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The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrún

3.83  ·  Rating Details ·  5,568 Ratings  ·  309 Reviews
The world first publication of a previously unknown work by J.R.R. Tolkien, which tells the epic story of the Norse hero, Sigurd, the dragon-slayer, the revenge of his wife, Gudrun, and the Fall of the Nibelungs. "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 poem ...more
Hardcover, 377 pages
Published May 5th 2009 by HarperCollins (first published 2009)
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When I was seven years old, I went with my mother to her eye appointment. While we were waiting for her to be called, she started reading The Fellowship of the Ring to me. We got two chapters in before the appointment. Afterwards, she couldn’t read because of the eye drops, so I got tired of waiting and started to read it myself. This explains my absolute love for Tolkien, among other things. It also explains my love for Norse mythology at a young age, even though I didn’t know the connection at ...more
Ethan Gilsdorf

In ‘Legend’ poems, Tolkien the storyteller

By Ethan Gilsdorf, Boston Globe Correspondent | September 4, 2009

J.R.R. Tolkien is best known as the author of fantasy tales like “The Hobbit’’ and “The Lord of the Rings.’’ But some may not know that he was an academic first and writer second. The reclusive British scholar, lexicographer, and Oxford don was, in a way, the original geek. He specialized in the rather arcane field of philology (the history of languages), and pored over Anglo-Sax
Alan Smith
It is with a feeling of disquiet that I write anything bad about John Ronald Rouel Tolkien - After all, in "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings" he has given me - and millions of others - reading pleasure to last a lifetime. These two alone would be enough to mark him as one of the greats, and when you add in "Smith of wootton Major", "Farmer Giles of Ham" (a genuinely funny work), and "Leaf by Niggle" I can't help putting him in that rare pantheon of the real, true greats.

However, "The Legen
Apr 10, 2011 Chris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
One of the best-known heroes in Norse mythology, Sigurd is better known as Siegfried from German versions of the legends, and his exploits and interactions – from killing a dragon and re-forging a mighty sword, say, to his relationships with his wife Gudrún, with warrior princess Brynhild and with a host of other personages – characterise him as much as they echo the exploits and interactions of other heroes in other times and cultures. Here Tolkien attempts a harmonisation of the various early ...more
Tolkien's scholarship is always pretty impressive, even if it's out of date, now. Reading the bits of his lectures pieced together by his son is very interesting, and I rather wish I could attend them. (If I could be a member of Connie Willis' time travelling department of historians, I'd go visit Tolkien if I could.)

It's also amazing how much work he did on keeping the metre and language of Old Norse in a modern English version of the stories. The verse itself is probably the main attraction fo
What a treat it is to find yet more from the pen of Tolkien. That there has continued to be a frequent publication of new works throughout the decades following his death is a testament to the Professor's vast literary output and imagination; that he wrote lengthy works such as this one, which could simply never have been published if not for the sucess of "The Lord of the Rings," is of course a testament to Tolkien as a poet and a storyteller. Something like this is only written because the aut ...more
Beaulah Pragg
Apr 19, 2012 Beaulah Pragg rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Reading the Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun, one starts to get a feel for where Tolkien was coming from when he wrote the Lord of the Rings. Told in the style of a very old English epic poem, Tolkien has rewritten the ancient Norse Classics from the Elder Edda into two distinct stories, the Lay of the Volsungs and the Lay of Gudrun.

Many of the characters are easily recognizable by those possessing some familiarity with general Norse mythology (or anyone why has played Age of Mythology recently) - Lo
Jan 01, 2015 Aoife rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fantasy, middle-earth
Yes this is an epic poem inspired by Norse mythology. This will not be everybody's cup of tea. I enjoyed the poem itself (but then when it comes to poetry my opinion tends to be either 'yeah I like this' and 'no I don't like this' you won't really find me gushing over poetry) and the additional commentary (most of it by Christopher Tolkien but much of it is based on notes his father left and there is also a transcript of a whole lecture JRR Tolkien once gave on the Edda) was interesting - at lea ...more
Apr 26, 2012 Ben rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Any time a new book appears with J.R.R. Tolkien's name on it, it's bound to stir up interest and this should be no exception. Unlike much of his writing, however, this particular book is not directly related to Middle Earth and its hobbits, wizards, and elves. It's born of earlier interests of Tolkien's that predate The Hobbit, namely Old Norse mythology, literature, and language. The fascinating thing that most people don't know, is that language was Tolkien's foremost passion during his life a ...more
Denise "Mika" Hutchins
This is the first book I’ve had to shelve both as fiction and nonfiction (maybe I just need to make a shelf for hybrids?) but that’s actually my only problem with it. I LOVED this book. I went in with a bit of trepidation, remembering my high school and college attempts to read Beowulf, Shakespeare plays, and other literature written in ancient styles. I was worried that I’d find myself struggling to understand anything and, in a worst case scenario, giving up on the book entirely. I won’t deny ...more
Sep 27, 2012 Paul rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Though I have great respect for Tolkien's works in general, I have never been a fan of his poetry. I won't say that this made me one, but it was surprisingly good.

Part of that is perhaps due to the unforgiving form Tolkien strove to emulate - a concise alliterative verse that aimed at sudden 'flashes' of vision rather than sustained reflection. There are relatively few aspects of these poems that would remind one of anything found in 'Lord of the Rings'; the neo-Romantic gentility normally asso
Jo Woolfardis
Tolkien is most famous for the Lord of the Rings and, my particular favourite, The Hobbit. I think every other book he's written pales in to insignificance when you think of him as a writer. He was, in fact, first and foremost, an academic. The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún denotes something that Tolkien was obsessed and ultimately influenced by, and that is Norse mythology. Norwegian and Icelandic poetry was his forté and here Tolkien has devised his own version of ancient poems regarding the leg ...more
3.5 to 4 star book

This was, as a volume, a curious mix of prose and poetry which covers the Norse legends which inspired Tolkien's Middle Earth. In short The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is Tolkien's version of those myths in poetic form.

I didn't personally find the story of this legend particularly gripping or exciting. However it was astounding to read this from the perspective of observing the sources that fueled Tolkien's own creativity. And having a personal fondness for mythology and in pa
Jan 21, 2014 Beverly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was informed that I could read just the poetry and still consider this book fully read, so that is what I did! I am making a point to go back and read the commentaries though in between other books. What can I say except that this was another fascinating and new look into Tolkien's artistry and writing. Being highly interested in Norse myth and legend myself it was exciting to read something so different. The style takes a bit of getting used to, but the second half, specifically Gudrun's fin ...more
Captain Sir Roddy, R.N. (Ret.)
As soon as I found this hardbound edition in the bookstore, I snapped it up. This 350-page book contains J.R.R. Tolkien's interpretation of the two ancient epic poems from the Poetic Edda of the Icelandic peoples. Tolkien's son, Christopher has compiled and edited his father's work on the "Lay of the Volsungs" and the "Lay of Gudrun." This is earthy and spare poetry; rich in story and tradition; and provides a tangible connection to our ancestors and their mythology more than a thousand years ag ...more
May 04, 2009 X rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
So, I may have given this four stars, but it's Tolkien and I'm biased. It's a glorious, dramatic poem based on the Norse legend, and while I prefer prose to poetry, I found it fairly easy to read all things considered. I did have a bit of trouble following all the details, but that never bothered me very much.

Christopher Tolkien's notes are very informative, though sometimes beyond my knowledge of poetic structure, linguistics and ancient history. They do give a better overall understanding of t
Oct 13, 2015 Nick rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
A must read for any Tolkien fan. I'm fond of anything that has to do with Norse mythology. Thanks to a good friend, I got this edition and I'll cherish it!

I've read the poetic Edda too so 'The Lay of the Volslüng and Gudrún' rang a couple of bells. The lovely thing about this edition is that you get the full texts, transcribed from Tolkien's official notes, accompanied by carefully structured notes by the Man himself, edited by his son. The added explanations of names, places and uses came in qu
Judyta Szaciłło
A very interesting collection of Tolkien's notes on the Volsunga Saga plus Tolkien's own version of the story of Sigurd, Gudrun et al., written in eddaic alliterative verse. Christopher Tolkien's commentary successfully brings all random bits and pieces together, and the verse is amazing, but so rhythmical that it was difficult to focus on the story at times! It goes much better when read aloud, but I did not have the patience ;-)
Dr. Andrew Higgins
Pure Tolkien classic. Excellent example of Tom Shippey's idea of "writing into the gap"
Sep 29, 2016 Mauricio rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
A este no le doy menos estrellas porque es de Tolkien, porque habla de mitos Nórdicos y sale Odín, pero la verdad que se me hizo pesado y confuso a mas no poder, los poemas no me convencieron demasiado, cuentan la Historia de Sigurd y de Gurúd ( La Tragedia), quizás si fuera más versado en poesía no se me hubiese hecho tan difusa la historia y aburrida (no encontré un eufemismo digno). Las notas de Christopher Tolkien en este libro no ayudan demasiado y en vez de aclarar confunden entre las dist ...more
Jkimballcook Cook
Jul 30, 2013 Jkimballcook Cook rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, fantasy
A bloody story (or collection of stories), but a good one. Tolkien's verse is not a true word-for-word translation of the sagas, but it depends on them so heavily that neither is it a truly original composition. This work is a re-telling of the legends, but is also an effort to capture the spirit and essence of the sagas in a new tongue. The alliterative verse takes a bit to get into if your not used to that kind of thing, but once you get into the rhythms of the verse, the bold images really co ...more
Joseph R.
May 18, 2016 Joseph R. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: read_2016
Old Norse and Germanic tales were a huge influence on J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. He was a university professor specializing in philology, studying ancient languages and texts. Among the works he studied were the old Norse and Icelandic poems (called Edda) along with the later prose work Volsunga Saga. He re-wrote the poems concerning the hero Sigurd, who slays the dragon Fafnir, takes his horde of gold, frees the Valkerie Brynhild, and winds up at the court of the Niflungs (known in G ...more
Jul 17, 2012 Gwern rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The essential problem with this book is that the Norse wonk will already know most of the background, and the actual poetry is incredibly padded out, with ridiculous amounts of whitespace which badly interfere with reading.

As quixotic as attempting to write alliterative verse in modern English may seem, Tolkien has some marvelous verses that work. For example:

"The Great Gods then / began their toil,

the wondrous world / they well builded.

From South the Sun / from seas rising

gleamed down on grass
Apr 21, 2009 J.A. rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún is an eminent addition to J.R.R. Tolkien’s preeminent body of work. Here we have two marvelous tales from Norse mythology, the Lay of the Völsungs and the Lay of Gudrún, retold by a renowned philologist. These are no mere translations; indeed translation is not possible when the extant sources are piecemeal variants and prose summaries. Tolkien painstakingly recreated these tremendous poems much like Regin reforged Gram, the sword Sigurd used to slay the dragon Fá ...more
Jul 07, 2009 Carl is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
I didn't get the expensive version shown here (had no idea they'd made one like that-- kinda funny), but I did get a hardcover version. Only learned about this book recently-- can't remember if it was from a friend's facebook note or from Shippey's excellent review in the Times Literary Supplement, but the latter certainly got me interested. I was a bit frustrated with the last posthumous Tolkien publication, Children of Hurin-- I think I'd already read the story too many times, and then having ...more
Nov 30, 2012 Kyle rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
J.R.R. Tolkien's interpretation of two ancient epic poems, the "Lay of the Volsungs" and the "Lay of Gudrun," from the Poetic Edda of the Icelandic peoples in maybe the 13th century. Tolkien's son Christopher compiled and edited his father's work on them, and presents the finished volume as some kind of crazy combination of mind-crushingly detailed Norse poetics primer and loosey-goosey fantasy passion project. It's hard to know what you're reading.

The preface is pretty cool occasionally, as whe
Syahira Sharif
As much as I want to love this, I find myself being disheartened with every subsequent rereading especially the Christopher Tolkien's footnotes that was apparently a reiteration of his father's notes. If you are a Tolkien superfan, you might enjoy reading the footnotes although I find it was too repetitive whenever Christopher gushes about Tolkien that it became less a translation and more about a son rambling about how awesome his father was.

I expected somewhat an academical work which is in pa
Doug Schwer
Jan 27, 2010 Doug Schwer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I really enjoyed this book. It centers around two poems written by JRR Tolkien: the Lay of the Völsungs, and the Lay of Gudrún. Both poems are based on old-Norse heroic legends, and follow the meter and style of old-Norse poetry. The poems are not terribly long, and are very readable. There is a substantial amount of commentary after both poems, written some by JRR Tolkien but mostly by Christopher Tolkien, that summarizes the poems more clearly, as well as discussing their relation to the origi ...more
May 16, 2009 Desclian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: tolkien
Very impressive. After having read a good portion of Christopher Tolkien's other "History of My Father's Work," this book felt like home. Tolkien's poetry was different than I expected, and though I understand that he was going for a particular form, I wish he had gotten into the story a bit more deeply. It was interesting to see him almost holding himself back. The appendices are fun, if a little unorganized.

In the end, I think I liked this because I study the Sigurd and Gudrun stories and bec
Kadir Kılıç
Eski İskandinav destanlarını çok fazla şey öğrendim.Kitapta destanlar kısmı çok güzel ve akıcıydı ama destanların açıklama kısımlarında çok sıkıldım artık bitsin istememe rağmen açıklamalar okunmadan da destan çok iyi anlaşılmıyor.Destanları J.R.R Tolkien derlerken açıklamaları babasının ölümünden sonra Christopher Tolkien yazmış.Allah herkese Christopher Tolkien gibi evlat nasip etse kimse bu dünyadan gözü açık gitmez.
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
  • The History of the Hobbit, Part Two: Return to Bag-End
  • The Saga of the Volsungs
  • The Kalevala
  • Interrupted Music: The Making of Tolkien's Mythology
  • Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories
  • Heimskringla: or, The Lives of the Norse Kings
  • Gods and Myths of Northern Europe
  • Eirik the Red and Other Icelandic Sagas (World's Classics)
  • The Sagas of Icelanders
  • Tolkien's Ring
  • The Road to Middle-Earth: How J.R.R. Tolkien Created A New Mythology
  • The Atlas of Middle-Earth
John Ronald Reuel Tolkien, CBE, was an English writer, poet, WWI veteran (a First Lieutenant in the Lancashire Fusiliers, British Army), philologist, and university professor, best known as the author of the high fantasy classic works The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings .

Tolkien was Rawlinson and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford from 1925 to 1945, and Merton Professor of English lan
More about J.R.R. Tolkien...

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“Faith then they vowed
Fast, unyielding,
There each to each
In oaths binding.
Bliss there was born
When Brynhild woke;
Yet fate is strong
To find its end.”
“A tree there towere Tall and branching That house upholding The hall's wonder Its leaves their hangings Its limbs rafters Its mighty bole In the midst standing.” 3 likes
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