Tuesday, February 7, 2006

Cool Saga Quote #1: "When I was your age..."

I suspect that Cool Quotes will become a feature of The Bitter Scroll, since there are so many cool quotes from Germanic literature, but since I've been reading the Saga of the People of Vatnsdal, it's first. It's a bit long, but check out the way Ketil the Large rails at his son to get him to do something with his life:

On one occasion Ketil said to Thorstein his son, "The behaviour of young men today is not what it was when I was young. In those days men hankered after deeds of derring-do, either by going raiding or by winning wealth and honour through exploits in which there was some element of danger. But nowadays young men want to be stay-at-homes, and sit by the fire, and stuff their stomachs with mead and ale; and so it is that manliness and bravery are on the wane. I have won wealth and honour because I dared to face danger and tough single combats. You, Thorstein, have been blessed with little in the way of strength of size. It is more than likely that your deeds will follow suit, and that your courage and daring will match your size, because you have no desire to emulate the exploits of your ancestors; you reveal yourself to be just as you look, with your spirit matching your size. It was once the custom of powerful men, kings or earls -- those who were our peers -- that they went off raiding, and won riches and renown for themselves, and such wealth did not count as party of any legacy nor did a son inherit it from his father; rather was the money to lie in the tomb alongside the chieftain himself. And even if the sons in herited the lands, they were unable to sustain their high status, if honour counted for anything, unless they put themselves and their men at risk and went into battle, thereby winning for themselves each in his turn, wealth and renown -- and so following in the footsteps of their kinsmen. I believe that the old warriors' ways are unknown to you -- I wish I could teach them to you. You have now reached the age when it would be right for you to put yourself to the text, and find out what fate has in store for you."

Thorstein answered, "If ever provocation worked, this would be provocation enough." He stood up and walked away, and was very angry.

Ah, for the good old days of raiding and plundering! Simpler times...

I love the writing style of the sagas. So down to earth, direct, practical. Very approachable. It's the same with their nicknames. On (or near) the continent you have names like Louis the Fat, Aethelred the Unready (OE Unræd, meaning ill-advised) and Charles the Bald, which are descriptive enough, but the Scandinavians have a certain knack for nicknames: Erik Blood-axe, Thorfinn Skull-splitter, Unn the Deep-Minded, Thorbjorn the Pock-marked, Asbjorn the Fleshy, Asgeir Scatter-brain, Hallfred the Troublesome Poet, An Twig-belly, Ragnar Shaggy-breeches, Thorarin the Evil, and (poor girl) Thordis the Stick.

1 comment:

Mikaela D'eigh said...

Hmmm - sounds familiar...seems I Weihnai was not the only one longing for the old days! ;o)