The Lay of Volundar: An excerpt from “Lieder der alten Edda” By The Brothers Grimm By Oliver Loo
A translation of the Lay of Volundar by Brothers Grimm from their 1815 text "Lieder der alten Edda" - Songs of the elder Edda. In their original book, the Grimms did not agree on how to best present that material to readers. Both Jacob and Wilhelm had very different ideas regarding translations. Wilhelm accepted and recognized the need for translations. He saw them as ways of bringing over different cultural traditions. For Jacob, the poetic content of the text was so inseparable from the form and the national character of a people, that in a strictly theoretical sense, coming to the poetry of another people could only be possible by learning their language.What they did was to divide the book into two parts. Jacob prepared the first part where he printed the old Nordic text on the left side, with annotations at the bottom, and on the right side he had his translation with the same annotations continued. Here, it can be seen how closely Jacob follows the old Nordic text. His translation matches the old Nordic text line by line. In Jacob's notes, we can see the problems Jacob had with the original text. We can clearly see his thought process regarding language, translation, alliteration, etc., etc. We also see again his vast knowledge of Latin, Greek, English, French, Swedish, and many other languages. He discusses possible missing lines, lines that are possibly out-of-place and belong elsewhere, words that are translated with reference to one character that might actually refer to a different character, words that he was not sure about, etc. Jacob’s text ends on page 289. The second part of the book begins after page 289 again with page 1, where Wilhelm placed his versions of the texts. Here a new title page begins with: “Lieder der alten Edda. Deutsch.” (Lays of the Old Edda. German). Wilhelm’s texts contain no notes or annotations and it is written in the nice, flowing style that was to become characteristic of Wilhelm and which he was to use so much in the later editions of the Kinder- und Hausmärchen. We can also see how Wilhelm took note of Jacobs notes and incorporated them into his own version of the text. The Grimm's versions of the Volundar text are fascinatingly different from many other English language translations. It also shows how an element in the Volundar text (the decapitation of the King’s two sons) ended up in the Grimms version of “The Juniper Tree” over five hundred years later.