Gods of the North

Gods of the North

István Tótfalusi: The Nibelung-story* (Magvető Könyvkiadó 2017)

People have always been interested in where they came from and how the world was created, because they wanted to believe in something. This is why legends and fairy tales were created. The firsts of these tales come from the Northern lands and later reached the territory of today’s Germany along the Rhine, from where they came to the North again in the early Middle Ages, during the great migration. The name Nibelung has been known since the 10th century and refers to creatures (dwarves) who could make magical objects. One such item was a ring that could rule everything.

In order to create their majestic home, the Valhalla, the gods make a deal with the giants, who demand high price for their work. The gods can only redeem themselves with large amounts of gold. However, the gold was not theirs. It was stolen. That is why it is under a terrible curse. It will take many more victims. Dragons, knights, valkyries, scheming and disappointed gods are all racing towards their inevitable end, the Ragnarök.

If you find similarities with The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion, it is no coincidence: Norse mythology was Tolkien’s favorite and he used many of its elements to write his own legend and origin story. The best-known adaptation of the Nibelung theme is Wagner’s ensemble of four operas, The Ring of the Nibelung (Der Ring des Nibelungen). The composer treated the source works freely: he left out parts of them, but also invented dramatic twists himself. The work is now intertwined with the legend, and in István Tótfalusi’s book we can find a good guide to both. As a writer, poet, translator and editor, the author created a lot of important works in his life, and in his book Opera Tales* he also adapted other great operas into an easily readable form. The present volume is decorated with ancient-like illustrations by Róza Schmal.

*my translation