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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fabulous Source of Myth, 5 Feb 2012
By 
David Ford "Genre junkie" (Cheltenham) - See all my reviews
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For anyone interested in Norse mythology who wants to explore the original sources (or the closest we have to them, anyway), this text is indispensable. A thirteenth-century Icelandic collection of legends, tales and customs, this translation offers a direct link to the oral traditions of the northern peoples.

The Edda is divided roughly into two sections; the first deals largely with the gods, the Aesir, and their adventures, while the second is primarily concerned with human heroes, largely the long and tragic sequence surrounding Sigurd and Fafnir's gold.

This translation is a really good one, seeming to retain the rythyms and language of the original verses while rendering them into easily comprehensible English. The translator has made notes on any meaning that may still remain obscure, as well as background material that informs the tales. The good thing about the Kindle edition is that that all these notes are hyperlinked, allowing the reader to zip back and forth at will, or simply skim past them if simply reading the poetry.

The poetry itself is anything but flowery, bearing obvious relation to other heroic epics such as Beowulf. The wording is earthy and often violent, as befitting the culture it came from, and the various verses contain some of the finest stories in mythology, as well as interesting lists intended to teach about names and customs. Their origins as spoken tales told to an audience is evident, too, with distinct pacing and often repeated 'choruses' to emphasize certain passages.

All in all, an essential purchase for those of us who love the tales of Thor, Odin and Loki, as well as a fascinating look at a lost world so different from our own. I heartily recommend the younger, or prose, edda as a companion, as well.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars POETIC OR ELDER EDDA?, 9 May 2013
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Dr. S. J. Wyatt (UK) - See all my reviews
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For information, the contents of The Elder Edda (Penguin) and The Poetic Edda (Oxford) are the same, something I only discovered after ordering. The Poetic Edda is the more commonly used title (in conjunction with the Prose Edda by Snorri)so perhaps the Penguin title is slightly misleading for the unwary. Both translations are good and well annotated but you probably don't need to own both.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Truly a Classic, 11 Jan 2013
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I went in search of The Elder Edda after viewing YouTube lectures on the meaning of the Viking Sagas, which left me completely inspired. This edition fit the bill perfectly. It's an excellent translation, bringing the stories to life in a way that makes you want to keep coming back for more.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Cant put it down, 30 April 2013
Unlike most translations , i found this an easy read, rather than a lecture where you are being talked down too. Beautiful translation
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An essential read, 13 Jan 2013
This is an essential read for anyone with an interest in Northern European religion, politics, social rules and customs. The book contains a good translation of the Codex Regius (CR) text and in-depth background notes that cross-reference other parts of the CR and other texts pertaining to a people whose cultural legacy is like the night sky - bright and vivid lights of historical fact separated by vast dark tracts of historical fiction. For anyone intending to read the broader set of sagas and tales from this period, this book provides the foundational underpinning that explain some of the customs and lores assumed within other texts.

My recommendation is to read the background text that explains the narrative first, then read the translation - the reader will get a better appreciation of the lyrical rhythm of the translation.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent, 14 July 2014
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Excellent
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4.0 out of 5 stars Perhaps not for everyone, but a milestone in the development of northern European identity, 19 Jun 2014
By 
R. B. Abbott "Richard Abbott" (London, England) - See all my reviews
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I decided to classify The Elder Edda, translated by Andy Orchard, as historical fiction, on the grounds that the tales within it probably served a similar function in Icelandic culture – and general Norse culture – as that genre serves in ours. Certainly the content moves progressively from more obviously mythical, where the main focus is on the doings of gods and supernatural beings, towards history, where specific leaders and their followers are vying for political and military supremacy in a recognisable world. As such, it provides a rationale for particular clan allegiances or rivalries which are active in the authors’ time.

Andy’s translation seeks to be fluid but faithful, seeking also to preserve the stylistic differences between the various sections. This does mean that some of the poems read more fluently than others, depending on the style and form chosen by the original author. He also discusses the probable route by which the collection has reached us, via a Christian cleric who preserved it out of respect for his people’s lore. The myth and religion of the Norse world is carefully presented to us, but with the clear message that its day has long gone, and that even at its most noble it was heading unerringly towards its own destruction.

Norse poets, like their Anglo-Saxon contemporaries, took great delight in punning or riddling descriptions and names: Andy has recognised that no single tactic will solve this. Instead he has chosen several routes ranging from leaving names untranslated in some cases, using marginal notes of explanation in others, and converting into an English pun in others. He has also been flexible with issues of form, keeping remnants of the original alliterative style in many places without feeling constrained to maintain it everywhere. As well as very brief marginal comments, there is a much longer notes section at the end which gives contextual explanations into the background and subsequent use of the poems as well as translational points.

Readers even slightly familiar with Wagner’s operas will recognise names and stories here. But in addition, these same stories emerge in slightly changed form in Tolkien’s Silmarillion, especially in the long and tragic account of Turin. It is clear that Tolkien had enormous respect for The Elder Edda, and enough skill and confidence to creatively rework it into his own world.

How can one rate a classic piece of world literature? For me, this is a four star book. I intend to dip into it again, especially a few of the more accessible pieces, and I am very glad to have read it. In a few places I felt that the poetry faltered – translating poetry is extremely hard, especially when, as here, the translator is seeking to faithfully represent a selection of different voices. On balance Andy has done a good job.

The Elder Edda will not be to everyone’s taste, but it certainly is a milestone in the development of northern European culture and identity.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Bang on, 19 Mar 2014
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Does what it says on the tin - but clearly, carefully, and sensibly, making these fairly difficult materials accessible to a non-specialist goon like me.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting text, 10 Feb 2014
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Xen (Brighton, UK) - See all my reviews
If you're interested in Viking lore, this book is great. It's quite academic/ heavy going though (as it is based on original text) so maybe not the best starting point for more casual readers.
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The Elder Edda (Legends from the Ancient North)
The Elder Edda (Legends from the Ancient North) by Andy Orchard (Paperback - 7 Nov 2013)
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