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The Poetic Edda

The Poetic Edda - A Book That Inspired Tolkien

By Olive Bray (Translator)

a book that influenced jrr tolkien

With introduction by Cecilia Dart-Thornton
Illustrated by W G Collingwood. First published 1908

Read the original Old Norse verse, side by side with English translations  The Poetic Edda, also known as The Elder Edda or the Sæmundar Edda is a magnificent and magical collection of thirty-four ancient Icelandic poems, featuring legendary characters such as the original Gandalf, Thorin, Oakenshield, Loki, Odin and Thor. It teems with elves and dwarves, and there's a dragon called Fierce-stinger:
"Fares from beneath a dim dragon flying,
a glistening snake from the Moonless Fells.
Fierce-stinger bears the dead on his pinions
 away o’er the plains. I sink now and cease."

Professor J. R. R. Tolkien readily acknowledged his debt to this source. He was sixteen years old when the Viking Club of London published this beautifully illustrated translation by Olive Bray.

Readers of Tolkien's work will easily spot his inspirations - the names of the dwarves in The Hobbit; riddle games; Mirkwood; the Paths of the Dead; an underworld creature being tricked into remaining above-ground until dawn, when sunlight turns him to stone; different races calling a single thing by various names, and more.

Illustrator W. G. Collingwood was an English author, artist, antiquary and professor. In 1897 he travelled to Iceland where he spent three months exploring the actual sites that are the settings for the medieval Icelandic sagas. His study of Norse and Anglican archaeology made him widely recognized as a leading authority, and his Art Nouveau-style illustrations for the Bray edition are rich with symbolism.

The Poetic Edda, the most important existing source on Norse mythology and Germanic heroic legends, is part of the literature that influenced Tolkien's inner world, informing the creation of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings.

Visit The Professor's Bookshelf, the home of books that influenced Professor JRR Tolkien.

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the poetic edda

the poetic edda

the poetic edda

the poetic edda

the poetic edda

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Product Details
  • Publication Date: Jun 01 2013

    ISBN/EAN13: 0987500139 / 9780987500137

    Page Count: 432

    Binding Type: US Trade Paper

    Trim Size: 6" x 9"

    Language: English

    Color: Black and White

    Related Categories: Fiction / Fantasy / Epic
More About the Creators


The Journal of English and Germanic Philology, Vol. 28, No. 4, Oct., 1929 reviewed Olive Bray's translation of The Poetic Edda, stating:
'Miss Bray's work is eminently satisfactory: she possesses a scholar's knowledge of the subject (though she was by no means a specialist in the field); and she had poetic ability of a high order. She nearly always succeeded in reproducing the poetry and the spirit of the old lays and she adhered to the metrical form; to do these things she did not hesitate, to depart from rules of alliteration or sometimes to disregard alliteration entirely. '

Miss Bray was born in the UK circa 1880 and died in Exeter, Devon, in 1937.
More About the Illustrator


William Gershom Collingwood (1854 -1932) was an English author, artist, antiquary and Professor of Fine Arts at University College, Reading.

By the 1890s Collingwood had become a skilled painter and also joined the Cumberland and Westmorland Antiquarian and Archaeological Society. He wrote a large number of papers for its Transactions; becoming editor in 1900. Collingwood was particularly interested in Norse lore and the Norsemen, and he wrote a novel, Thorstein of the Mere which was a major influence on Arthur Ransome.

In 1897, Collingwood travelled to Iceland where he spent three months over the summer exploring with Jón Stefánsson the sites around the country in which the medieval Icelandic sagas are set. He produced a large number of sketches and watercolours during this time (e.g. the picture of the Althing), and published, with Stefánsson, an illustrated account of their expedition in 1899 under the title A Pilgrimage to the Sagasteads of Iceland (Ulverston: W. Holmes).

Collingwood was a member of the Viking Club and served as its president. In 1902 he co-authored again with Jón Stefánsson the first translation it published, The Life and Death of Kormac the Skald. His study of Norse and Anglican archaeology made him widely recognized as a leading authority.


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Leaves of Gold Press publishes international, premium quality fiction and non-fiction in hardcover, paperback and ebook format. Our books are printed on high grade, acid-free, book-grade, opaque paper stock sourced from responsibly managed forests. Our printers are certified by the Forest Stewardship Council™, the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® and the Programme for the Endorsement of Forest Certification™. Utilizing POD technology decreases the number of returns and reduces paper waste, thereby cutting down greenhouse emissions and conserving valuable natural resources. Our books are not endorsed by or affiliated with the Tolkien Estate or Tolkien Enterprises.
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