The Saga of the Volsungs is one of the greatest tales of western storytelling. The unknown Icelandic author who wrote the saga in the thirteenth century based his prose epic on stories found in far older traditions of Norse heroic poetry. Volsunga Saga, as it is often called, recounts the mythic deeds of the dragon slayer, Sigurd the Volsung, and tells of runic knowledge. It is a story of love, betrayal, the vengeance of a barbarian queen, and schemes of Attila the Hun. The saga describes events from the ancient wars among the kings of the Burgundians, the Huns, and the Goths and treats some of the same legends as the Middle High German epic poem, the Nibelungenlied. In both accounts, though in different ways, Sigurd (Siegfried in the German tradition) acquires the Rhinegold and then becomes tragically entangled in a love triangle, involving a supernatural woman. In the saga she is a Valkyrie, one of Odin's warrior-maidens, the ones who choose the slain for Valhalla at the end of battle.

In Scandinavia, in the centuries after the Middle Ages, knowledge of the Sigurd story never died out among the rural population. Full of supernatural elements, including the schemes of one-eyed Odin, a ring of power, and the sword that was reforged, the tale remained alive in oral tradition. In the nineteenth century, as the Volsung story was rediscovered, becoming widely known throughout Europe.


Translated into many languages, Volsunga Saga became a primary source for writers of fantasy and for those interested in oral legends of historical events and the mythic past of northern Europe. The saga deeply influenced William Morris in the nineteenth century and J. R. R. Tolkien in the twentieth. Tolkien, in particular found great inspiration the The Saga of the Volsungs, including the sword that was reforged, rings of power, the dragon on the hoard, and the creature Gollum. So, too, Richard Wagner drew heavily upon the Norse Volsung material in composing the Ring cycle as is discussed elsewhere in the Introduction to this translation.

Among other subjects, the comprehensive Introduction to this translation includes:

  • Representations of the Volsung Story in Norse Art
  • Myths, Heroes, and Social Realities
  • History and Legend: Burgundians, Huns, Goths, and Sigurd the Dragon Slayer
  • A Note on Richard Wagner and the Saga of the Volsungs