Saturday, October 10, 2009

Volsungasaga by Anonymous


Holy freakin' crap. Vikings? They were Messed. Up. People. Not kidding even a little. Messed Up. The Volsungasaga is one of the old sagas of Scandinavia, holding some of the central myths of the ancient Pagan beliefs of the Scandinavians, particularly centering around the history of the Volsungs, a royal family, king of the Huns (yes, those Huns. Like Attilla). It includes, most well known to people like you and me, the story of Sigurd and Brunhilde, Brunhilde being the lady with the horned helmet that Bugs Bunny dresses up as in the old 'What's Opera Doc?' cartoon.

But Gravy, I don't know if it was all the snow, or the constant raiding and battling, or what, but these folks imagination? Vivid! If the bible had these stories (and the bible is spicy enough), you wouldn't take kids to church. Incest (at least twice), women heroically murdering their own babies as revenge against their husbands, a man covers his face and fills his mouth with honey, so that when an evil wolf tries to lick the honey out of the inside of his mouth (and yes, what you're thinking about is implied) he can bite down on the she-wolf's tongue and rip it from her maw. Yeah, kind of makes the whole Battle of Jericho thing seem tame, doesn't it? I honestly, after reading this, was a little embarrased for being of English speaking descent - I mean, the best we could do was the rather straightforwrad Beowulf, while our cousins up North were making stories that described their special word for Right-facing snowdrifts as being because that's the best place to hide corpses (and now you know, in case you're ever in need). And Odin? Odin is one scary god, showing up in his slouch hat and one eye, and stuff, all creepy and calm.

Anyway, it's difficult at this point to extract a redeeming social lesson for everybody (my first attempt: if you force your girls to marry men they don't like, they will produce children that come back to murder you). But... holy cow! No wonder the Brits were freaked out when the Vikings showed up! And how the heck did they get from here to Hamlet being the Prince of Denmark? If Hamlet was an OLD style viking, he wouldn't have spent so long worrying about killing people.  Hopefully the upcoming reading of the Poetic Edda sits back a wee bit more...

9 comments:

Amanda said...

This is my favorite review from you in a long time. I can't believe you haven't even mentioned this book at home.

Nymeth said...

What Amanda said - this review is seriously brilliant :D Ah, the Vikings...they were definitely wild. That's actually what I love about Norse mythology. It makes those crazy, murderous Greek gods look tame in comparison.

Jason Gignac said...

Amanda - Glad you enjoyed it :).

Ms Nymeth - Like I said, I have the Poetic Edda on my list to read sometime, now, and am looking forward to it. I know Mr. Gaiman writes a number of Norse-inspired storeis too, doesn't he?

Julie said...

Viking stories scare me. :O

Julie said...

Oh, but I did like your review. Yes, brilliant. I was also surprised by how short it was. :)

Heather J. said...

Ok, so, yes, I am intrigued! But what I want to know, before I decide to read this, was is is "readable"? I mean, will I have to slog through lots of difficult language, or it is relatively straight forward? Because I SERIOUSLY want to read this!

Jason Gignac said...

Ms Heather - Well, readability is always a bit of a personal measurement, but yes, I thought it was very readable. There ARE a number of very similar names - names that sound more similar, probably to those of us without much experience with old Norse (Siegmund, Siegert, Siegfreud, etc). But, the story moves along nicely, and was much more involving than I thought it would be. There is also a fairly good recording of it on Librivox, and it DOES come across as something that is best read aloud.

Heather J. said...

Ok, sounds good to me! I've just found it online and will be reading it for the Really Old Classics challenge - thanks so much for the recommendation!

Jason Gignac said...

My pleasure, can't wait to see what you think :)