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The Story of the Volsungs: The Volsunga Saga

Originally written in Icelandic in the 13th century AD by an anonymous author, The Story of The Volsungs is a legendary saga based on Norse mythology. The epic describes the legendary history and heroic feats of several generations of mythic Viking families and derives from many sources, including preexisting Edda, or heroic poems, Norse legends, historical events, and orally transmitted folklore. The saga is imbued throughout with themes of power, jealousy, love, vengeance, and fear.
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Publisher's Summary

Originally written in Icelandic in the 13th century AD by an anonymous author, The Story of The Volsungs is a legendary saga based on Norse mythology. The epic describes the legendary history and heroic feats of several generations of mythic Viking families and derives from many sources, including preexisting Edda, or heroic poems, Norse legends, historical events, and orally transmitted folklore. The saga is imbued throughout with themes of power, jealousy, love, vengeance, and fear. Often considered a critical influence on such later works as Richard Wagner's Ring Cycle and J. R. R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings trilogy, The Story of the Volsungs is a powerful epic that continues to resonate for modern listeners. This edition---which includes excerpts from the Poetic Eddas, one of the sources of The Story of the Volsungs---is the translation by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson.

Public Domain (P)2011 Tantor

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There are no listener reviews for this title yet.

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  • Ingwe
    Washington, DC, United States
    12/03/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Wonderful Journey"
    Any additional comments?

    A wonderful hero's journey--Sigurd the dragonslayer is probably one of the best known heroes in Norse mythology. This saga does not disappoint in terms of its exploration not only of societal mores, but also of the classic heroic quest told episodically, each building on the other. Much has been made of the epic's influences on Wagner and Tolkien--yes, it's that good!

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Jefferson
    Jonan-ku, Fukuoka-shi, Japan
    28/03/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Passionate, Poetic, Bloody, Heroic, & Tragic Saga"

    The Story of the Volsungs is a classic Icelandic saga, written in the 13th century from much older oral fragments of songs. Eirikr Magnusson and William Morris??? 1888 translation of the saga is fast-paced, coherent, heroic, tragic, and darkly beautiful. It is mostly prose, but includes many passages of poetry or songs. It influenced H. Rider Haggard???s The Saga of Eric Brighteyes, J. R. R. Tolkien???s oeuvre (especially the Silmarillion), and Poul Anderson???s The Broken Sword. If you like such tragic fantastic adventure fiction, if you are interested in Norsemen (Vikings!), or if you enjoy reading epics for their insights into human nature and their windows into different cultures, you should listen to this audiobook.

    It begins with a useful 48-minute introduction by H. Halliday Sparling about the historical, religious, political, and cultural context of the Norsemen and of their sagas, which is followed by an 8-minute preface by Magnusson and Morris about their translation.

    The saga depicts the interrelated fates of two great Norse families, the Volsungs and the Guikings. From the opening sequence, in which Sigi, grandfather of Volsung, kills a thrall who outperforms him in hunting and then hides his body in a snowdrift, the people in the saga are prey to overwhelming ambition, pride, envy, love, and hate. So there are plenty of battles, with kings killing kings and heroes dealing death till their arms are ???red with blood, even to the shoulders,??? and murders, brothers killing brothers, sons fathers, and mothers children, with poison, sword, or fire. The Norns have already decided the people???s dooms.

    There are also fantastic elements aplenty: men change into wolves, nightmares reveal disastrous futures, magic potions make men forget, magical swords are re-forged, Odin interferes with advice, boon, or doom, and so on. There are many great scenes, like Sigurd talking with a dragon about its cursed treasure or finding the sleep-spelled shield-maiden, Brynhild, ???clad in a byrny as closely set on her as though it had grown to her flesh.??? The characters are compelling because they???re so heroic and flawed. Any character might be loathsome one moment and admirable the next, or vice versa.

    The saga is not an easy listen, because many characters??? names sound similar and because of the archaic Malory-esque language used by Morris to evoke a timeless and heroic age (so the free online text might be helpful). But there is a dark, spare, grand, and beautiful poetry in his translation, and reader Antony Ferguson treats the text with restraint and fluency, subtly highlighting its terse turns and beautiful flights and rich alliteration, as in the following excerpt:

    "So Regin makes a sword, and gives it into Sigurd???s hands. He took the sword, and said???'Behold thy smithying, Regin!' and therewith smote it into the anvil, and the sword brake; so he cast down the brand, and bade him forge a better."

    I am very glad to have listened to this saga.

    7 of 7 people found this review helpful
  • Jefferson
    Fukuoka, Japan
    28/03/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Passionate, Poetic, Bloody, Heroic, & Tragic Saga"

    The Story of the Volsungs is a classic Icelandic saga, written in the 13th century from much older oral fragments of songs. Eirikr Magnusson and William Morris’ 1888 translation of the saga is fast-paced, coherent, heroic, tragic, and darkly beautiful. It is mostly prose, but includes many passages of poetry or songs. It influenced H. Rider Haggard’s The Saga of Eric Brighteyes, J. R. R. Tolkien’s oeuvre (especially the Silmarillion), and Poul Anderson’s The Broken Sword. If you like such tragic fantastic adventure fiction, if you are interested in Norsemen (Vikings!), or if you enjoy reading epics for their insights into human nature and their windows into different cultures, you should listen to this audiobook.

    It begins with a useful 48-minute introduction by H. Halliday Sparling about the historical, religious, political, and cultural context of the Norsemen and of their sagas, which is followed by an 8-minute preface by Magnusson and Morris about their translation.

    The saga depicts the interrelated fates of two great Norse families, the Volsungs and the Guikings. From the opening sequence, in which Sigi, grandfather of Volsung, kills a thrall who outperforms him in hunting and then hides his body in a snowdrift, the people in the saga are prey to overwhelming ambition, pride, envy, love, and hate. So there are plenty of battles, with kings killing kings and heroes dealing death till their arms are “red with blood, even to the shoulders,” and murders, brothers killing brothers, sons fathers, and mothers children, with poison, sword, or fire. The Norns have already decided the people’s dooms.

    There are also fantastic elements aplenty: men change into wolves, nightmares reveal disastrous futures, magic potions make men forget, magical swords are re-forged, Odin interferes with advice, boon, or doom, and so on. There are many great scenes, like Sigurd talking with a dragon about its cursed treasure or finding the sleep-spelled shield-maiden, Brynhild, “clad in a byrny as closely set on her as though it had grown to her flesh.” The characters are compelling because they’re so heroic and flawed. Any character might be loathsome one moment and admirable the next, or vice versa.

    The saga is not an easy listen, because many characters’ names sound similar and because of the archaic Malory-esque language used by Morris to evoke a timeless and heroic age (so the free online text might be helpful). But there is a dark, spare, grand, and beautiful poetry in his translation, and reader Antony Ferguson treats the text with restraint and fluency, subtly highlighting its terse turns and beautiful flights and rich alliteration, as in the following excerpt:

    "So Regin makes a sword, and gives it into Sigurd’s hands. He took the sword, and said—'Behold thy smithying, Regin!' and therewith smote it into the anvil, and the sword brake; so he cast down the brand, and bade him forge a better."

    I am very glad to have listened to this saga.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Paul Z.
    Wixom, MI
    27/12/11
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Great Book"

    This is the 1888 translation by William Morris and Eirikr Magnusson. The first 48 minutes of the audio book are an essay, by H. Halliday Sparling, putting the work in its contextual and literary perspective, followed by an 8 minute translators’ preface. You could skip this part(the first two tracks) if you like, but I felt they were a great benefit, not a hindrance. After that you get a solid reading of The Volsunga Saga. Remember this is a 13th century work, not a 21st century story of high fiction. You get a lot of names and short stories, not a long flowing narrative. It is a great resource for lovers of the early literature and the cultures it deals with.

    3 of 3 people found this review helpful
  • Laura
    Sherman Oaks, CA, United States
    24/02/12
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "A Great Glimpse into Early Scandinavian Culture"
    What was one of the most memorable moments of The Story of the Volsungs?

    This saga is mythic - a fairy tale - but brutal as the greatest fairy tales are. In one tale, as a mother prepares to murder her children, they advise her that such a plan, although horrendous, is a parent's right.


    What about Antony Ferguson’s performance did you like?

    His different voices for the male and female characters really made the drama come alive.


    Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

    Brunhilda's having second thoughts about rejecting Sigurd. This woman of great wisdom lapsed into a jealous hag - timeless!


    Any additional comments?

    In the preface, the author states, to my surprise, that never before has this Icelandic saga been translated into English. All English-speaking readers should rejoice that the author has rectified this and so very eloquently.

    2 of 2 people found this review helpful
  • Sara Freeman
    Poulsbo, WA United States
    06/04/13
    Overall
    Performance
    Story
    "Story of the Volsungs"

    The Saga of the Volsungs is one of my absolute favorite stories and although this is not my favorite translation, there is a definite poetry to it that's lovely to listen to. Anthony Ferguson does a marvelous job with the epic tone of the work.

    I have only one somewhat negative comment. The translator's notes (though strangely, not all of them) are inserted into the reading wherever the footnotes occur, sometimes in the middle of a sentence, with no indication that, suddenly, we're hearing a note. While I have no doubt that these notes are useful for listeners who aren't familiar with either the vocabulary used in the story or with Nordic mythology, I found this method of including them very jarring.

    1 of 1 people found this review helpful
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