Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Saga of the Volsungs” as Want to Read:
The Saga of the Volsungs
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Saga of the Volsungs

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  2,621 ratings  ·  142 reviews
One of the great books of world literature--an unforgettable tale of jealousy, unrequited love, greed, and vengeance. Based on Viking Age poems and composed in thirteenth-century Iceland, The Saga of the Volsungs combines mythology, legend, and sheer human drama in telling of the heroic deeds of Sigurd the dragon slayer, who acquires runic knowledge from one of Odin's Valk ...more
Paperback, 145 pages
Published January 1st 2000 by Penguin Classics (first published 1290)
more details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about The Saga of the Volsungs, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about The Saga of the Volsungs

The Pillars of the Earth by Ken FollettThe Name of the Rose by Umberto EcoThe Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey ChaucerA Distant Mirror by Barbara W. TuchmanBeowulf by Unknown
Best Middle Ages Books
94th out of 760 books — 956 voters
The Prose Edda by Snorri SturlusonRunemarks by Joanne HarrisThe Poetic Edda by AnonymousEaters of the Dead by Michael CrichtonThe Norse Myths by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Norse Mythology
14th out of 131 books — 251 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  rating details
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
This book is very rough and very wild. It brings together story elements from several sources, and they have not been assembled in a fully rational manner. If you want plenty of examples of valor, bullheadedness, and bloody vengeance, it's all in here. The text is very laconic... an entire war may be referred to in a couple of sentences, with one or two pertinent points mentioned.

Odin makes many appearances, and arbitrarily helps then hinders, grants gifts, breaks them, and generally leads peop
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
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
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
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.
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
"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
Shane Wagoner
A genealogy of passionate warriors and twisted fates. This is a legend of truly biblical (Eddic?) proportions.
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
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.
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.
Adam  McPhee
Best lines:

1. [Twice Sinfjolti's stepmother has offered him a suspect drink, and both times he declined it only to have his father, Sigmund, drink it instead.] She came again with the drinking horn. "Drink now." And she taunted him with many words. He took the horn and said: "The drink is mixed with treachery." Sigmund said: "Then give it to me." She came a third time and bid him drain it, if he had the heart of a Volsung. Sinfjolti took the horn and said: "There is poison in this drink." Sigmu
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
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
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
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
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
Thrall am I

blood born am I of Norway's finest stock. Aye cometh we through the Irish sea in, when was it? about 900 AD. Up Ribblesdale brought we out townships to Craven where we settled, gathered wood and forged tools. Dairy farming we chose, and oats. Aye we made this our home, our ancestors spirits bless tour lives.
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;
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.

David Sheard
I enjoyed this more that the Elder Edda in terms of style of writing, but the Edda did not have so many gaping plot holes, or things which were entirely unexplainable (so they each lose a star for a different reason)
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 99 100 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
Mythgard Institut...: The Saga of the Volsungs 5 21 Aug 24, 2011 04:06AM  
  • The Prose Edda
  • Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories
  • Seven Viking Romances
  • Gods and Myths of Northern Europe
  • Early Irish Myths and Sagas
  • The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok
  • Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs
  • The Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths
  • Viking Age Iceland
  • The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology
  • Myths of the Norsemen: From the Eddas and Sagas
  • Saxo Grammaticus: The History of the Danes, Books I-IX: I. English Text; II. Commentary
  • Arthurian Romances
  • The Vikings
  • Tristan: With the Tristran of Thomas
  • Parzival
  • The History of the Kings of Britain
  • The Ring of the Nibelung
Books can be attributed to "Anonymous" for several reasons:

* They are officially published under that name
* They are traditional stories not attributed to a specific author
* They are religious texts not generally attributed to a specific author

Books whose authorship is merely uncertain should be attributed to Unknown.
More about Anonymous...
Holy Bible: King James Version The Arabian Nights: Tales from a Thousand and One Nights The Epic of Gilgamesh Holy Bible: New International Version The Quran

Share This Book

“A coward dies every day,
the courageous dies only once.”
More quotes…