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The Saga of the Volsungs (Legends from the Ancient North) [Paperback]

Jesse L. Byock
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
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Book Description

7 Nov 2013 0141393688 978-0141393681 Reissue

Part of a new series Legends from the Ancient North, The Saga of the Volsungs is one of the classic books that influenced JRR Tolkien's The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

'They summoned their friends, readied

their horses, and prepared their helmets,

shields, swords, coats of mail'

J.R.R. Tolkien spent much of his life studying, translating and teaching the great epic stories of northern Europe, filled with heroes, dragons, trolls, dwarves and magic. He was hugely influential for his advocacy of Beowulf as a great work of literature and, even if he had never written The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, would be recognised today as a significant figure in the rediscovery of these extraordinary tales.

Legends from the Ancient North brings together from Penguin Classics five of the key works behind Tolkien's fiction.They are startling, brutal, strange pieces of writing, with an elemental power brilliantly preserved in these translations.They plunge the reader into a world of treachery, quests, chivalry, trials of strength.They are the most ancient narratives that exist from northern Europe and bring us as near as we will ever get to the origins of the magical landscape of Middle-earth (Midgard) which Tolkien remade in the 20th century.

Frequently Bought Together

The Saga of the Volsungs (Legends from the Ancient North) + The Elder Edda (Legends from the Ancient North) + The Wanderer: Elegies, Epics, Riddles (Legends from the Ancient North)
Price For All Three: 15.09

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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; Reissue edition (7 Nov 2013)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141393688
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141393681
  • Product Dimensions: 19.6 x 12.7 x 1.3 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 95,008 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Jesse L. Byock (translator) is Professor of Old Norse and Medieval Scandinavian at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he is also a member of the Institute of Archaeology.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Still A Great Read 25 Jan 2014
Amongst others Wagner was inspired by this, as well as J R R Tolkien, who most people are familiar with. The actual saga here is only about novella length, and you have notes, glossary, appendix, etc., as well as a very interesting introduction and some maps.

From the oral tradition this was not recorded in writing until sometime in the 13th Century. It was probably embellished and things changed and or altered by the time this was written down, and so this is all we now have of this enthralling story. I personally love reading the books and stories that J R R Tolkien used for inspiration for his Middle Earth tales, but I know a lot of people just read Tolkien’s books, and do not bother or care about reading the basis for them. When you read ‘The Lord of the Rings’ or ‘The Hobbit’ you are getting a modern story in novel form, whereas stories like this were not presented in the same way, but also this story and the others that Tolkien used are much grittier than what he wrote.

As we follow the Volsungs here we see this family rise to power and renown, with acts of heroism, but at the same time there is always something that falls against them. Fighting with in-laws this book is full of treachery and deceit, with a fair dose of lust, greed, and anger. With so many always looking for revenge this is quite a bloodthirsty tale that has magic, the killing of the serpent Fafnir, untold treasure, and even a bit of incest. Odin also makes appearances every now and then throughout this.

This book will definitely not be something that everyone will want to read, but this story has inspired others with regards to their writing, and in other art forms.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 5.0 out of 5 stars  2 reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great edition of a Wonderful translation of a terrific saga! 6 Jan 2014
By Carl C. Ferre-lang - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
Jesse Byock produces a wonderful prose translation of the Volsungsaga. Great complementary explanatory notes make this an easy and thoroughly enjoyable read. For those who revel in the stories of old, or those who might want to see how Wagner took this myth and compressed it... I would say this story should be on everyone's reading list. Few, if any, of the stories of the north are this easy and yet so rewarding to pick up and read... Also this particular edition... Beautiful. Just beautiful... I might just have to pick up the other "Legends from the ancient North" despite the fact that I have all of the extant texts in other translations...
5.0 out of 5 stars An Inspiration For Wagner and Tolkien 6 Feb 2014
By John D. Cofield - Published on
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
The Saga of the Volsungs is a series of interconnected poems written in thirteenth century Iceland by an anonymous author, telling the tale of the hero Sigurd the Dragon Slayer and his magic ring of power. This handsome edition, part of Penguin's Tales of the Ancient North series, was translated by Jesse L. Byock, who has also provided an informative Introduction and extensive Notes.

Most people will immediately recognize that The Saga of the Volsungs was an inspiration for some of the works of Richard Wagner and J.R.R. Tolkien. But there is more to savor in these poems than just the dragons and heroes, magic rings and fabulous swords, which the names Wagner and Tolkien will bring to mind. Sigurd's tale is a great adventure, and Byock's masterful translation and helpful Notes illuminate it and add even more power and drama. Most of all, Sigurd's adventure depicts the tumultuous and beautiful world of the ancient Norse in all its magnificence, exactly as did Wagner in his greatest operas and Tolkien in his Lord of the Rings and Silmarillion.
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