Rhinegold

A novel by Stephan Grundy

$23.95, Bantam Books

Rhinegold is an excellent new novel in the genre of "magical realism"pioneered by The Mists of Avalon (to which the publisher compares it).In it is the story of the Volsung dynasty, in a modern retelling that drawsfrom the various different versions of this saga.

As to the plot, most every reader of Ásatrú Today will probablybe familiar with the Saga of the Volsungs, and it's not really necessary to goover it here. Most of the familiar elements from the saga are present. Theseare melded onto a very detailed historical setting, which assumes the existenceof the Gods and magic as an active part of the story.

The abundance of historical and cultural information adds a great deal to thestory. As the characters travel between settlements and meet with other folk,attention is paid to the differences in culture and the way that variouspeoples live. Particularly interesting is the way in which the Gods are honoredin slightly different ways by different cultures. The author is studying Norsemythology at Cambridge University, and I assume they are accurate. In any case,the book provides an excellent model of how Germanic Paganism can maintain adiversity of practice, while retaining common elements of belief. Otherelements such as accurate technology (leather hinges, etc.) add to the realismof the story, but never intrude on readability.

There is a great deal of religious and magical material in the book, all ofwhich will be of interest to Norse Heathenry. Several sacrifices are describedin vivid and accurate detail. There are also several places where appropriaterites have been created for important actions in the plot. For example, whenSinfjotli is sent to Sigimund to prepare for the Volsungs revenge, he is notonly adopted in reality, but with a magical ceremony that connects the boy'ssoul to Sigimund's clan. The Gods themselves also appear in the story. This isdone with respect, and the opening chapter could very well serve as a theologylesson in the nature of the Gods while they walk in Midgard. I should also addthat the depiction is always respectful and for the most part orthodox. While Iwould never draw religious data from a work of fiction, one won't find blatanthistorical or religious inaccuracies that distract ones reading enjoyment. Theesoteric material is also very deeply conceived and engages one on atheological level as well as a historical and mythological one. The author hasclearly thought about the nature of the Gods and magic as the realities whichthey are, rather than the fantasy that modern mythology and anthropologydismisses them as.

The language of the book is also rather interesting, and will be familiar tomost Heathens. While it's written in modern English, many archaic or Norseterms are used rather than more modern counterparts. The result reminds me ofthe better aspects of Lee Hollander's translation of the PoeticEdda--although I'm not sure the author would find this as complementary asit is meant to be.

I strongly recommend Rhinegold to any sincere Heathen. It is the finestpiece of fiction I have ever read involving Germanic Paganism. Despite myacquaintance with it, the story of the Volsungs still manages to engage me, andthe novelization is excellent at getting the emotional impact of true religiousbelief across to the reader. This is something very rare and very special.