Saxo Grammaticus * Hans-Jürgen Hube (marix verlag 2004 * isbn 393771541X)

In Germany older books are sometimes rereleased by publishers such as Marix Verlag. The books are printed nicely, they mostly have a hard cover, but most of all, the prices are scandalously low. You can read reviews of other such books in these pages. The books and titles are all in German. I was delighted when in this line of works the history of the Danes (“Gesta Danorum”) of Saxo Grammaticus (ca. 1150 – ca. 1220) was released for a mere E 13,-. It was quite a read and I am still not sure what to think of this version of the book.
This work of Hube is not just a translation of the famous text. He also made lengthy explanations. Actually the explanations are longer than the text of Gramaticus himself. When reading this book I get the idea that Hube has tried to retell it using quotes from Gramaticus in his text. Still the cover says that this is a complete translation. Hube places the things that Gramaticus says in perspective, which is often helpfull. Sometimes the text he adds is superfluous. Further he seems to have made his own titles for chapters and I guess Hube has tried to put some humour in the book… The texts of Hube and Gramaticus are printed through eachother without a different typeface, make-up of anything which isn’t very handy. And inspite of the lengthy explanations there are hundreds and hundres of notes.
The “Gesta Danorum” is a book much like the “Heimskringla” of Snorri Sturluson (reviewed elsewhere). It is a history, in the case of Grammaticus of the kings of Denmark. Like Sturluson, Grammaticus interweaves history and myth, but mostly he tries to give the history of Denmark. Hube mostly aims for this historical side in his comments which doesn’t make the book more interesting. Hube IS helpfull for having descent knowledge of other important texts such as the sagas, the Eddas, other Northern texts (like Beowulf, the Nibelungenlied), etc. so he can give comparisons and illucidations. In a few cases Gramaticus gives other versions of famous myths, such as the death of Balder. Also there are myths in Grammaticus that can’t be found elsewhere, such as the stories of Starkadr. Since the “Gesta Danorum” was written in Latin, the names are sometimes different, but Hube translates them (“Balder” for “Balderus”, “Hodr” for “Hotherus”) which is a pitty.
All in all this book isn’t much of an exiting read, just like the Heimskringla actually. Since there is a good index, I decided to use this book for referential purposes. There are writers who compared Grammaticus’ text with the Eddas, etc. and I now have the possibility to look things back.

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