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The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer (Penguin Classics) Paperback – 27 May 1999


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The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer (Penguin Classics) + The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology (Penguin Classics) + The Poetic Edda (Oxford World's Classics)
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Product details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (27 May 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140447385
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140447385
  • Product Dimensions: 13 x 1 x 19.7 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (15 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 49,588 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Review

"This is a book of the highest importance. No one should attempt to teach about Viking society or claim to understand it without being familiar with this chilling and enduring myth." - Eleanor Searle, Past President of the Medieval Academy of America "Byock extends the background to the saga beyond the interest of 'Wagnerites' to the complex relationship between history and legend in the Middle Ages and the social context of the myths and heroes of the saga.... [Byock is] very successful in his adept renderings of Eddic rhythm.... The translation of prose is equally fine." - Judy Quinn, Parergon" --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

About the Author

The Icelandic author of THE SAGA OF THE VOLSUNGS is unknown and based his prose epic on strories found in earlier Norse poetry.

Jesse Bycock is Professor of Icelandic and Old Norse Literature at the University of California and has published work on Medieval Iceland.


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First Sentence
Here we begin by telling of a man who was named Sigi, and it was said that he was the son of Odin.1 Read the first page
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Back Cover
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 42 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 11 May 2002
Format: Paperback
It's rare to find a book that's a good read for readers of all stripes, but this is one of the them. History and saga fiends will love the maps and the way Byock's introduction ties the tale into other historical contexts. Lovers of literature will enjoy the prose and a fantastic episodic narrative that builds one story on top of another into a great epic. It helps that Byock's translation is superb--he catches the rhythm and flow of the original Old Icelandic while crafting a very readable text that isn't dry or overworked as some translations can be. The notes, too, provide a wonderful background that enriches the reader's experience of the saga.
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!
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8 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Peter Reeve VINE VOICE on 3 April 2006
Format: Paperback
This 13th century Icelandic saga of Sigurd the dragon slayer was rediscovered in 19th century Europe and was a prime source for Wagner's Ring cycle, especially the Siegfried part. Elements will also be found in Tolkien. Personally, I came to Norse mythology through The Adventures of Noggin the Nog (Did he ever put an end to Nogbad the Bad?).
It is a neglected tradition, as evidenced by the paucity of translations in print. We commonly talk of the Classical (Greek and Roman) and Judeo-Christian roots of our culture, but greatly underestimate the Norse and Celtic influences. The Volsung saga and the Niebelungenlied are among the best known and influential of the medieval epics and if you enjoy one you will probably enjoy the other. You might start with the Volsungs because theirs is the shorter and more coherent story, even though the more mythical and fantastic.
Byock's translation is very readable, reflecting the sparse, unadorned style of the original. His introduction is excellent, especially the notes on Wagner, in which he traces the influence of this work in the Ring.
The Saga of Ragnar Lodbrok and The Lay of the Raven follow the Volsung saga in the original manuscripts and form a continuous narrative. So why, as the Volsung saga is quite short, are they not published together in one volume? I felt rather short changed. Even so, I heartily recommend this book.
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10 of 12 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 24 April 2001
Format: Paperback
Jesse Byock's translation of the Saga of the Volsungs is not only complete, but elegant. Certainly, this story is an antecedent to The Lord of the Rings, but rather than comparing it with Tolkien's work, it should be taken as a beautiful story, probably from an earlier oral culture. The story is full of all the things we enjoy in the a good story today: love triangles, feuds, heroes, etc. The translation is VERY straightforward and easy to read. Economical in his style, and direct in his approach, Byock's translation is a must have.
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful By T. Bobley on 11 Nov 2006
Format: Paperback
Some things don't change - this is and always has been the stuff stories are made of. In addition to the usual soap-opera material, there are shape-shifters, dragons, sorcerers and gods: the sort of thing we expect to find in modern fantasies. But this isn't a fantasy. It's a mixture of myth, legend and history and it forms part of the foundation that fantasy was eventually built upon, predating the genre by hundreds of year. The Volsungs were a family that traced their ancestry back to the god Odin. They were a bloody-handed collection of 'heroes' who killed not only rivals and enemies, but their own family members. Volsung mothers killed their own children to annoy the children's fathers or to test the children's courage. Obviously, natural selection was going to punish such unnatural behaviour in the long run. In the story, the family suffered as the result of acquiring (stealing) a cursed treasure, but actually, the habit of killing each other faster than reproducing seems to have been the real cause of the family's demise. They were a perfectly charmless lot, but terribly brave. I found it quite an enjoyable read but I mean to try William Morris's translation at some time. His style is more poetic and I felt this translation (although very easy to read), was a little bit too prosaic for one of the great mythical tales of northern Europe.
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An excellent and well-presented account of the settlement of Iceland in a style which is surprisingly modern. I found it a great help in understanding the Icelandic people when I visited there recently.
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