Sunday, 28 December 2014

Book review: Warrior Lore - Scandinavian Folk Ballads by Ian Cumpstey

Warrior Lore

'Warrior Lore' is a compilation of Scandinavian ballads translated by Ian Cumpstey. He has used various sources in order to render a modern and beautiful English translation of the ballads.

This compilation has been created for the general public, and Cumpstey has certainly achieved his goal. In preparation for this review I researched other English translations of each ballad in order to determine its level of readability. After searching, I found there were not many English translations of these ballads, at least not easily found. The only one which I was able to find in a public place was the ballad of Hilla-Lill, as the ballad inspired a famous watercolour. I found two translations, one by William Morris and the other by Whitley Stokes. Both have similar features to Cumpstey’s translation, but it is clear – and Mr. Cumpstey made mention of this in his notes – that there are different manuscripts used. This happens quite often with translations of all literature. Multiple manuscripts are used in order to produce a more fluid English translation. As it happens, sometimes using more manuscripts gives a more accurate translation, as well, and gives a bit more insight to the original intent of the ballad. I have seen this before with Chaucer’s “Truth” where only one known manuscript had an extra verse addressed to Vache and it has been argued that this has given us insight into Chaucer’s life and social circle.

Overall, the ballads are extremely readable and quite enjoyable. It is quite clear these are ballads rather than epic poems. I can imagine these being sung quite easily. Each flows well with the others and it shows a distinct style of Scandinavian ballads that I had not known before. This is the most recent translation of any of these ballads and for anyone slightly interested in medieval ballads, or specifically Scandinavian ones, I would highly suggest Cumpstey’s translation and compilation in ‘Warrior Lore.’

Click here for this book's Amazon page

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