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Book Review: “The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun,” by J. R. R. Tolkien

Genre: classic; poetry; myth; fantasy; medieval

Plot Summary: [from goodreads:] In the “Lay of the Völsungs” is told the ancestry of the great hero Sigurd, the slayer of Fáfnir most celebrated of dragons, whose treasure he took for his own; of his awakening of the Valkyrie Brynhild, who slept surrounded by a wall of fire, and of their betrothal; and of his coming to the court of the great princes who were named the Niflungs (or Nibelungs), with whom he entered into blood-brotherhood. In that court there sprang great love but also great hate, brought about by the power of the enchantress of the Niflungs, skilled in the arts of magic, of shape-changing and potions of forgetfulness.

My Book Review: I am not a hardcore Tolkienite, but I do enjoy stretching myself and have made my way through many of J. R. R. Tolkien’s works.  “The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun” was my continuation of reading his non LOR books.

The book is made up of two longish poems (“lays”), and one is a sequel to the other. Actually, the book is Tolkien’s retelling of an ancient Norse myth called “The Lay of the Volsungs,” and was published after his death by his son Christopher, who added many of his father’s notes and his own commentary.

It shouldn’t have taken me so long to read it as it did. It would have been relatively quick reading, but I was busy and to tell the truth I found it murky and boring.  I found it hard to remember what happened the last time I left off, and by the time I made it to the breaks with Christopher Tolkien’s notes to explain what it was I just read, I’d completely forgotten and not much made sense.  A lot of oath-swearing, deceiving, fighting and killing.  Blood and guts.

On the plus side, I found it a lot of fun to read out loud. Tolkien wrote the lays in the style of the old Norse and there are a lot of ancient, outdated words that were fun to come across.  Tolkien really was a master at language and it shows (even if I’m too thick to fully appreciate it).  There was even a particular line or two I copied down that reminded me much of the True Story of the Savior of the World, Jesus Christ.  This sounds very strange, but I plan to include in my Christmas cards this year:

In the day of Doom

he shall deathless stand

who death tasted

and dies no more,

the serpent-slayer,

seed of Odin:

not all shall end,

nor Earth perish.

 

On his head the Helm,

in his hand lightning,

afire his spirit,

in his face splendour.

When war passeth

in world rebuilt,

bliss shall they drink

who the bitter tasted.

 

“I saw heaven standing open and there before me was a white horse, whose rider is called Faithful and True. With justice He judges and makes war.  His eyes are like blazing fire, and on His head are many crowns.  He has a name written on Him that no one but He Himself knows….  ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter.’ …And I saw an angel coming down out of heaven, having the key to the Abyss and holding in his hand a great chain.  He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years…. And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown.  They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever….  Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth….  ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and He will live with them.  They will be His people, and God Himself will be with them and be their God.  He will wipe every tear from their eyes.  There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ He who was seated on the throne said, ‘I am making everything new!’  …He said to me: ‘It is done.  I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End.  To him who is thirsty I will give to drink without cost from the spring of the water of life.’ …No longer will there be any curse…  Whoever is thirsty, let him come; and whoever wishes, let him take the free gift of the water of life.  He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.” Amen.  Come, Lord Jesus.  (Revelation 19:11 – 22:20)

I found it interesting that one of the characters toward the end of the tale, named Atli, is loosely based on what we know from old legends of Attila the Hun. That gave a wonderful grounding to the story, as if there really was a historical basis to the fiction I was reading.

I know there will be die-hard Tolkien fans out there who will want to read anything they can get their hands on of his who would enjoy this book. Otherwise, you might want to pass on it.

If you liked this book, I also recommend…

 
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Posted by on April 5, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Book Review: “Beginnings,” by Steve Stephens

Genre: Christian Inspirational; biblical fiction 

Playlist… 

Plot Summary: Once upon a time, Garden-Maker made the stars and space and time, and spoke earth and light into being.  He formed Man out of the dust of the earth and created a paradise for him to live in and it was perfect.  But then the creature called Shining One grew jealous of the glory of Garden-Maker and enticed Man away from the path of wisdom.  And so begins the epic tale told by an ancient storyteller…   

My Book Review: This series, entitled “The Story Teller” by Steve Stephens, sat on the shelf in our church library for years and they looked intriguing to me.  Finally, I picked up the first one to read and fell in love with the beautiful poem-prose narrative.  They are simple retellings of the Genesis stories, yet the words swirl around in a sort of colorful, magical mosaic.   

Stephens isn’t the first to write imaginative accounts of bible stories, filling in details and elaborating or simplifying finer points here and there.  But I loved his bard-like habit of substituting characters’ names for their signature qualities.  For example, the Creator God is referred to as Garden-Maker and later on in the story as Promise-Keeper.  Noah is Builder, Sarah is Princess and Joseph is Dreamer.  This is also done to place names as well.  Canaan is the Valley of the Apples; Egypt is the Land of the Deltas.  Describing people and places as such gives the familiar Story a fresh take as well as a timeless feel.  But it is still the same. 

I found it wonderful to be reintroduced to these ancients of the faith and most especially, to read of the character of Promise-Keeper who never fails us.  He gave me such encouragement of heart.  If you’re wanting something that will help you understand the heart of God and His Word a little better, this is a great supplement.  It is easy enough for children to understand, and adults will find a deep well of truth to rejoice in.  I truly cannot wait to read the next installment, “Leaders”, followed by “Kingdoms”,  and “Promises”.   

  

If you liked this book, I also recommend… 

 

 

 
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Posted by on January 18, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Characters Series: Heroines in the Worst of Times

When I was a kid, I wished that I could do something really BIG and dramatic that would save the day.  I think that I still do have this desire, and I think it is a common one.  We humans want to know that our lives have a purpose and meaning.  It’s all very well to talk about character when things in life are going so nicely.  Of course, character is needed in everyday life.  But it’s so much harder when you’re in the midst of scary events. 

We’re usually not aware of these kinds of heroines until we put them in the context of history.  The real-life heroines are the most admirable, for they show us that it is possible to have integrity for real and that it’s not just for fiction.  One of my personal favorites ever since I was little has been Queen Esther—Persian queen (Jewish commoner) in disguise!  Even though she was in the prime of life and could easily talk herself out of it, she felt a duty to go to the king on behalf of her people because she could do something. 

One our favorite Lord of the Rings quotes goes something like this: 

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. 

“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”  

Thinking of history not that long past, there are the character role models of Diet Eman and Corrie ten Boom.  They were also both women in the prime of life who did what they could while their country was occupied by the Nazi regime.  I cannot think of anything more terrifying than facing a concentration camp, yet that is what they risked experiencing (and did experience) because of their belief that all people matter.  What heart, what courage these women modeled!  Come to think of it, why else do heroes do what they do, other than because of their value for human life and freedom?  In the moment of their action, they put aside their safety and sometimes very lives for the treasuring of another. 

I have never read the book, but I recently watched the movie The Help for the first time.  This story is full of women in a particular place (deep Southern America) in a particular time (violently racial 1960’s).  Some did what was popular and easy in the community—letting others bully them as to their personal decisions and relationships.  Others saw their neighbors as human beings with souls.  And still others decided to take a stand, to say ‘enough is enough’, and try to help each other in the middle of what was impossible conditions.  They were scared; they were hesitant at first or said no at the beginning, because they were risking so much.  But each decided that their friends and family were more important than their present fear and took the step forward that eventually became fruitful.  No longer ‘Strange Fruit.’ 

Sometimes heroines will never see the fruit of their labors.  In Tangled Ashes (Michele Phoenix), Marie is a seventeen-year-old girl living in an obscure village in France during WWII.  She is just an ordinary teenager, but living in extraordinary times.  She is forced to serve in a nearby manor house where strange and secretive things are taking place under the German occupation.  She “hears nothing, she sees nothing”– until she is forced to face the facts that her best friend is pregnant with an enemy soldier.  Suddenly, she cannot live for her preservation alone.  She has a tiny, innocent life to look after and it ends up costing her dearly.  But her love puts others first, and she has to trust that her courageous actions are more important in the long run. 

What becomes of the people we have influence over?  Maybe we will never know.  Or maybe their lives will touch others in a great, wide ripple effect that never stops.  All we can do is strive to pass on a heritage that will be life-giving and honoring for others.  And maybe this idea is not relegated to the big, grandiose acts of queens, but starts with the everyday little yeses and considerations in this world. 

“Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” (Philippians 2: 3,4) 

 
 

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A Post Full of Audio Dramas

I came across something entirely new to me– the ATC Seneca Awards, which recognizes the best in family audio dramas.  The Awards are presented by the Audio Theatre Central podcast which you can check out here.  I thought it would be fun to dredge up trailers for as many nominations as I could find and collect them all in one place on this post.  Audio dramas are a great source of favorite family memories and long car trip entertainment.  Have fun!

Captain Bayley’s Heir – (Heirloom Audio Productions; John Fornof (writer/director); starring John Rhys Davies, Finty Williams)

The Trials of St. Patrick – (AIR Theatre; Paul McCusker (writer/director); Philip Glassborow (producer); starring John Rhys Davies)

Ode to Saint Cecelia – (AIR Theatre; Paul McCusker (writer/director); starring Derek Jacobi, Hayley Atwell)

The Giant Killer – (Lamplighter Theatre; John Fornof)

Wulf the Saxon (couldn’t find a trailer) – (Heirloom Audio Productions; Todd Busteed (writer/director); John Campbell (score))

*You can find reviews of all of these audio dramas and more on the ATC podcast.

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on June 24, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Spring 2018)

Think outside the box this spring by reading up on God’s creation– both the supernatural and yourself!

The Unseen Realm, by Michael S. Heiser~ I had questions and lots of them.  Of course I knew the answers are in the Bible, but there are many things I didn’t understand.  It was so frustrating!  Then I heard a Bible scholar interviewed on the Moody program, In the Market with Janet Parshall (which you can listen to for a limited time here).  What he had to say was so informative, interesting, and outside the box that I actually tried calling into the program with a question to ask but couldn’t get through because the lines were lit.  Since that didn’t work, I set about to order his book through the library.  I spent countless hours reading, rereading, and copying two composition notebooks full of reference notes.  Even the footnotes were as fascinating as the rest of the book.  I read it so much I was thoroughly wore out with the thing by the time I reached Chapter 42!  And then I went exploring through his website, blog, articles and podcast because he has even more amazing footnotes.  Is this book about spiritual warfare?  That is what I thought it was before I started reading it, but it is not that exactly.  It is more all-encompassing than that.  I would say it is rather more the story of created, spiritual beings and the world’s history from a biblical perspective from the beginning to the end.  Is it about weird, alternative doctrine?  No, you don’t have to worry about that.  Heiser may not always side with traditional teaching, but he always backs his statements up with rock-solid exegesis and his extraordinary knowledge of Hebrew.  I felt in awe of the creativity and majesty of God while reading his explanations of various bible passages.  There is one area where I would disagree with, and that is over the question of whether the Flood was a local or global catastrophe (I side with global).  Although I’m not sure that he specifically intended this, I sometimes felt like God was portrayed as continually bummed out in His plan to be in relationship with people and kept moving to the next best plan until He finally came up with Plan Z (Jesus Christ).  It didn’t feel in keeping with the truth of God’s omniscience.  However, I admire his goal of taking the academic out of the stuffy halls and bringing it to the ordinary Christian.  I will be on the lookout for more books by him, and hope there will be soon! [*Note: If you have a hard time getting your head around intense bible study, you may prefer Heiser’s easier version of this information in another book called Supernatural.]

It’s Just My Nature!, by Carol Tuttle~  Remember the old Color Me Beautiful style system from way back when?  All you had to do was match certain colors up to the season you were diagnosed with and you were told you’d be magically transformed.  I devoured that book in my teens and have ever since been interested in color analysis and other systems and classification for personal fashion style.  I love the idea of being one’s own unique personality!  Of course, there are the new 12 or 16 color seasons now.  But I stumbled across Carol Tuttle’s website and videos and learned of a different way to look at things.  Instead of matching colors, her system is more 3-D in that it takes into consideration a person’s inherent energy.  The end result is an honoring of not just the person’s appearance, but also of the way they process life.  One of my resolutions this year was to explore this new ‘typology’ to better understand myself.  I’ve never gone through Carol’s Dressing Your Truth program as far as purchasing anything or setting up an appointment in person, but I enjoyed reading her book and watching her videos online for free.  I love seeing the transformations that come about after someone has worked with her!  (After going through the process, I believe I am a Type 2.)  It’s amazing how it really does involve more than just outer looks and delves into a study of the way we approach and think about life.  I loved getting better acquainted with myself and it even broadened my understanding of how I viewed myself in the past.  Although I don’t subscribe to all of what Carol teaches, I believe one could comfortably embrace most of her energy profiling program.

 
 

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Audio Dramas for Easter!

Happy Easter!  Do you remember your earliest Easter memories from when you were a kid?  I remember one of mine is listening to a dramatized version of the death, burial, and resurrection story of Christ being played on the radio on Good Friday.  It was a departure from the norm (usually it was a music station).  The solemnity of the event came across very clear to my mind.  It felt like I was actually listening in on the true events as they were happening.  I couldn’t have been more than 6 at the time.

Audio dramatizations can have such an impact on our lives, especially children.  I came across this blog post from Audio Theatre Central listing a bunch of religious, Easter-themed audio dramas for families to enjoy and links to be able to purchase them from Amazon.  I have listened to a couple of them and I have to say that Ben-Hur is my favorite!  Do you have any others you would add to the list?

Enjoy your weekend!

 
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Posted by on March 30, 2018 in Audio/Radio Dramas

 

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Non-Fiction Books I’m Liking (Winter 2016-17)

Life is full of secrets and adventures…  Read all about them this winter in these two fascinating books!

17623735101 Secrets for Your Twenties, by Paul Angone~ I first heard of this book when I heard the author interviewed on Moody Radio by Melinda Schmidt. I was about to turn 27 and was convinced I was having a quarter life crisis.  And so I came across this interview that I had saved on ‘Programs to Listen to Sometime Before They Expire’ list and decided it was a good time to hit the play button.  I liked Paul Agone (see his website here) and his message.  He could empathize on the struggles of Twenty-somethings, having just graduated to his Thirties and being a Millennial himself.  The topics they discussed resonated withme, and I knew I wanted to read his book.  Problem was, none of the libraries among all of my state’s vast interlibrary loan systems had it.  My solution was to order a copy for my church library.  I knew if I could benefit from it, so could others.  (:) But I got first dibs! Ha ha!)  I wish that I had had this book much earlier, but better late than never.  Angone has a humorous writing style and had me Laughing Out Loud (I refuse to abbreviate) throughout.  But more importantly, there are many spots I want to copy out into my quotebook before I turn this over to the church.  It makes life much more bearable when you know that others are going through similar hurdles as they live out their adulthood.  It gives one hope that these same hurdles have purpose.  The author is a Christian and writes from that worldview, but is not preachy.  I suggest this for anyone anywhere in their twenties, and would make a good gift for highschool/college grads.

1441778The Lost Shipwreck of Paul, by Robert Cornuke~ It’s hard to remember when or where I learned of bible explorer Robert Cornuke. Somehow I just ran into his adventures while surfing the internet many years ago and became intrigued by him.  As a former police investigator (and now president of the BASE Institute), Cornuke has made it his mission to explore mysteries from the Bible, such as… The Lost Ark of the Covenant, the location of the real Mt. Sinai, and Noah’s Ark.  Even though many, many people have tried their best to hunt for the same things and made great claims, Cornuke is no sensationalist.  He treats the people he meets and interviews with respect, often gaining their trust and having access to places many other outsiders are not able to obtain.  He also has some unique theories that appear to come closer to the truth than many others.  I’ve been wanting to read one of his books for a long time, and have finally got my hands on one of the least talked about.  I’m still in the middle of reading it, but it is fascinating.  I love how he tells of his adventure from a storyteller’s point of view,– building suspense and making it a fun read.  I don’t think anyone will be disappointed.  If you want to watch some of his videos, Youtube has several of them, including the Temple of YHWH.  I highly recommend them!  You can visit his website here.

 
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Posted by on January 8, 2017 in Non-Fiction Books I'm Liking

 

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