The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer
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The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  2,455 ratings  ·  132 reviews
The Saga of the Volsungs is an Icelandic prose epic whose anonymous thirteenth-century author based his story on the legends of Old Scandinavian folk culture. A trove of traditional lore, it tells of love, jealousy, vengeance, war, and the mythic deeds of the dragonslayer, Sigurd the Volsung.
The Saga is of special interest to admirers of Richard Wagner, who drew heavily up...more
Paperback, 145 pages
Published March 16th 1990 by University of California Press (first published 1290)
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The Volsunga Saga is a Norse prose retelling of the Norse Eddic versions of the Nibelungen/ Volsung legends and is preserved in a late 13th century manuscript that also contains the Saga of Ragnar Loðbrókar. The manuscript tells the story of the Volsung family from its mythical origins to the death of the historical/semi legendary Ragnar Loðbrókar. Unfortunately this edition and translation by R. G. Finch only includes the Volsunga Saga, meaning that the reader wishing to pursue the saga in its...more
Barnaby Thieme
Medieval Icelandic literature is highly variable in quality and comprehensibility, but the Volsung Saga is a masterpiece of the genre, and here it is masterfully translated and presented by Byock. This edition includes extremely useful explanatory notes, a vital glossary of characters, and an introductory essay that is by itself worth the cost of this book.

Like many Icelandic sagas, this is a brooding history of semi-historical kings overshadowed by augers of doom. It exhults in shocking acts o...more
John Snow
The Saga of the Volsungs is a great Old Icelandic legendary saga and one of the best magic-heroic tales ever told. It is the story of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer and his family, the Volsungs, and their conflicts with other northern royal families in the pre-Viking period. It is a story full of mythological figures, human drama, love, hate, and endless series of vengeance and murder.

Before Sigurd enters the scene, The Saga of the Volsungs tells the story of his forefathers. But how fascinating the s...more
Linda I
As an appreciator of Norse/Icelandic mythology and history I had my eye on this story for quite a long time. Wasn't sure whether I should read it before or after Snori's "Prose Edda". After reading Penguin's introduction to the tale, I decided the reader would not be at a disadvantage reading the Volsung's story prior to "Prose Edda". And it certainly did not dissappoint! A fabulous story about the history of Volsung's descendants from Sigmund through Hamdir and Sorli. Battles, adventure, betray...more
The most memorable part of this lengthly saga is Sigurd/Sigfried defeating the dragon Fafnir, gaining a cursed treasure and his doomed love affairs with two queens, the most notable one being Brynhild, a former Valkyrie cast down to earth by Odin.

The introduction itself is very interesting and is a nice way of easing yourself into the many complexities, in particular the family tree and lineage, which dominates this saga as it of course follows one family vein, the Volsungs, and their many disas...more
Justin Evans
Incest, murder, more murder, dragons, high level smithing, treason, revenge, and Attila the Hun. Also, short, pleasant to read, and not obsessed with silly details. What exactly is there not to like?
Craziness with Icelandic psychopaths and their endless cycles of lies, theft, murder, and revenge.
"Ye have heard of Sigurd aforetime, how the foes of God he slew;
How forth from the darksome desert the Gold of the Waters he drew;
How he wakened Love on the Mountain, and wakened Brynhild the Bright,
And dwelt upon Earth for a season and shone in all men's sight.
Ye have heard of the Cloudy People and the dimming of the day,
And the latter world's confusion, and Sigurd gone away."

These are the closing lines from Morris's translation in verse of this story, and they encapsulate it. The Eddas are the...more
Bryce Lowry
As a fan of the old Germanic myths and legends, I had to pick up a copy of Byock's translation of the Saga of the Volsungs. As one who is largely unfamiliar with the Norse language, I can't say I agree or disagree with the claim that Byock's translation is the best, but I can say that of the two translations I've sampled, this one is superior.

As for the story itself, I have to introduce it by saying that if you take Germanic myth seriously and hold to the somewhat common belief that the myths ar...more
Max Gibson
This book is truly its genre: EPIC! The stories within the Saga are so intense with raging emotions, drama, and bloodshed. I do suggest reading 'The Poetic Edda' before this though as it will give you a stronger idea of what is going on (Because even an English translation of a 13th C. Icelandic text is difficult to read!). A definite read for any love of Norse Mythology.
Matthew Colvin
Tonight I started reading the Saga of the Volsungs aloud to Ezekiel and Sora. It is my first time reading this classic. I cannot believe I have never experienced it before now. This is powerful myth, and Jesse Byock’s understated prose translationn is a great way of drinking that myth straight: there are no frills to get in the way; the stories strike the audience more forcefully in this naked state. I can see why C.S. Lewis became addicted to them.

We’re only 1/3 of the way through, but already...more
This Viking saga probably has more roots in so called "myth" than any others I have read and its one of the most entertaining ones also. Includes appearances by Odin, Valkyries and a dragon along with all the usual inter tribal "politics" of heads getting cracked by swords and axes.
Charles Dee Mitchell
This first foray into the Icelandic Sagas was not a great success. I know it was a very different time and a different culture, but I couldn’t care about these people. The men’s notions of bravery and honor made them come off as thugs. “They now traveled wide through the land, performing many splendid deed and killing many kings’ sons.” It is also open season on brothers. The women have a predilection for murdering their own children.

All these things happen in Greek myth as well, so it may be a...more
Si alguna vez se preguntaron de dónde puede haber sacado sus macabras ideas George R.R. Martin, les recomiendo leer esta saga.
Jack Alexander
Epic Norse poetry at it best. The story of Sigurd and Brynhild preserved around 1000AD from much older oral tradition. It tells of the destruction of the Burgundians by the Huns in the 5th century and include tales from The Edda Prose. These tales weave reality and the supernatural; Odin himself may be Sigurd's father, and he appears throughout the text as an old one-eyed beggar sometimes helping with his "magic" and other times interfering.

Much of the myth and legend told her can be seen as the...more
Wow, what a story! This is such a brilliant book, but it's hard to say much about it without giving everything away, because plot is tantamount.
It's one of the legendary sagas, as opposed to the family sagas, which means that it includes magic and dragons and dwarfs and so forth. Gods and men and monsters interact and play out a huge and sprawling section of Scandinavian fictionalised history (some of it is based on genuine historical events, some of it... er, isn't). It's essentially in three...more
Jenni  Lunde
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Kurt Henry
It is easy enough to find a summary of this epic poem in another review, Wikipedia, etc. Suffice it to say that it is Morris's redaction of the Volsunga Saga, with too many twists (incest, poisonings, burnings, shape-changing) and interesting characters (Nibelungs, werewolves, dragon, dwarves) to list in a brief review. Not often read today, it was Morris's proudest literary accomplishment and the favorite poem of Yeats. The most important things I would say to a potential reader is that it is n...more
Scott Weeks
For the general reader, I'm not sure if I could recommend this saga, but for the student of medieval literature and medieval history, especially of the Vikings, this book is indispensable. Nevertheless, it is still a maddening work to get through, with many false starts and twists that make no sense; Sigurd's and Brynhild's oaths and pledges to each other, but then he leaves her? And she stays to find another husband? Aagh! And the genealogies . . . Although I understand that when this was writt...more
Robert Sheppard



J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings" is one of the most beloved fantasy epics of...more
Thom Foolery
After reading Seamus Heaney's translation of Beowulf, followed by John Gardner's response, Grendel, I pored over my bookshelves in search of more Norse myth and Germanic paganism to explore. This book is a thoroughly enjoyable translation of a 13th century Icelandic prose version of still earlier mythico-historic epic poetry. (Some of this source material is covered in another book I am reading, Carolyne Larrington's translation of the Poetic Edda. ) Dragons are slain, passions enflamed and th...more
William Morris' able translation was somewhat hampered by the poor quality of the edition that I read, which included many typographical errors, including rendering the names of characters incorrectly on a few occasions. I was keeping track of the bewildering familial relationships and feuds with a hand-drawn flow chart, which helped to draw out some of the interlaced themes and reoccuring events, but it led me to notice a rather glaring problem: What happened to Sigmund, son of Sigurd? He's men...more
Telling the story of the Volsungs down through Sigurd and Gudrun, the Volsungasaga (Saga of the Volsungs) is a great piece of Norse folklore translated here by Jesse L. Byock. Through Byock's translation, you still get a feel for the Norse mode of storytelling, and Byock does a great job of helping to explain difficult sections through his endnotes. There is also a glossary in the back of the book for those less familiar with Norse mythology and for those who prefer not to have to spend the extr...more
The Saga of the Volsungs was written around A.D. 1200 but records stories from the fourth and fifth centuries. The Volsungs are a family of warrior kings who are intent on maintaining their prestige. They conquer neighboring kings, kill dragons for their riches, and take revenge against anyone who seems to wrong them. Greed and jealousy abound.

The story is interesting for the glimpse it gives of the Viking and Scandinavian cultures which preserved these legends. However, the story lacks details;...more
William Morris may be a good writer, but I dislike his translation skills. Working through the language of the translation is a task in and of itself. (My commented to my friend Dave while reading it: "This Volsunga translation is truly f***ing awful.")

That said, the story is quite enjoyable once you get past the awfulness of the translation. I don't why ancient epics always have such a penchant for nefarious things like incest and gratuitously horrific murder, but they do make for a good tale.

The Saga Of The Volsungs follows several generations as they achieve great renown, and are killed by people jealous of their success. The following generations try to avenge their fallen ancestors. Filled with compelling elements such as: cursed gold, a ring with the name Andvaranaut, a broken sword to be reforged, fights with dragons, dwarves, shapeshifters, magic, and epic battles it is a story you will not want to miss.

I enjoyed reading this saga, and only wish it was longer. I recommend read...more
Though I had issues with Morris' language (which was antiquated in a way that sounded laughable to any reader familiar with the great early modern English writers), I still had a pleasurable time reading the Volsung Saga. I am greatly looking forward to reading other translations of it.

What really made this an unsatisfactory read was an issue with the edition: all of the poetry/songs were missing from my version. A good deal of the flavor of the saga was lost. Nigh unreadable in sections.

So plea...more
Devan Bierbrauer
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Jun 12, 2007 Adam rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Wagnerites, black metal fans, lovers of Norse stuff
The Völsunga saga and the Nibelungenlied were the primary sources for Wagner's Ring Cycle, so this is a must-read for any fans of German opera. It's also a must-read for anyone who enjoys Norse mythology. This is a really readable and enjoyable translation. I much prefer the Völsunga saga to the Nibelungenlied, which was recorded later, and focuses too much on courtly intrigue, romance, double-dealings, and medieval pageantry for my taste. The Völsunga saga is more mystical, brutal, and atavisti...more
Juli Anna Herndon
an ancient adventure story, and much racier than the odyssey.
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Mythgard Institut...: The Saga of the Volsungs 5 21 Aug 24, 2011 04:06AM  
  • The Prose Edda
  • Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories
  • Gods and Myths of Northern Europe
  • Seven Viking Romances
  • Viking Age Iceland
  • The Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths
  • The Vikings
  • Early Irish Myths and Sagas
  • The Norse Myths (Pantheon Fairy Tale and Folklore Library)
  • Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs
  • Myths of the Norsemen: From the Eddas and Sagas
  • Tristan: With the Tristran of Thomas
  • Parzival
  • Inanna, Queen of Heaven and Earth: Her Stories and Hymns from Sumer
  • A History of the Vikings
  • The History of the Kings of Britain
  • The Monsters and the Critics and other essays
  • From Asgard to Valhalla: The Remarkable History of the Norse Myths
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