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From Myth To Fiction * Georges Dumézil (1973)

From Myth To Fiction

du mythe au roman: la saga de Hadingus et autres essais (1970)

The English subtitle of this book is The Saga Of Hadingus, but as you can see, the original title says “the sage of Hadingus and other essays” and indeed, half of the book are appendices in the form of essays with other subjects. At least we have a title of Dumézil that is still available new, but it is pretty expensive and contrary to other titles by our French writer, the second hand versions are not that expensive (probably because it is still in print). From Myth To Fiction is another book by Dumézil entirely dedicated to Germanic mythology and it sure is a magnificent book. The idea behind this book is that Saxo Grammaticus used myths to create semi-historical stories about (Viking) heroes in his Gesta Danorum (“Deeds Of The Danes”). Dumézil gives a nice overview of the theories around the subject that had been posed until his time and in most cases invalidates them and gives his own ideas. Hadingus is described as a person who ‘started as a Vane’ (modelled after Njördr) to become an Ase, an “Odinic hero” even. Many details from the story given by Saxo are compared to mythology and many parts of the myths are (first) described and explained in depth (such as Thor’s duel with Hrungir or the story of Freyr wooing the giantess Gerdr). All this gives a very nice (new) look on some parts of Nordic myths. As mentioned, the second half of the book contains seven appendices, in the form of six essays and one part of the Gesta Danorum (v-viii) in Latin. These essays are (of course) relatively short and the writer comes to his point more quickly and often simply sums up his arguments; the essays can maybe be called “more scholarly”. I find that appealing and these texts are good for when I have to look up something quickly. The essays are about “Hanging and Drowning”, “Gram” (another figure from the Gesta, “Balderus and Hotherus” (a great text in which Dumézil compares the Baldr/Hødr story from the Eddas with the completely different version of Saxo and comes to very different conclusions than most scholars), “Horwendillus” (again a figure from the Gesta and one that can be found in a variety of other texts), Frotho III and Njördr. In the essays Dumézil also refers to folklore of a variety of countries which is the first time (I think) that I saw him do that.
All in all another great title and I will continue my hunt for Dumézil in English.
Read quotes of Dumézil here.
1973 university of chicago press * isbn 0226169723

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