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The Story of the Volsungs and Niblungs: With Certain Songs from the Elder Edda (1870)

4.02  ·  Rating Details ·  4,000 Ratings  ·  238 Reviews
""And he chased the deer of the forest, and many a wood-wolf slew . . ."" *

Son of King Sigmund, young Sigurd is taught the ways of kings by the ancient, mysterious Regin -- who then sets him upon the seemingly impossible task: to steal the divine armor guarded by the Wallower on the Gold -- the great serpent Fafnir.

Astride the war-steed Grayfell and armed with a sword name
Paperback, 296 pages
Published May 1st 2009 by Kessinger Publishing (first published 1290)
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A real classic. An ancient Nordic epic of sword and sorcery that inspired tons of stories from our time, from Tolkien to Vikings.
Aug 08, 2014 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
oh hai Vikings

I have a great love for Vikings, who are terrific insulters and murderers. Here's the type of thing Vikings do: this one guy Sinfjotli is like "This drink is poison, I can tell," and the other guy's all "That's okay, you can filter the poison out through your mustache," and Sinfjotli's like "Good plan" and then he dies because that's not how mustaches work. You can't read enough of stories like that.

Sinfjotli is one of the many ill-fated men of the Volsung line, and this gets compl
Lada Fleur
Sep 14, 2016 Lada Fleur rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The myths of the North the Volsung, Nibelungen, Edda, Kalevala, Kalevala has been the latest...recorded. Interesting to study these myths or only one, about universe creation , about gods and heroes, about the dragon's slayer and eventual recuperation of olden treasure but this treasure of Nibelungen and Volsungs is difficult because it is the source of evil and it entails the death of all concerned in the hero's family.They speak about the greed and malediction. and the difficulty to come to gr ...more
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
Some strange things I learned while reading the book:

1. You can start out as a hunted criminal, and be raised to a place of honor and respect by pillaging villages,
2. Weak children must be killed off. Spartans have nothing on these guys,
3. Incest is okay as long as you switch bodies with someone else before doing it,
4. You want this guy. He tells you he would leave his wife for you. You get the guy killed,
5. When your evil stepmother gives you poisoned ale twice, you have good faith in the third
Sep 21, 2010 Zadignose rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Oct 25, 2012 Yani rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Relectura agosto 2016

Si tuviera que hablar muy seriamente de Volsungos necesitaría dos cosas: ser especialista en Literatura Medieval y haber leído todos los textos que se cruzan con este. Puedo manejar la comparación con Cantar de los Nibelungos pero no podría ir más allá de él (no leí Beowulf, por ejemplo). Sin embargo, trataré de aislarlo todo lo posible como para dar una opinión.

Volsungos es una saga islandesa que data del siglo XIII y cuenta las aventuras de un linaje (que puede hab
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
João Fernandes
Fortune is too fragile a thing to trust that it will not break

The Saga of the Volsungs is the first Icelandic Saga/Old Norse literature I've read, and it was a phenomenal encouragement to read more books of this genre.

Beyond the constant drama of the blessed Volsung dynasty and their eventual cursed end, one can read about the customs and mentality of a society that lived over 1000 years ago and that alone is worth the read.

Most importantly, the Volsunga Saga is a tale about revenge, justice
Sep 26, 2016 Phillip rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: pre-20th-century
I had a professor in undergrad who told me that medieval lit is more postmodern than postmodern lit, and this is a fantastic example of that principle in action. The Saga of the Volsungs, if it were written today, would be both stylistically and narratively postmodern, but because it's medieval it isn't actually postmodern (or is it? does time work? perhaps not for postmodernists?).
One thing I find fascinating about this saga is the almost complete lack of interiority. For modern readers raised
Justin Evans
Aug 23, 2012 Justin Evans rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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?
How many movies could Peter Jackson make this 110 page book into? Probably at least 3. It goes through 5 generations in 2 pages!
May 31, 2010 Miriam rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Craziness with Icelandic psychopaths and their endless cycles of lies, theft, murder, and revenge.
John Snow
Mar 22, 2013 John Snow rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 28, 2014 Karen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Sibling incest, revenge, love, drama, nonchalant murder of children, more drama, my man is better than your man, repeat.
Feb 25, 2017 Joseph rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I have had a healthy obsession with the Norse tales for awhile now. The Saga of the Volsungs is a violent and often confusing tale of family, vows and amazing feats. The stories have similarities in many ways to the Greeks and especially to the Celts. The story of the sword in the tree and the king who claims it is akin to the tale of Arthur. Worth the read even if it feels like you are trudging through parts of it.
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
Jul 22, 2013 Jane rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
Matthew Colvin
Apr 19, 2014 Matthew Colvin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Dylan Grant
Review to come.
Sarah Fisher
Mar 17, 2008 Sarah Fisher rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Killing! Dragons! Vikings! Betrayal! Awesomeness!
Profundus Librum
Jul 10, 2015 Profundus Librum rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Nehéz összefoglalni röviden, miről is olvashatunk ebben az először 1400 körül papírra vetett hős-sagában, hiszen a nagyjából száz oldalas kötetben konkrétan annyi minden történik, ami egész könyvciklusok számára elég izgalommal és fordulattal szolgálna. A Völsunga saga egy királyi család – a Völsungok – több generációjának harcát, szenvedését majd elkerülhetetlennek tűnő bukását meséli el igencsak tömör, velős, többször verses betétekkel tarkított formában. Az írás nyelvezete kitűnő, az idegen s ...more
Andrew Hamblin
The Saga of the Volsungs, written down in the 13th century by some unknown Icelander and translated in 1870 by William Morris and Eirikur Magnusson, tells the story of the Volsung family starting with Sigi (son of Odin!) and ending five generations later with the slaying of Attila the Hun(!).

If you think George R. R. Martin blithely kills off his protagonists, he's got nothing on Anonymous Icelander. It's chapter after chapter of murder and revenge. Pro-tip: If you kill someone, you'd better ma
Kurt Henry
Jul 03, 2013 Kurt Henry rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
May 09, 2012 Jaimie rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Considering that the culture which recorded this saga of the Volsung kits was so different rom thos who wrote the King Arthur legends it is surprising how many abject similarities there are between the two. Who knows which was actually recorded or told first (oral traditions being what they are), but there was clearly some cross-cultural influence occurring. The recurring motifs of kinsman betrayal are more prevalent for the Volsungs than for Arthur, but it is clear that families brought togethe ...more
Sarah Sanborn
Nov 09, 2015 Sarah Sanborn rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
The Volsung saga is great for anyone who loves epic tragedies, and nordic mythology. The saga takes us through the linage of the Volsungs, a clan descended from Odin himself and the race of giants. The stories of the Volsungs are full of heroic deeds, for they were said to be the greatest of men, but misfortune also plagues them. An endless cycle of death and revenge haunts the clan. If you're looking for a tale with happy endings than this is not the book for you. But if you love the old tales ...more
Rebecka (is hilarious, shut up)
Of all the sagas I have read lately - and I have read a lot - this is my absolute, unchallenged favorite.
There is so many different and strong women in this book, so many epic and mythic element like premonitions in dreams, magic swords, dragons, gods and valkyries. The story of Sigurd and Brynhild actually almost made me cry and Sinfjotli's death was just too hilarious, though it probably wasn't supposed to be. But seriously, filter poison through your mustache? That has a to be the shittiest
Feb 23, 2013 Fabio rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Before Lord of the Rings, before Fritz Lang's Siegfried and Wagner's Nibelungen, there was the Völsunga Saga and in it Sigurd and Brynhild and the ring Andvaranaut and the dragon worm Fafnir.

This tale is not the easiest read given its archaic style but it is surprisingly enjoyable and invigorating. If you read nothing else from it, read the wise words of Brynhild, which are matched in wisdom and eloquence only by Polonius advice to Laertes.

The full text is available here:
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  • The Prose Edda
  • Hrafnkel's Saga and Other Icelandic Stories
  • Gods and Myths of Northern Europe
  • Early Irish Myths and Sagas
  • The Sagas of Ragnar Lodbrok
  • A Dictionary of Northern Mythology
  • Viking Age Iceland
  • The Norse Myths
  • The Children of Odin: The Book of Northern Myths
  • The Vikings
  • Gisli Sursson's Saga and the Saga of the People of Eyri
  • Tristan: With the Tristran of Thomas
  • Norse Mythology: A Guide to the Gods, Heroes, Rituals, and Beliefs
  • From Asgard to Valhalla: The Remarkable History of the Norse Myths
  • The History of the Kings of Britain
  • Myths of the Norsemen: From the Eddas and Sagas
  • The Ring of the Nibelung
  • Saxo Grammaticus: The History of the Danes, Books I-IX: I. English Text; II. Commentary
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“A coward dies every day,
the courageous dies only once.”
“Even though great were this cruelty, oppression, and tyranny, though numerous were the oft-victorious clans of the many-familied Erinn; though numerous their kings, and their royal chiefs, and their princes; though numerous their heroes and champions, and their brave soldiers, their chiefs of valour and renown and deeds of arms; yet not one of them was able to give relief, alleviation, or deliverance from that oppression and tyranny, from the numbers and multitudes, and the cruelty and the wrath of the brutal, ferocious, furious, untamed, implacable hordes by whom that oppression was inflicted, because of the excellence of their polished, ample, treble, heavy, trusty, glittering corslets; and their hard, strong, valiant swords; and their well-riveted long spears, and their ready, brilliant arms of valour besides; and because of the greatness of their achievements and of their deeds, their bravery, and their valour, their strength, and their venom, and their ferocity, and because of the excess of their thirst and their hunger for the brave, fruitful, nobly-inhabited, full of cataracts, rivers, bays, pure, smooth-plained, sweet grassy land of Erinn"—(pp. 52-53).” 1 likes
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