Saturday, May 6, 2017

Echoes of Eowyn

So, recently I came across a passage I'd found years ago and never been able to re-locate. I had been reading the first (and, so far as I knew at that time, only) volume of Ursula Dronke's edition, with extensive commentary, of THE POETIC EDDA, Volume I: HEROIC POEMS, a 250-page edition of four relatively brief Old Norse texts. In the commentary on the first such poem, Atlakvida ('The Lay of Atli', better known as Attila the Hun) I found a fascinating brief discussion in which Dronke cites the appearance of shieldmaidens in legend, like Hervor in THE SAGA OF KING HEIDRIEKS THE WISE, and goes on to say that such women existed in real life as well, however rarely:

'That in the Viking Age women occasionally became warriors would give vitality to the fiction; cf. . . . the skeleton of a woman aged about 25 in a grave at Asnes, Norway, from the tenth century, surrounded by sword, shield, spears, axe, whetstone, bridle, with the skeleton of a horse at her feet' (Dronke p. 58)

 Dronke follows up by citing a historical source dating from 1900 for this find.

Was this something Tolkien knew about? I suspect he did -- after all, we do know that Tolkien knew the history of his period extremely well (just cf. Finn & Hengest).  

So, not conclusive but highly suggestive.

Eowyn - wyn - wyn . . .
Eowyn - wyn - wyn . . .


ErikMH said...

Methinks the wife is a They Might Be Giants fan, perhaps?

John D. Rateliff said...

Dear Erik
No, actually, she's not, and I'm not much better (I know there is such a group but don't have any of their music, aside from their contribution to a Harrison tribute album. Can you elucidate the allusion?
--John R.