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The Song of the Nibelungs

The Song of the Nibelungs - A Book That Inspired Tolkien

By Margaret Armour (Translator)

a book that influenced jrr tolkien

Introduced by Cecilia Dart-Thornton.
Illustrated by W.B. MacDougall.

The Song of the Nibelungs, a thirteenth century Germanic Epic, greatly inspired JRR Tolkien. Scholars have noted the influence of its pre-Christian heroic motifs, based on historic events and people of the 5th and 6th centuries, on his writing of The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

Tolkien was aged five when this beautifully illustrated translation by Margaret Armour was published in London. Undoubtedly a copy of it would have fallen into his hands during his boyhood.

Armour uses an archaic form of English to preserve the high-flown style of the epic. In places, in The Lord of the Rings, Tolkien too employs this solemn, dignified and majestic form - reminiscent of the language of the King James Bible.

Armour was the wife of WB MacDougall, whose illustrations illuminate the text with their delicate beauty. MacDougall was a friend of famous art nouveau illustrator Aubrey Beardsley, and his own drawings echo Beardsley’s style.

The story, drenched in blood and tragedy, heroism and honour, beauty and nobility, gives us a glimpse into the literature that helped form Tolkien’s imagination, leading to his most popular work - The Lord of the Rings.

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

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the song of the nibelungs

the song of the nibelungs

the song of the nibelungs

the song of the nibelungs

the song of the nibelungs

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Product Details
  • Publication Date: Jun 01 2013

    ISBN/EAN13: 0987500155 / 9780987500151

    Page Count: 330

    Binding Type: US Trade Paper

    Trim Size: 6" x 9"

    Language: English

    Color: Black and White

    Related Categories: Fiction / Fairy Tales, Folklore & Mythology
More About the Creators

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Margaret Armour (1890 - 1943)

Margaret Armour was born in Scotland on 10 September 1860. After receiving her education in Edinburgh, Munich and Paris, she married William Brown MacDougall (1868-1936) in Glasgow on 11 May 1895.

This remarkable woman was a poet, novelist and translator, skilled in German. The first book she wrote was 'The Home and Early Haunts of Robert Louis Stevenson' (1895), which she followed with three books of poetry. A novel, 'Agnes of Edinburgh', was published in 1910, after which she translated from German the poetry of Heinrich Heine.

Douglas A. Anderson writes, "Her translation from the Middle High German of 'Das Nibelungenlied' ('The Song of the Nibelungs') into what she called “plain prose” first appeared as 'The Fall of the Nibelungs' in 1897. It was later included in the Everyman’s Library, with subsequent editions retitled as 'The Nibelungenlied'. Similarly, her translation of 'Gudrun', which was published in 1928, also appeared in the Everyman’s Library. Along a similar vein of interest, in 1910 she translated Richard Wagner’s 'The Ring of the Nibelung'."

Margaret’s husband, an etcher, engraver and illustrator, was frequently involved with her books, usually signing his work as W.B. MacDougall. His work is mostly symbolic, grave, calm and beautiful. It is reminiscent of the work of Aubrey Beardsley, the famed art nouveay artist. MacDougall provided the stunning illustrations and decorations for 'The Song of the Nibelungs'. Around 1900, Armour and MacDougall settled in Essex, where MacDougall died on 20 April 1938. Armour returned to Edinburgh, where she died on 13 October 1943 at the age of 83. They had no children.
w b macdougall

William Brown Macdougall (16 December 1868 Glasgow – 20 April 1936 Debden Green)

William Brown Macdougall was a Scottish artist, wood engraver, etcher and book illustrator.
He was born in Glascow on 16 December 1868. His wife was Margaret Armour (10 September 1860 Abercorn, nr Linlithgow - 13 October 1943 Edinburgh),[1] a noted novelist, translator, poet and playwright. They collaborated with Aubrey Beardsley on many projects and were members of the prestigious New English Art Club. The couple lived in the Uplands, Loughton, and then for many years at Debden Green, Loughton in Essex, home at the time of a noted artistic and scientific community, where a Blue Plaque commemorating them was unveiled in 2012.[2][3]

Macdougall received his art education at the Glasgow Academy and at the Académie Julian in Paris, also working in the studios of Bouguereau, Jean-Paul Laurens and Tony Robert-Fleury, and becoming a member of the Salon des Artistes Français. He contributed to The Yellow Book, The Evergreen, and The Savoy in the 1890s. His work tended to be somewhat sombre and was clearly influenced by Aubrey Beardsley and William Morris. He provided a frontispiece portrait of Robert Louis Stevenson for Margaret's first book, and illustrations for her books of poetry as well as her translations from medieval German. He only illustrated for a very brief period between 1896 and 1898, but contributed greatly to this form of art - his decorative vignettes seen in "The Fall of the Nibelungs", "Isabella, or the Pot of Basil" and "The Blessed Damozel" owe much to Art Nouveau and Arts and Crafts Movement motifs.[4] He also painted in oils and other mediums.

His work was exhibited at the Royal Academy and Royal Scottish Academy in 1888, 1928 and 1929, at the New English Art Club, Royal Glasgow Institute of the Fine Arts in 1927, Walker Art Gallery, Liverpool, Manchester City Art Gallery and the Paris Salon. William’s sister Agnes donated 6 prints and a plaster bust of William done by Frank Mowbray Taubman while they were both students in Paris in the late 1890s to The Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow.

The British Museum has a collection of 21 prints by Macdougall and other works are held by galleries throughout the UK.

After William's death in 1936 Margaret returned to Edinburgh where she died in 1943. They had no children.

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