Sir Francis Bacon

Histories make men wise; poets, witty; the mathematics, subtle; natural philosophy, deep; moral, grave; logic and rhetoric, able to contend.

--Of Studies--

My recent trip to the bookstore

It was 20% off everything day a few days ago at my local bookstore. It concerned me that such a momentous occasion might go unnoticed by the vast majority of the proletariat. Yet, the store was bustling with the happy bookworms, myself included, so some at least noticed that knowledge had gone on sale for the weekend.

I acquired some books I have been meaning to read for some time, in complete disregard for the Schedule of course. I, for good or ill, have at least two books that I simply must finish before I touch these recent acquisitions, which would be bothersome if they were not excellent books as well. I make a habit of reading as many excellent books as I can.

I almost picked up a little book full of Robert Frost, but two things stayed my wallet. The publisher, in their great wisdom, had decided to print the inside cover with little snowflakes. It seemed so childish, sort of like the playground bullies, who twist people's names around to do them mental injury. I'm sure they thought it clever, but I found it in poor taste. They also wanted too much for it, even with the sale.

The books I obtained were the Silmarillion and the Prose and Poetic Eddas.

Those of you floating around the blogosphere who have ventured into the vast realms of J.R.R. Tolkien should recognize the Silmarillion, or at least it should sound vaguely familiar. I expect the Prose and Poetic Eddas are less known.

The Poetic Edda is a very old book of poetry written in the 13th century, and is highly important to our current understanding of Norse Mythology. The Prose Edda is the compliment to the poetic edda. Also written in the early 13th century, it was an effort to prevent the dilution of Norse culture by the spreading influence of Christianity, given that these stories, similar to Homer's epics, were part of an oral tradition. Like the Odyssey and the Iliad, the Prose and Poetic Eddas are cup and spoon. One can scarce be found without the other.

I have been attempting to make a study of classic mythologies, and the Eddas are running parallel to some really nice Greek epics I have been working on intermittantly for some time now. More on those in another post. I have particular interest in Norse mythology, given the degree to which it has infused itself in various subcultures.

I forget where I read it, possibly wikipedia, but the Eddas were a strong influence on J.R.R. Tolkien as he was writing the about Middle Earth. The Silmarillion (which I have been grossly mispronouncing for years. My current approach -> Sil-muh-'rill-ee-on ) was compiled in the seventies by J.R.R's son Christopher, who put it together essentially by sorting through and editing his father's notebooks and scratchpads. It is the backstory to the Lord of the Rings. So, first I read the Eddas, the backstory to J.R.R. Tolkien. Then I read the Silmarillion, the backstory to the Lord of the Rings. Then, perhaps, I read the Lord of the Rings again (maybe the hobbit too), and see what crops up.

Tolkien could be safely considered one of the greatest and most widely influential writers of fantasy fiction who ever lived, so in my mind he deserves a second look. I was quite young when I first read them and likely did not absorb all there was to absorb. I'd hate to think I'm dissecting him, but if I find any noteworthy nuggets I will certainly share it with the blogosphere.

Regardless, the Eddas stand on their own merits, as does the Silmarillion, but together they form such a comprehensive study that I almost want to drop my current book and pick these up immediately. But I can't of course. There are rules to these things after all, so I must find a slot for them in the Schedule.

3 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:46 AM

    I'm sad I missed out on the sale. Nice finds, Ezra!

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  2. Sounds like a successful trip to the book store. Check out Tom Shippey's books on Tolkien. Have you read The Children of Hurin? That's my favorite Tolkien story. I like tragedies. Snorri Sturluson has to be one of the most unique names in literature.

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  3. I have not considered The Children of Hurin, but I will certainly consider it now that it has been recommended so highly.

    Snorri is pretty fantastic, I recieved word that my order for the Eddas shipped a couple days ago, so it should be getting here any day now. ^_^

    It was somewhat dissapointing that the Eddas were not popular enough to be kept in stock.

    (I hope the HTML tags get through OK...)

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