September 26, 2016

Tolkien Tuesday: The Professor's Favourites



This week, I'm going to delve into some works that have both inspired Tolkien, and that he considered among his favorite stories. Since there's going to be a few titles to mention, I'll jump straight into them now.This is, of course, a sampling of his inspiration / favourites, but I like to think that he would have loved to own these exact copies as well.

I also do my best to explain how each of the books is relevant to Tolkien. He was a Professor he greatly enjoyed old age stories, myth and (epic) poems, in various languages, or variations of English. Anything that's left blank is because beyond what I've just said, I'm unable to accurately elaborate on.  

The Sagas of Icelanders


In Iceland, the age of the Vikings is also known as the Saga Age. A unique body of medieval literature, the Sagas rank with the world’s great literary treasures – as epic as Homer, as deep in tragedy as Sophocles, as engagingly human as Shakespeare. Set around the turn of the last millennium, these stories depict with an astonishingly modern realism the lives and deeds of the Norse men and women who first settled in Iceland and of their descendants, who ventured farther west to Greenland and, ultimately, North America. Sailing as far from the archetypal heroic adventure as the long ships did from home, the Sagas are written with psychological intensity, peopled by characters with depth, and explore perennial human issues like love, hate, fate and freedom.

Note: This book is rough-cut, which means the pages will be unevenly cut to give the book and unique look and feel. [This is is also known as 'deckle-edge']

ISBN: 9780141000039

Norse Myths (Gods of the Vikings)


Dramatic, compelling and comprehensive - the great cycle of Norse myths are retold for the modern reader in The Penguin Book of Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland.
'Burning ice, biting flame; that is how life begins'
The extraordinary Scandinavian myth cycle is one of the most enduring, exciting, dramatic and compelling of the world's great stories.
A series of intertwined tales which together form a strange and fantastical world teeming with gods and goddesses, heroes and monsters, battles and couplings, the Norse myths are as exciting to read as they are of vast cultural and historical importance.
Taking us from the creation of the world through the building of Asgard's Wall to the final end in Ragnorak, and featuring the exploits and adventures of such legendary figures as Odin, Thor and Loki, The Penguin Book of the Norse Myths brings alive the passion, cruelty and heroism of these unforgettable stories.

ISBN: 9780241953211

Beowulf

Beowulf is the longest and finest literary work to have come down to us from Anglo-Saxon times, and one of the world's greatest epic poems. Set in the half-legendary, half historical Scandinavian past, it tells the story of the hero Beowulf, who comes to the aid of the Danish king Hrothgar by killing first the terrifying, demonic monster Grendel, and then Grendel's infuriated and vengeful mother. A lifetime later, Beowulf's own kingdom, Geatland, is threatened by a fiery dragon; Beowulf heroically takes on this challenge, but himself dies killing the dragon.

The poem celebrates the virtues of the heroic life, but Hrothgar and Beowulf are beacons of wisdom and courage in a dark world of feuds, violence and uncertainty, and Beowulf's selfless heroism is set against a background of ruthless power struggles, fratricide and tyranny. This acclaimed translation is complemented by a critical introduction and substantial editorial apparatus.


Relevance to Tolkien: In 1926, Tolkien created his own prose translation (and possibly a verse one, which is unfinished and unpublished.). The story itself is of great importance to Tolkien. We can see its influence throughout his writings, and he even gve lectures on it on many occasions.

ISBN: 9780199555291

The Poetic Edda (sometimes called The Elder Eda)

 


'She sees, coming up a second time,
Earth from the ocean, eternally green;
the waterfalls plunge, an eagle soars above them,
over the mountain hunting fish.'

After the terrible conflagration of Ragnarok, the earth rises serenely again from the ocean, and life is renewed. The Poetic Edda begins with The Seeress's Prophecy which recounts the creation of the world, and looks forward to its destruction and rebirth. In this great collection of Norse-Icelandic mythological and heroic poetry, the exploits of gods and humans are related. The one-eyed Odin, red-bearded Thor, Loki the trickster, the lovely goddesses and the giants who are their enemies walk beside the heroic Helgi, Sigurd the Dragon-Slayer, Brynhild the shield-maiden, and the implacable Gudrun. New in this revised translation are the quest-poem The Lay of Svipdag and The Waking
of Angantyr, in which a girl faces down her dead father to retrieve his sword.

Comic, tragic, instructive, grandiose, witty and profound, the poems of the Edda have influenced artists from Wagner to Tolkien and a new generation of video-game and film makers.


Relevance to Tolkien: One of his faves, and like Beowulf, it shows throughout his work. Was inspired by this, as well as the Saga of the Volsungs, to do his own version of a Norse tale, which became "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun." It was completed, but not published during his life-time. This is possibly due to his work on "The Hobbit", "The Lord of the Rings", and "The Silmarillion."

ISBN: 9780199675340

The Kalevala





The Kalevala is the great Finnish epic, which like the Iliad and the Odyssey, grew out of a rich oral tradition with prehistoric roots.

During the first millenium of our era, speakers of Uralic languages (those outside the Indo-European group) who had settled in the Baltic region of Karelia, that straddles the border of eastern Finland and north-west Russia, developed an oral poetry that was to last into the nineteenth century.

This poetry provided the basis of the Kalevala. It was assembled in the 1840s by the Finnish scholar Elias Lönnrot, who took `dictation' from the performance of a folk singer, in much the same way as our great collections from the past, from Homeric poems to medieval songs and epics, have probably been set down.


Relevance to Tolkien: This is where "The Story of Kullervo" stems from; which was incomplete, and very recently published. It was among his first-ever writings.

ISBN: 9780199538867

The Mabinogion




'I cannot be killed indoors,' he said, 'nor out of doors; I cannot be killed on horseback, nor on foot.' 'Well,' she said, 'how can you be killed?'

Celtic mythology, Arthurian romance, and an intriguing interpretation of British history - these are just some of the themes embraced by the anonymous authors of the eleven tales that make up the Welsh medieval masterpiece known as the Mabinogion. They tell of Gwydion the shape-shifter, who can create a woman out of flowers; of Math the magician whose feet must lie in the lap of a virgin; of hanging a pregnant mouse and hunting a magical boar. Dragons, witches, and giants live alongside kings and heroes, and quests of honour, revenge, and love are set against the backdrop of a country struggling to retain its independence.

This new translation, the first for thirty years, recreates the storytelling world of medieval Wales and re-invests the tales with the power of performance.

ISBN: 9780199218783

The Nibelungenlied




'In ancient tales many marvels are told us ... now you may hear such marvels told!'

The greatest of the heroic epics to emerge from medieval Germany, the Nibelungenlied is a revenge saga of sweeping dimensions. It tells of the dragon-slayer Sivrit, and the mysterious kingdom of the Nibelungs with its priceless treasure-hoard guarded by dwarves and giants, of Prünhilt the Amazonian queen, fortune-telling water-sprites and a cloak of invisibility. Driven by the conflict between Kriemhilt, the innocent maiden turned she-devil, and her antagonist, the stoic, indomitable Hagen, the story is one of human tragedy, of love, jealousy, murder, and revenge, ending in slaughter on a horrific scale. The work of an anonymous poet of c.1200, since its rediscovery in the eighteenth century the Nibelungenlied has come to be regarded as the national epic of the Germans. It has inspired countless reworkings and adaptations, including two masterpieces: Fritz Lang's two-part film, and Richard Wagner's Ring cycle.

This is the first prose translation for over forty years: accurate and compelling, it is accompanied by a wealth of useful background information.


ISBN:  9780199238545

The Iliad




'War, the bringer of tears...'

For 2,700 years the Iliad has gripped listeners and readers with the story of Achilles' anger and Hector's death. This tragic episode during the siege of Troy, sparked by a quarrel between the leader of the Greek army and its mightiest warrior, Achilles, is played out between mortals and gods, with devastating human consequences. It is a story of many truths, speaking of awesome emotions, the quest for fame and revenge, the plight of women, and the lighthearted laughter of the gods. Above all, it confronts us with war in all its brutality - and with fleeting images of peace, which punctuate the poem as distant memories, startling comparisons, and doomed aspirations. The Iliad's extraordinary power testifies to the commitment of its many readers, who have turned to it in their own struggles to understand life and death.

This elegant and compelling new translation is accompanied by a full introduction and notes that guide the reader in understanding the poem and the many different contexts in which it was performed and read.


ISBN:
9780199645213
 


The Odyssey


This prose translation of the Odyssey is so successful that it has taken its place as one of the few really outstanding versions of Homer's famous epic poem. It is the story of the return of Odysseus from the siege of Troy to his home in Ithaca, and of the vengeance he takes on the suitors of his wife Penelope. Odysseus's account of his adventures since leaving Troy includes his encounter with the enchantress Circe, his visit to the Underworld, and the lure of the Sirens.

ISBN:
9780199536788


The Aeneid

'Arms and the man I sing of Troy...'

So begins one of the greatest works of literature in any language. Written by the Roman poet Virgil more than two thousand years ago, the story of Aeneas' seven-year journey from the ruins of Troy to Italy, where he becomes the founding ancestor of Rome, is a narrative on an epic scale: Aeneas and his companions contend not only with human enemies but with the whim of the gods. His destiny preordained by Jupiter, Aeneas is nevertheless assailed by dangers invoked by the goddess Juno, and by the torments of love, loyalty, and despair. Virgil's supreme achievement is not only to reveal Rome's imperial future for his patron Augustus, but to invest it with both passion and suffering for all those caught up in the fates of others.

Frederick Ahl's new translation echoes the Virgilian hexameter in a thrillingly accurate and engaging style. An Introduction by Elaine Fantham, and Ahl's comprehensive notes and invaluable indexed glossary complement the translation. 


ISBN: 9780199231959

The Canterbury Tales



'Whoever best acquits himself, and tells
The most amusing and instructive tale,
Shall have a dinner, paid for by us all...'

In Chaucer's most ambitious poem, The Canterbury Tales (c. 1387), a group of pilgrims assembles in an inn just outside London and agree to entertain each other on the way to Canterbury by telling stories. The pilgrims come from all ranks of society, from the crusading Knight and burly Miller to the worldly Monk and lusty Wife of Bath. Their tales are as various as the tellers, including romance, bawdy comedy, beast fable, learned debate, parable, and Eastern adventure. The resulting collection gives us a set of characters so vivid that they have often been taken as portraits from real life, and a series of stories as hilarious in their comedy as they are affecting in their tragedy. Even after 600 years, their account of the human condition seems both fresh and true.

This new edition of David Wright's acclaimed translation includes a new critical introduction and invaluable notes by a leading Chaucer scholar.


ISBN: 9780199599028

Troilus and Criseyde



`Now listen with good will, as I go straight to my subject matter, in which you may hear the double sorrows of Troilus in his love for Criseyde, and how she forsook him before she died'

Like Romeo and Juliet, or Tristan and Iseult, the names of Troilus and Criseyde will always be united: a pair of lovers whose names are inseparable from passion and tragedy. Troilus and Criseyde is Chaucer's masterpiece and was prized for centuries as his supreme achievement. The story of how Troilus and Criseyde discover love and how she abandons him for Diomede after her departure from Troy is dramatically presented in all its comedy and tragic pathos. With its deep humanity and penetrating insight, Troilus and Criseyde is now recognized as one of the finest narrative poems in the English language.

This is a new translation into contemporary English of Chaucer's greatest single poem which can be read alongside the Middle English original, or as an accurate and readable version in its own right.


ISBN:
9780199555079
 

Le Morte Darthur




The definitive English version of the stories of King Arthur, Le Morte Darthur was completed in 1469-70 by Sir Thomas Malory, `knight-prisoner'. In a resonant prose style, Malory charts the tragic disintegration of the fellowship of the Round Table, destroyed from within by warring factions. Recounting the life of King Arthur, the knightly exploits of Sir Lancelot du Lake, Sir Tristram, Sir Gawain, and the quest for the Holy Grail, Le Morte Darthur depicts the contradictions that underscore the Fellowship's chivalric ideals. A pervading tension cumulates in the revelation of Lancelot and Guenivere's illicit passion, and in Arthur's powerlessness to prevent a related outbreak of violence and revenge.

This generously annotated edition is based on the authoritative Winchester manuscript and represents what Malory wrote more closely than the first version printed by William Caxton. Intelligently abridged from the original to make a single substantial volume, the translation is supplemented by a fine Introduction, a Glossary, and extensive Notes. 


ISBN:
9780199537341

Relevance to Tolkien:

His "Fall of Arthur" is inspired by Sir Thomas Malory's 'version' of Arthur. Tolkien didn't do his own version or translation of this exact work, but was greatly inspired by it.

"The Fall of Arthur" is incomplete, although, it's worth noting that this was due to Tolkien's work on "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings". If Tolkien did not work on those Middle-earth stories, he would have completed (and possibly published) "The Fall of Arthur." And, if Christopher Tolkien did not work on The History of Middle-earth 12-volume series, "The Fall of Arthur" would have been published a lot sooner than 2013.
It's also highly likely that in the 'what if (of Tolkien not doing "The Hobbit" and "The Lord of the Rings"), that "The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun" would have also been published as well, during his lifetime, in the 1930s at some point.


Sir Gawain


 



Sir Gawain and The Green Knight, with its intricate plot of enchantment and betrayal is probably the most skilfully told story in the whole of the English Arthurian cycle. Originating from the north-west midlands of England, it is based on two separate and very ancient Celtic motifs of the Beheading and the Exchange of Winnings, brought together by the anonymous 14th century poet. His telling comprehends a great variety of moods and modes - from the stark realism of the hunt-scenes to the delicious and dangerous bedroom encounters between Lady Bercilak and Gawain, from moments of pure lyric beauty when he evokes the English countryside in all its seasons, to authorial asides that are full of irony and puckish humour. This new verse translation uses a modern alliterative pattern which subtly echoes the music of the original at the same time as it strives for fidelity.


ISBN: 9780199540167

Relevance to Tolkien:

Tolkien did his own translation, which is often sold with two other poems he translated in the same book: Sir Orfeo and Pearl.

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