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Neil's Books

Legends of the Ring - Editor-Elizabeth Magee; Illustrator-Simon Brett

Elizabeth Magee is already well known to Wagner fans for her contribution to the Ring Companion and her excellent study of Wagner's source material in her Oxford monograph, Wagner and the Nibelungs. In this book Magee collects together in one volume, most of the medieval source material relating to the Nibelungen legends.

Magee divides the book into two parts. The first section is devoted to translations from Scandinavian sources, which include the Poetic Edda, Snorri Edda and the Volsunga Saga. Unfortunately the Folio Society use Jean Young's edition of the Prose Edda, unfortunate because Young didn't include any of the Skaldic verse in here edition and then Magee unwisely decided to also omit Snorri's important prologue. Again with Terry's translation of the Poetic Edda there's a few omissions like the prose section in Brot af Sigurðarkviðu, thankfully Magee does translate the prose section in her introduction. Certain other poems in the Poetic Edda have to be translated by Magee due to Terry's editing and omissions, which leads me to wonder if they should have used Larrington's edition of the Poetic Edda instead of Patricia Terry's.

Part two presents the German versions, which include the Nibelungenlied, Thidrekssaga af Bern (selections include the Niflunga Saga, Dietrichs Youth, Young Siegfried, Heldenschau and Walter and Hildegun), Das Lied vom Hurnen Seyfrid and Hans Sach's Der Hurnen Seufrid. Magee's translations of the Hurnen Seyfrid and Hans Sach's Nibelungen drama not only do a great service to Wagnerian studies but also to English speaking medievalists and folklorists who have long desired an English translation of the Hurnen Seyfrid. The selection of German material is again sadly incomplete and would've greatly benefited from the inclusion of the Nibelungenlied's epilogue, Diu Klage and the Rosengarten zu Worms, due to Wagner's reading of Siegfried's dragon fight description in this poem.

Nice features to the book include a character and place name glossary, a table that lists characters names in their parallel Scandinavian and German forms (ideal for the beginner) and then a section on suggestions for further reading. While I'm not a huge fan of unnecessary decorative illustrations in books, for those that are, the book is illustrated with sixteen wood engravings. The binding is in black leather with gold leaf decorations and lettering.

The translators of the various sections are;
Poetic Edda- Patricia Terry.
Snorri's Prose Edda- Jean Young.
Volsunga Saga-Ronald G Finch.
Nibelungenlied-Arthur Hatto.
Thidrekssaga af Bern-Edward R Haymes.
Das Lied vom Hernen Seyfrid-Elizabeth Magee.
Hans Sach's Der Hurnen Seufrid-Elizabeth Magee.

All the selections are supplied with excellent introductions by Magee that place these medieval works in the context of Wagner's Nibelungen opera. While i do have a few issues about completeness, this is still a great book which any Wagner fan cannot afford to ignore.