Wednesday, January 7, 2009

NEW TOLKIEN: The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun

The Legend of Sigurd & Gudrun

So, today came the welcome news that a new Tolkien book has been announced for publication by HarperCollins. Edited with an Introduction by Christopher Tolkien, it's slated for a release date of May 2009. Here's the news item; my thanks to Joan Marie Verba of the MythSoc list for posting the link:


The relevant paragraph runs as follows:

"The previously unpublished work was written while Tolkien was professor of Anglo-Saxon at Oxford University during the 1920s and '30s, before he wrote The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. The publication will make available for the first time Tolkien's extensive retelling in English narrative verse of the epic Norse tales of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niflungs."

This is a work we've known about for a long time -- at least since October 1981's publication of Letters of J. R. R. T., in which Tolkien discusses it in a letter to W. H. Auden (himself a translator of the Old Norse Poetic Edda). But very little about Tolkien's take on the story -- the most famous of all Old Norse legends -- is known. I've always assumed that Tolkien would follow the original Sigurd lays* in The Elder Edda for the most part, but there's a great gap in the manuscript which means that we have to go instead to the prose Volsunga Saga for those parts of the story. My guess is that Tolkien not only merged the individual lays into a continuous narrative poem but probably re-created the lost stanzas from the prose synopsis, making this yet another of his asterisk-texts. In any case, we'll soon see -- which is a wholly good thing.

No listing of it so far on,, or the HarperCollins site, that I could find. More details later.

--John R.

*as opposed to Wm Morris, who both translated the saga (Volsunga Saga: The Story of the Volsungs) and created his own narrative-poem version of the story (The Story of Sigurd the Volsung and the Fall of the Niblungs).

current reading: David Cannadine's MELLON: AN AMERICAN LIFE [2006], Edgar Poe's POLITIAN [1835]

current audiobook: Woodward's THE WAR WITHIN [2008]

1 comment:

Ian and Anke Collier said...

Hi I had an Italian journo asking about content, print date/run and length. Pieter Collier helped me with some of it. But it seems very few people at HarperCollins knew anything about it. The site doesn't show it and only the fans have talked about it on the forum. Have HC had so many staff leave or outsourced things (eg the web stuff) such that nobody knows about Tolkien there now?