Arizona Studies in the Middle Ages and Renaissance (ASMAR), Vol. 14
The Shadow Walkers: Jacob Grimm’s Mythology of the Monstrous
Elves and dwarves, trolls and giants, talking dragons, Valkyries and werewolves: all these are familiar in modern movies and commerical fantasy. But where did the concepts come from? Who invented them? Almost two centuries ago, Jacob Grimm assembled what was known about such creatures in his work on “Teutonic Mythology,” which brought together ancient texts such as Beowulf and the Elder Edda with the material found in Grimm’s own famous collection of fairytales. This collection of essays now updates Grimm, adding much material not known in his time, and also challenges his monolithic interpretations, pointing out the diversity of cultural traditions as well as the continuity of ancient myth.
This fascinating, engaging gathering of essays on topics from the so-called lower mythology —
elves, dwarves, giants, trolls, various female spirits, dragons, shape-changers, werewolves and so on — deserves widespread distribution. Every specialist in Northern European literature and legend, especially medievalists, will want this book on their library shelves. The overall project is a worthy companion, in its collective compass and detail, to Grimm’s original compendia of mythologically-tinged philological detail. The spirit of nineteenth-century comparative philology and myth, of genius really, attends the project Tom Shippey has wonderfully conceived here and brought along with the help of highly knowledgeable, articulate scholars. These essays work fertile ground. They look both at Grimm’s material and at folktale collections and scholarly editions not available to Grimm for comparative philology, legend, and folklore — ground not seriously addressed for more decades than one cares to count in Anglo-American scholarship.
— John Hill, United States Naval Academy