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

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4.01  ·  Rating details ·  4,768 ratings  ·  288 reviews
A trove of traditional lore, this Icelandic prose epic 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 upon this Norse source in writing his Ring Cycle. With its magical ring acquired by the hero, and the sword to be reforged, the saga has ...more
Paperback, 154 pages
Published November 19th 2001 by University of California Press (first published 1290)
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4.01  · 
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 ·  4,768 ratings  ·  288 reviews


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Jeffrey Keeten
Feb 01, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: iceland, nordic-noir, myth
”Now Sigurd rode away. His ornamented shield was plated with red gold and emblazoned with a dragon. Its top half was dark brown and its bottom half light red, and his helmet, saddle, and buffcoat were all marked in this way. He wore a mail coat of gold and all his weapons were ornamented with gold. In this way the dragon was illustrated on all of his arms, so that when he was seen, all who had heard the story would recognize him as the one who had killed the great dragon called Fafnir by the Vae ...more
Edward
List of Maps
Introduction, by Jesse L. Byock
Note on the Translation


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

Notes
Eddic Poems Used by the Saga Author
Glossary
Alex
Aug 08, 2014 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
...more
Markus
A real classic. An ancient Nordic epic of sword and sorcery that inspired tons of stories from our time, from Tolkien to Vikings.
Bettie☯


https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b09r...

Description: Drawn from one of the best known Icelandic sagas, a powerful new dramatisation of the tragic story of Sigurd Volsung and Brynhild, the woman he loves, With an introduction by the author. By Melissa Murray

Sigurd ..... David Sturzaker
Regin ..... David Schofield
Gunnar ..... Carl Prekopp
Hod ..... Gerard McDermott
Gudrun ..... Lyndsey Marshal
Brynhild ..... Abbie Andrews
Sadhbh ..... Isabella Inchbald
Arvid ..... Clive Hayward
Alf ..... Rupert Holliday-
...more
Andrea
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
...more
Marquise
Holy Wotan's tits, Batman! This is revenge porn at its finest, like only the Norsemen can pull out. Monsieur le Comte de Monte Cristo has nothing on these fellows of the North when it comes to vengeance, justice, fire 'n' blood. Ahem.

I can see why Herr Wagner liked this saga so much he readapted the plot for his The Ring of the Nibelungs opera quartet, it has everything a proper head-spinningly melodramatic intergenerational imbroglio should contain, albeit in doses not exactly recommendable for
...more
Neil
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
Laura
Feb 26, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Bettie
From BBC Radio 3 - Drama on 3:
Drawn from one of the best known Icelandic sagas, a powerful new dramatisation of the tragic story of Sigurd Volsung and Brynhild, the woman he loves, With an introduction by the author.

By Melissa Murray

Sigurd ..... David Sturzaker
Regin ..... David Schofield
Gunnar ..... Carl Prekopp
Hod ..... Gerard McDermott
Gudrun ..... Lyndsey Marshal
Brynhild ..... Abbie Andrews
Sadhbh ..... Isabella Inchbald
Arvid ..... Clive Hayward
Alf ..... Rupert Holliday-Evans
Hjordis ..... Kat
...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
Zadignose
Sep 21, 2010 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
...more
Yani
Oct 25, 2012 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. 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 haber sido real o no, pero los el
...more
Phillip
Sep 26, 2016 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
...more
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
...more
Miriam
May 31, 2010 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Craziness with Icelandic psychopaths and their endless cycles of lies, theft, murder, and revenge.
Kaila
How many movies could Peter Jackson make this 110 page book into? Probably at least 3. It goes through 5 generations in 2 pages!
Justin Evans
Aug 23, 2012 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?
Svalberd
A thoughtful and inspiring piece of Nordic myths and times. I am still enraptured in the characters and the morals that were subtly put forward in the text. It seems, although the author is unknown, that Iceland was the source for a great deal of Norse lore. At first, I thought this a bit fast-paced and had little character development, but in the beginning it was mostly exploring the genealogy of the people in order to get to the main characters developed later. It did take me a while to read i ...more
John Snow
Mar 22, 2013 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
...more
Mike
Jul 24, 2018 rated it liked it
I have found the prose sagas to be far less engaging than skaldic verse, and this is no exception. Despite being one of the most famous and influential sagas, it pales in comparison to the same variations found in The Poetic Edda and The Nibelungenlied. That being said, there are a few reasons why this is a worthy read: we get a different perspective on events recounted in those other sources, including more details on Brynhild’s outcome. (Her story is just dropped in other versions once Sigur ...more
Linda Isakson
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
Karen
Jan 28, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: medieval
Sibling incest, revenge, love, drama, nonchalant murder of children, more drama, my man is better than your man, repeat.
Thrasymachus
Great deeds result in great misery when they stir up the envy and greed of others.
Gary
Jan 16, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Great, no doubt, but I just haven’t time to get the background.
Joseph Inzirillo
Feb 25, 2017 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.
Rebecca
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
Matthew Colvin
Apr 19, 2014 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
...more
Abi
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
Allison Hurd
Aug 07, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, myth
This story is badass! It seems to be related to the King Arthur legend, and is part that, part torture tutorial, and part boss bitch women tearing things down around them when men try to control them. Beware Icelandic women, they will cut you up and feed you to their suitors should you displease them.

This is another one I'll have to study further. Really amazing scenes that I'd like to think more about, gruesome though they are.
Nick
Sep 11, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Tolkien fans, closet Dungeon and Dragons-type fantasy readers.
This was my first introduction to the grandiose tradition of the Norse Sagas. From what I've read, this book encapsulates the most brutish, gory aspects of the epics. No complaints here. Also, this book may (or may not, depending on whom you align yourself with) be an inspiration for Tolkien's The Hobbit. Fun, quick read.
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