Monday, July 11, 2011

The New Arrivals: Eddas and Fanzines

So, Friday brought two long-awaited and strangely parallel publications to our doorstep. The first is the latest volume in Ursula Dronke's THE POETIC EDDA (Vol. III, rather confusingly subtitled 'Mythological Poems II). This is the third installment of a long-term project, Vol. I (Heroic Poems) having appeared in 1969 and Vol, II (Mythological Poems) almost thirty years later, in 1997. I first encountered Volume I in the Magnolia college library and have never been able to find a copy for myself (having been forced to fall back on a photocopy of the Suzzallo-Allen copy). And I somehow missed any announcement that Volume II had come out till some time after the fact, meaning that when I ordered a copy of that one all I got was a print-on-demand tome -- easier to reference than the photocopy of the first volume, but still a bit of a disappointment considering what I paid for it.

And now Volume III, which I actually did know about beforehand, having seen it advertised in a catalogue; I even pre-ordered it, paying for a copy at the Oxf. Univ. Press booth at Kalamazoo,* and have been eagerly awaiting its arrival ever since. Now that it's out, I see it's a much slimmer volume than the other two, Dronke having changed the plan she'd announced in Vol II whereby the remaining twenty Eddic poems wd be covered in Volumes III (the Helgi lays & Sigurd cycle**) and IV (the remaining misc and mythological pieces). Given that she'd only published thirteen of twenty-nine poems in the space of forty-two years,*** there's cause for concern whether she'll ever finish this superlative edition: we can but hope. Perhaps it'll become a multi-generational project, like James Murray's OED.

In any case, this new volume contains four more poems: HAVAMAL (the source of Fimbulfambi) and HYMISKVITHA (Thorr vs. the World Serpent), GRIMNISMAL (Odin on the Tree) and GROTTASONGR (the story of Frothi/Froda's mill). Text, translation, and extensive commentary mean this is a slim but substantial work of about 150 pages. I have to admit that, having devoted twelve pages of MR. BAGGINS to an essay about a character who doesn't actually appear as such in that book, I have a soft spot when I see that Dronke has similarly devoted a section (four pages) to a scene that doesn't appear in the poem she's editing ("The Missing Rowing Scene").

So, even though I'm not an Old Norse scholar, this one goes high up on the list of books to read -- though I'm strongly tempted to go back to that first volume and re-read that first, followed by Vol. II (which I've only read pieces of), culminating in Vol. III. So many books in proportion to the time available to read; we'll see.

As for the other new arrival, it too is the latest installment in a multi-volume work, although on a smaller scale, this being Gary Hunnewell's magisterial survey of Tolkien fanzines in chronological order. Having started from the beginning (November 1959 -- just a year or so after my own beginning!), he's now produced three of these: the first covering Tolkien fandom up to 1964, the next devoted to 1965, and now this to 1966; its formal title is THE YELLOWSKIN OF TUCKBOROUGH: TOLKIEN FANDOM REVIEW 1966. In it Gary lists the contents of each Tolkien fanzine, or other science fiction/fantasy fanzine that had Tolkien content, with a brief description of each essay or poem or editorial. It's the sort of project that requires encyclopedic knowledge, a superb collection to draw from, good organizational ability, and a great deal of stick-to-it-ness. Well done!

--John R.
current reading:

*thus getting a small but welcome discount against its staggering list price of $180 -- making it the most expensive book I'll buy this year, barring some spectacular used-book find, which I'm not expecting.

**i.e., the material Tolkien drew on for SIGURD & GUDRUN.

***not counting however many years' work went into the creation of that first volume, still my favorite of the set -- she mentions in her preface to it having finished work on one of its component poems in 1963.

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