Maritain or M. Niebuhr or Miss Sayers or even myself. "Now this seems to me topsy-turvy. Naturally, since I myself am a writer, I do not wish the ordinary reader to read no modern books. But if he must read only the new or only the old, I would advise him to read the old. And I would give him this advice precisely because he is an amateur and therefore much less protected than the expert against the dangers of an exclusive contemporary diet. A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. �t has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light. Often it cannot be fully understood without the knowledge of a good many other modern books. If you join at eleven o'clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said. remarks which seem to you very ordinary will produce laughter or irritation and you will not see why—the reason, of course, being that the earlier stages of the conversation have given them a special point. In the same way sentences in a modern book which look quite ordinary may be directed at some other book; in this way you may be led to accept what you would have indignantly rejected if you knew its real significance. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity ("mere Christianity" as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones." It goes on, but that's enough to say that reading the Poetic Edda is the easiest way to understand much of fantasy literature today. So read it, and then come back and let's discuss its influence.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    When you consider the fact that pre-Christian Scandinavian cultures, at least the ones responsible for the stories written down in the Edda, believed the world was created from the dismembered body of a giant, then you begin to realize that it's not going to be a trip to Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. Even the gods are doomed, and when Odin, boss of the gods, is constantly trying to find secret wisdom to avert the prophesied battle that will kill the gods, you know you're screwed. Not for the faint When you consider the fact that pre-Christian Scandinavian cultures, at least the ones responsible for the stories written down in the Edda, believed the world was created from the dismembered body of a giant, then you begin to realize that it's not going to be a trip to Mr. Roger's Neighborhood. Even the gods are doomed, and when Odin, boss of the gods, is constantly trying to find secret wisdom to avert the prophesied battle that will kill the gods, you know you're screwed. Not for the faint of heart, these poems depict acts of brutality committed in the name of honor, or more accurately, vengence. What do you do when your husband kills your brothers? You kill the kids you had together and feed them to him as soup. A combination of tales of adventure among the gods and a tragic cycle of poems about a family destroyed by a hoard of gold bearing a curse, this collection gives a glimpse into a world that existed before the good/evil dichotomy of modern Western religions. For all the fatalism, though, there is a pervading sense that you cannot escape Fate, so you might as well live life to the fullest, and eat, drink mead and sex it up when you can, even when you know that the King who is inviting you to his celebration is planning on massacring you and all of your companions.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Eric Tanafon

    Not the best or the worst translation. Sometimes Hollander's focus on poetic considerations can be irritating, when it means he uses unnecessarily archaic diction or flat out substitutes a word that's very different than the actual translation (to his credit, he mentions doing this in a couple of instances, but that makes you wonder how many other times he did that and didn't bother footnoting it). But, as Yogi Berra remarked in a slightly different context, even imperfect translations of the Edd Not the best or the worst translation. Sometimes Hollander's focus on poetic considerations can be irritating, when it means he uses unnecessarily archaic diction or flat out substitutes a word that's very different than the actual translation (to his credit, he mentions doing this in a couple of instances, but that makes you wonder how many other times he did that and didn't bother footnoting it). But, as Yogi Berra remarked in a slightly different context, even imperfect translations of the Edda are good.

  18. 4 out of 5

    Kaila

    The Voluspa is the first poem of the Edda. It tells of the birth of the world, the giants and the gods, a few things in their lives, and then Ragnarok. It is one of the most beautiful, poignant, and sad things I've ever read. The world is out to get you and everyone dies, that's what Norse mythology teaches us. Note on the translation: I mostly read Carolyn Larrington's UNrevised translation. I had the great fortune of getting a copy of Ursula Dronke's Voluspa and it is superior in every way as f The Voluspa is the first poem of the Edda. It tells of the birth of the world, the giants and the gods, a few things in their lives, and then Ragnarok. It is one of the most beautiful, poignant, and sad things I've ever read. The world is out to get you and everyone dies, that's what Norse mythology teaches us. Note on the translation: I mostly read Carolyn Larrington's UNrevised translation. I had the great fortune of getting a copy of Ursula Dronke's Voluspa and it is superior in every way as far as I can tell, knowing little about it besides what my emotions tell me.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Stephen

    If for no other reason, this translation is remarkable for its scrupulous adherence to English words of Germanic origin - I cannot recall a single instance of finding a Greek or Latin root. The language and meter are deliciously archaic, and give a feel for the grammatical richness which has now largely fallen away from our modern tongue.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Kirsty Cabot

    Really interesting! But hard going... So many names and mothers and fathers and sons and daughters and gods and names and more names and places. Hard to get your head around... Better review to come!

  21. 4 out of 5

    Edy

    Oh, if I read this book before Gaiman's Nordic Mythology, I would feel so much better. It was really informative (especially all commentaties added by the translator) and the whole thing had it's old story charm. Definitely big 4,5 from me, maybe because I had to read it quickly and didn't sank much into the stories.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Rebecca Jane

    3.5 stars.

  23. 4 out of 5

    George Fowles

    A historical gold mine of stories. This ended up more interesting than I anticipated. You have to take your time by looking at the notes, but once you have your head around whose who, the stories unravel themselves in true old Norse fashion. I especially enjoyed the Mythology poems and loved learning all about the gods. Only reason not a 5 star is because of the nature of the text as originating in manuscripts. Sections will be missing or seemed disconnected but that’s due to the material/oral h A historical gold mine of stories. This ended up more interesting than I anticipated. You have to take your time by looking at the notes, but once you have your head around whose who, the stories unravel themselves in true old Norse fashion. I especially enjoyed the Mythology poems and loved learning all about the gods. Only reason not a 5 star is because of the nature of the text as originating in manuscripts. Sections will be missing or seemed disconnected but that’s due to the material/oral history.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Ideiosepius

    This is a massive read. I expected it to be, however not only has it exceeded expectations it has totally scrambled them as well as my original goals in reading this book. This collection is indeed a treasure trove of mythic Norse verse, it does indeed give a lot of insight into mythology lore and culture just as the cover claims it will. The translator, Hollander also gives us a truly astounding amount of scholarly information, footnotes and explanations without with a large amount of this prose This is a massive read. I expected it to be, however not only has it exceeded expectations it has totally scrambled them as well as my original goals in reading this book. This collection is indeed a treasure trove of mythic Norse verse, it does indeed give a lot of insight into mythology lore and culture just as the cover claims it will. The translator, Hollander also gives us a truly astounding amount of scholarly information, footnotes and explanations without with a large amount of this prose would be impossible (for me at least) to follow. Now as to the actual Lays; I found them mostly slow to read because I couldn't just let my eyes flick across the page. I found one needs to think about every line, often read the footnotes, often refer to previous lays to get almost every single line. A long, long reading effort. Totally worth it if you want to immerse yourself in them, but it is work. The names were difficult for me; I do not speak any of the Northern languages so most of the names did not convey any sound to me at all, making it exceptionally difficult to keep the different characters clear in my mind. So who was doing what to whom and why was often lost to me several times during a single lay. I did a lot of back reading. I now have a better idea why so many of the mythological and archetypal stories of Scandinavia are so contradictory; a lot of stories have no single series of events or timeline, they have the same characters (or not) doing different things for different reasons with different families and relationships, they often seem to die multiple times from different things... it is all so organic. Fascinating and confusing. One thing that I am finding really, really fascinating as I read: Every person anywhere at any time in history has a kind of learned social modality, right, wrong ect. It is learned unconsciously for people around you and any literature produced in a given era reflects the social modality in one way or another. The mental set behind a lot of these lays is NOTHING like the modern mind sets, this comes through very clearly in some of them. I expected this what I did not expect, and what I have found very exciting to read, is that at times I cannot even start to figure out what the mind set is. That is fascinating!

  25. 5 out of 5

    Mina Soare

    The notes cover more of each page than the stanzas... and it's worth it. I found out about this book by watching the Avengers, which led me to slash Avenger fanfiction, which mentioned the The Prose Edda and this... this splendid-story-great-poetry-albeit-translated-rich-vibrant-speech-not-to-mention-the-characters companion, as it were, the Poetic Edda. For the poem by poem (ye fifty of them) impressions, see the notes. Considering the Thor, Odin and Loki of the movie had to have ingested enoug The notes cover more of each page than the stanzas... and it's worth it. I found out about this book by watching the Avengers, which led me to slash Avenger fanfiction, which mentioned the The Prose Edda and this... this splendid-story-great-poetry-albeit-translated-rich-vibrant-speech-not-to-mention-the-characters companion, as it were, the Poetic Edda. For the poem by poem (ye fifty of them) impressions, see the notes. Considering the Thor, Odin and Loki of the movie had to have ingested enough sugar to turn the whole of Asgard diabetic, this is... not a glorious beginning. Don't get me wrong, slash fanfiction tends to give the best pre-'80's book recommendations (how about that?), but the lack of gravitas is ridiculous. Of course, what I mean to say is Why did I not know of this? Because, as I see it, the Greeks were masters of commerce and the Romans ruled the Mediterranean and then Hollywood took control of our minds with enormous output, much like Bollywood, while the Scandinavians, well, they were always a tad timid... Not to mention that while Homer, Beowulf and Virgil are in the Forum library, I had go to the ass-end of the campus to the Old Library, two levels down, in the basement to find this. It was raining.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Inkspill

    I read this knowing nothing about Norse mythology – or who Odin is – from these stories I’m guessing he’s the equivalent to Zeus / Jupiter in Greek / Roman mythology. I thought this was a seriously tough read. I read it because it gets mentioned as Tolkien’s inspiration to write Lord of the Rings. What I found the most daunting was how many characters there are. I only recognised the dwarf names in The Hobbit, the rest were unfamiliar. And it would take me almost of the way to realise that the c I read this knowing nothing about Norse mythology – or who Odin is – from these stories I’m guessing he’s the equivalent to Zeus / Jupiter in Greek / Roman mythology. I thought this was a seriously tough read. I read it because it gets mentioned as Tolkien’s inspiration to write Lord of the Rings. What I found the most daunting was how many characters there are. I only recognised the dwarf names in The Hobbit, the rest were unfamiliar. And it would take me almost ¾ of the way to realise that the contents are more like a collection of stories, and sometimes just fragments. What I enjoyed the most was the poetical arrangement – but for most of it I was too busy trying to understand it all that I only really appreciated this in patches. Hence, for me this is a dense text and one I need to come back to (and read again), maybe several times before I get it. But I don’t mind the challenge. For now, I will not give this any stars and do this down the line after I have grasped it better. There were moments I could see there is something here, and look forward to discovering it in future reads.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Somer Canon

    It is my understanding that this can sometimes be a difficult read, but Jackson Crawford does a very considerate job in carefully explaining things (every poem has a foreword). I'm a layperson. I don't know the first thing about Old Norse, but I enjoyed reading this. I even laughed at a couple of moments. Where a lot of the Poetic Edda tends to be tragic, there are some interactions between the gods in particular where they are hurling insults at each other and getting red-faced angry and you ju It is my understanding that this can sometimes be a difficult read, but Jackson Crawford does a very considerate job in carefully explaining things (every poem has a foreword). I'm a layperson. I don't know the first thing about Old Norse, but I enjoyed reading this. I even laughed at a couple of moments. Where a lot of the Poetic Edda tends to be tragic, there are some interactions between the gods in particular where they are hurling insults at each other and getting red-faced angry and you just can't help but laugh.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Big Al

    I would never have anticipated that I could get so engrossed by old poems, but here we are. Sometimes the poems could be cryptic or boring, but it is totally worth a read for the high points, like the Seeress's Prophecy. This poem spans from the beginning of time all the way until the rebirth of the world following the cataclysmic Ragnarok. I seriously enjoyed my introduction to the strange Norse gods and the tragic humans who worshipped them. "Do you want to know more, and what?"

  29. 5 out of 5

    Eadweard

    I liked how Hollander used mostly words of germanic origin, it fits well. Very much liked all the lays and poems that dealt with the Volsungs, I think that that is probably the most interesting saga of them all.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Friedrich Haas

    Actually it's "Poems of the Vikings", her older translation, but it is so old and out of print as to not appear in the Goodreads database. It is hard for me to get through, so I have put it aside.

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