The Poetic Edda (Oxford World's Classics) Paperback – 11 Dec 2008
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Larringtons version of The Poetic Edda has been beautifully translated, and the flow of each poem is perfect. (Kirsty Hewitt, Book Hugger)
A 750-year-old haul of Icelandic verse might not sound like cutting-edge entertainment but these sinewy sagas include such modern elements as gutsy heroines and ultra-violence. (Christopher Hirst, Independent)
these sinewy sagas include such modern elements as gutsy heroines and ultra-violence (Independent) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.
About the Author
Carolyne Larrington is Senior Research Fellow at De Montfort University, Leicester.
Top customer reviews
‘The Poetic Edda’ (‘Edda’ means ‘poetics’) is an Icelandic compilation made around 1270. Still kept in Reykjavik, Larrington describes it as “an unprepossessingly-looking codex the size of a fat paperback.” It is therefore not one single poem, nor even one single conception, but a collection of different poems on different subjects. They are thought to date to the first millennium, that is before Christianity arrived in Scandinavia.
Larrington tells us that the book has the “oldest and most original form” of many scenes we think about when considering the myths of the pagan north, its characters including the likes of Odin, Thor, Brunhilde, Sigurd, and Yggdrasill. Indeed, if I had read the ‘Kalevala’ with one ear on Sibelius, I read the ‘The Poetic Edda’ with my other ear on Wagner (for example ‘The Lay of Fafnir’). And the very first chapter – ‘The Seeress’s Prophecy’ – has the names of dwarves that Tolkien would later use. But there are many, many more names included. Indeed, there is a twenty-five-page index at the back of the book which lists almost a thousand.
In short, this is a book I will keep for reference rather than as a good read.
Collected in the 13th century in the Codex Regius, the body of poetry here straddles Old Norse myth and heroic poetry from probably around the 10th century, a time when the pagan North was becoming Christianised. The heroic verse is primarily from the complicated tales of Helgi, Sigurd, Gunnar and the valkyrie Sigrdrifa usually better known via the Germanic The Nibelungenlied. Other poems have been added to this canon and Larrington includes quest and other poetry.
Unlike Snorri's The Prose Edda, the poetry here is not systematic nor connected in any easy way: what we have instead are fragments and tales that might contradict or undermine or supplement each other in a nicely allusive and intertextual way. Different versions of the heroic sagas emerge and diverge: so while this might be comparable to other great mythic collections like Ovid's Metamorphoses or Hesiod's Theogony, this is far more unstable in an interesting way.
Larrington's translations are straightforward and robust, and are supplemented with notes, glosses and an annotated index. Source material for The Lord of the Rings and Game of Thrones, this is a fascinating window into Old Norse heroic culture.
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