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Edda * Jan de Vries (translator) (Ankh-Hermes 2000 * ISBN 9020248782)

For ten years we have a second Dutch translation of the “poetic” or “elder Edda”, that is only recently receiving acknowledgement. That other translation of Marcel Otten is reviewed below. The De Vries translation is the classical translation from 1938 from the hand of the writer of Altgermanische Religionsgeschichte (also reviewed), the major source of information about the Nordic tradition. In forewords of the later pressings of his own translation, Otten has serious commentary about the translation of De Vries. De Vries would have played with the order of the verses and he even left out many of them that he didn’t find fitting, or didn’t understand. Indeed, comparing my different translations, it immediately proves that there is no consistancy in the separation of the verses or the order of the poems. I suppose that different translators use different source-texts. De Vries -however- indeed skips a great many verses in some of the poems!
There are other differences between the two Dutch translations that we have now. De Vries tried to keep the poetic characters of the poems, while Otten tried to stay to the original texts as close as possible. Both approaches have their pros and cons.
I think it is a shame what De Vries did with the texts, just leaving verses out without saying why, yet, there is also a major point of comment on the translation of Otten: he completely overlooked the esoteric (religious) nature of the texts. This is proven by a verse from the Völuspa (“Seers’ Prophecy”) where Otten didn’t notice the reference to the four eras in creation (speartime, swordtime, windtime, wolftime). This is verse 44 with Otten, 45 with Larrington and 38 with De Vries (…).
Another thing is that Otten translates èverything, including names. With this he proves that many names have a very significant meaning, or at least that names are merely words, but he also translated the most famous of names, which doesn’t make the text clearer and caused me to make many many notes in the texts. This isn’t necessary with the De Vries translation, who leaves all names as they are. More even, the De Vries pressing has commentary on the verses on the same page as the translation, which may make a compromise for Otten, giving the original names in notes.
In short, when you are a serious Dutch-reading investigator, I suggest that you have both translations to compare. This will not only show you the flaws of both translations, but seeing different interpretations of the same text will also improve your own understanding of the texts. Therefor I hope that the Ankh-Hermes, the publisher of the De Vries translation since 1978, will not have their version go out of print.


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