It is through their seafaring skills that the Vikings entered the historical records of Western Europe, descending upon the coastal towns from the high seas. At the time the Continent encountered the Vikings, they truly wielded a mastery of the waves unparalled elsewhere in Europe, both in ship construction and in navigational skill. Fortunately some remnants of these ships have survived, so that comparison with artistic depictions in regions attacked or settled by the Scandinavians, and with the written accounts of the Scandinavians themselves, allows for a fairly robust understanding of their capabilities on the open sea.
The best preserved remnant of a Viking ship comes from a grave at Gokstad, near the Oslo Fjord. The situation of the burial was fortunate, since all of the ship below the figurehead was buried in a thick clay which lent itself to excellent preservation. The burial dates to roughly 900, and the ship measures 76 feet 6 inches from stem to stern, and 17 feet 6 inches at the beam, with a draught of some 3 feet. The keel is formed from a single oak, capped by ends which rise but whose tops have unfortunately rotted away.
The rest of the hull is built clinker style from 16 planks, each overlapping the one below and riveted to it. These planks are each an inch or less thick, except for the tenth at the waterline and the fourteenth with the oarholes, both of which are slightly thicker. The planks are so thin they can be lifted by one man; they are so flexible that they can be bent with ease some 14 degrees side to side. Each plank runs the length of the ship. In order to produce such long, flexible strips of wood, the shipbuilders took the trunks of large trees and drove wedges into the wood. In contrast to sawing, which cuts across the grain, this method of splitting allows the wood to separate along its grain, leaving a strong but flexible plank. These planks are fitted to 19 ribs, spaced 3 feet apart. Above the waterline the planks are nailed to the ribs, but below they are only lashed with spruce-roots to allow the boat to expand with the stress and strain of the open sea. Employing relatively thin planks retains a light and swift structure.
The shape and construction of the ship contribute in interesting ways to its speed, which was in fact noticeably greater than that of other ships of the period. The clinker building technique, with its overlapping planks, actually forces some air down along the seams and under the ship. This has the effect of producing a faint pocket of air between the hull and the water, reducing the overall drag of the ship. Though the effect is not large, it is perhaps a factor in increasing the speed of the ship. A greater factor is the shape of the ship itself. The narrow prow giving way to a wide, flat midsection allows the ship more to skim over the water, rather than cut through it. As the speed of the boat increases, under moderate surface conditions, the hull actually lifts slightly out of the water, so that there is a mild hydroplaning effect. More than the clinker style construction, this reduces drag, thus increasing speed. These factors, coupled with the overall lightness, gave the viking ship an average speed a few knots greater than anything else sailing the ocean at the time.
The deck consists of floorboards which are not fixed to the vessel, but merely rest upon the crossbeams. They could be lifted to open up storage area, or to allow access for bailing water. Running along the ship below the floorboards is a 12 foot oaken block which served as a base for the mast when raised. The mast was steadied by a longer block above this, with a slit allowing for raising and lowering of the mast. Estimates suggest that the mast itself was approximately 40 feet high. The sail is made not of cloth but rather wool. The wool used was naturally water resistant and flexible, thus allowing the sail to flex in strong winds, yet return to its original shape. The actual rigging used is unclear, none having survived. Images of viking ships suggest that a complicated mesh of ropes may have been used to hem in the sail, perhaps with several members of the crew reigning in different sections. Whether this was the case, or alternatively a wooden yard was set through eyelets at the bottom of the sail, either method would have allowed the ship to run close to the wind. Viking ships are thus not limited to merely running with their back to the wind, but appear to have been able to tack into the wind as well.
The rudder is mounted on the right side (cf. the term starboard), and in shape is nothing more than a broadened oar. It is fastened to the ship by means of an oak block running through the ship's planks, and this in turn is fastened to a strengthened rib. There is a secondary attachment, a strap holding the rudder to the gunwale. The yard-long tiller is detachable, and decorated with a carved animal head. Releasing this strap and hauling a rope attached to the board itself allows the rudder to be raised in shallow water. When fully extended into the water, the rudder projects 18 inches below the keel, providing good lateral resistance.
The authorship of Grettis saga is uncertain, as are the origins of many aspects of the story itself. Grettir the Strong was apparently an outlaw in Iceland who lived from 996-1031 AD. The composition of the saga itself, in the form we have it, dates from the 14th century. It is not clear how much of the story is based on actual exploits of the man himself and how much was added from other storytelling traditions current at the time. Many scholars find, within the narrative, elements of the story of Beowulf, and for this reason they suspect that the two tales are in fact variants of the same story. In this view, Beowulf is the high-style retelling, while Grettis saga is the more straightforward, action-packed version. The parallels stem from similar motifs in the primary battles, namely descent into the unknown, the slaying of a beast, the severing of an arm, and retrieval of a weapon. Grettir fights with Glám, a rather typical example of the Icelandic notion of a ghost, more substantial than modern notions of some ethereal vapor, and then fights with the troll-wife. This sequence parallels Beowulf's fight with Grendel and then his mother.
Grettis saga is not only noteworthy for its possible literary heritage. The saga affords one of the few clear descriptions of Scandinavian household layout for the period. The house is described as one large room in which all domestic activities take place. For a time, scholars studying the terminology of other literary records believed that this depiction was too primitive for Viking Age homes, and that other literature suggested more complex structures. In the end, archaeology proved Grettis saga correct; other sagas give misleading descriptions of structures of the time, and still others use terminology too vague to lead to any definite conclusions.
The following passage from chapter 35 begins the scene of Grettir's fight with Glám. The narrative style is simple and direct. The beginning shows the slow build up and suspense of any modern ghost story or thriller. Many of the details of the fight parallel Beowulf's fight with Grendel, such as the contest of sheer strength rather than weaponry; even the emotional content is similar, with Grendel's surprise at Beowulf's strength and his desire to flee all displayed by Glám in the following narrative.
Ljós brann í skálanum um nóttina. Ok er af mundi þriðjungr at nótt, heyrði Grettir út dunur miklar.
Var þá farit upp á húsin ok riðit skálanum ok barit hælunum, svá at brakaði í hverju tré.
Því gekk lengi; þá var farit ofan af húsinum ok til dura gengit.
Ok er upp var lokit hurðunni, sá Grettir at þrællinn rétti inn höfuðit, ok sýndisk honum afskræmiliga mikit ok undarliga stórskorit.
Glámr fór seint ok réttisk upp, er hann kom inn í dyrnar. Hann gnæfaði ofarliga við ræfrinu.
Snýr skálanum ok lagði handlegginn upp á þvertréit ok gægðisk inn yfir skálann.
Ekki lét bóndi heyra til sín, því at honum þótti õrit um, er hann heyrði hvat um var úti.
Grettir lá kyrr ok hrõrði sik hvergi. Glámr sá at hrúga nökkur lá í setinu, ok rézk nú innar eptir skálanum ok þreif í feldinn stundar fast.
Grettir spyrndi í stokkinn ok gekk því hvergi. Glámr hnykti í annat sinn miklu fastara, ok bifaðisk hvergi feldrinn.
Í þriðja sinn þreif hann í með báðum höndum svá fast at hann rétti Gretti upp ór setinu; kiptu nú í sundr feldinum í millum sín.
Glámr leit á slitrit er hann helt á, ok undraðisk mjök hverr svá fast mundi togask við hann.
Ok í því hljóp Grettir undir hendr honum ok þreif um hann miðjan ok spenti á honum hrygginn sem fastast gat hann, ok ætlaði hann at Glámr skyldi kikna við.
En þrællinn lagði at handleggjum Grettis svá fast at hann hörfaði allr fyrir orku sakir.
Fór Grettir þá undan í ýmis setin. Gengu þá frá stokkarnir, ok alt brotnaði þat sem fyrir varð.
Vildi Glámr leita út, en Grettir fõrði við fõtr hvar sem hann mátti. En þó gat Glámr dregit hann fram ór skálanum.
Áttu þeir þá allharða sókn, því at þrællinn ætlaði at koma honum út ór bõnum; en svá ilt sem at eiga var við Glám inni, þá sá Grettir at þó var verra at fásk við hann úti, ok því brauzk hann í móti af öllu afli at fara út.
Glámr fõrðisk í aukana ok knepti hann at sér, er þeir komu í anddyrit.
Ok er Grettir sér at hann fekk eigi við spornat, hefir hann alt eitt atriðit at hann hleypr sem harðast í fang þrælnum ok spyrnir báðum fótum í jarðfastan stein, er stóð í durunum.
Við þessu bjósk þrællinn eigi; hann hafði þá togazk við at draga Gretti at sér, ok því kiknaði Glámr á bak aptr ok rauk öfugr út á dyrnar, svá at herðarnar námu uppdyrit ok ræfrit gekk í sundr, bæði viðirnir ok þekjan frerin; fell hann svá opinn ok öfugr út ór húsinu, en Grettir á hann ofan.
Ljós brann í skálanum um nóttina. Ok er af mundi þriðjungr at nótt, heyrði Grettir út dunur miklar. Var þá farit upp á húsin ok riðit skálanum ok barit hælunum, svá at brakaði í hverju tré. Því gekk lengi; þá var farit ofan af húsinum ok til dura gengit. Ok er upp var lokit hurðunni, sá Grettir at þrællinn rétti inn höfuðit, ok sýndisk honum afskræmiliga mikit ok undarliga stórskorit. Glámr fór seint ok réttisk upp, er hann kom inn í dyrnar. Hann gnæfaði ofarliga við ræfrinu. Snýr skálanum ok lagði handlegginn upp á þvertréit ok gægðisk inn yfir skálann. Ekki lét bóndi heyra til sín, því at honum þótti õrit um, er hann heyrði hvat um var úti. Grettir lá kyrr ok hrõrði sik hvergi. Glámr sá at hrúga nökkur lá í setinu, ok rézk nú innar eptir skálanum ok þreif í feldinn stundar fast. Grettir spyrndi í stokkinn ok gekk því hvergi. Glámr hnykti í annat sinn miklu fastara, ok bifaðisk hvergi feldrinn. Í þriðja sinn þreif hann í með báðum höndum svá fast at hann rétti Gretti upp ór setinu; kiptu nú í sundr feldinum í millum sín.
Glámr leit á slitrit er hann helt á, ok undraðisk mjök hverr svá fast mundi togask við hann. Ok í því hljóp Grettir undir hendr honum ok þreif um hann miðjan ok spenti á honum hrygginn sem fastast gat hann, ok ætlaði hann at Glámr skyldi kikna við. En þrællinn lagði at handleggjum Grettis svá fast at hann hörfaði allr fyrir orku sakir. Fór Grettir þá undan í ýmis setin. Gengu þá frá stokkarnir, ok alt brotnaði þat sem fyrir varð. Vildi Glámr leita út, en Grettir fõrði við fõtr hvar sem hann mátti. En þó gat Glámr dregit hann fram ór skálanum. Áttu þeir þá allharða sókn, því at þrællinn ætlaði at koma honum út ór bõnum; en svá ilt sem at eiga var við Glám inni, þá sá Grettir at þó var verra at fásk við hann úti, ok því brauzk hann í móti af öllu afli at fara út. Glámr fõrðisk í aukana ok knepti hann at sér, er þeir komu í anddyrit. Ok er Grettir sér at hann fekk eigi við spornat, hefir hann alt eitt atriðit at hann hleypr sem harðast í fang þrælnum ok spyrnir báðum fótum í jarðfastan stein, er stóð í durunum. Við þessu bjósk þrællinn eigi; hann hafði þá togazk við at draga Gretti at sér, ok því kiknaði Glámr á bak aptr ok rauk öfugr út á dyrnar, svá at herðarnar námu uppdyrit ok ræfrit gekk í sundr, bæði viðirnir ok þekjan frerin; fell hann svá opinn ok öfugr út ór húsinu, en Grettir á hann ofan.
A light burned in the hall through the night. And as the third part of the night passed, Grettir heard great rumblings outside. It came up to the house and passed into the hall and struck with its heels, so that it creaked on every beam. This went on for a bit; then it went from the house and came to the doors. And as the door came open, Grettir watched as the thrall poked his head inside, and seemed to him hideously powerful and outlandishly huge. Glam advanced slowly and stood upright as he came inside through the doors. He extended right up to the roof. He turned to the hall and set his arm upon the crossbeam and peered in across the hall. The yeoman let no sound escape, and this seemed to him sufficient, when he heard what all was outside. Grettir lay quiet and moved not a bit. Glam noticed that some heap lay along the sideboards, and now made his way farther in along the hall and took a strong hold of the cloak. Grettir braced against the plank and did not move at all. Glam pulled a second time, much harder, but the cloak would not budge. The third time he grabbed hold with both hands so hard that he raised Grettir up from the sideboards; they rent the cloak asunder between them.
Glam looked at the rag which he was holding and was quite astonished that someone could pull so hard against him. And at that moment Grettir lept under his hands and grabbed round his midsection and wrapped round his back as tight as he could, as he intended that Glam should give way underneath. But the thrall laid hold of Grettir's arms so tight that he completely gave way on account of his strength. Grettir then slipped away from bed to bed. The planks shot from their settings, and all that came before them was broken. Glam wanted to find a way out, but Grettir would brace his feet everyplace he tried. At last Glam was able to drag him out from the hall. They had such a fierce struggle that the thrall thought to send him out of the house; but as difficult as it was to hold up against Glam inside, nevertheless Grettir saw that it was still worse to struggle with him outside, and for this he strove against his exit with all his might. Glam struck out with everything he had and pulled him to himself as they came to the hall vestibule. And as Grettir saw that he was not able to resist, he executed one fluid motion as he lept as hard as possible against the thrall's breast and kicked him with both feet against a stone set in the ground, which stood before the door. The thrall had not prepared himself for this; he had struggled to drag Grettir to himself, and at that Glam fell to the back and tumbled backwards out towards the door, so that his shoulders struck the lintel and the roof fell apart, both the beams and the frozen thatch; he fell over and backwards out of the house, and Grettir fell on top of him.
The strong noun declensions discussed so far have all been formed from stems ending in a vowel. Some stems do not belong to this type, but rather end in consonants. For the most part, these are archaic holdovers from an earlier period, as is clear from the meanings of the nouns which belong to the r-declension below.
The r-stem nouns form a very small part of the lexicon of Old Norse, but are nevertheless high-frequency words for very important concepts. The combination of these two facts hints at the archaic nature of the declension. The nouns faðir 'father', móðir 'mother', bróðir 'brother', dóttir 'daughter', and systir 'sister' illustrate the declension. The nouns all denote familial relation, with the grammatical gender following the natural gender.
|D||föður, feðr||móður||bróður||dóttur, dõtr||systur|
The paradigms of móðir, bróðir, and dóttir are clearly essentially the same. They are all included for the sake of completeness, these being all of the most common r-stem nouns. The plural forms are all characterized by i-umlaut; the singular is for the most part characterized by u-umlaut in the oblique, with alternate forms containing i-umlaut.
The nd-stem nouns appear to have been present participles which became frozen as substantives. The nouns bóndi 'yeoman' and gefandi 'giver' illustrate the declension.
Note the N and A singular show the same i-umlaut exhibited in the declension of the r-stem nouns.
Other common nouns whose stems end in consonants do not fall into declensional patterns as prevalent as those above. These are collected below. As with the declensions above, these are characterized by the ending -r in the N and A plural, which may be assimilated to the final stem consonant. These forms also exhibit i-umlaut of the root vowel.
The following nouns are masculine consonant stems: maðr 'man', nagl 'nail', mónuðr 'month', vetr 'winter', fótr 'foot'.
The noun mónuðr is also found as mánaðr. The common noun fingr 'finger' also follows the declension of vetr.
The following nouns are feminine consonant stems: bók 'book', tönn 'tooth', nátt 'night', kýr 'cow'.
|N Sg.||bók||tönn||nátt, nótt||kýr|
|G||bókar, bõkr||tannar||náttar, nætr||kýr|
The noun tönn also shows the form teðr in the N and A plural. The alternate form for the G sg. of nátt is rare, but there are examples: sátu þeir at drykkju til miðrar nætr 'they sat drinking until midnight.'
Old Norse makes use of several different demonstrative stems. As mentioned in Section 8.2, two different stems are used in a suppletive system to fill out the paradigm of the third person pronoun. These same stems, as well as others, were often used as deictic pronouns or adjectives, pointing to spatial (e.g. 'that dog over there'), temporal ('that day last year'), or logical ('these considerations just mentioned') proximity to or distance from the perspective of the speaker.
The demonstrative sá is used as both pronoun and adjective. Its adjectival uses range from a true deictic 'that', pointing to something relatively distant from the perspective of the speaker, to the simple article 'the', referring to a noun already mentioned. In a pronominal role, the same uses may translate as 'that one' and 'this (just mentioned)', respectively. The paradigm is as follows.
As already noted, the plural forms are used as the plural of the third person pronoun. They may often be translated simply as 'they', 'them' in this role, as opposed to the truly deictic 'those (ones)'.
The demonstrative sjá 'this (one)' refers to something relatively close in the estimation of the speaker. Like sá, it is used as both pronoun and adjective. The forms are as follows.
|N Sg.||sjá, þessi||sjá, þessi||þetta|
Another common demonstrative is hinn. Its meaning is not as strongly marked for distance, like sá, or for proximity, like sjá. hinn is often translated as 'that', but may also be used for the second referent in constructions of the sort 'the one... the other...'. hinn thus often serves to contrast one referent with another marked by sá or sjá. The forms of hinn are as follows.
When hitt is used as an article before an adjective, the form is shortened to hit.
Old Norse possesses a definite article inn. Unlike English, where the article either precedes the noun it modifies or precedes the adjective modifying the noun, the Old Norse definite article is most frequently postpositive. It typically follows the noun it modifies, or follows the adjective describing a noun. In this practice ON shows a similarity to, e.g., Old Church Slavonic. The English use and the Old Norse use of the definite article do not correlate exactly, and one finds that ON often omits the article in situations where Modern English requires it. The declension of inn parallels that of hinn, and the relation between the two is often a matter of debate. The declension of inn, when not suffixed to the substantive it modifies, is as follows.
This form of the article is found in constructions which parallel those of Modern English. For example, inn blindi maðr 'the blind mann'. In such freestanding constructions, the difference between hinn and inn is slight, if present at all. Thus the preceding phrase may also be rendered hinn blindi maðr. The article is found with bare substantives, e.g. (h)inir augðu 'the rich'. Such constructions are fairly uncommon, occurring mainly when a contrast between nouns is emphasized. More typical word order is for the article and noun to follow the modified noun, e.g. Óláfr inn helgi 'Olaf the saint'; hendi inn hõgri 'the right hand'.
The article is commonly used in conjunction with other demonstratives. A typical rendering of Modern English 'the blind man' would be ON sá (h)inn blindi maðr, literally 'that the blind man'. Other variations are possible, such as maðr sá (h)inn blindi or sá maðr (h)inn blindi.
When suffixed to a noun or adjective, the forms of inn undergo some modification. The initial vowel is dropped when following a short unaccented vowel. The disyllabic forms also show the following changes:
Monosyllabic forms show slightly different treatment:
|monosyllables retain the initial vowel after a long vowel.|
In addition, the final -m of the dative plural is dropped from the preceding noun or adjective when suffixed with -inum. For convenience, the forms of inn are listed below suffixed to some typical nouns.
The following are some examples with substantives that follow weak declension (to be discussed later).
The use of the suffixed article does not preclude the possibility of another preposed article, though hinn is used to avoid repetition of inn. Hence hinn hvíti björninn, literally 'the white beard-the'. Other deictics may be used as well, e.g. höndin sú hõgri, literally 'hand-the that white'.
Adjectives fall into two main types, strong and weak. These names (1) bear no relation to the similarly-named verbal conjugation types, and (2) have no connotations beyond signifying a binary system. The terms Type A and Type B would serve just as well. The two types do, however, display a difference in usage. To wit, strong adjectives are indefinite, weak adjectives are definite. The term 'strong adjective' is shorthand for 'an adjective exhibiting strong endings', and similarly for 'weak adjective'. Any adjective may be declined according to either the strong or weak paradigms. The classification as 'strong' or 'weak' is not inherent when applied to adjectives, but merely describes a particular instance. This differs from the use of the same terms when applied to nouns, which are inherently either strong or weak. A weak noun is always weak; a weak adjective may also be declined as strong. In respect to paradigms, the endings of strong adjectives resemble those of strong nouns; likewise for weak adjectives and nouns.
The adjective endings differ slightly from those of the nouns. They are listed below. Whenever the ending begins with u, the stem vowel is subject to the same u-umlaut found among the nouns. This umlaut is also found in other situations where the ending no longer displays u; such forms are so marked.
The adjectives sterkr 'strong', vænn 'handsome', gamall 'old', nýr 'new', frægr 'famous', röskr 'brave' illustrate the paradigms. The masculine forms are as follows.
The feminine forms are as follows.
The neuter forms are as follows. Note the overall similarity with the masculine forms.
Some adjectives have stems ending in -r. Such adjectives drop the ending -r, so that, e.g., N sg. masc. fagr contrasts with N sg. fem. fögr and neut. fagrt. The endings beginning with -r- show assimilation of the r to a preceding l or single n.
Adjectives whose stem ends in a stressed long vowel double the -t of the neuter N sg. ending. Hence fár shows N sg. neut. fátt. Contraction occurs when the ending begins with a or u, e.g. fán and fám, but fáir.
Adjectives ending in -inn -- particularly, but not exclusively, the past participles of strong verbs -- show the ending -n rather than -an in the masculine A sg. Compare inn, with A sg. masc. inn; hverr, A sg. masc. hvern; nökkurr, A sg. masc. nökkurn.
The declension of annarr 'other, another; second, next' always follows the pattern of strong adjectives. Some forms display the stem aðr- rather than ann-. Its declension is as follows.
The possessive adjectives were derived from the genitive forms of the personal pronouns. This genitive form was taken as stem, and the strong adjective endings were suffixed. For example, ek 'I', with G sg. mín 'of me', gives adjectival *mín-r > minn 'my' (N sg. masc.). As this example shows, the stem vowel is shortened before a double consonant. The paradigm of minn 'my' is given below.
The second person builds a possessive adjective þinn, and the reflexive pronoun has possessive sinn. The dual and plural forms of the personal pronouns also build possessives:
The reflexive possessive adjective sinn serves as a reflexive for any number, just as the pronoun itself. The declension of várr 'our' is given below.
Note the stem vowel of várr does not undergo shortening. The second vowel of the short yðar- is dropped in trisyllabic forms, while the second vowel is retained everywhere in the full form yðvar-. Hence D sg. masc. yðrum, but G sg. fem. yðrar or yðvarrar. The stems ykkar- and okkar- optionally drop the second stem vowel in trisyllabic forms: A sg. masc. okkurum, ykkurum or okkrum, ykkrum.
The third person pronouns have no corresponding possessive adjectives, using simply the genitive forms of the pronoun: singular hans, hennar, þess; plural þeira.
Old Norse, like Modern English, has a past participle, whose formation depends on whether the verb is strong or weak. Unlike, e.g., classical Greek, which has morphologically distinct past active and past passive participles, Old Norse makes no morphological distinction between active and passive participles. One and the same formation generally has different interpretations based on the transitivity of the root: the past participle of transitive verbs is construed as passive ('having been done'), while the past participle of intransitive verbs is construed as active ('having done').
The formation of past participles in Old Norse parallels that of Modern English. There are two types of past participles, reflecting the distinction between strong and weak verbs. Strong verbs form the past participle by adding the suffix -in to the verbal stem, which in general displays ablaut. Compare Modern English eat-en. Adjective endings are then added to the -in suffix. Because of the relative unpredictability of ablaut, the past participle is typically given as one of the principal parts. The past participle kominn, from koma 'come', serves to illustrate the forms of the strong past participle.
Weak verbs form the past participle by means of a dental suffix -ð. Compare Modern English ask-ed. This is added to the stem, sometimes with an intervening vowel, and adjective endings are added to this. For example, kalla 'call' (stem kall-a-) forms past participle kallað-; spyrja 'find out' (stem spur-j-) forms spurð-; stefna 'aim' (stem stafn-j-) forms stefnð-; lifa 'live' (stem lif-i-) forms lifað-; ná 'reach' (stem ná-i-) forms náð-; hafa 'have' forms hafð-. The past participle of elska (að) 'love' will illustrate the forms.
For comparison, the weak declension is given below. Weak declension of adjectives will be treated separately.
As mentioned above, the past participle of transitive verbs is construed as passive in sense; the past participle of intransitive verbs is construed as active. For example, koma 'to come' (intransitive) vs. kominn 'come' (active -- cf. Shakespearean 'I am come' = 'I have arrived'), but bera 'to bear' (transitive) vs. borinn 'borne' (passive); likewise elska 'to love' (transitive) vs. elskaðr 'loved' (passive), but þegja 'be silent' (intransitive) vs. þagat '(having been or become) silent' (active).
The supine in Old Norse is rather different from the concept of the same name in say Latin or Old Church Slavonic. The supine refers to the use of the neuter N/A sg. form of the past participle in conjunction with forms of the verb hafa 'have' to form a compound past tense. For example, vega 'slay' forms past participle vegin-; then hafa vegit is 'to have slain'. Similarly hafði vegit 'he had slain'; eptir at hafa vegit... 'after having slain...'.
Historically one finds that constructions like 'I have slain a man' came about from phrases like 'I have a man (who is) slain', where 'slain' is an adjective agreeing with 'a man', which is in turn the direct object of 'have'. Examples of this are found especially in early ON texts, for example Völuspá: hverir hafði lopt alt lævi blandit eða ætt iotuns Óðs mey gefna 'who had filled all the air with calamity or given Od's wife to the giant's race'. Here blandit is neuter accusative singular in agreement with lopt, and gefna feminine accusative singular with mey. These constructions began to give ground to use of the supine, so that by the time of classical ON texts, the two usages are in free variation. In constructions with the supine, the neuter singular form of the participle is used regardless of the gender and number of the direct object: sýndisk nú öllum sem Loki hefði látit leikinn 'it appeared to everyone like Loki had lost the contest', where látit is a supine, and leikinn is masculine accusative singular. The construction with the supine is also found with intransitive verbs: ekki hafa hér komit þeir menn 'men have not come here'.
Old Norse makes exceptional use of prepositions, both in prepositional phrases and in absolute uses as adverbs. This is similar to the situation in Modern English, where one can say both 'He walked in the house' and 'He walked in without saying hello'; in the former, the preposition in governs an object, in the latter it does not. Each ON preposition governs objects in one or more of the oblique cases. The case governed is a property of the preposition: each preposition governs only a specific case or cases. If a preposition governs more than one case, its meaning may change depending on the case employed. Prepositions rarely govern objects in the genitive case; the accusative and dative are quite common. Generally the dative is used after a preposition to denote position in space or time without motion, or to denote source, cause, or instrument. The accusative is used after a preposition to denote motion to or through space or time, or to denote a point of time within a certain period, opposition, or correspondence. At times a preposition together with its object may serve as a compound preposition, in the same manner as Modern English 'for the sake of'. The primary ON prepositions are listed below, together with the cases they govern and the associated meanings.
|á||acc.||onto, on, to; during, at, in|
|dat.||on, in; during, at, in|
|af||dat.||off, from; by (denoting agent); of, because of|
|dat.||at, to, towards; at, in; from; according to|
|dat.||after, following (person/thing); along; according to|
|frá||dat.||from; concerning, about|
|fyrir||acc.||(motion) before, in front of; over, past; before (time); in return for, in place of|
|dat.||(location) before, in front of; in charge of; in the presence of; ago|
|gagnvart / gegnvart||dat.||opposite|
|hjá||dat.||at someone's (house); close to, next to, by; past; compared with|
|í||acc.||into, in, to; during, in, at|
|með||acc.||with (accompaniment or means); against|
|dat.||together with; (instrument) with; (manner) with, in, by; among|
|(á / í) meðal||gen.||among, between|
|(á / í) milli / millum||gen.||among, between|
|(á / í) mót / móti||dat.||against; towards|
|of||acc.||over, across; during, in|
|ór / úr||dat.||out of, from|
|til||gen.||to, towards; regarding, concerning; to, until|
|um||acc.||around, over, across; during, in; about, concerning|
|dat.||over, above; during, in|
|umfram||acc.||beyond, above, more than|
|við||acc.||near, by; (direction) to, towards, vis-a-vis|
|yfir||acc.||(motion) over, above|
|dat.||(location) over, above|