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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 Tolkien wrote the lays in the style of the old Norse and there are a lot of ancient, outdated words that were fun to come across.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: “The Valiant Papers,” by Calvin Miller

Genre: inspirational Christian fiction

Playlist…

Plot Summary: The angel Valiant has been sent to Muddyscuttle again to guard a person called J.B. Considine.  To be honest, there were tons of other assignments he would have preferred.  For one thing, his charge seems to show no interest in the things of the Lord High Command.  Feeling that a Hittite princess would have been an easier job than this contemporary man, Valiant writes faithful reports back home detailing the frustrations- and even small triumphs- of his daily efforts.  Time is running out… Valiant knows J.B.’s expiration date, but not his final decision.  Will he be able to turn him around before it’s too late?

My Book Review:  I recognized this author’s name in the church library because of a children’s book of poems my sister and I had when growing up.  There were so many great rhymes in When the Aardvark Parked on the Ark and we even dramatized a few on audio.  I highly recommend that book!  I was curious to see what his adult fiction was like.

This book has been compared to Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.  In a sort of way, I can see the similarity of themes on angels writing epistles.  Unfortunately, I think the similarity stops there.  The version I read was published in 1988 and felt very dated.  The pictures felt too childlike for a novel for adults.  I was hoping for some great quotes and deep insight among spiritual things, but didn’t come away with much.  I didn’t always care for Valiant’s shortsighted perspective, but did appreciate that he was portrayed as a created being who had things to learn from humans.

Feeling a little disappointed over this one, but I plan on reading at least one more from this author.  I understand he’s written a few other books of poetry which I have begun collecting because I so enjoyed him as a kid.

I would also recommend…

 
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Posted by on January 20, 2019 in Book Reviews

 

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Words & Lists, Lists & Words

Are you a lover of words?  Do you make lists lists lists?  I think you will enjoy this podcast featuring Marilyn McEntyre on Anita Lustrea’s podcast Faith Conversations (Episode 118).  Ms. McEntyre is a skilled user of words, and I enjoyed listening to what she had to say as well as how she said it.  Her voice of has a reflective, gentling effect.  She is the author of “Word by Word” and “Caring for Words in a Culture of Lies.”  I can’t wait to read them both!

I really liked the idea of praying with specific lists, and turning lists into prayers.  For myself, I know I was a list-maker since very young.  I think the reason why I do it is for several reasons.  1) It helps to get the chaos of my mind categorized on paper; 2) it helps me deal with sadness; 3) it helps me feel like I’m taking action toward my goals and problem-solving.

Why do you make lists or not?

 
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Posted by on July 3, 2018 in Journaling Our Journey

 

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The Dark Nursery Past & Present

Have you ever wondered about the origins of seemingly nonsensical nursery rhymes?

Ring around the rosie,

A pocket full of posies,

Ashes, ashes, we all fall down!

Why in the world do we teach young children these simplistic poems when we don’t even know what they are talking about?  Are they clues to some hidden meaning or are their histories long past memory?

In this shortish, informative article by Clemency Burton-Hill, I learned that many nursery rhymes were at one time veiled records of current events.  It’s fascinating, and helps to view these children’s poems in a closer light.

But why are they children’s poems?  Are they fit for children?  The Victorians certainly didn’t think so, and began the campaign to clean the rhymes up.  Okay, I’m grateful for that.  I’d much rather my young’uns babbling fun repetitive sounds than knowingly reciting tales of torture techniques geared for male genitals.  I’m convinced of the educative quality of children learning soothing sounds and rhythms.

But I got to thinking about how ‘shocked’ we are to learn of the real meanings that lie behind these mysterious sing-songs.  It was dealing with the world as they knew it at the time, only later being ‘sanitized’ for society.  We live in a much more decent world, our children are much more innocent…  Or are they?  Our world contains much violence today.  School shootings, child molestation, human trafficking.  However, what worries me more than these issues is what they learn in the home little on up from those nearest to them.  Broken homes, where mom’s had three boyfriends in the past month.  If dad’s in the picture, he’s never grown up himself and spends his waking time playing violent video games or watching adult “cartoons” that spew forth 4 letter (and 3 letter) words.  “Mother”; “It”; “hotdogs and buns”…  And we’re shocked over Rock a Bye Baby?

No, I’m not stressed over wool tax.  I’m worried about the little boy who lives down the lane, who grows up in a world where his dad was busy texting during his first steps and his mom can’t decide whether or not to give him up for adoption because she spends part of her time in jail.  He doesn’t get to be read or sung nursery rhymes.  It’s heartbreaking, and it’s not just little Danny.  His story is a common epidemic!

Yes– clean up the content for the little ones, but let’s not forget about the overall home we’re raising our kids in.  Is it mentally, spiritually, emotionally clean and healthy?  Ultimately, the only way for this to be possible is for the people in the home to be rooted in the love of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Eventually, there’s only so much we can protect our kids from.  We do not live in bubbles forever, and it’s important to remember history from those who came before.  People from long ago passed their experiences down to us in rhymes.  What will we pass down?

 

 
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Posted by on October 27, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Words & Music: ~Clouds~

I hope everyone has had a profitable day!  I did, but it was also hot and exhausting and a lot of things didn’t go very well.  But nothing a little ice cream didn’t fix, and then I turned on BBC Radio 3’s program “Words and Music” where they did an episode dedicated to the theme of Clouds.  What a relaxing, soothing way to spend an evening!  I really hope you get a chance to listen to it before it expires.  You’ll enjoy music from Ralph Vaughan Williams and Perry Como, and narrators Simon Russell Beale and Adjoa Andoh read pieces (mainly poetry) from Emily Dickinson and Wordsworth.  I particularly enjoyed “Cloudburst,” by Eric Whitacre, Claude Debussy, and a poem called “Clouds,” by William Sharp.  Some parts of this program could bring one to tears, it is so heavenly and featherlight…

 
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Posted by on June 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Ocean theme on “Words & Music”

I’ve just finished listening to one of the most enjoyable programs I’ve listened to yet from BBC Radio 3’s “Words & Music” program.  Entitled “Life’s a Wave”, all pieces of poetry, prose, and music have been selected to fit a sea-faring theme.  Although some parts of it are a little dark, I thoroughly enjoyed listening to the voices of Lesley Sharp and John Shrapnel (both new discoveries for me).  I loved the quiet sounds Sharp’s voice made of the words no matter their meaning, and Shrapnel had such a burly, deck-scrubbed timbre that he made even “Moby Dick” sound fascinating!

Unfortunately, I waited a bit late to listen to it and pass it on, so there are only a dozen or so remaining days to listen.

 
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Posted by on March 9, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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Words & Music: About Time!

58ca35b37957afa7d2705c9b68efb408It’s common to review where the time has gone when we reach the end of the year.  The BBC radio program “Words & Music” recently aired an episode based on the theme of Time.  Whether you listen at the start of your day, on your lunch hour, during a lovely afternoon, or when whiling away the evening hours, this program has a full playlist of great voices narrating beautiful words and accompanying music.  Some of my favorites were A. A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh, “The Tiger Who Came for Tea,” and D. H. Lawrence.  Available for a limited time.

 
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Posted by on December 28, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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