Sunday, 27 February 2011

Sunday February 27th, 2011 Tolkien and his Norse Sources

About 35 years after J.R.R. Tolkien passed away, his son published Tolkien’s The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. Written in approximately the 1930’s, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun was Tolkien’s attempt to unify the Norse tale of the Volsungs and the Nibelungs. Tolkien was really interested in Norse poetry, which heavily influenced his later Lord of the Rings. While it is an interesting read all on its own, The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun has lost some of the complexities from other versions of the Volsung story, which makes the other sources worth reading as well to fully appreciate this ancient tale.

The story of the Volsungs comes in several forms. While some aspects of the story vary from source to source, the main plot remains the same. Sigurd, the last of the Volsungs, vows to marry Brynhild, but when he goes to the land of the Nibelungs (sometimes known as the Gjukis), he is given a potion of forgetting and ends up marrying Gudrun instead. Through some deceit, Sigurd then wins the hand of Brynhild for his brother-in-law. The story deals with everything from the heritage of the Volsungs to the events after the marriages of Sigurd and Brynhild. It is quite the interesting drama!

The main source that Tolkien used was The Poetic Edda (Poems of the Vikings: the Elder Edda). This is a collection of poems that includes not only the story of the Volsungs and the Nibelungs but also stories of Norse mythology; it is one of our only sources of these myths. The poems concerning the Volsungs are quite varied; they sometimes introduce characters who do not appear in any other poem. Regardless of this, all of the characters within The Poetic Edda are complex and strong, with different poems giving detailed and varied looks at the relationships between the characters. The only problem with The Poetic Edda is that it is not complete; there are several pages missing from the only ancient manuscript that we have. Missing is everything from Sigurd’s meeting of the valkyrie Sigrdrifa to after Brynhild and Sigurd are both married. Despite missing this large part of the story, The Poetic Edda is still an interesting, if varied, read.

Luckily, we have alternative sources of the story to fill in the gaps. The other source that Tolkien used was The Volsunga Saga (The Story of the Volsungs). The Volsunga Saga is a prose version of the Volsung and Nibelung story that gives a complete account of the missing details from The Poetic Edda. Unfortunately, while this version is complete, it is not without its own problems. The plot is awkward in several places because the anonymous author had to unify several sources of the tale. It isn’t perfect, but The Volsunga Saga is a great source for the story, especially if you do not like reading poetry.

And that brings us to Tolkien’s The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. This work is not a translation of the earlier Norse sources; instead it is a new work based on the older sources. Tolkien unifies the material, filling in the gap from The Poetic Edda and eliminating the many inconsistencies. He also has the Norse god Odin masterminding the plot, particularly everything regarding Sigurd, which holds the story together better than anything in the original sources. But Tolkien’s version is not without its own flaws, too. In eliminating these inconsistencies, Tolkien also removed the complexities from some of the characters, particularly Gudrun. While the story is, overall, tighter, if you want a full understanding of the tale, it is worthwhile to read the sources along with Tolkien’s version of the story.

Shauna Kosoris, Supply Staff

Sunday, 20 February 2011

In Love With Large Print

It’s Valentine’s Day and I’m working on a deadline to get my Library Detective column written. Naturally the mind turns to love, but in this case not romantic love. Today I would like to share with you my love of large print books. I have a, perhaps, unexpected love of large print fiction, sparked by The Knitting Circle by Ann Hood. I desperately wanted to read the book and the only copy we had was in large print. I took it out with some trepidation (It was longer than I had expected!), but quickly found much to recommend the format. For the first time since elementary school I was able to read a book without glasses. I read in bed with my glasses on the nightstand, so when I fell asleep reading did not knock them off my face.

Large print books are becoming increasingly common, more and more frequently we are seeing simultaneous publication dates for the standard and large print editions, which lead to shorter wait times for those of us who prefer the format. Although we have fewer copies of large print books, the holds lists are also shorter! Not only do you find bestsellers in large print, but many other fiction and non-fiction books as well. The following are a selection of large print books currently available at your library:

The Passage by Justin Cronin
This book has been described as The Andromeda Strain meets the Stand. It’s a reading commitment at 1176 pages in the large print edition (766 pages in the standard), but a worthy adventure. It deals with the aftermath of the end of the world as we know it and the role of secret government experiments in bringing us down.

Deadlock by Iris Johansen
In this action/thriller Emily Hudson and her crew of archaeologists travel to Afghanistan with the mission to rescue Russian antiquities that have been loaned to a museum. The crew is massacred, Emily and her partner Joel Levy are held hostage by a villain seeking information about a missing treasure.

While My Pretty One Knits by Anne Canadeo
This is the first in a series of cozy mysteries centered around Maggie Messina and her Black Sheep Knitting Shop. The series is much like the crafty amateur detective novels of Maggie Sefton, Mary Kruger, and Monica Ferris.

In the Company of Cheerful Ladies by Alexander McCall Smith
This is the sixth novel in the No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency series, featuring the investigator Precious Ramotswe and set in Botswana. It follows the twists and turns in her life as well as those of the other characters we’ve come to know and love (Mma Makutsi and Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni in particular).

Short Straw by Stuart Woods
Lawyer Ed Eagle (previously in Santa Fe Rules) is back in Short Straw. The love affair from the previous novel has turned sour and he awakens the day after his 40th birthday to no wife and an empty bank account. Work proves no better with a new client who has all the appearances of more trouble.

Summer on Blossom Street by Debbie Macomber
A new knitting class is offered at A Good Yarn in this continuation of Macomber’s Blossom street stories. Knit to Quit aims to help people quit something or someone. The book follows these knitters in their quest to quit and the friendships they gain along the way.

The above are just a handful of the many large print books available at your public library. Come in and fall in love!

Ruth Hamlin-Douglas, Adult Services Librarian

Sunday, 13 February 2011

Sunday February 13th, 2011 First Nations Public Library Week

First Nations Public Library week runs Feb 14 – 19. The theme this year is “Speak up for First Nation Public Libraries”. In First Nation communities, the week provides an opportunity to promote public library services and celebrate cultural uniqueness through creative library programming. But the week also encourages all Ontario libraries to join in its celebration. The Thunder Bay Public Library has been celebrating Aboriginal culture through this designated week since 2005. At that event, Aboriginal Artist Moses Beaver shared his talents with the program attendees and from that shared work a stunning artwork was created. Come and see this painting for yourself on the lower level of the Waverley library.

This year, the library is hosting a program entitled Finding your Spirit Self, on Feb 15, 7 pm at the Waverley Library auditorium. Celebrate with the Grey Wolf Traditional Teaching Lodge. “It is the mandate of the lodge to be inclusive and I would be very honoured if you would join me, Cindy Crowe, to learn more about the Medicine Wheel. How do you fit into the universe? I will share the stories of my sacred items and we will begin the session by smudging to ground us before our discussion.” Contact Cindy at 473-9851 for more information.

If you are interested in learning more about Aboriginal culture, the library has much to offer. The music CD collection is a great place to start. The collection contains pow-wow music, fiddle music and drumming, just to name a few. Of course, we celebrate our local/regional talent and so you can enjoy the music of Shy-Anne Hovorka and Kashtin. Our fiction collection has the works of Drew Hayden Taylor, Ruby Slipperjack, Tomson Highway, Richard Wagamese and the very popular Joseph Boyden. These writers are all Canadian and many have close ties to this region of Canada. In our non-fiction collection you can find books that teach beading, quilling, and moccasin creation as well as titles which promote alternative medicines and herbal remedies. Historical texts can also be found.

First Nation public libraries play a key role in community development, overcoming illiteracy, and championing lifelong learning within their communities. The Speak Up campaign seeks to increase public awareness of the significant challenges First Nation public libraries face. In Ontario, there are 133 First Nation Communities but only 50 of those communities have public libraries. To learn more about the Speak Up campaign visit The Thunder Bay Public Library is proud to be supporting this endeavour. We join these communities in their celebrations and welcome people of all backgrounds to visit a branch this week and learn more about the rich and vibrant First Nation culture.

Barbara Philp, Head of Adult Services

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Sunday February 6th, 2011 Chase Away the Blues with a Green Thumb

I’m not sure what it is about February but I always find it to be the longest month of the year. I know, I know. It’s the shortest month but for whatever reason in my perception it is the longest. Perhaps it is the winter doldrums. The excitement of the first fallen snow of November has long worn down. The busy gregariousness of the Christmas season is only now reflected in your credit card bill. The celebration and anticipation of the New Year and of new beginnings is demonstrated only in the failing to keep this year’s resolutions. Ho Hum!

So what do I do to combat these blues? I dream about spring. I think about green grass, green leaves, and the sprouting of new plants. Yes, I am a gardener. I love sticking my hands into the warm soil, nurturing my tiny little plants to fruition. I love the feeling of satisfaction when I can harvest what I have grown not to mention the joy I get when I eat it. Ah, spring. What can better cure those mid winter blues than a little garden planning?

Perhaps you are interested in planning a kitchen garden or only have a small space to grow your plants. GROW GREAT GRUB: ORGANIC FOOD FROM SMALL SPACES by Gayla Trail is a beautiful resource. The book is divided into three distinct sections. The first outlining what is needed with regards to containers, types of plants, and organic fertilizing techniques. The second section is dedicated to types of plants one might want to grow and the third section focuses on how to store your fruit and vegetables once they are harvested. This book is full of visual aides, amazing ideas and great recipes.

Do you live on land that is comprised primarily of rocks and clay? Raised beds are a fantastic solution to battling with the earth elements. RAISED BED VEGETABLE GARDENING MADE SIMPLE: THE THREE-MODULE HOME VEGETABLE GARDEN by Raymond Nones is a fairly comprehensive guide to planning and building raised beds. He discusses soil preservation techniques, different planting methods, crop rotation and winter preparation. This book has charts and diagrams to help with the planning, building and maintaining of your raised beds. And for those of you that have problems with rabbits and deer. He has some clever solutions to that as well.

Herbs have been used for medicines, flavouring and beauty products throughout history. My herb garden is a favourite place for my bees to visit in the summer. The fragrance of marjoram, basil, oregano and chives rising in the heavy heat of summer always inspires me in the kitchen to create a culinary masterpiece. THE ENCYCLOPEDIA OF HERBS: A COMPREHENSIVE REFERENCE TO HERBS OF FLAVOR AND FRAGRANCE by Arthur O. Tucker and Thomas DeBaggio outlines over one hundred different herbs in great detail. This book will tell you the various names the herb in known by, growing conditions needed by the plant, culinary and esthetic uses and so much more.

These are only three of the many books one can discover at your local library. Resources with regards to lawn care, butterfly gardens, flower beds, landscape techniques and more can assist you’re planning desires. Combat those winter blues dreaming of the green of spring. Happy gardening!

Cindy Visser-DiCarlo, Supply Staff