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The Elder Edda (Legends from the Ancient North) Paperback – 7 Nov 2013

4.6 out of 5 stars 19 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Paperback: 432 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (7 Nov. 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141393726
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141393728
  • Product Dimensions: 12.9 x 2.5 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (19 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 40,686 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Andrew Orchard (translator) is Professor of English and Medieval Studies in the University of Toronto, and since 2007 Provost and Vice-Chancellor of Trinity College. He is the author of The Poetic Art of Aldhelm (1994), Pride and Prodigies: Studies in the Monsters of the Beowulf -Manuscript (2nd edition 2003), The Cassell Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend (3rd edition 2002), and A Critical Companion to Beowulf (2nd edition 2005), as well as editor and co-editor of several collections, scholarly journals and academic series."


Customer Reviews

4.6 out of 5 stars
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Top Customer Reviews

Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
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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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
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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Format: Kindle Edition
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.
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Format: Paperback
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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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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great stories, interesting to read even for my children. Provides lots of details regarding that great series of Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. And makes you wonder what the future has in store for us mortals...
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