Books »Saga of the Volsungs

The Saga of the Volsungs is epic, magical, and dramatic. I read it for the first time years ago in school, but have found it to be a fun one to pick up every few years. I should probably thank my teacher David Warner, because it's a bit unlikely that I would have chosen this book to read on my own. Written by an unknown in the thirteenth century but based on many even older Viking tales, it was rediscovered in the 19th century when it inspired Wagner and his Ring of the Nibelung. It has inspired the Lord of the Rings and is surprisingly readable, once you get into the rhythm of the prose.

There are jealousies, tragedies, love affairs, and vengeful acts among dragon slayers, Valkyries, shape shifters, and powerful rings. But even with all the mythical and supernatural elements, the saga is valuable to historians since much of it can be traced to actual events. The tale survived for centuries through oral story telling but is now available in many translations. The one I have and enjoy is by Jesse L. Byock, a professor at UCLA.

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Posted on October 20, 2008

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