In my internet wanderings, I sometime stumble on cool Tolkien things. Not necessarily news, but interesting — like this transcript of a live chat with renowned Tolkien scholar Professor Tom Shippey (author of the acclaimed J.R.R. Tolkien: Author of the Century) over on Tolkien Library to celebrate the release of The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun back in 2009.
Yes, we can all agree that’s fairly old.
However, if you’re interested in Norse myth, Shippey’s thoughts on Tolkien’s parallels with other early fantasists such as William Morris, Lord Dunsany and E.R. Eddison, as well as what he thought of meeting Tolkien himself, then you’ll find (like I did) this a worthwhile read.
Chat Session with Pr. Tom Shippey
Pieter Collier: Welcome Mr Shippey
Tom Shippey: Hi everyone, I’m still figuring out how this works but it’s coming…
Pieter Collier: Welcome Mr Shippey to the release party of the new Tolkien book! We will let you figure out everything first before start asking you questions!
Tom Shippey: I think I’m Ok to answer now, would anyone like to fire away.
Pieter Collier: Have you had a chance to read the Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun? What do you think of it?
Tom Shippey: Yes, I’ve read it – got a proof copy. It is about 80 years old and this shows in the language.
Rafael Juan Pascual: how does your academic background relate to the myths told in the legend of Sigurd and Gudrun?
Tom Shippey: a bit sideways – I’ve always been interested in Norse and Eddic poetry, and have published on it, but it hasn’t been a major topic for me. For one thing, I’ve never done time in Iceland, which you need for a proper grasp of the language
Trotter: Did Tolkien spend any time in Iceland?
Tom Shippey: no, I don’t think he did, though he did have Icelandic connections – through William Morris’s daughter, oddly enough.
Stephen Davis: As a Tolkien scholar, as well as having a heavy interest and background in Germanic and Northern European cultures and myths, particularly where they have influenced Tolkien’s life and work, how excited are you about the publication of Tolkien’s Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun in print? Indeed, how long have you awaited such a thing personally, given what you’ve known for so long about its impact on aspects of Tolkien’s legendarium?
Tom Shippey: well, we’ve known about the existence of these poems since the publication of the Letters, in 1981, and I’ve always felt they were the unpublished pieces I most wanted to read. It’s going to take a while to take it all in and see what difference it makes to our general understanding of the legends – and what has long been called the königsproblem, the main problem of Germanic philology.