Heroic Legends of the North:
An Introduction to the Nibelung and Dietrich Cycles

Edward R. Haymes + Susann T. Samples

Garland 1996
A book review by Danny Yee © 1996 http://dannyreviews.com/
Heroic Legends of the North is a study of two of the central themes of medieval German mythology, the Dietrich and Nibelung legends. Part one provides the necessary background. It contains a skeleton outline of the historical events and figures (the fourth to sixth century Germanic migrations, Theoderic, Attila) to which the medieval stories can be traced back, along with a description of the historical sources for these and the written/historical tradition which ran parallel to the oral/literary one. There is also a brief account of the historiographical debates over the forms of oral transmission in the Germanic heroic tradition.

Part two is a systematic survey of the literary sources. It covers all the primary texts within the Dietrich and Nibelung cycles, as well as a number of early works and related legends which contribute to our knowledge of them. For each source there is a summary, a brief description of its connection with other works and, if important, an account of the critical issues involved and a sentence or two about the manuscript tradition. This is followed immediately by a mini-bibliography listing editions (and translations into English where available), key critical studies and review articles, and further bibliographic resources.

The extensive bibliographic information makes Heroic Legends of the North an excellent guide for anyone planning serious study of the subject. A chronology, a table of motifs, and a glossary of names make it a handy reference for anyone trying to unravel artistic, literary, or musical references. And, since it assumes no background knowledge (either of German literature, late Roman history, or the theory of oral transmission), Heroic Legends of the North is also a book for the merely curious — those who have, perhaps, read the Nibelungenlied in translation and want to understand its place in the broader scheme of things.

November 1996

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%T Heroic Legends of the North
%S An Introduction to the Nibelung and Dietrich Cycles
%A Haymes, Edward R.
%A Samples, Susann T.
%I Garland
%D 1996
%O hardcover, index
%G ISBN 0815300336
%P xix,170pp