Monday, October 4, 2010

The Saga of the Volsungs

Reviewed by Ingrid

The Saga of the Volsungs (Völsungasaga) is a thirteenth century Icelandic text based on Viking Agepoems and Norse mythology. The author is unknown.

Published: translation published in 1990 by Jesse L. Byock

It's about: Ahem: "The Saga of the Volsungs combines mythology, legend, and sheer human drama," or so claims the back cover of my Penguin edition
of this book. The Saga narrates the many adventures of the Volsung family, including Sigi - who kills his slave and is exiled, Sigmund - who pulls a sword from a tree, and Sigurd, who steals gold from the dragon Fafnir. The saga is purely narrative, containing almost no descriptive details whatsoever. There are many references and even quotes from older stories contained in the Poetic Edda.

I thought: I liked it. It was a fairly quick read, possibly just the right length - not too long to become boring. It was interesting to read about certain characters from Norse mythology that I had heard of before but hadn't known much about. The edition I read (Penguin Classics) included a great introduction, glossary, and notes that I found extremely helpful. I'm not as interested in The Lord of the Rings, which apparently was heavily influenced by the Saga and other Norse texts, though I am more interested in Wagner's opera The Ring of the Nibelung, also influenced by the Saga. Knowing how influential this text is was one of the primary reasons I read it.

Verdict: I think I'm going to say this one is In Between. The story is cool, the history is interesting, but ... I'm just not all that into magic and dragons and capes and all those "magickal" kind of things.

Reykjavik, Iceland

Reading Recommendations: Anyone who is interested in Norse mythology will definitely be more likely to enjoy this book.

Warnings: Swords, chopping people up, incest, women whose lives are based solely around embroidering into tapestries the stories of their male relatives' lives, and other crazy stuff.

Favorite excerpts: "There was a dwarf named Andvari ... he was always in the waterfall called Andvari's Fall. He was in the shape of a pike and caught food there for himself, for there were many fish in the falls."