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NESP Reviews


The Words of the High One

translation by James Hjuka Coulter

review by Álfta “Svanni” Óðinssen

        This translation of Hávamál, a text that rightfully holds a place of high honor in Heathenism, is the first reliable translation by a Germanic Heathen. We have been saying that when Heathenry gets to the point where it has its own translators that it will begin to gain its rightful place among the religions of the world. So it was a happy event when I received my copy of the first English translation of Hávamál by a Germanic Heathen. Anyone who has made a study of the various translations of the Poetic Edda (in which Hávamál appears) will find that there are usually two main routes of translating that the translator takes. One is to try to attempt (and never really succeed) to keep the poetic meter of the work. The other route is to translate the text as literally as possible. Both of these approaches can cause a lot of confusion because maintaining the poetic meter sometimes requires doubtful translation and completely literal translations can be confusing (without copious footnotes) because of obscure terms that the layman may not be familiar with. Even when they are familiar with them they more than likely will not know the larger significance of the terms. Hjuka has taken a third route. He has attempted to keep to the true heart of what is being said while at the same time translating in plain English. This welcome choice makes the comprehension of the sometimes very enigmatic verses of Hávamál much more comprehensible and allows the layman to enjoy the benefits that come from a translator who has put in the time to study both the culture and its language. To put it simply, I recommend this book. I would be willing to bet that this translation may become your favorite translation of the Words of the High One, should it find its way into your library. You can find out more about where to get a copy of Hjuka's translation of Hávamál by clicking here.    

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