Neil's Reviews > Saga of Thidrek of Bern

Saga of Thidrek of Bern by Unknown
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Jan 18, 13

bookshelves: german, norse, favourites, nibelungen-volsung, essentials
Read from October 20 to November 25, 2011

The Thidrekssaga af Bern is a Norwegian compilation of nearly every Germanic heroic legend that is known from the Heldenbuch poems and is thought to be a Norwegian translation or adaption of oral epics of Low German origin, which were written or translated at the court of king Haakon the fourth of Norway around the year 1250. The same court which produced the norse Arthurian adaptions and the Karlamagnus saga.

This collection revolves around the exploits of Dietrich Von Bern and his champions, which include Hildebrand, Wittich and Hieme. Included are stories such as Dietrichs struggle to regain his kingdom from Ermanaric, the tale of Valtari and Hildegunnr, Vadi and his son Velent/Volund the Smith, stories about Attila the Hun, Ermaniric's slaying of The Harlung brothers and the six bridal quest romances that the saga seems to be structured around.

Embedded within this huge saga are three sections on the youthful adventures of Siegfried-Sigurd and a large section known as the Niflunga Saga, these sections are thought to be based on older Nibelung-Volsung material that may have been used by the Nibelungenlied poet as source material. The author of the Volsunga Saga also copied an entire passage from this saga. Readers of epics such as Dietrichs Flucht, Die Rabenschlacht, Hildebrandslied and Alpharts Tod will also find much parallel material in this saga.

While this book is primarily used by German scholars, the book can also be found lurking on the shelves of all serious readers of Old English heroic poetry. The parallel material to poems like Waldere, Deor and Widsith are amazing. The obscure section in Beowulf where the poet mentions Eomanric and Hama doesn't seem so strange after a reading of this saga. The saga also seems to preserve a version of the Wayland legend that is very similar to the version carved on the Franks casket. If the saga really does originate in the Low Countries, the implications that it may even preserve the stories in the form that they were known to the Anglo Saxons are fascinating.

While this saga will probably never be considered great literature, due to the almost childlike prose that it is written in, the small number of admirers may continue to grow with the publication of this excellent English translation. The translator does an excellent job in putting the confusing texts in order and also translates the final chapter from the Swedish Didrik Chronicle, which gives a different ending than the Norwegian version. There is also an introduction and a bibliography to further reading.
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11/22/2011 page 12
4.0%

Comments (showing 1-4 of 4) (4 new)

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Chuckaknight Where idi you find a copy. Amazon has it listed for $275.00?


Neil That is cheap, I've seen it sell for 3 grand. I got my copy when it came out and was only about £35. The Wagner and Nibelungenlied fans pay a fortune for copies.


Chuckaknight There appears to be a copy at the Princeton Library just 13 miles from here. Before I decide to make a purchase I may go for a visit. Thanks for the offer, I will keep it in mind.


Neil Just looked it up on amazon uk, there is one up for sale for £882.57, abe has one for £150 though.


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