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

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

4 out of 5 (6 ratings)


Based on Viking Age poems, "The Saga of the Volsungs" combines mythology, legend and sheer human drama.

At its heart are the heroic deeds of Sigurd the dragon slayer who acquires magical knowledge from one of Odin's Valkyries.

Yet it is also set in a very human world, incorporating strands from the oral narratives of the fourth and fifth centuries, when Attila the Hun and other warriors fought on the northern frontiers of the Roman Empire.

One of the great books of world literature, the saga is an unforgettable tale of princely jealousy, unrequited love, greed and vengeance.

With its cursed treasure of the Rhine, sword reforged and magic ring of power, it was a major influence for writers including William Morris and J.

R. R. Tolkein and for Wagner's Ring cycle.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 160 pages, glossary, maps
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Literary essays
  • ISBN: 9780140447385



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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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Review by

This is one of my favorite sagas. It has interesting themes, and great characters. I am particularly drawn to Signy, though I can't quite put my finger on why. This translation, however, is not one of my favorites. It doesn't scan as well as the Kaaren Grimstad translation but as the Grimstad book is harder to find, this is not a bad substitution.

Review by

The <i>Saga of the Volsungs</i> was written in the thirteenth century by an unknown Norse author. The story itself, however, is much older and parts are found throughout many Norse stories prior to this version. The story tells of Sigurd the dragonslayer, a man unlike any in the world, and unsurpassed in any way. His familial heritage is recounted, as is his marriage with Gudrun and their children, and after his death, the fates of Gudrun, her brothers, children, and many others including Attila the Hun and Ermanaric, King of the Goths.The value of this saga on literature is enormous. It influenced the German <i>Nibelungenlied</i>, Wagner's <i>Der Ring des Nibelungen</i>, and Tolkien's <i>Lord of the Rings</i> and his recently published <i>The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun</i>, among others. Many aspects of the saga are reminiscent in literature - a ring of power; a broken sword that is reforged to perform a specific task; a group of kings and warriors attempting to pull a sword out of a tree with only one person succeeding; a horse descended from Odin's Sleipnir making it one of the best horses in the world; a dragon guarding a vast amount of gold and wealth.As entertainment, <i>The Saga of the Volsungs</i> is up there, with a wonderful story. Of course, the writing is a bit different than most people are accustomed to, being several centuries old and written much differently than today. While some versions may prove a tad difficult and uninteresting to the casual reader, Jesse Byock does an excellent job making it accessible to the common reader while still staying relatively true to the original.Aside from the entertainment value of the saga, it offers insight into the world of the Norse and Norse literature such as <i>kennings</i>, which replaced a noun with a circumlocution - "battle-sweat" instead of "blood", "sleep of the sword" instead of "death", "bane of wood" replacing "fire", etc. This specific translation of the saga maintains many of the <i>kennings</i> which liven up the saga and aid in its unique style. And, of course, it offers glimpses of Norse mythology as Odin plays many roles in the story, as do the <i>norns</i> and <i>valkyries</i>, as well as magic <i>runes</i> and Norse <i>sorcery</i> and, humorously, a <i>senna</i> - that is, a contest of insults including this zinger:<i>Sinfjotli replied: You probably do not remember clearly now when you were the witch on Varinsey and said that you wanted to marry a man and you chose me for the role of husband...I sired nine wolves on you at Laganess, and I was the father of them all.</i> (As can be surmised, he is speaking to another man)<i>The Saga of the Volsungs</i> is an entertaining read, and at roughly 110 pages is not very time consuming and offers a quick glimpse into what some of the Norse valued and how they perceived kingship, courtship, and war.

Review by
Wave runes shall you makeIf you desire to wardYour sail-steeds on the sound.On the stem shall they be cutAnd on the steering bladeAnd burn them on the oar.No broad breaker will fallNor waves of blue,And you will come safe from the sea. In the Saga of the Volsungs, revenge is the only thing that matters and children are just pawns to be sacrificed without a second thought if it will help you in your quest for vengeance. It's eleven years since I first read it and I remembered quite a lot of what happens, as it's a memorable story taking place over two generations, with the story of twins Signy and Sigmund being followed by that of Sigmund's son, Sigurd the dragon slayer.I read the Penguin Classics edition of this saga. The introduction describing the origins of the saga in conflicts between the Huns, Burgundians and Goths in the fourth and fifth centuries during the migration period, which are replayed on a smaller scale in the saga as conflicts between families rather than tribes. There is also an interesting section about Wagner, and his use of parts of the Saga of the Volsungs in the Ring Cycle.
Review by

Jesse Byock's translation of this is pretty good, as in, clear and readable. Like the other sagas, it's not like a novel: the tone is matter of fact, and for the most unemotional and non-committal. That gets a bit weird to read, sometimes, with abrupt lines like "And he is out of the saga". The story itself is interesting and has obviously been influential (The Lord of the Rings).

Review by

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?

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