Archive for April, 2009

Tolkien keeps churning them out

tolkien_coverTolkien fans will hardly need Old Norse News to make them aware of this, but J.R.R. Tolkien’s previously unpublished Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún comes out next week.

Details from the jacket blurb:

Many years ago, J.R.R. Tolkien composed his own version, now published for the first time, of the great legend of Northern antiquity, in two closely related poems to which he gave the titles The New Lay of the Völsungs and The New Lay of Gudrún.

In the Lay of the Völsungs is told the ancestry of the great hero Sigurd, the slayer of Fáfnir most celebrated of dragons, whose treasure he took for his own; of his awakening of the Valkyrie Brynhild who slept surrounded by a wall of fire, and of their betrothal; and of his coming to the court of the great princes who were named the Niflungs (or Nibelungs), with whom he entered into blood-brotherhood. In that court there sprang great love but also great hate, brought about by the power of the enchantress, mother of the Niflungs, skilled in the arts of magic, of shape-changing and potions of forgetfulness.

In scenes of dramatic intensity, of confusion of identity, thwarted passion, jealousy and bitter strife, the tragedy of Sigurd and Brynhild, of Gunnar the Niflung and Gudrún his sister, mounts to its end in the murder of Sigurd at the hands of his blood-brothers, the suicide of Brynhild, and the despair of Gudrún. In the Lay of Gudrún her fate after the death of Sigurd is told, her marriage against her will to the mighty Atli, ruler of the Huns (the Attila of history), his murder of her brothers the Niflung lords, and her hideous revenge.

Deriving his version primarily from his close study of the ancient poetry of Norway and Iceland known as the Poetic Edda (and where no old poetry exists, from the later prose work the Völsunga Saga), J.R.R. Tolkien employed a verse-form of short stanzas whose lines embody in English the exacting alliterative rhythms and the concentrated energy of the poems of the Edda.

It will be fascinating to see the Great Man’s take on the legend (though I have to confess to finding his poetry only bearable in small doses!)

Good News from Birmingham

[Apologies for the long gap between posts -- I've been away.]

Chris Callow writes to give us the very heartening news that Old Norse language is returning to the syllabus at the University of Birmingham, after a few year’s hiatus. Chris will be teaching an introductory level course in the School of History and Cultures. He hopes to extend the teaching to more advanced levels in the future.

Chris also thought that Old Norse News readers might be interested in Birmingham’s new  MA in Medieval History, which has its first
intake in September 2009:
http://www.postgraduate.bham.ac.uk/prog2009/taught/arts/medieval-history.shtml.

It is expected that this will be the precursor to a series of other taught, graduate-level programmes in medieval studies and Late Antiquity which will become available over the next few years.

Finally, he mentions that Old Norse and Viking-Age scholars will be more than welcome at the annual Gender and Medieval Studies conference held in Birmingham on 7th-10th January 2010 (see http://www.medievalgender.co.uk/). The theme of the conference next year will be the family.

Obviously exciting times for medievalists at Birmingham, and I’m grateful to Chris for letting us know about them.