J.R.R. Tolkien's New Book of Epic Poetry

Released Monday, J.R.R. Tolkien’s posthumously published The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is already on its way to becoming a bestseller.

The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún, a 500+ verse translation of two epic poems from Norse mythology, is the latest of J.R.R. Tolkien’s works to be published by his son Christopher. It includes translations of The New Lay of the Völsungs and The New Lay of Gudrún. Tolkien is believed to have produced the manuscripts while a professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford, several years before publication of The Hobbit.

I cannot discern from the information available about the book how faithful the translations. Tolkien is generally considered as more than competent when it comes to translations, but this book may be an adaptation. The source material also inspired Wagner’s Ring cycle, which made a profound impact on Tolkien’s frind and fellow Inkling, C.S. Lewis.

Waterstones expects The Legend to reach the top three slots of the best-seller chart by week’s end. Ian Collier of the Tolkien Society says, “I think demand will be huge, not just from fans of Tolkien’s fiction such as our members but from scholars and fans of the Icelandic or Viking sagas.” Tolkien has sold more than 150 million books worldwide.

Christopher Tolkien recently broke his typical silence to express his hope for the new book:

My hope is that some of those who appreciate and admire the works of my father will find it illuminating in respect of Old Norse poetry in general, in his own treatment of the fierce, passionate and mysterious legend, and in this further and little known aspect of him as both philologist and poet. Above all I hope they will take pleasure in this poetry.

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About James A Woods
Freelance Writer, Constant Learner, Family Man

One Response to J.R.R. Tolkien's New Book of Epic Poetry

  1. John Cowan says:

    As hopefully you know by now, these poems aren’t translations; they are new poems (as the individual titles suggest), written directly in English, that retell the old material but give it a new slant.

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