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The Poetic Edda. It is a work whose very title conjures up images of gods, tales of men of valor, the mischief of twisted, greedy dwarves, giants and other fantastic beings. It has inspired countless authors down through the ages, the most illustrious of which would have to be the legendary and beloved J.R.R. Tolkien, not to mention musicians such as Wagner. Here then, for your perusual, our dear Jojo presents her review of but one translation of this oft-referenced work. Enjoy!
The Poetic Edda,
translation by Carolyne Larrington,
Oxford World's Classics © 1996
For those who are unfamiliar with the Eddas (both the Poetic--also known as the Elder Edda or Saemund's Edda, and the Prose--or Younger, also Snorri's Edda) they are collections of Icelandic myths, dated to circa 1250 CE and 1220 CE respectively. Yes, that's right. "Elder" and "Younger" seem to be misnomers. (It is believed that the Prose Edda drew upon an earlier form of the Poetic Edda.)
Many English translations can be found, but I had heard Larrington's being tauted by the Ásatrú folks I know as being the most approachable and readable to one unfamiliar with the stories. It is in plain English, very well footnoted, and easy to read.
It was also a bit on the boring side, because it is sometimes too plain. Not having read other translations that (may) strive to keep the poetics in place, I can't say if this is because of the age in which this was put to paper, or if this was a result of Larrinton's translation efforts.
Another thing I didn't like was Larrington's choice of rendering of some of the names, especially her choice with "j" becoming "i" in accordance with modern Icelandic pronouncation. Changing characters we don't possess in our alphabet (ð to d, þ to th, etc.) in one thing, but we have j. Maybe it's foolish, but seeing Freyja as Freyia, Njord as Niord, etc., distracted me a bit from the poems.
On the other hand, the edition presented family trees of the gods and other creatures, as well as to the heroic families, which I found helpful.
All in all, I thought this to be a good translation and a wonderful starting point. I enjoyed the mythic poems over the heroic ones, but even so, I am eager to move on to the Prose Edda and various sagas.
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