Legendary fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien spent much of his life studying, translating, and teaching the ancient tales of northern Europe at Oxford and drew on them for his own writing. These epic stories, with their wizards and knights, dragons and trolls, cursed rings and magic swords, are as fascinating today as they were thousands of year ago. Reading them brings us as close as we will ever get to the magical worlds of the Vikings and the origins of their twentieth-century counterpart: Tolkien’s Middle Earth.
Compiled by an unknown scribe in Iceland around 1270, and based on sources dating centuries earlier, the heroic poems of The Elder Edda tell of gods and mortals from an ancient era: the giant-slaying Thor, the doomed Völsung family, the Hell-ride of Brynhild, and the cruelty of Atli the Hun. Eclectic and fragmented, these verses nevertheless retain their stark beauty and power to enthrall, opening a window on to the thoughts, beliefs and hopes of the Vikings and their world.