Friday, 23 March 2012

RIP

Half a year ago, all Vikingologists were mourning the loss of three great scholars in various branches of the subject. Now we have lost two more this month, both with a more literary and linguistic bent, Ursula Dronke and Raymond Ian Page. Neither was young, and both had had full and productive lives, so I hope they are glad to have shuffled off this mortal coil and are likewise carousing in the Valhalla of Norse and Viking studiers (with its 'hearth-encircling benches and delicious ale'). But we shall miss them and it is worth pausing to remember their achievements, which are of course far too many to list here.

Many years ago, I had the honour of having my PhD thesis examined by Ursula Dronke, but I remember her chiefly for her wonderful translations of Eddic poetry. One of the first Eddic poems I ever read was Atlakviða (maybe that's why we're imposing it on our first-years even as I speak...). Ursula's translation was both a delight in itself, and a real incentive to grapple with the difficult but completely spell-binding language of the original.

Ray Page had even more of a beneficial effect on my career - he contributed to my appointment to this job way back when in my youth, and he was both friend and benevolent academic guide ever after. He too had a real way with words, and I still think his Chronicles of the Vikings is a great place for beginners to start thinking about how we really go about studying the Viking Age. He also produced lucid and accessible books for the general reader on both Norse myths and runes. Ray was quite a polymath: an expert in Old English and Anglo-Saxon studies, Old Norse and Viking studies, manuscripts and librarianship, but his greatest influence was as a runologist and that is what I and many others will most of all remember him for.