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The Volundarkvida is one of the oldest, finest, and most grim of the poems of The Poetic Edda, but the tale of Volund the Smith can be traced back well before the Eddas. Probably the earliest extant account of the legend is non-literary: a seventh-century Frankish casket shows the crippled smith hiding the corpses of twin boys beneath his hearth.

The themes of Northworld: Vengeance, like those of its predecessor in this series, are largely drawn from the compilations of Norse myth in The Poetic Edda and The Snorri (or Prose) Edda. The Lay of Volund provides the core episode for the novel.

The remaining strands of Vengeance have come from quite a number of sources within the Eddas. The structure of Northworld is that of the Alvissmal. This short lay is of no interest as literature, but it provides tabular data (which the stunning, magnificent Voluspa lacks). Perhaps because of my eight years as a practicing attorney, I feel a manic need for structure in the fictions that I create.

Alvis himself is one of the Black Dwarfs, the cunning craftsmen who do work for the gods of Asgarth—and generally have time to regret the fact before they die.

The Hyndluljoth, a source that surprised me, provided the circumstances to which Penny's behavior leads.

The Peace of Frothi is an incident of the Grottasongr, a very powerful lay which I expect to figure largely in the next novel I set on Northworld.

One major incident was imported from outside the Eddas. The scene within Waldron's hall was borrowed/researched/stolen (you pick your own verb) from Killer Glum's Saga, an anonymous work written in Iceland at about the time The Poetic Edda was taking its final form.

Let me emphasize that the sensibilities of the Eddas are in large measure those of Dark Age warriors in some of the bleakest terrain that humans have chosen to inhabit. Volund was not a civilized figure even at the time his legend was created: he was a force as stark and implacable as the rivers of ice which crush their way downward until they calve icebergs into the sea.

But it is well for those of us living in the soft lands of our own day to remember that there are still cultures to whom vengeance is a way of life, and to whom an enemy's women and children are targets as acceptable as they were to a red-handed Viking.

Dave Drake
Chatham County, N.C.



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