EDDIC TO ENGLISH

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ANDY ORCHARD

2011
The Elder Edda: A Book of Viking Lore
Penguin Classics
384 pages

Translated poems (35):

Codex Regius (31)
Vǫluspá, Hávamál, Vafþrúðnismál, Grímnismál, Skírnismál, Hárbarðsljóð, Hymiskviða, Lokasenna, Þrymskviða, Vǫlundarkviða, Alvíssmál, Frá dauða Sinfjǫtla, Grípisspá, Reginsmál, Fáfnismál, Sigrdrífumál, Brot af Sigurðarkviðu, Sigurðarkviða hin skamma, Helreið Brynhildar, Dráp Niflunga, Oddrúnargrátr, Atlakviða, Atlamál, Guðrúnarhvǫt, Hamðismál, Helgakviða Hundingsbana (I, II), Helgakviða Hjörvarðssonar, Guðrúnarkviða (I, II, III)

Non-Codex Regius (4)
Baldrs draumar, Rígsþula, Hyndluljóð, Grottasǫngr

Other notable contents: Includes something of a timeline of the ancient Germanic peoples (pp. xi-xiii)
Notes? Marginalia and extensive endnotes
Dual Edition? No
Bowlderization/censorship: None (cf. p. 89)
Original illustrations? First edition cover features a photograph of the the Ramsund carving in southeastern Sweden. No other illustrations. Second edition cover features a stylized depiction of Yggdrasill by artist Petra Börner.

I. SAMPLES

a.) Vǫluspá (p. 5):

3. It was in early ages when Ymir made his home,
there was no sand nor sea, nor cooling waves,
no earth to be found, nor heaven above:
a gulf beguiling, nor grass anywhere.

b.) Helgakviða Hundingsbana II (p. 143):

Sigrún went into the burial-mound to Helgi and said:

43. ‘Now I am as keen for us to meet
as Odin's hawks, eager to eat,
when they scent the slain, the warmth of flesh,
or, dew-bright, see the glint of the day.’

Margin note: "Odin's hawks ravens"

c.) Rígsþula (p. 254):

45. He contended in runes with the Earl Ríg,
he baited him with cunning and knew better than he;
then he won and gained the right
to be called Ríg and know about runes.

II. Reviews

1. Haukur Þorgeirsson. 2012. Review. Saga-Book. Vol. XXXVI, pp. 149-152. University of Iceland. OnlineMixed review.

Sample quote:

"The preceding examples will suffice to show why I cannot without reservation call Orchard’s  Edda an accurate translation. But a relative estimation is also in order. Orchard’s version is certainly more accurate than the poetic translations of Hollander, Bellows and Auden. And while the translation further propagates many of Larrington’s errors, Orchard’s version is, on the whole, somewhat more accurate. In particular, I find that Orchard’s version of Vǫluspá compares favourably with that of Larrington. Thorpe’s translation is woefully obsolete but tends to have different errors from the modern translations and is a valuable comparative tool. Ursula Dronke’s partial translation (1969–2011) is quite accurate but priced out of the reach of most students. Readers of German have some good options.

In summary, I know of no complete English translation of the Poetic Edda which is more accurate than Orchard’s. I would, therefore, recommend it—but I wish I could do so more wholeheartedly."

III. OBSERVATIONs

Andy Orchard is an instructor at the University of Oxford and is perhaps best known in ancient Germanic studies for his Dictionary of Norse Myth and Legend, a handbook focused on Norse mythology (best used in combination with the handbooks of John Lindow and Rudolf Simek). Orchard's translation of the Poetic Edda is in many ways very similar its immediate precursor, the first edition of Carolyne Larrington's translation. Both employ, for example, a highly comparable choice of content and rendering habits, such as inconsistent glossing (on this, see Orchard’s comments on p. xliv).

Unlike Larrington’s edition, Orchard’s translation now and then contains significant misinformation and other dubious claims, evident starting with the volume’s title (the odd “A Book of Viking Lore”) but especially present in the volume’s introduction. For example, Orchard implies to readers that English weekday names extend from Old Norse deities, including Freyja (p. xviii) and the author presents an odd pet theory regarding the process of Christianization as fact (p. xxxv, including eye-brow raising phrases such as “muscular Christianity”). Readers are likely to have quite a few bones to pick with this edition of the Poetic Edda.