Thor’s Day Alert #24: New Tolkien book — THE LEGEND OF SIGURD AND GUDRUN
Happy Thor’s Day, everybody!
Exciting news: a previously unpublished work of J.R.R. Tolkien hits the stores on May 5th. Because so much has been written regarding the influence of Norse lore on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, I’m astounded that his retelling of the Volsunga Saga (aka the Saga of the Volsungs) hasn’t been published prior.
[If Volsung sounds familiar but you’re drawing a blank, this is the legendary epic that includes Sigurd and the dragon Fafnir and, lo, a cursed golden ring. This is also the story upon which Richard Wagner based his Ring Cycle operas.]
Okay, so I’m actually more dumbfounded than astounded. For a guy like me who is endlessly fascinated by Scandivian lore, and who finds himself writing fantasy and drawing from the same deep well as Tolkien, hearing about THE LEGEND OF SIGURD AND GUDRUN feels downright mystical.
Seriously. How could such a famous tale retold by such a renown writer NOT HAVE BEEN PUBLISHED BEFORE? Where has this manuscript been stashed for the last 70 or 80 years? The financial potential alone of such a piece pretty much precludes its moldering away somewhere; I gotta give it up to (I presume) Christopher Tolkien for safeguarding his father’s notes/drafts all this time.
No good segue here, but bear with me . . .
Also of recent interest to me is Tolkien’s apparent disdain for the German composer Richard Wagner. While I enjoy some of Wagner’s work, I share Tolkien’s opinion that he took unnecessary artistic liberties with the Volsunga Saga and Norse myth in general. In THE LEGEND OF SIGURD AND GUDRUN, I’m excited to see just how well Tolkien upholds the ancient “flavour” and “rootedness” of this tale — both of which qualities he strived to infuse in his own myth-building while writing The Lord of the Rings books, and both of which qualities I suspect he felt Wagner had hijacked for the benefit of German nationalism.
I note all this because Wagner isn’t the only artist/creator who hasn’t exactly given just treatment to Norse myth — I’ve yet to find a novel that pulls it off (which isn’t to say one doesn’t exist — I just haven’t found it), and comic books, well, I think it’s fair to say Tolkien would be shocked at some of the bastardizations that have been published.
In my next Thor’s Day post on May 7, I hope to borrow from writers more knowledgable than myself in order to cobble together some interesting observations that have been made regarding Tolkien and Norse myth.
Thanks for stopping by!