In his teaching career Tolkien encouraged numerous female pupils in their studies and careers in medieval philology, which was a mostly male dominated field at that time One of his most notable female pupils was Ursula Dronke, who revolutionised Eddic studies in pretty much the same way that Tolkien did with Beowulf Another of Tolkien's lesser known students was Stella Mills, who produced this English translation of Hrolf Kraki's Saga under his and Gordon's guidance in 1933 The influence of the saga on Tolkien's own writings can easily be seen in the character of Beorn from the Hobbit, who is strikingly similar to Bodvar Bjarki.The book as long been out of print and secondhand copies have demanded big money on online sites So Nodens Books have decided to reissue a hardcover reproduction of the original volume While Goodreads andonly list a paperback edition, the hardcover is available from Lulu.com at a very reasonable price.The book starts with a short forward by Priscilla Tolkien which explains the relationship between Mills and the Tolkien family There's also a short introduction to the saga by E.V Gordon The translation of the saga is good but the language aims at aarchaic feel than the newer versions by Bryant Bachman and the penguin classics version of Jesse Byock The style of this version isreminiscent of Margaret Schlauch's translations of the Volsung Saga and Ragnar Saga The front page of the book also contains Mills' original dedication of the book to Tolkien and Gordon.The saga itself covers the early history of the legendary Danish kings, which in a much altered form tells of the same Scylding dynasty that features heavily in the Old English Beowulf Unlike Beowulf, which focuses on Hrothgar, this version mainly deals with his nephew Hrothulf and the coming together of his famous champions at the legendary Danish hall at Lejre Then the saga progresses into their confrontation and escape from king Aðils of Sweden, before moving onto Hrólf's last battle and death at the hands of his brotherinlaw Hjörvard.This is certainly a book that will appeal to the Tolkien die hards but for people wishing to explore the sagain depth and its relationship to beowulf, they will be better served by Byock's translation and reading the essays and other parallel material translated in Beowulf and Lejre by John Niles I must admit, I'm not a huge Tolkien fan but I do love anything to do with the Scylding legends and another copy of Hrolf's saga is just an excuse for me to read it again. (This is a review of Jesse L Byock's translation in Penguin Classics, and if we can talk of spoilers in a legend, here are lots of spoilers.)The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki is a legendary tale and one of the greatest Old Icelandic legendary sagas Hrolf Kraki, king in ancient Denmark, was not as many of the other legendary heroes; he was among the quiet and mild rulers, which, of course, didn’t prevent him from taking action and revenge when required He is famous for having sowed pieces of gold on the Fyri’s Plane (in Sweden) to distract King Adils and his warriors Hrolf was fleeing after having regained the gold Adils stole when he killed Helgi, Hrolf’s father Hrolf also threw a gold ring in front of the pursuing king When King Adils stopped to acquire the ring, Hrolf said that now “I have made the greatest of the Swedes stoop like a swine.” His most glories moment came when Adils bent forward to fetch the ring and Hrolf sliced off both his buttocks “right down to the bone.”Hrolf was the result of an incestuous relation His father, King Helgi, was also his grandfather It started when Helgi met Olof, a powerful Saxon warrior queen who wore mail and weapons Olof had no intention of marrying, and when Helgi wanted to force her, she tricked and humiliated the king, who wreaked a cruel vengeance by repeatedly raping her As a result, Olof gets pregnant and gives birth to the girl Yrsa, who grows up in poverty not knowing her parents Queen Olof tells nothing to Helgi, who later, on a raid to Saxland, captures Yrsa, falls in love with her, marries her, and gets a son with her.When Queen Olof learns that King Helgi’s and Yrsa’s marriage is a happy one, she travels to Denmark and tells Yrsa that she is her mother and that Helgi, her husband, is her father Yrsa feels forced to leave Helgi and returns to Saxland with her mother, who marries her to the Adils, the Swedish king When Helgi returns from his Viking raids and hears what has happened, he mourns his loss, mates with an elfwoman and gets Skuld, a girl who from an early age shows a vicious temperament After some time, however, Helgi prepares a voyage to Uppsala to retrieve Yrsa King Adils receives Helgi in honour, but deceives and kills him and takes all his gold.Thus, young Hrolf, Helgi’s son, becomes king in Denmark In his time, Hrolf is the greatest of the Scandinavian kings, so powerful he can live in relative peace The only one he is forced to subdue is his brotherinlaw, Hjorvard, who is married to Skuld, Hrolf’s elfish halfsister.In the saga of Hrolf and his family, women play an important part; their doings set off the action and their relations to the male heroes bind the tale together Most of the tragedies in Hrolf’s family are the results of characters living out their problematic sexual desires.Despite the focus on Hrolf’s family, in large parts of the saga Hrolf is overshadowed by the feats of two of his champions: Svipdag and Bodvar Bjarki Twined into the action, Svipdag and Bodvar have their own sagas within the saga Both the champions have supernatural powers, as do several of the other characters, most notably King Adils and Skuld The gods too, especially Odin, both helps and works against the characters All in all, The Saga of King Hrolf Kraki is an exceptionally rich in Old Norse magic.Bodvar Bjarki, the champion, is the Scandinavian equivalent of Beowulf, the Old English hero They both have bearlike qualities and both fight and kill threatening monsters The final battle between King Hrolf and Hjorvard, his brotherinlaw, was in fact a fight between Bodvar and Skuld and their supernatural powers During the fight, Bodvar went into a trance, changed shape and fought like a bear on which no weapons would bite Skuld, skilful in magic and sorcery, fashioned a spell of high potency Her spells, however, only gained full effect after one of Hrolf’s retainers woke Bodvar up from his trance and the bear disappeared from the battlefield From then on, the battleluck changed, and Hrolf and his retainers had to fight draugar or living dead: fallen enemies that kept on fighting Hrolf and all of his champions were all killed in the battle, and Skuld seized the power in Denmark But her rule was short One of Bodvar’s brothers took revenge, killed Skuld, and Hrolf’s daughters became rulers of Denmark.Jesse L Byock’s translation is excellent, and the book, published in Penguin Classics, is equipped with informative endnotes, maps, a glossary of proper names, and a very instructive introduction These extras are very helpful and make the book a memorable read. IntroductionMapNote on the TranslationThe Saga of King Hrolf KrakiNotesGenealogical TablesEquivalent Characters in Old Norse, Old English and Latin Accounts of King Hrolf KrakiGlossary of Proper Names Hrolf Kraki’s Saga has been one that I’ve loved for a long time, though this is my first time reading the actual Icelandic saga itself My first introduction to the tale of the legendary Danish king was in the fantasy novelisation done by Poul Anderson, a version which I still love to this day and that is undoubtedly my favourite retelling The saga itself is classed as a ‘fornaldarsaga’ or legendary saga These sagas differ from the perhapswell know family sagas in that they tend to take place in the distant past long before the discovery and settlement of Iceland and often includemythological or magical elements The story itself is very Arthurian (or perhaps the story of Arthur is very Hrolfian) and revolves around the rise and ultimate tragic fall of the legendary King Hrolf Kraki As with almost all sagas we begin at least a generation before the main events and follow the adventures of Hrolf’s (and other characters’) forebears, witnessing the ways in which their actions and decisions will help lead to the fated conclusion woven by the Norns Betrayal, slaughter, and incest characterize this section as Hrolf’s father Helgi and uncle Hroar attempt to regain the kingdom wrongfully taken from them by their own uncle Frodi and they become embroiled in the usual complications of saga life Hrolf eventually succeeds his father as the King of Denmark and ushers in a golden age of prosperity and valour, subjugating nearly all of the northern kings under his benevolent (though unyielding) rule Hrolf himself comes into the action almost offstage and (again like Arthur) is often something of a background figure in his own saga As with Arthur one of the things that makes Hrolf’s kingdom such an exceptional one is the presence of a great number of peerless warriors that flock to his banner as champions Amongst these are Svipdag, the Odinic son of a freeholder; Bodvar Bjarki, the magically touched warrior without equal who sharesthan a few similarities with Tolkien’s Bjorn the skinchanger; and Hjalti the Magnanimous, an intriguing figure who literally encompasses the trope “from zero to hero” when he is taken under Bjarki’s wing.The saga narrative is not surprisingly somewhat episodic in makeup as each of these heroes has their tale told and we witness both their origins and the paths that lead them to Hrolf’s royal seat at Hleidargard These are all great stories that have everything you could want from a mythical saga: magic and prophecy, battles with berserkers and trolls, the appearance of gods in disguise, and the preeminence of honour and valour Once Hrolf’s ‘round table’ has been filled, however, we know that the end is not far away no matter how great his current victories The tragic mistakes made by his forebears, and his own unwitting insult to Odin, will lead Hrolf to the last glorious battle in which he will die (once , like Arthur, due to the machinations of a close relative), though his memory will remain as a bright remembrance amongst his people.This saga is very enjoyable, and is a relatively short read If you’re at all interested in Norse mythology, sagas in general, or the roots of some of modern fantasy’s tropes and ideas then this is a great place to start It seems obvious that various elements of the story had a direct influence on Tolkien and the saga also shares close connections in both story and characters with other medieval works, chief amongst them the poems Beowulf and Widsith The edition I read, translated and edited by Jesse Byock, has some excellent prefatory material on the Skjoldung dynasty (of which Hrolf was a part), Berserkers, and the Saga’s relationship to other medieval sources, as well as notes and genealogies than can help fill in any blanks in your knowledge of the world of the sagas That being said I’d still highly recommend reading Poul Andersons’ version as well if you want something that stays true to all of the elements of the tale, but fleshes out many of the characters and storylines in very satisfying ways. Composed in medieval Iceland, Hrolf's Saga is one of the greatest of all mythiclegendary sagas, relating halffantastical events that were said to have occurred in fifthcentury Denmark It tells of the exploits of King Hrolf and of his famous champions, including Bodvar Bjarki, the 'bearwarrior': a powerful figure whose might and bearlike nature are inspired by the same legendary heritage as Beowulf Depicting a world of wizards, sorceresses and 'berserker' fightersoriginally members of a cult of Odinthis is a compelling tale of ancient magic A work of timeless power and beauty, it offers both a treasury of Icelandic prose and a masterful gathering of epic, cultic memory, traditional folk tale and myths from the Viking age and far earlier Another fun saga, this one (like the Volsungs saga) is a 'legendary saga', it's not about Iceland or medieval personages Instead it's about King Hrolf Kraki and other mythic germanic figures, many of the characters in this saga either appear or are mentioned in Beowulf Their legends and myths being of the same origin, it's something to be expected This one has quite a few characters that receive a sort of 'character development', there is a back story for some of Hrolf Kraki's warriors, specially for the one most similar to Beowulf, Bodvar Bjarki, who also is a werebear of course The last few chapters were a blast, Hrolf Kraki and his twelve warriors wrecking havoc and avenging themselves. So, what do you do when the odds are against you? You set fire to your enemy, of course.This is an absolutely hilarious Saga! There are no grand descriptions of events or very detailed character development, yet the action is continuous and never looses it's momentum Despite focusing on the adventures of the manliest of men (tm), the women are superb: they raise armies and defend their kin; it was the most pleasant change to read about women who protected their agency and acted in accordance to their convictions, instead of being political pawns delegated to scheming and conniving There is also a strong element of the supernatural as well as a whole lot of blood, chopped buttocks, and lost eyes and limbs All in all it was tremendous fun. This saga is a brief but cracklin' good tale The usual gory battles and heroism are here, as well as some outlandish magical mischief and satisfyingly wicked sorcery The portion dealing with Queen Bera and her transformed lover, Bjorn, has ancient underpinnings in the very early bear cults of the northern peoples I thought Bera's three sons with their supernatural and animalistic attributes were fascinating characters and King Hrolf was suitably badass Also, if you've read Beowulf, you'll find some interesting shared elements between the two stories. Along with Völsunga Saga this is probably my favourite saga! It's so much easier to read than most others that I've read The narrative isfocussed and there is a little less emphasis on genealogy Also, hardly any characters with the same name, so I could actually keep the characters apart =D If you're interested in reading Norse sagas this might be a good place to start! As it is common in medieval literature, main protagonist is often absent in great part of the plot, overshadowed by the individual stories about his champions Thus is with king Hrolf (as well as with Charlemagne and King Arthur) Born as incestuous child of voluptuous King Helgi and his daughter Yrsa, he became the great king of the North Saga is fadely divided into four parts: first part explains lifes of King Hrolf's acestors, very important for later sequences; second part is about King's curious birth; third part tells about Svipdag, the berserker, and his battles with King Adils of Sweden; the last fourth part was the most interesting to me, for it is full of seidr and sibyls, as well as with shapeshifting warriors (Bjorn bearman and Bjarki bearcubman as well as King's berserkers) and stories about magnificent weaponry that is hidden into the cave and wait for proper warrior to unleash it from its scabbard (with proper tasks that follow that ritual, of course) In some of the stories about those heroes, Odin himself, in disguise, helped King Hrolf to regain his inheritance Along the reading, I recognized many parts that are very similar to those in Beowulf, and in afterward I've read that critics confirmed that assumption.