Tuesday, February 23, 2010

The Saga Of The Volsungs

The last couple of days I've spent rereading The Saga of the Volsungs, translated by Jesse L. Byock. It's an edition I picked up for my class on Tolkien in college way back in 2003. I've really enjoyed reading it-- a lot more this time than the first! There's something about reading for oneself, rather than for an assignment that makes the experience much more educational.

I thought today I'd share some words of wisdom, gleaned from the Saga. Brynhild especially has some very interesting things to say when considered in a more modern context. There's a whole chapter devoted to her wise counsel to Sigurd, in fact.

Some of my favorites:

Don't pick fights with mobs.
Don't lose sleep over random women met at parties, and certainly don't have affairs with strange women.
Definitely don't argue with drunks! At best it's futile, and at worst it's deadly.
Don't make promises you can't keep, or that you have no intention of keeping.
Don't provoke your in-laws, if at all possible stay on their good side.
You can't trust any man if you're responsible for the death of his family.
 And finally:
Never trust a woman to keep her promises.
I'm honestly not sure if I should be offended by that one or not. Most of Brynhild's advice seems to involve women at feasts, however, and I don't think any person, woman or man, should be taken at their word while under the influence. Brynhild herself is certainly an honorable woman and very straightforward in her dealings with Sigurd.

Sigurd's wisdom is less applicable--at least as far as I've read. He doesn't really engage in a lot of conversation, though he seems blown away by the advice he receives from Brynhild, as mentioned above. But there's one line that stuck out, especially.

Sigurd says:
No weapon is greater than courage.
All of this is paraphrased, of course. The language used in the Saga is very formal, even after translation. But the sentiments are there!

When I read any legend, any myth, I can't help but consider what might be the best way to make these stories accessible to people today. I guess I just like the challenge. For those of  you familiar with the Saga of the Volsungs, what do you think is the best modern analogue for Sigurd? Frat boy at an Ivy league university? (He was raised in a court of kings, given every advantage in life before he made his way into the world.) Or, would Sigurd be an athlete? Perhaps a rugby player? What do you think the modern equivalent to dragon slaying is?

Welcome to all the new followers, and thanks to everyone who stopped by to visit and read my Helen excerpt for the Whoops!blogfest!


  1. Hehe, I read that too because of Tolkein...nice advice you found in there:-)

  2. It just makes me laugh, because the chapter is "Brynhild's Wise Counsel" and it's mostly common sense stuff, but Sigurd is like "OMG YOU ARE AMAZING!!!!!!11!!!"

    It kind of makes me think less of him. haha.

  3. No weapon is greater than courage - I really like that! Hey, I'm with you. I don't think you should take anyone at their word when under the influence. Too funny.

  4. Such wisdom! (though perhaps not always applicable, at least not on a literary sense...unless, well, I actually came across a mob of sorts. Ha!) Love: "No weapon is greater than courage." So profound.

    And I love that you took a Tolkien class. How very cool.

    And please, keep bringing mythology to the masses. You do a beautiful job of it!

  5. Oh, I love quotes about courage! It takes so much courage to be a writer, I think, and I am sadly lacking! lol

  6. Hmm, some tough questions--modernizing valor culture. Modern dragons? Perhaps a well-connected, corrupt politician than has his constituency under his thumb?

    And completely off-topic...When you get a moment, could you pop by my blog and let me know where you heard about the Whoops! Blogfest? I'd promised a prize to my best shout-out helper, but I can't figure out who to thank. Gracias!

  7. How did I miss this post? I've never read this, but the lessons are fun.

    Courage is a good weapon- it surely beats a sword sometimes!

    Oh, and I had to leave you an award on my blog. :)

  8. Great post, Amalia. I, too, like the quotation on courage. I think there are a lot of modern day dragons. And keeping with the subject of courage, one of the biggest is is our own personal fear - regardless of cause. Fear traps us and keeps us from accomplishing everything of which we're capable. That's one mighty big dragon.

  9. I have several children of marriagable age (one is married actually) and I agree new daughters need to keep on my good side. You never know what I might write about them . .

    The book sounds interesting; but was it hard to read?

    Awesome quotes.


  10. Donna-- the translation I have is REALLY readable. It isn't difficult at all. Some translations might not be as easy though.

    Thanks for the comments, everyone!
    I'm glad you all liked this post!


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