Sigurd the Volsung Review

Matthew Sterenberg explains: “In June 1942 Time and Tide reported that the Nazi party had chosen Hagen over Siegfried as their national hero … Lewis observed that the Nazis’ attempted appropriation of Norse mythology was part of a no less ridiculous attempt to appropriate ‘the Nordic’ as a whole: ‘What business have people who call might right to say they are worshippers of Odin? The whole point about Norse religion was that it alone of all mythologies told men to serve gods who were admittedly fighting with their backs to the wall and would certainly be defeated in the end.’ Lewis’s friend and colleague J.R.R. Tolkien was of a similar mind about the Nazi appropriation of Nordic mythology…he took scholarly offense at the way Hitler and his followers were distorting it…His irritation stemmed from his conception of myth’s proper function, a conception that Lewis largely shared. Both believed that myth had a unique ability to communicate moral and religious truth that distinguished it from any other form of discourse. This explains their reaction to the Nazi use of myth: Hitler’s abuse of myth to disseminate blatant falsehood was, in the eyes of Lewis and Tolkien, a perversion of myth’s true function.” –Matthew Sterenberg, “The Mythical Mode of Imagination: J.R.R. Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, and the Epistemology of Myth,” Mythic Thinking in Twentieth Century Britain, 2016, p 71. Based on your reading of Sigurd the Volsung, discuss what heroic values Sigurd most represents for the specific sociopolitical context he is situated in. How specific are those values to his society and culture? Do you think the heroic values associated with him also reflect expectations associated with social class and gender in his society? If myth has “a unique ability to communicate moral and religious truth”, then what is the moral and religious truth that Sigurd represents for his society?

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