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Saga of Volsungs: Norse Folklore Analysis Essay

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Updated: Oct 14th, 2021

Introduction

Saga of Volsungs is one of the most notable masterpieces of Norse folklore literature. This is a legend about the king Sigi and several generations of his descendants. The saga is mainly focused on the lives of the king Volsung, his son Sigmund and daughter Signy. The essence of the saga is however much deeper than the simple biography of several people. It is the reflection of certain processes and phenomena that took place in the Scandinavian society in the epoch depicted in the saga. Moreover, values and ideals of that society are reflected in the Saga of Volsungs. Thus, for example, such phenomena as manhood and the role of masculinity in the society is depicted by the saga, but the special place in it is taken by the family values as viewed by Norse people of those times. This paper will focus exactly on the issues of family and traditions in Hunland as depicted in the Saga of Volsungs.

Main body

To start with, it is necessary to point out that family was a central value for the society of the early medieval period. This can be explained by the fact that human beings lived in tribes and family clans for a long time and considered family to be the basis of the society. Consequently, when the organization of the society turned into a state, it was natural that family became central in it. Love and respect of children towards their parents, brothers and sisters was also one of the basic features of the Hunland society. Families were rather firm institutions in that society with children always ready to fight for their parents and vice versa: “…he recalled his grievances against his maternal uncles, those who had killed his father.” (Jesse L. Byock, p. 36) Even despite the fact that Rerir, Sigi’s son, killed members of his family, his uncles, he did it according to the rules of dignity as far as they betrayed his father. Betrayal was the hardest sin in the family-centered society, and Rerir would have been condemned by his compatriots if had not avenged for his father’s death.

Moreover, the central role of family and respect for parents is proved by the Saga of Volsungs in the situation when Signy had to become a wife of a person whom she did not love and saw for the first time, Siggeir the king of Gautland. Signy did not want to marry this king but the will of her father king Volsung was worth more than her personal likes and meant everything to Signy: “…Signy for her part was unwilling. Even so, she asked her father to make the decision, as he did in other matters that concerned her.” (Jesse L. Byock, p. 38). After this, Signy asked her father to change his will and take her back from the husband whim she did not love, but Volsung answered that respect and dignity were worth more than his will, and Signy agreed understanding that she would never go against her family and do anything that could hurt its interests. Thus, the importance of family and its wealth was the basic value of the Hunland society as depicted in the Saga of Volsungs.

Moreover, another proof of this statement can be found in the Saga of Volsungs. It is the attitude of Signy towards her brothers who were captured by Siggeir after a betrayal that he resorted to during a battle. Signy, although a lawful wife of Siggeir, did not forget her family and felt strong need to defend them by all the means she could. Knowing the hostile attitude of her husband towards her brothers, Signy nevertheless asked him to save their lives: “I want to ask that you not have my brothers killed so quickly, but rather that you have them put in stocks” (Jesse L. Byock, p. 41). Obviously, she did not relieve her brothers from prison but she at least saved their lives for some time and could plan on their saving further. Signy thus proved her love to her family, and her example demonstrated once again that significant role that family played in her society. She did her best to save her brothers and finally managed to save Sigmund who was the only brother alive among ten brothers Signy had.

Conclusion

Thus, it goes without saying that the examples from the Saga of Volsungs prove the paramount importance that the institution of family had in the society of the country of Hunland. The examples of Sigmund, Signy, Rirer and other characters of the saga prove this statement and demonstrate the firmness of the Hunland society which was based on family values and respect to family interests. Love and respect for parents and other family members, respect to the decisions made by the oldest family members and readiness to do everything to help one’s family were all the values that kept the society of Hunland together, and the family was the central core of it.

Works Cited

Jesse L. Byock. The Saga of the Volsungs: The Norse Epic of Sigurd the Dragon Slayer. University of California Press, 2001.

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IvyPanda. 2021. "Saga of Volsungs: Norse Folklore Analysis." October 14, 2021. https://ivypanda.com/essays/saga-of-volsungs-norse-folklore-analysis/.

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IvyPanda. (2021) 'Saga of Volsungs: Norse Folklore Analysis'. 14 October.

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