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The Saga of the Volsungs

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Overview

Legends from the Ancient North: Five classics of Norse literature that inspired J. R. R. Tolkien's epic vision in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Legendary fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien spent much of his life studying, translating, and teaching the ancient tales of northern Europe at Oxford and drew on them for his own writing. These epic stories, with their wizards and knights, dragons and trolls, cursed rings and magic swords, are as fascinating today as they were ...

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The Saga of the Volsungs

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Overview

Legends from the Ancient North: Five classics of Norse literature that inspired J. R. R. Tolkien's epic vision in The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings

Legendary fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien spent much of his life studying, translating, and teaching the ancient tales of northern Europe at Oxford and drew on them for his own writing. These epic stories, with their wizards and knights, dragons and trolls, cursed rings and magic swords, are as fascinating today as they were thousands of year ago. Reading them brings us as close as we will ever get to the magical worlds of the Vikings and the origins of their twentieth-century counterpart: Tolkien’s Middle Earth.

Based on Viking Age poems and composed in thirteenth-century Iceland, The Saga of the Volsungs combines mythology, legend, and sheer human drama in telling of the heroic deeds of Sigurd the dragon slayer, who acquires runic knowledge from one of Odin's Valkyries. Yet the saga is set in a very human world, incorporating oral memories of the fourth and fifth centuries, when Attila the Hun and other warriors fought on the northern frontiers of the Roman empire. In his illuminating introduction Jesse L. Byock links the historical Huns, Burgundians, and Goths with the extraordinary events of this Icelandic saga. With its ill-fated Rhinegold, the sword reforged, and the magic ring of power, the saga resembles the Nibelungenlied and has been a primary source for such fantasy writers as J. R. R. Tolkien and for Richard Wagner's Ring cycle.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780141393681
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA)
  • Publication date: 10/29/2013
  • Series: Legends from the Ancient North Series
  • Pages: 160
  • Sales rank: 290,730
  • Product dimensions: 5.00 (w) x 7.70 (h) x 0.50 (d)

Meet the Author

Jesse L. Byock (translator) is Professor of Old Norse and Medieval Scandinavian at the University of California, Los Angeles, where he is also a member of the Institute of Archaeology.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
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Sort by: Showing all of 4 Customer Reviews
  • Posted December 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Vikings behaving badly

    Courage, greed, cowardice, betrayal, and vengeance abound in the Saga of the Volsungs. Its blood-soaked deeds centered around Sigurd the dragon-slayer have fired the imaginations of medieval artists as well as more recent artists and writers such as Ricard Wagner and J. R. R. Tolkien. The first half of the story has many mythical elements, featuring frequent interference from Odin and the slaying of the dragon Fafnir. The second half is a much less supernatural tale of barbaric revenge and counter-revenge. Many of the episodes in the second section may be tied to historical events.

    The storytelling itself is extremely stilted, which is probably just due to the Norse style (an overly formal translation may contribute as well, but since I don't read Norse I couldn't say for sure). In my opinion, poetic renderings, some of which predate this 13th century prose version, are more enjoyable to read, but can be hard to follow if you have not first read the prose version.

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    Posted August 2, 2011

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    Posted February 16, 2009

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