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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 Tolkien wrote the lays in the style of the old Norse and there are a lot of ancient, outdated words that were fun to come across.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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January 2019 Word List

I am going to try something new.  I don’t know how this will go or if I will keep it up, but I thought I’d share a fun reading habit I’ve been doing lately.

As recently mentioned, I tried a couple reading groups on goodreads to sort of spice up my reading life.  The first one (The Seasonal Reading Challenge, in case you’re interested) contained challenges where you had to find books that fit into certain categories, like genres, page totals, book cover art, and titles or author’s names that spell out certain words.  This would probably appeal to folks who don’t know what to read next or who want to expand their reading comfort zones.  I did not make it very long in this group mainly because of my strict adherence to my own lists.  The second group also has rigid rules but they do have one particular challenge I’m liking: word scavenger hunts!

Every month (and other alternative timelines), they provide new scavenger lists of up to 50 words to look for while reading whatever you choose to read (for example, the current list includes the word “bells”).  If I come across that word while reading, I mark it down.  It’s fun to see how many I can find by the end of the month.  This works well if you have more than one book going at a time like me, or read very fast.  I do it along with another person I know and we compare lists to see who found the most words.

I have found that one of the benefits of practicing these scavenger hunts is that I pay much more attention to the particular words I read.  In addition to the monthly lists, I also participate in a long-term Color Word list and am enjoying the wonderful descriptions I come across.

My findings don’t qualify to enter in the group forum because they have a few more rules than I care to follow, so I will just log it in my own post here.  But for those interested, the goodreads group is called “The Lost Challenges”.  There are far more reading games than just hunting for words and they may appeal to you more.  Are there any reading challenges you’re enjoying in this new year?

1. Bean ~ I am really a stickler on this, and it is not just because I am trained as a bean counter and like all the boxes checked.  [The Power Formula for LinkedIn Success]
2. Bears
3. Beef ~ For those readers who are old enough, think of the Wendy’s commercial from the eighties in which the elderly ladies asked “Where’s the beef?” as they looked at a tiny hamburger patty dwarfed by a massive bun.  [TPFfLS]
4. Big ~ Walking out into the rain as though it were not there, she moved through the downpour with a monumental and unhurried measure, her big head lifted.  [Gormenghast]
5. Boys ~ Yet for all that, Titus was conscious of always being watched: of a discrepancy in the attitude of the officials and even at times of the boys.  [G…]
6. Bulls ~ Of a sudden the dusk, knocking as it were a certain hollow note to which their sweet ribs echoed, they were in the air– a group of herons, their necks arched back, their ample and rounded wings rising and falling in leisurely flight: and then another and then another: and then a night heron with a ghastly and hair-raising croak, more terrible than the unearthly booming note of a pair of bitterns, who soaring and spiralling upwards and through the clouds to great heights above Gormenghast, boomed like bulls as they ascended.  [G…]
7. City ~ The arrow flies continuously around the city at breakneck speed without landing on a specific target.  [Rhythms of Rest]
8. Cloud ~ Lost in the flying clouds the craggy summits of Gormenghast were wild with straining hair– the hanks of the drenched rock-weed.  [G…]
9. Comedy ~ In tragedy and comedy and satire and farce– in anything that is worthy of the stage,– conflict is at the root.  [Respect for Acting]
10. Court ~ His hunched shoulders, his pallor, his dark-red eyes had never encouraged intimacy even supposing he had ever courted it.  [G…]
11. Crown ~ Now he was climbing a slope of reddish sandstone; now he was skirting a rock-face whose crown overhung its base and whose extensive surface was knuckly with the clay nests of innumerable martins; now the walnut-covered slopes from where, each evening, with hideous regularity a horde of owls set sail on bloody missions.  [G…]
12. Cubs
13. Deep ~ “I would like to show you what I have found, away to the south, your Ladyship, where the granite domes are elbow-deep in moss.” [G…]
14. Dibs
15. Dish ~ And then one day, while drying the dishes, of all things, God stripped away my greatest illusion.  [RofR]
16. Fields ~ But, dark as was the day, it had no power to suppress the craving which had been mounting for weeks– the craving to ride and ride when the rest of the world lay in bed: to drink the spring air in giant gulps as his horse galloped beneath him over the April fields, beyond the Outer Dwellings.  [G…]
17. Food ~ A mingling of wet, scrubbed floors, unaired rooms, and food for a hundred people always steaming on the stove.  [Dear Enemy]
18. Fountain ~ An impromptu theatrical gathering of young children splash in the nearby fountain, hiking their pants above their knees until it becomes a nuisance.  [RofR]
19. Friendly ~ But there was nothing on fire except the tobacco in his pipe and as he lay supine, the white wreaths billowing from his wide, muscular and lipless mouth (rather like the mouth of a huge and friendly lizard), he evinced so brutal a disregard for his own and other people’s windpipes as made one wonder how this man could share the selfsame world with hyacinths and damsels.  [G…]
20. Gate
21. Grow ~ And so, at her funeral, the majority of the mourners were gathered there, to pay their respects to the memory not so much of Mrs. Slagg, as to the legend which the tiny creature had, all unwittingly, allowed to grow about her.  [G…]
22. Gym Shoes
23. Hotdog
24. Jewels ~ Their peurile ambition and vanity– and their only too obvious longing to assume, one day, the roles in which they were always seeing themselves, the roles of ladies, great and splendid, bedecked with jewels, precluded any such idea as suicide.  [G…]
25. Lake ~ It is seven years since he watched from the attic window the procession far below him wind back from Gormenghast lake, where Titus had come into his Earldom, but nothing has happened to him during the long years apart from the annual arrival of fresh works to be added to the coloured carvings in the long room.  [G…]
26. Lincoln
27. Loop  ~ Steerpike uncoiled himself of the rope and looped it over a nail in the wall.  [G…]
28. Mother-in-Law  ~ It’s the third week of Advent, and my mother-in-law, Geri, left Phoenix and is flying on windwings heading east.  [RofR]
29. Museum ~ Instead of wandering through a museum or sightseeing somewhere different, I lose myself in watching people give themselves permission to playfully rest.  [RofR]
30. Navy ~ One boy wades unabashedly in his underwear and a striped navy sweater.  [RofR]
31. Park ~ From a park bench, beneath a canopy of ancient trees with long tendrils swaying from Spanish moss, I hear the distant sound of an ambulance siren and birds chirping in the various “dialects”.  [RofR]
32. Pier
33. Pioneer
34. Pizza ~ We cook every night except Fridays when we eat pizza (and it’s amazing), and we don’t really do processed snack food.  [Slow]
35. Pop ~ Now consider that you are surrounded by cracked and peeling walls and ceilings, have wrinkled pop posters pasted to the walls, walk on bare floorboards, and sit on a rickety stool at an oilcloth-covered table in front of a lumpy burlap-covered studio couch, drinking beer from a can to the accompaniment of the Beatles and a leaky faucet, while you look out of the streaked window at a fire escape against a blackened brick wall.  [RforA]
36. Props
37. Ribbon ~ Their curls bounce beneath felt hats trimmed in dark satin ribbon  [RofR]
38. Sears
39. Second ~ (Bought them second-hand from Doctor Brice in the village, who is putting in, for the gratification of his own patients, white enamel and nickel-plate.)  [DE]
40. Shore  ~ From the high-rise hotel, I stare over the vastness of sky meeting water and wonder over what God is planning for us beyond the horizon, on the shores of England.  [RofR]
41. Shoulders ~ It was more like the shadow of a young man, a shadow with high shoulders, that moved across whiteness, than an actual body moving in space.  [G…]
42. Slider
43. Sports
44. Style ~ What she lacked was the power to combine and make a harmony out of the various parts that, though exquisite in themselves, bore no relationship either in style, period, grain, colour or fabric to one another.  [G…]
45. Taste ~ But he tasted the sharp fruits of the quick bridle-wrench which had freed him from the ostler.  [G…]
46. Tower ~ It played with sere flags, dodged through arches, spiralled with impish whistles up hollow towers and chimneys until, diving down a saw-toothed fissure in a pentagonal roof, it found itself surrounded by stern portraits– a hundred sepia faces cracked with spiders’ webs; found itself being drawn towards a grid in the stone floor and, giving way it sang its way past seven storeys and was, all at once, in a hall of dove-grey light and was clasping Titus in a noose of air.  [G…]
47. Town ~ “I am so glad you were able tos pend a little time with our ladies while you were in town.” [RofR]
48. Washroom
49. Wet ~ The face was wet.  [G…]
50. Windy

 

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2019 in Scavenger Word Lists

 

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Book Review: “The Man from Sing Sing,” by E. Phillips Oppenheim

Genre: vintage classic

Plot Summary: Reuben Argels is a man with a past behind him and a future ahead of him.  Having been a part of Moran Chamber’s syndicate in America, he turned traitor and was largely responsible for putting that man in prison.  But there is no living the straight and narrow for Argel.  He promptly benefits from his treason and moves on to greener grass, this time to the financial fields of England.  But maybe his old enemy isn’t behind bars like Argels thinks.  And Chambers has many friends who are willing to exact revenge for the man who did him wrong.  What will become of Reuben Argels?  And is Violet– the sweet, sensible woman so ready to help him– really who she says she is?

My Book Review: Continuing making my way through the works of Oppenheim

To be honest, I prefer other EPO novels to this novel of crime syndicate members. The plot sounds intriguing enough, but I got lost among all the stock exchange jargon (dated, and foreign to me).  It did, as EPO stories go, keep me guessing as to the motives behind certain characters.  But it was hard to find sympathy for the main character, Reuben, since he was neither a goodie or a baddie.  He professes a love for Chamber’s lover Ambouyna (a name I still have no idea how to pronounce), but yet pursues Miss Violet Withers on the side.  In fact, while admitting to her that he doesn’t love her, he asks if she would fill in for him since he can’t have whom he really wants?  Sure, that’s the way to win any girl’s heart!

Actually, Violet Withers was my favorite character from the book. She easily balances a personality of modesty and mystery.  I loved a couple of quotes surrounding her sensibility:

“Lots of girls do things they don’t want to because they have to. I’m not one of them…. If I get to like you well enough, I shall certainly allow you to call me by my Christian name, and possibly to kiss me occasionally. If I don’t, I shan’t. Believe me,… I am much more worth kissing because I have such queer ideas.”

SPOILER ALERT: It’s painful to watch Argels slowly being dragged to the bottom all the way to the end of the book.  He’s sent over the edge, but at the last minute is saved by his enemy of all people– on purpose.  And then they shake hands and a check is written and all is honkey dorey.  I don’t know.  It just didn’t fit together right at the end.  There’s all this build up of suspense because of the hatred of these two enemies, neither of which you particularly want to side with, but then suddenly it all disappears and Chambers has a change of heart for no reason.  It just didn’t make sense and the story fell flat on its face for me. END OF SPOILER.

So if you like the idea of characters existing in a glamorous world of the 1930’s, full of crime and blackmail, you might have your next favorite novel (which you can read for free here). But if you’re more plot-oriented (like me), you might want to skip past this one.

If you liked this book, I also recommend:

 
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Posted by on November 11, 2018 in Book Reviews

 

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~Quote for 08/05/2018~

 
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Posted by on August 5, 2018 in Quotes

 

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~Quote for 6/17/2018~

 
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Posted by on June 17, 2018 in Quotes

 

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~Quote for 4/10/2018~

 
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Posted by on April 10, 2018 in Quotes

 

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~Quote for 02.18.2018~

 
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Posted by on February 18, 2018 in Quotes

 

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