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Georges Dumezil

Archaic Roman Religion * Georges Dumézil (1970)

La Religion romaine archaͯque suivi d’un appendice sur la religion des Estrusques 1966
Archaic Roman ReligionHere we have a more massive investigation of Dumézil. 700 Pages about the religion of the Romans. I have no particular interest in the Roman religion, but of course the writer makes cross-references to other Indo-European religions and being so obviously Indo-European, the “archaic Roman religion” sheds a new light on some aspects of other Indo-European religions, which is always nice. Having used 700 pages, this book is detailed and scholarly even for a Dumézil title. There are large parts which I read through more quickly than other passages, especially the second book which is almost entirely about the history of the Roman religion. As you will notice when you read the “quotes” “category”, you will find quite a few from this book, so it is an interesting read nonetheless; as with every Dumézil title of course! It seems that this book is still in print by the way, unlike other English translations of this French writer.
Read quotes from this and other books by Dumézil here.
1970 the university of chicago press * isbn 0226169685

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

The Destiny Of The Warrior * Georges Dumézil (1970)

The Destiny Of A Warrior

heur et malheur de guerrier: aspects mythiques de la fonction guerrière chez les Indo-Europèens * 1996

Whereas The Destiny Of A King (see elsewhere) deals with “the first function” (religion, law, magic, etc.), this book speaks about the second (martial, warrior, etc.). As usually Dumézil starts with Indian and Iranian mythology where he finds and describes the warrior gods. Also he speaks about “the warrior function and its relations to the other two functions” by which this later work gives a very good idea of Dumézil’s theory of the three functions. The warriors written about at length are Indra, Starcatherus and Heracles, and Dumézil describes their three sins, functions and place in their respective mythologies (Hindu, Germanic and Greek). Also described at length are initiative combats with dummies, “warriors in animal forms” and etymological leads for the warrior gods’ names and their victims.
All in all The Destiny Of The Warrior is again a very interesting work which brings things I already knew (Dumézil is of course used a lot by contemporary writers), but also thought-provoking new ideas. I continue my search for titles of Dumézil in English (this one you will have to buy second hand, like most of them); next up is an entire book about the Thors-warrior Starkadr.
Read quotes of Dumézil here.
1970 university of chicago * isbn 0226169685

Gods Of The Ancient Northmen * Georges Dumézil (1959)

Gods Of The Ancient NorthmenThe irony! Between 1965 and 1971 the American professor Aunar Haugen and his students started to translate Dumézil’s Les Dieux des Germains (1959) because there was hardly any literature of Dumézil available in English. Nowadays you can buy several books by Dumézil in English, but the book that I wanted to read most, is only available second hand. It is even worse, this out-of-print book is so popular that incredible prices are asked for it. I paid close to 40 euros for a 155 page paperback full of mildew, stripes and notes. But as least I fianlly got to read the most interesting work of Dumézil. The English version is a translation of the reworked article about Germanic gods, introduced nicely by Scott Littleton and supplemented with four great articles about Byggvir and Beyla, the Rigsthula, Heimdall and “cosmic bestiary” (mostly the Yggdrasil and its inhabitents). Needless to say that this is a great book with deep insides, comparisons with other mythologies, groundbreaking theories, information about other hypothesis and even when the book is pretty old and I have read my share of Germanic mythology and Dumézil, the writer is able to surprise with some extraordinary insights and ideas. Regardless the price, this book is a must-buy for anyone interested in Teutonic mythology, compartive mythology (German with Dumézil’s often used Indian and Iranian mostly, but also Celtic and other mythologies) and Dumézil’s idea about the tripartite division of the over- and underworld and how he came to his idea that the Germanic world of the gods, ‘dropped half a stage’ in that very tripartite division.
Read quotes of Dumézil here.
1959 * isbn 052035070

The Destiny Of A King * Georges Dumézil (1973)

mythe et épopée, vol 2: types épiques indo-européens: un héros, un sorcier, un roi
Well this is a Dumézil book! Mostly based on the stories of Yayati and Madhavi, Dumézil writes about sacred kings, perpetual virgins and makes a great many cross references between different mythologies. The basis lays in the Indian and Iranian mythologies, but there are chapters about Celtic mythology and especially towards the end, references to Northern European myths. There is no beginning of telling about the writer’s findings in this book, but you can be sure to learn about myths, the tripartite hypothesis, the depths of ancient texts and the meaning of them in daily life. A great work of a great scholar and available in English.
Read quotes of Dumézil here.
1973 the university of chicage press * isbn 0226169758

Loki * Georges Dumézil (1948/1959)

Dumézil first wrote this book in his native language (French) and 10 years later completely rewrote the book for a German version. The French version still seems to be in print (or at least, recently was). I got a nice German version. I can read French, but only if there is no other option. German goes a lot better, but I still had a hard time reading this book, especially during the parts that are less interesting. A book of Dumézil about Northern European mythology, what more could you ask for? The first half of the book is extremely interesting. Dumézil takes the figure of Loki, puts him in a frame of Northern European mythology, explains Loki and other figures, makes cross-references with other mythologies, quotes texts that I never heard of, etc., etc. Halfway the focus shifts towards the Ossetian area in which Dumézil speaks about Syrdon, Soslan, the Narts, etc. A lot of quotes from myths, different version and a bit of an overkill of new information. Strangely enough these myths are still quite unknown by the way. In the last short chapter Dumézil compares the roles of Loki and Syrdon. A very interesting book and I wish that Dumézil had written more about Northern mythology (and that what he wrote was more easiliy available).
(18/4/07 -4-)
Read quotes of Dumézil here.
1948 / 1959 wissenschaftliche buchgesellschaft

Mitra-Varuna * Georges Dumézil (1940/48 * 1996)

It is a shame to see how few books by Georges Dumézil (1898-1986) have been translated into English and how even fewer books are actually available. Dumézil is famous for being at the cradle of the Indo-European hypothesis, being an imminent scholar in the field of comparative religions and mythology and (later) for recognising the tripartite divsion which comes back in all kinds of Indo-European fields. He may not really have been a ‘Traditionalist’ in the meaning of Guénon’s ‘school’, but he certainly has inspired many Traditionalists. Of the few books that are available through Amazon in English, I chose this one, because Dumézil more or less has an Indian starting point, but here also dedicated a few chapters to the Northern mythology. The book is only 190 pages, well translated by Derek Coltman and reads easily. In a few chapters Dumézil does get a bit scholarly though. The first version of this book was published in 1940. Dumézil has in particular been looking for pairs in Indo-European myths. Oppositional pairs, but just as well supplementary. The brothers Mitra and Varuna were used as example. For the 1948 second edition, the writer has rewritten parts of the book, because in the meantime he built his trifunctional hypothesis, so ‘things do not come in twos, but in threes (as well)’. Not too much information about this in the book though, but in the conclusion Dumézil explains that the pairs remained the starting point, but the trifunctional division is compatible with the other hypothesis, because the pairs come back on each of the three levels or classes.
The book starts with the Roman pair of Romulus and Remus, the Luperci and mythical founders of Rome, takes a few other characters from Roman mythology, continues with Greek mythology (Jupiter and Fides) and then passes Iranian (Ahura and Mithra) mythology to go to the Northern double function of *Wʹdhanaz and *Tͮwaz. All this comes to a conclusion in which the writer summarizes his findings and adds some extra information.
I loved to read the comparisons and cross-references, but I have the idea that this book shows only a tip of what Dumézil has to offer. Maybe his later books give a more complete view of his ideas. Unfortunatetly -like I said- there are not too many titles available in English, so I am afraid that I will have to get (or download!) myself some of the books in French.
(13/6/06 -4-)
Read quotes of Dumézil here.)
1940/48 * 1996 urzone * isbn 0942299132