The Heliand has a unique aura in the history of world literature. Its contemplative integration of Northern-European magic, sooth-saying, wizardry, fatalistic warrior virtues, personal mysticism, and the Christian gospel story give it a compelling power and charm. The Heliand was written in Old Saxon over a thousand years ago in the first half of the ninth century by an author whose mysterious identity has remained unknown.
A spirited retelling of the Gospel story in a Germanic setting, the ninth-century A.D. Old Saxon epic poem The Heliand is at last available in English in Ronald Murphy's graceful new translation. Representing the first full integration and poetic reworking of the Gospel story into Northern European warrior imagery and culture, the poem finds a place for many Old Northern religious concepts and images while remaining faithful to the orthodox Christian teaching of the Gospel of St. Mark. Accessible to students of medieval and comparative literature, Murphy's introduction and notes provide valuable insight and a cultural context for this unique masterpiece.
G. Ronald Murphy, S.J. is Professor of German at Georgetown University. He is the author of several titles, including The Heiland: The Saxon Gospel and The Owl, the Raven, and the Dove: The Religious Meaning of the Grimms' Magic Fairy Tales.