The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún
by J.R.R. Tolkien
From the Publisher: The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún tells in narrative verse the saga of a Norse hero‚ Sigurd‚ prophesied to defend the gods of Valhalla against the Ragnarok‚ the apocalypse‚ and his adventures that see him battle a mighty dragon for its hoard of treasure‚ win the love of a Valkyrie‚ and suffer at the hands of treachery; and the events following his death whereby his widow‚ Gudrun‚ takes bloody revenge upon the Niflungs who betrayed him.
Since first encountering as a boy the myths and legends of the mysterious Viking North‚ captured in the 10th century poetry of the Elder Edda and in William Morris′ translation of The Story of Sigurd the Volsung‚ J.R.R. Tolkien had been captivated by the epic tales of giants‚ heroes‚ dwarves‚ monsters‚ magic and dragons. But during the following centuries some of the original lays‚ or poems‚ had been lost and much of Sigurd′s story become corrupted; Morris′ translation was thus based on incomplete and significantly altered prose.
Tolkien therefore decided to attempt to unify the various original lays by recreating the missing parts of Sigurd′s story‚ and write them as narrative poems using modern English but in the Old Norse style. These ′New Lays′ of Sigurd and Gudrún‚ comprising between them over 500 stanzas‚ were completed in the 1930s but have never before been published or quoted from. They are accompanied by an introduction by J.R.R. Tolkien‚ drawn from one of his own lectures on Norse literature‚ and commentary and notes on the poems by Christopher Tolkien.
The ancient poetry of the Elder Edda remained a deep force in J.R.R. Tolkien′s life′s work. Here‚ at last‚ in The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrún‚ is presented the source of the wellspring that would lead to The Hobbit‚ The Lord of the Rings and The Children of Húrin. It is the first full flourishing of a rich narrative style and powerful and dramatic storytelling that was destined to become famous throughout the world.
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