The Story of the Volsungs is an epic work translated by William Morris, numbering over 10,000 lines and notable for inspiring the high fantasy literature of J. R. R. Tolkien and other famous authors.
In his lifetime, Morris was praised by contemporaries for this poem, which is heavily inspired by the existing myths and legends of Nibelungenlied and the Volsungs, which date to the Middle Ages. The warrior society these tales depict are thought to have a reasonable measure of grounding in the reality of Nordic life as it was during antiquity; a martial culture, where strength and iron playing their pivotal part.
We are introduced to the legend with a wedding; King Volsung's daughter Signy marries Siggeir, king of the Goths. However the God Odin, disguised as an elderly man of benign appearance, enters the ceremony and drives a blade into a tree trunk. Inviting everyone in the room to draw their swords in response, it is to the shock of those attending the ceremony that only Sigmund, a young and otherwise undistinguished man, is able to do so.
Morris spent several years working on his telling of the Volsung sagas, balancing his own sense of literary greatness with the plotting in the source materials of Nordic and Scandinavian folklore. The result is an excellent story, lauded by scholars of folklore and English literature alike in the years following its publication. Today, The Story of the Volsungs continues to be widely read and enjoyed. This edition includes the appendices, which contain lengthy excerpts of the Poetic Edda.