Posted by: mattcolvin | April 19, 2014

First Time Reading the Saga of the Volsungs

Tonight I started reading the Saga of the Volsungs aloud to Ezekiel and Sora. It is my first time reading this classic. I cannot believe I have never experienced it before now. This is powerful myth, and Jesse Byock’s understated prose translationn is a great way of drinking that myth straight: there are no frills to get in the way; the stories strike the audience more forcefully in this naked state. I can see why C.S. Lewis became addicted to them.

We’re only 1/3 of the way through, but already there are some unforgettable images: the Volsung brothers being eaten by the she-wolf night after night; Sigmund escaping the same fate when Signy coats his face with honey and he bites the wolf’s tongue off; the sword that Odin(?) puts in the tree Barnstock, which only Sigmund can remove — an episode that combines elements of the Arthurian Excalibur story with Homer’s contest to string the bow of Odysseus.

The character of Signy is awe-inspiring. She is like Jocasta, Medea, Rizpah, Antigone, Electra, Maeve, and Dierdre all rolled into one. Her life was absolutely hellish, and she must have been a woman of iron to tame the inner demons that came with all the traumatic and terrible things she both saw and committed: witnessing her father’s murder by her husband, her brothers’ deaths by the she-wolf, being wife to the murderer for long years, cold-heartedly killing her sons by that husband, committing incest with her one surviving brother and giving birth to a son trained to take vengeance on his unwitting stepfather. But all the emotional anguish of such a life is only implied, not described, by the Saga. All it tells is the events. Truly Signy’s death — walking of her own will into the burning house of her hated husband — is worthy of her.

I can’t wait to read the rest.




  1. Ooooh. Sorry, I have nothing more intelligent to say.

  2. I really enjoyed these sagas to you should try ‘The Edda’ by Snorry Sturloson ( that my be spelt wrong sorry ) It just as fascinating.

    • Yes, our family has read the Prose Edda and some retellings of it. The Volsung Saga is new to us.

  3. You’ve inspired me to take it up – a “Blood & Thunder” tale indeed. BTW, my most treasured memories include those many evenings spent reading aloud from a book with my husband and children by our side as you with your family. How blessed we are by such simple pleasures! Praise be to God!

    “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of lights with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change” (James 1:17 ESV).

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