Sunday, October 3, 2010

School Book: The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun

I was a bit leery of reading J.R.R. Tolkien's The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun. I've read The Lord of the Rings several years ago and found it a bit dry, so I was sort of expecting the same type of writing. Luckily I was pleasantly surprised. First of all, I wasn't really expecting Norse poetry, but was sort of expecting prose (like Ackroyd's Canterbury Tales). But even in the explanatory stuff that his son, Christopher Tolkien, included, there was no dry anything; I genuinely enjoyed what pieces of Tolkien's lecture notes were included.
I read The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun out of order. I started with the poems, then went back to the introduction and later the commentaries on the poems. This is how I normally read school books, specifically Shakespeare and the like. I want to enjoy the work without anyone else's comments first, and then I'll go back and read whatever the editor/translator/whomever has to say.
The poems themselves were rather entertaining, but a bit hard to figure out at first. The style in which they were written is just so foreign to a modern English speaker. But once I got over that, I just enjoyed the story. Of course, the introduction and commentaries did help a bit. Once I'd read the poems I went back to these areas and some of the points I'd had trouble with started making more sense.
In the end I read the entire book from cover to cover, and I really enjoyed all of it. Tolkien's lectures were quite interesting and well-written, and I liked how his son explained how the poems came to be the way they are.

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