Sunday, April 26, 2015

Warrior Lore ~ Ian Cumpstey

Warrior Lore is a collection of Scandinavian folk ballads, translated by Ian Cumpstey. They would have formed part of the oral tradition of storytelling that has probably been part of human nature from the very early days of speech, with our ancestors huddled around open fires gaining an understanding of the world around them, expressing their fears, their beliefs, and their ideals of heroism through the recasting of their experiences in this narrative form. These narrative songs would have been sung for centuries before ballads of this nature were formalised on paper sometime around the sixteenth century and as such would have been known throughout Northern Europe.


There are ten Ballads in this collection:

Widrick Waylandson's fight with Long-Ben Reyser.
Twelve strong fighters.
Sir Hjalmar.
The Hammer Hunt.
The Stablemates.
Sven Swan-White.
The Cloister Raid.
Heming and the Mountain Troll.
Heming and King Harald.


Each ballad starts with an introduction by Ian Cumpstey, explaining what the ballad refers to - setting the scene and also some of the history of the narrative, alternate versions etc. There is also a preface to the collection giving some background detail to the works featured and a notes section providing information on which versions of the tales he based his translations on.
Most of the collection is based on the Swedish tradition, with one exception Heming and King Harald, which derives from the Norwegian. The form of the verse is predominantly in a four-line format in which the second and fourth line rhyme (ABCB), which may or may not be followed by a chorus line or lines.


King Diderick he sat in Bern,
And he gazed out so wide:
"I never knew a fighter,
"Who'd challenge me to fight".
There stands a castle at Bern
And there lives King Diderick.

Answered Bernard Wifaring,
He'd travelled far and wide:
"There is a fighter in Bortingsburgh,
"Who you'd not dare fight".

King Diderick took him by the throat,
And then took out his knife:
"You'll show me who that fighter is,
"Or it'll cost you your life".

(Extract from Widrick Waylandson's fight with Long-Ben Reyser.)


Confession time, my knowledge of these warriors, Gods and heroes is quite limited - beyond the obvious ones such as Thor, Freya & Loki my understanding falls drastically short. Which is quite pitiful especially as I consider myself to have a reasonable knowledge of Greek & Roman mythology & yet as a Northern European, I seem to have missed out on what is part of my own heritage, add to this the fact that Hollywood seems, through Marvell comics, to be co-opting certain Gods & heroes for its own mythology - making this book a welcome addition to my library. By giving me an understanding of this world and its heroes with all their characteristics, all their love & hate, all their foibles, their bawdy or violent nature intact and before they have been face-lifted or photo shopped beyond recognition. This is also a great book for dipping in and out of, erudite enough to make one want to learn more and yet still light enough that you can just dip in when the urge takes you.





Brian Joseph said...

I also do not know nearly enough about this mythology despite being fairly well versed in the Greek and Roma n kind.

The good news is that it is a whole new imaginative tradition to explore.

This collection looks marvelous and seems well worth the read. Just the titles of the Ballads excite me.

@parridhlantern said...

Hi Brian, I was surprised at how sparse my knowledge was beyond the big names & yes it is something new to explore & that's always a good thing.