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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great story and a great translation, 13 Mar. 2011
This review is from: Egils Saga (Everyman's Classics) (Paperback)
The translation of this saga is well written and the supporting commentary, both annotated and the translator's comments which preface the material are clear and do not get in the way of telling the story.

The treatment of the poems is exemplary. Christine Fell notes in the preface that she had originally planned some sort of literal translation of the poems, with notes to explain the kennings. In the end this material is included in the notes but what you read in the translation are modern English poems. These were composed by John Lucas and they do not try to transliterate - they give the message of the poem in verse forms which usually capture the forms of the original, occasionally changing style to allow an easier reading of the message.

The poetry is key to the translation. Egil and several other characters compose poems and these would have formed an important part of the narration of the story. Without his poetry, Egil would be an uninteresting thug (with a few saving greys) and certainly not a hero.

I read through this translation with my bookmark in the back so that I could check the literal translation of the poem after I had read the modern one. The translation there uses the solution to each kenning, then gives a literal translation of the kenning in brackets. I knew something about kennings from Old English poetry but the Scandinavian kennings are a completely different order of word twisting as they pile on top of one another so that you have to solve one part before you can understand the next. An example (given in the preface) is "string of the pin of the tormentor of the shield". "Tormenter of the shield" is a sword (makes sense!), so that changes to "string of the pin of the sword". The "pin of the sword" is an arm, so you are then given "string of the arm" which is a kenning for an arm ring.

The closest you get to this sort of complexity in modern language(that I know of) is in Cockney rhyming slang, where there are instances of rhyming words being coined for expressions which are themselves rhyming slang words, usually because they have become too well known.

There is one verse of one of the longer poems which in translation has "sword" four times but as kennings these are each different - "saddle of the whetstone", "glory of battle", "wound engraver" and "ice of the belt"

Wonderful stuff!
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Location: Northumbria, Great Britain

Top Reviewer Ranking: 24,118