The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer (Penguin Classics) New Ed Edition, Kindle Edition
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- Length: 164 pages
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Top Customer Reviews
This saga is the one to start with. It's a fun saga--with lots of action, and also one of the most important stories in western literature, a Viking Age epic of the hero Sigurd and his wild Volsung kinsmen. Along the way, the famous Attila the Hun and the Gothic horsemen of the steppes enter the story along with others of their ilk.
The Saga of the Volsungs is the core basis of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings. Tolkien was a professor of Old English and taught Old Norse. In his creative way, he mined the Volsung story for the essential elements of his trilogy. If you want to understand Tolkien as well as Scandinavian myth and legend, then this saga is the best place to get started. The sword that was reforged, the ring of power and its connection with water, the Gandalf character, the origin of the Gollum and Aragorn, elves, dwarves, the riders of Rohan and much more all step off the pages of The Saga of the Volsungs.
I heartily recommend Jesse Byock's translation of The Saga of the Volsungs for new and old readers of the sagas, and of course for the Tolkien fans out there!
First, this is an interesting adventure/ set of adventures of ppl of long ago. Fun to read. The first half is mythical and has magical and religious elements (of pre-christian viking religion) with queer beasts, magical talismans and visiting gods. The second half is semi-historical with ppl who really lived in real places, and others who are speculated to be real ppl but their names while similar are different and so they may be fictional. However there is still some magic, and the ppl are often coexisting with other ppl from different eras, and so not really historical.)
Second, these tales show us (to some extent) how the ppl of old lived and thought and gives us a piece of our pre-Christian heritage. pretty much any citizen of UK and most of US are going to be related to the vikings). Maybe you don't need that history, but our culture is so awash in Roman and Greek culture, philosophy and myth (even tho we don't grow up on those writings as much as the generations up to 50 yrs ago did, so much language, expressions etc stem from there), not to mention the weight of Christian culture and thinking (nothing wrong with it, but again, it's not stories of N Euro ppl), that we have really forgotten a part of our heritage. It's really a big blank space.
Third, these old norse stories in addition to being an exciting adventure, have their share of wisdom about life in them as much as any of the old stories of the Gr/Roman/ Christian ones do.
I haven't read any other translation, and can't read the original, so I can't comment on the translation, but it reads well and clearly with easy to find notes that clarify or enlarge on the story/text. There are good essays/ appendices explaining history, culture, other works, as well as the family trees of the characters.
Altogether a good book.
As with all classics be language and flow is different than you are used to in more modern tales but this does not detract from a good story
One thing I particularly liked about this was that it was not littered with notes to help me understand. I often find such notes obtrusive and distracting
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