A clear and no doubt accurate version, but the original is primarily a schedule of a large number of characters and events across a long timescale without the storytelling elements which would bring things to life.
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. In the old oral tradition things became enmeshed, both legend and history, giving us tales that remind us that nothing is ever sweetness and light, and that we are all as fallible as each other. If you read the sagas then this is a book that you will want, and to remind others, that just because this isn’t the latest fantasy or historical novel doesn’t mean that this isn’t still a great read.
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