The University of Texas at Austin; College of Liberal Arts
Hans C. Boas, Director :: PCL 5.556, 1 University Station S5490 :: Austin, TX 78712 :: 512-471-4566
LRC Links: Home | About | Books Online | EIEOL | IE Doc. Center | IE Lexicon | IE Maps | IE Texts | Pub. Indices | SiteMap

Old Norse Online

Lesson 4

Todd B. Krause and Jonathan Slocum

Women in Viking Society

Women in Norse culture enjoyed a fair bit more stature than those of many other concurrent cultures in Europe. The culture prized women who were autonomous and spirited. The feud involving Angantýr shows quite clearly that women could fill heroic roles just as much as men. It is unclear how often this happened in reality, but the sagas are filled with women who goad their husbands into action with taunts and jibes.

Though a man might often consort with many concubines under one roof, the legal wife's status was ensured primarily by the 'bride-price' paid by her husband. This bride-price, as well as a gift given by the husband to his wife the day after the wedding, remained the property of the wife. Her father also supplied a dowry for the wedding, but this was repaid if the marriage terminated in divorce. A wife did not take the name of her husband, but generally kept her own patronymic, and was free to ally with either family if they fell into dispute. A wife was as free as a husband to seek divorce. The sagas tell of impotence, the husband wearing an effeminate shirt, and the woman wearing pants as grounds for divorce. The method of divorce was simple: gather witnesses, state the particular complaint, and the intention to divorce. The result seemed to carry no social stigma for either party.

Children in Viking Society

Children were generally reared at home, provided they had not been drowned or left out to die of exposure after birth (a measure generally made on grounds of the family's economic situation or because of deformity or other poor health). It was not uncommon, however, for a male child to go to live with another family as a foster-son. This secured ties between families, and in disputes a child would often rely as much upon his foster family as on his own. Children were expected to labor at the household duties. Nevertheless a certain argumentative and unruly nature was not only tolerated, but generally praised.

Illegitimate children were not altogether without rights. They might receive a small amount of the blood-money paid for their father or brother, or could inherit items of minor worth from the father. Often the status of a concubine was not very distinct from that of a legal wife, and in this situation the concubine's child would be treated little different from the wife's. A father might even adopt the illegitimate child, giving legal equality with the legitimate children.

A boy became a legal adult at 12, though usually he stayed at home for a few years more. This early adulthood was often the time for roaming with viking expeditions. Such exploits might last for several years. Typically one would return after some period to a life of farming. But the youth might just as well continue such escapades or take up residence in the retinue of some local leader. After marriage, a son could either take up residence in his father's house, or build one nearby. In Iceland he would typically settle miles away from the father's homestead.

Reading and Textual Analysis

The author of Brennu-Njáls saga is unknown. The saga as we have it dates from roughly 1250-1275 AD. The saga really contains three stories. The first is the story of Gunnar, in which Njál plays a somewhat incidental role. The harsh mannerisms of Gunnar's wife caused many to hold hostility toward Gunnar. After a fight Gunnar was unjustly sentenced to exile, but at the point of departure he could not bring himself to leave the land he held so dear. He stayed as an outlaw, which permitted his enemies to kill him legally.

Njál's story comes to center stage in the following episodes. Njál is known as a wise and generous man, but the impetuous nature of his sons finally brings about his doom. When they slay a man by the name of Þráin, Njál attempts to put an end to the ensuing feud by adopting his son, Hǫskuld. Njál's sons soon find reason to take issue with Hǫskuld, and kill him as well. His widow's kinsman, Flosi, then takes up the cause of revenge, and this leads to Njál's death as his house goes up in flames.

The third story relates how Kári exacts revenge upon those who burned Njál and his family. He finally comes to reconciliation with Flosi.

The following passage is an excerpt from chapter 77, depicting Gunnar's death. Even in light of the ensuing tragedy, the narrative is at times comical. The attackers appear rather inept in carrying out their mission, and their continual failure leads to sarcastic banter. As with the sagas in general, the scene is filled with direct speech. Given the context, there is no reason to suspect that the speech is anything but natural and reflective of Old Norse as it was spoken at the time. This means, of course, that the statements can at times be highly idiomatic and elliptical. But patience is rewarded with witty quips and outright jokes that testify to the longevity of the saga as a popular form of entertainment.

Skáli Gunnars var gǫrr af viði einum ok súðþakiðr útan, ok gluggar hjá brúnásunum ok snúin þar fyrir speld.

  • skáli -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <skáli> shed; hall, sleeping-hall -- hall
  • Gunnars -- proper noun, masculine; genitive singular of <Gunnarr> Gunnar -- Gunnar's
  • var -- verb; 3rd singular past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- was
  • gǫrr -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <gǫrr (van)> made, built; done; ready; sent; done for, finished off -- made
  • af -- preposition; <af> out of, from; with; concerning; because of -- with
  • viði -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <viðr> tree; beam; forest; wood -- beam
  • einum -- adjective; dative singular masculine of <einn> one; a certain, particular -- one
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • súðþakiðr -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <súðþakiðr> roofed with overlapping boards -- overlapping boards
  • útan -- preposition; <útan> outside (of); beyond; without -- on the outside
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • gluggar -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <gluggr> window -- (there were) windows
  • hjá -- preposition; <hjá> beside, at the side of; compared with; close by -- by
  • brúnásunum -- noun, masculine; dative plural of <brúnáss> ridge-beam + definite article; dative plural masculine of <inn> the -- the ridge-beams
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • snúin -- past participle; nominative plural neuter of <snúa> plait, tie, twist; turn -- fastened
  • þar -- adverb; <þar> there, in that place -- these
  • fyrir -- preposition; <fyrir> before, in front of; against; because of, for -- in front of
  • speld -- noun, neuter; nominative plural of <speld> shutter -- shutters

Gunnarr svaf í lopti einu í skálanum ok Hallgerðr ok móðir hans.

  • Gunnarr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gunnarr> Gunnar -- Gunnar
  • svaf -- verb; 3rd singular past of <sofa> sleep -- slept
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- in
  • lopti -- noun, neuter; dative singular of <lopt> air, sky; upper room -- loft
  • einu -- adjective; dative singular neuter of <einn> one; a certain, particular -- one
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- of
  • skálanum -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <skáli> shed; hall, sleeping-hall + definite article; dative singular masculine of <inn> the -- the hall
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- as well as
  • Hallgerðr -- proper noun, feminine; nominative singular of <Hallgerðr> Hallgertha, Gunnar's wife -- Hallgertha
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • móðir -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <móðir> mother -- mother
  • hans -- demonstrative used as pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hann> this one -- his

Þá er þeir kómu at, vissu þeir eigi hvárt Gunnarr myndi heim vera, ok báðu at einnhverr myndi fara heim fyrir ok vita hvers víss yrði, en þeir settusk niðr á vǫllinn.

  • þá er -- relative adverb; <þá_er> when -- when
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • kómu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <koma> come, arrive; reach; obtain; occur -- arrived
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- ...
  • vissu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <vita (ssi)> know, be aware of; understand; know how (to); know of; find out -- did... know
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • eigi -- adverb; <eigi> not -- not
  • hvárt -- conjunction; <hvárt> whether; (introduces direct question); however -- whether
  • Gunnarr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gunnarr> Gunnar -- Gunnar
  • myndi -- verb; 3rd singular past subjunctive of <munu> will, be about to; will be; must; might -- would
  • heim -- adverb; <heim> home; to(wards) the house -- at home
  • vera -- verb; infinitive of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- be
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • báðu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <biðja> ask; beg; pray; bid -- they said
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • einnhverr -- pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <einnhverr> a certain, some, any -- someone
  • myndi -- verb; 3rd singular past subjunctive of <munu> will, be about to; will be; must; might -- should
  • fara -- past participle; nominative singular neuter of <fara> fare, happen, turn out; go, move, travel -- go
  • heim -- adverb; <heim> home; to(wards) the house -- to the house
  • fyrir -- preposition; <fyrir> before, in front of; against; because of, for -- up
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • vita -- verb; infinitive of <vita (ssi)> know, be aware of; understand; know how (to); know of; find out -- find out
  • hvers -- indefinite pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hverr> who, which, what; each, every -- ...
  • víss -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <víss> certain, wise -- (for) certain
  • yrði -- verb; 3rd singular past subjunctive of <verða> happen, come to pass; befall; chance to be; become -- ... # awkward construction -- perhaps more literally "(someone) should go up to the house and be(come) sure to find someone"
  • en -- conjunction; <en> but, and; than -- while
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <> that -- the others
  • settusk -- verb; 3rd plural past reflexive of <setja> set, place, put; seat; set up; establish; endow; direct; hurl; adorn -- set themselves
  • niðr -- adverb; <niðr> down -- down
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- on
  • vǫllinn -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <vǫllr> level ground, ground; plain; field + definite article; accusative singular masculine of <inn> the -- the ground

Þorgrímr austmaðr gekk upp á skálann; Gunnarr sér at rauðan kyrtil bar við glugginum, ok leggr út með atgeirinum á hann miðjan.

  • Þorgrímr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Þorgrímr> Thorgrim -- Thorgrim
  • austmaðr -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <austmaðr> Easterner, Norwegian -- a Norwegian
  • gekk -- verb; 3rd singular past of <ganga> go, walk; advance; take place; extend; go on, last; turn out -- went
  • upp -- adverb; <upp> up -- up
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- to
  • skálann -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <skáli> shed; hall, sleeping-hall + definite article; accusative singular masculine of <inn> the -- the hall
  • Gunnarr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gunnarr> Gunnar -- Gunnar
  • sér -- verb; 3rd singular present of <sjá> see, perceive; find; understand; look -- saw
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • rauðan -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <rauðr> red -- a red
  • kyrtil -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <kyrtil> kirtle, tunic -- kirtle
  • bar -- verb; 3rd singular past of <bera> bear, bring, carry; wear; give birth to; overcome; endure; bear (witness) -- he bore
  • við -- preposition; <við> reaching to, against, with; towards, at; in exchange for; by; (together) with, close to; because of -- up to
  • glugginum -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <gluggr> window + definite article; dative singular masculine of <inn> the -- the window
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • leggr -- verb; 3rd singular present of <leggja> lay, place, put; put down, lay down; move, bring; thrust, throw; make; give -- shot
  • út -- adverb; <út> out; from abroad -- out
  • með -- preposition; <með> with; by means of; among; along -- ...
  • atgeirinum -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <atgeirr> thrusting spear + definite article; dative singular masculine of <inn> the -- a spear
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- at
  • hann -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <hann> this one -- his
  • miðjan -- adjective; accusative singular masculine of <miðr> middle, the middle of -- midsection

Þorgrími skruppu fœtrnir ok varð lauss skjǫldrinn, ok hrataði hann ofan af þekjunni.

  • Þorgrími -- proper noun, masculine; dative singular of <Þorgrímr> Thorgrim -- Thorgrim's
  • skruppu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <skreppa> slip -- slipped
  • fœtrnir -- noun, masculine; nominative plural of <fótr> foot; leg + definite article; nominative plural masculine of <inn> the -- feet
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • varð -- verb; 3rd singular past of <verða> happen, come to pass; befall; chance to be; become -- came
  • lauss -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <lauss> loose, free -- loose
  • skjǫldrinn -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <skjǫldr> shield + definite article; nominative singular masculine of <inn> the -- his shield
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • hrataði -- verb; 3rd singular past of <hrata (að)> tumble, fall -- tumbled
  • hann -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hann> this one -- he
  • ofan -- adverb; <ofan> from above, down; southwards -- down
  • af -- preposition; <af> out of, from; with; concerning; because of -- off
  • þekjunni -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <þekja> thatch, roof + definite article; dative singular feminine of <inn> the -- the thatch

Gengr hann síðan at þeim Gizuri, þar er þeir sátu á vellinum. Gizurr leit við honum ok mælti, "Hvárt er Gunnarr heima?"

  • gengr -- verb; 3rd singular present of <ganga> go, walk; advance; take place; extend; go on, last; turn out -- went
  • hann -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hann> this one -- he
  • síðan -- adverb; <síðan> afterwards, since then -- then
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- to
  • þeim -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative plural masculine of <> that -- the (rest)
  • Gizuri -- proper noun, masculine; dative singular of <Gizurr> Gizur -- Gizur (among them)
  • þar -- adverb; <þar> there, in that place -- ...
  • er -- relative; nominative singular neuter of <er> who, which -- where
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • sátu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <sitja> sit; stay, remain; reside -- sat
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- on
  • vellinum -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <vǫllr> level ground, ground; plain; field + definite article; dative singular masculine of <inn> the -- the ground
  • Gizurr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gizurr> Gizur -- Gizur
  • leit -- verb; 3rd singular past of <líta> look; see; regard -- looked
  • við -- preposition; <við> reaching to, against, with; towards, at; in exchange for; by; (together) with, close to; because of -- at
  • honum -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative singular masculine of <hann> this one -- him
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • mælti -- verb; 3rd singular past of <mæla (t)> speak -- said
  • hvárt -- conjunction; <hvárt> whether; (introduces direct question); however -- ...
  • er -- verb; 3rd singular present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- is
  • Gunnarr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gunnarr> Gunnar -- Gunnar
  • heima -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <heima> home; (as adv.) at home -- home

Þorgrímr svarar, "Viti þér þat, en hitt vissa ek, at atgeirr hans var heima." Síðan fell hann niðr dauðr.

  • Þorgrímr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Þorgrímr> Thorgrim -- Thorgrim
  • svarar -- verb; 3rd singular present of <svara (að)> answer -- answered
  • viti -- verb; 2nd plural imperative of <vita (ssi)> know, be aware of; understand; know how (to); know of; find out -- find out # viti þér from earlier vitið ér
  • þér -- pronoun; nominative plural of <þú> thou, you -- you # þér from earlier ér, with þ co-opted from the 2nd pers. pl. verb ending
  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> that -- ...
  • en -- conjunction; <en> but, and; than -- but
  • hitt -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <hinn> this one; that; the -- this
  • vissa -- verb; 1st singular past of <vita (ssi)> know, be aware of; understand; know how (to); know of; find out -- discovered
  • ek -- pronoun; nominative singular of <ek> I -- I
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- ...
  • atgeirr -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <atgeirr> thrusting spear -- spear
  • hans -- demonstrative used as pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hann> this one -- his
  • var -- verb; 3rd singular past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- was
  • heima -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <heima> home; (as adv.) at home -- at home
  • síðan -- adverb; <síðan> afterwards, since then -- then
  • fell -- verb; 3rd singular past of <falla> fall, fall down; flow; be slain -- fell
  • hann -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hann> this one -- he
  • niðr -- adverb; <niðr> down -- ...
  • dauðr -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <dauðr> dead -- dead

Þeir sóttu þá at húsinum. Gunnarr skaut út ǫrum at þeim ok varðisk vel, ok gátu þeir ekki at gǫrt.

  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • sóttu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <sœkja> seek, go to fetch; visit; proceed -- rushed
  • þá -- adverb; <þá> then -- then
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- at
  • húsinum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <hús> house; room of house; (pl.) farm + definite article; dative plural neuter of <inn> the -- the house
  • Gunnarr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gunnarr> Gunnar -- Gunnar
  • skaut -- verb; 3rd singular past of <skjóta> shoot, throw -- lashed
  • út -- adverb; <út> out; from abroad -- out
  • ǫrum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <ǫr> arrow -- with arrows
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- at
  • þeim -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative plural masculine of <> that -- them
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • varðisk -- verb; 3rd singular past reflexive of <verja (varði)> defend, protect -- defended himself
  • vel -- adverb; <vel> well, readily, easily -- well
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and (so)
  • gátu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <geta> get, obtain; engender; (with ppart.) be able to, get done; (with infin.) happen to (do); be obtainable; guess, suppose; relate, tell of -- got
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • ekki -- pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <engi> no, none, no one -- nothing
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- ...
  • gǫrt -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <gǫrr (van)> made, built; done; ready; sent; done for, finished off -- done

Þá hljópu sumir á húsin ok ætluðu þaðan at sœkja. Gunnarr kom þangat at þeim ǫrunum, ok gátu þeir ekki at gǫrt, ok fór svá fram um hríð.

  • þá -- adverb; <þá> then -- then
  • hljópu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <hlaupa> leap, spring, climb; mount; run -- lept
  • sumir -- adjective; nominative plural masculine of <sumr> some -- some
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- upon
  • húsin -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <hús> house; room of house; (pl.) farm + definite article; accusative plural neuter of <inn> the -- the house
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • ætluðu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <ætla (að)> think, consider (to be); expect, look for; intend (to do) -- intended
  • þaðan -- adverb; <þaðan> thence -- from there
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- to
  • sœkja -- verb; infinitive of <sœkja> seek, go to fetch; visit; proceed -- attack
  • Gunnarr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gunnarr> Gunnar -- Gunnar
  • kom -- verb; 3rd singular past of <koma> come, arrive; reach; obtain; occur -- came
  • þangat -- adverb; <þangat> thither -- there
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- at
  • þeim -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative plural neuter of <> that -- them
  • ǫrunum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <ǫr> arrow + definite article; dative plural feminine of <inn> the -- with arrows
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and (again)
  • gátu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <geta> get, obtain; engender; (with ppart.) be able to, get done; (with infin.) happen to (do); be obtainable; guess, suppose; relate, tell of -- got
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • ekki -- pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <engi> no, none, no one -- nothing
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- ...
  • gǫrt -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <gǫrr (van)> made, built; done; ready; sent; done for, finished off -- done
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • fór -- verb; 3rd singular past of <fara> fare, happen, turn out; go, move, travel -- it went
  • svá -- adverb; <svá> so, thus, in this way; also; as, as if -- like this
  • fram -- adverb; <fram> forward, on; away; out -- on
  • um -- preposition; <um> over, across; through, throughout; round, about; concerning -- for
  • hríð -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <hríð> while, time; storm, attack -- a while

Þeir tóku hvílð ok sóttu at í annat sinn. Gunnarr skaut enn út, ok gátu þeir ekki at gǫrt ok hrukku frá í annat sinn.

  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • tóku -- verb; 3rd plural past of <taka> take, take hold of; seize, capture; take to oneself, undertake; choose; accept, receive; begin (with infin.); reach, touch, strike against; happen, come to pass -- took
  • hvílð -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <hvílð> rest, pause -- a rest
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and (then)
  • sóttu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <sœkja> seek, go to fetch; visit; proceed -- attacked
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- ...
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- ...
  • annat -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <annarr> other, another; second, next; one (of two) -- a second
  • sinn -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <sinn> time -- time
  • Gunnarr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gunnarr> Gunnar -- Gunnar
  • skaut -- verb; 3rd singular past of <skjóta> shoot, throw -- shot
  • enn -- adverb; <enn> still; also; yet; further; again; moreover; even -- some more
  • út -- adverb; <út> out; from abroad -- ...
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • gátu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <geta> get, obtain; engender; (with ppart.) be able to, get done; (with infin.) happen to (do); be obtainable; guess, suppose; relate, tell of -- got
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • ekki -- pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <engi> no, none, no one -- nothing
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- ...
  • gǫrt -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <gǫrr (van)> made, built; done; ready; sent; done for, finished off -- done
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and (so)
  • hrukku -- verb; 3rd plural past of <hrøkkva> fall back -- retreated
  • frá -- preposition; <frá> from; concerning -- ...
  • í -- preposition; <í> in, within; among; during; into, onto -- ...
  • annat -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <annarr> other, another; second, next; one (of two) -- a second
  • sinn -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <sinn> time -- time

Þá mælti Gizurr Hvíti, "Sœkjum at betr, ekki verðr af oss." Gørðu þeir þá hríð ina þriðju ok váru við lengi; eptir þat hrukku þeir frá.

  • þá -- adverb; <þá> then -- then
  • mælti -- verb; 3rd singular past of <mæla (t)> speak -- said
  • Gizurr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gizurr> Gizur -- Gizur
  • hvíti -- adjective; weak nominative singular masculine of <hvítr> white, shining -- the Fair
  • sœkjum -- verb; 1st plural imperative of <sœkja> seek, go to fetch; visit; proceed -- let's press
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- ...
  • betr -- comparative adverb; <betr> better; more -- harder
  • ekki -- pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <engi> no, none, no one -- nothing
  • verðr -- verb; 3rd singular present of <verða> happen, come to pass; befall; chance to be; become -- comes
  • af -- preposition; <af> out of, from; with; concerning; because of -- of
  • oss -- pronoun; dative plural of <ek> I -- us
  • gørðu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <gøra> make, build; write, compose -- made
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • þá -- adverb; <þá> then -- then
  • hríð -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <hríð> while, time; storm, attack -- attempt
  • ina -- definite article; accusative singular feminine of <inn> the -- a
  • þriðju -- adjective; weak accusative singular feminine of <þriði> third -- third
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • váru -- verb; 3rd plural past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- were
  • við -- preposition; <við> reaching to, against, with; towards, at; in exchange for; by; (together) with, close to; because of -- at (it)
  • lengi -- adverb; <lengi> long; far; for a long time -- a while
  • eptir -- preposition; <eptir> after, behind; for, to obtain; along; according to; in succession to -- after
  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> that -- that
  • hrukku -- verb; 3rd plural past of <hrøkkva> fall back -- retreated
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • frá -- preposition; <frá> from; concerning -- ...

Gunnarr mælti, "Ǫr liggr þar úti á vegginum, ok er sú af þeira ǫrum, ok skal ek þeiri skjóta til þeira, ok er þeim þat skǫmm, ef þeir fá geig at vápnum sínum."

  • Gunnarr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gunnarr> Gunnar -- Gunnar
  • mælti -- verb; 3rd singular past of <mæla (t)> speak -- said
  • ǫr -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <ǫr> arrow -- an arrow
  • liggr -- verb; 3rd singular present of <liggja> be situated; lie (down); be slain -- is sitting
  • þar -- adverb; <þar> there, in that place -- there
  • úti -- adverb; <úti> outside; out at sea; unsheltered -- out
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- on
  • vegginum -- noun, masculine; dative singular of <veggr> wall + definite article; dative singular masculine of <inn> the -- the wall
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • er -- verb; 3rd singular present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- it's
  • -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular feminine of <> that -- one
  • af -- preposition; <af> out of, from; with; concerning; because of -- of
  • þeira -- demonstrative used as pronoun; genitive plural neuter of <> that -- their
  • ǫrum -- noun, feminine; dative plural of <ǫr> arrow -- arrows
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- ...
  • skal -- verb; 1st singular present of <skulu> shall, must, ought -- (wi)ll
  • ek -- pronoun; nominative singular of <ek> I -- I
  • þeiri -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative singular feminine of <> that -- it
  • skjóta -- verb; infinitive of <skjóta> shoot, throw -- shoot
  • til -- preposition; <til> in; of, concerning; on; as, for, to obtain; until, to, up to the time -- at
  • þeira -- demonstrative used as pronoun; genitive plural neuter of <> that -- them
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • er -- verb; 3rd singular present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- (wi)ll be
  • þeim -- demonstrative used as pronoun; dative plural neuter of <> that -- ...
  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <> that -- it
  • skǫmm -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <skǫmm> shame -- a shame
  • ef -- conjunction; <ef> if; whether; (to see) if; lest -- if
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • -- verb; 3rd plural present of <> get, take; catch; have, make use of; put; give; receive; suffer; (with ppart.) be able to, get accomplished; (mid.) take place; struggle -- take
  • geig -- noun, masculine; accusative singular of <geigr> serious injury -- a hit
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- with
  • vápnum -- noun, neuter; dative plural of <vápn> weapon -- weapons
  • sínum -- possessive adjective; dative plural neuter of <sínn> own, one's own -- their own

Móðir hans mælti, "Gør þú eigi þat, at þú vekir þá, er þeir hafa áðr frá horfit."

  • móðir -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <móðir> mother -- mother
  • hans -- demonstrative used as pronoun; genitive singular masculine of <hann> this one -- his
  • mælti -- verb; 3rd singular past of <mæla (t)> speak -- said
  • gør -- verb; 2nd singular imperative of <gøra> make, build; write, compose -- do... do
  • þú -- pronoun; nominative singular of <þú> thou, you -- ...
  • eigi -- adverb; <eigi> not -- n(o)t
  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular neuter of <> that -- that
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- or
  • þú -- pronoun; nominative singular of <þú> thou, you -- you
  • vekir -- verb; 2nd singular present of <vekja (vakti)> waken, rouse -- (wi)ll rouse
  • þá -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative plural masculine of <> that -- them
  • er -- relative; nominative singular neuter of <er> who, which -- when
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • hafa -- verb; 3rd plural present of <hafa (ð)> have, keep; hold; accept -- (ha)ve
  • áðr -- adverb; <áðr> before, first; until -- already
  • frá -- preposition; <frá> from; concerning -- up
  • horfit -- past participle; accusative singular neuter of <hverfa> turn -- given

Gunnarr þreif ǫrina ok skaut til þeira, ok kom á Eilíf Ǫnundarson, ok fekk hann af sár mikit. Hann hafði staðit einn saman, ok vissu þeir eigi at hann var særðr.

  • Gunnarr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gunnarr> Gunnar -- Gunnar
  • þreif -- verb; 3rd singular past of <þrífa> grasp -- snatched
  • ǫrina -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <ǫr> arrow + definite article; accusative singular feminine of <inn> the -- the arrow
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • skaut -- verb; 3rd singular past of <skjóta> shoot, throw -- shot
  • til -- preposition; <til> in; of, concerning; on; as, for, to obtain; until, to, up to the time -- at
  • þeira -- demonstrative used as pronoun; genitive plural neuter of <> that -- them
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • kom -- verb; 3rd singular past of <koma> come, arrive; reach; obtain; occur -- it came
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- at
  • Eilíf -- proper noun, masculine; accusative singular of <Eilífr> Eilif -- Eilif
  • Ǫnundarson -- proper noun, masculine; accusative singular of <Ǫnundarsonr> Onundarson -- Onundarson
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • fekk -- verb; 3rd singular past of <> get, take; catch; have, make use of; put; give; receive; suffer; (with ppart.) be able to, get accomplished; (mid.) take place; struggle -- received
  • hann -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hann> this one -- he
  • af -- preposition; <af> out of, from; with; concerning; because of -- ...
  • sár -- noun, neuter; accusative singular of <sár> wound -- wound
  • mikit -- adjective; accusative singular neuter of <mikill> great, large, big; severe -- a great
  • hann -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hann> this one -- he
  • hafði -- verb; 3rd singular past of <hafa (ð)> have, keep; hold; accept -- had
  • staðit -- past participle; accusative singular neuter of <standa> stand (firm); get up; take up a position; be in a place; remain valid; be in a specified condition; trend, flow; weigh -- been standing
  • einn -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <einn> one; a certain, particular -- alone
  • saman -- adverb; <saman> together -- ...
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • vissu -- verb; 3rd plural past of <vita (ssi)> know, be aware of; understand; know how (to); know of; find out -- did... know
  • þeir -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural masculine of <hann> this one -- they
  • eigi -- adverb; <eigi> not -- not
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • hann -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular masculine of <hann> this one -- he
  • var -- verb; 3rd singular past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- was
  • særðr -- past participle; nominative singular masculine of <sœra (ð)> wound -- wounded

"Hǫnd kom þar út," segir Gizurr, "ok var á gullhringr, ok tók ǫr er lá á þekjunni, ok myndi eigi út leitat viðfanga, ef gnógt væri inni, ok skulu vér nú sœkja at."

  • hǫnd -- noun, feminine; nominative singular of <hǫnd> hand, arm and hand; side, part -- a hand
  • kom -- verb; 3rd singular past of <koma> come, arrive; reach; obtain; occur -- came
  • þar -- adverb; <þar> there, in that place -- ...
  • út -- adverb; <út> out; from abroad -- out
  • segir -- verb; 3rd singular present of <segja (sagða)> say, speak; tell, tell of; relate -- said
  • Gizurr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gizurr> Gizur -- Gizur
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • var -- verb; 3rd singular past of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- was
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- on (it)
  • gullhringr -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <gullhringr> gold ring -- a gold ring
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- and
  • tók -- verb; 3rd singular past of <taka> take, take hold of; seize, capture; take to oneself, undertake; choose; accept, receive; begin (with infin.); reach, touch, strike against; happen, come to pass -- it took
  • ǫr -- noun, feminine; accusative singular of <ǫr> arrow -- an arrow
  • er -- relative; nominative singular neuter of <er> who, which -- which
  • -- verb; 3rd singular past of <liggja> be situated; lie (down); be slain -- was stuck
  • á -- preposition; <á> on, upon; at, in; to, towards; by means of; during; in the manner of -- in
  • þekjunni -- noun, feminine; dative singular of <þekja> thatch, roof + definite article; dative singular feminine of <inn> the -- the thatch
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- ...
  • myndi -- verb; 3rd singular past subjunctive of <munu> will, be about to; will be; must; might -- it would
  • eigi -- adverb; <eigi> not -- n(o)t
  • út -- adverb; <út> out; from abroad -- outside
  • leitat -- past participle; accusative singular neuter of <leita (að)> seek, search for; find; try to go, go; attack -- seek
  • viðfanga -- noun, neuter; genitive plural of <viðfǫng> (pl.) supplies -- supplies
  • ef -- conjunction; <ef> if; whether; (to see) if; lest -- if
  • gnógt -- adjective used as substantive; nominative singular neuter of <gnógr> enough; plenty (of) -- enough
  • væri -- verb; 3rd singular past subjunctive of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- there were
  • inni -- adverb; <inni> within, within the house -- inside
  • ok -- conjunction; <ok> and, also; but, though -- so
  • skulu -- verb; 1st plural present of <skulu> shall, must, ought -- should # 3rd pl. form is commonly used for 1st pl. when the subject pronoun is present, cf. viti þér (3rd pl. w/ pron.) for vitið ér (2nd pl. w/ pron.) above
  • vér -- pronoun; nominative plural of <ek> I -- we
  • -- adverb; <> now -- now
  • sœkja -- verb; infinitive of <sœkja> seek, go to fetch; visit; proceed -- attack
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- ...

Mǫrðr mælti, "Brennu vér hann inni."

  • Mǫrðr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Mǫrðr> Morth -- Morth
  • mælti -- verb; 3rd singular past of <mæla (t)> speak -- said
  • brennu -- verb; 3rd singular imperative of <brenna (d)> (trans.) burn, light, set on fire -- let... burn # on the form, see comment above on skulu
  • vér -- pronoun; nominative plural of <ek> I -- (u)s
  • hann -- demonstrative used as pronoun; accusative singular masculine of <hann> this one -- him
  • inni -- adverb; <inni> within, within the house -- inside

"Þat skal verða aldri," segir Gizurr, "þó at ek vita at líf mitt liggi við. Er þér sjálfrátt at leggja til ráð þau er dugi, svá slœgr maðr sem þú ert kallaðr."

  • þat -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative singular neuter of <> that -- that
  • skal -- verb; 3rd singular present of <skulu> shall, must, ought -- w(ill)
  • verða -- verb; infinitive of <verða> happen, come to pass; befall; chance to be; become -- happen
  • aldri -- adverb; <aldgregi, aldri> never -- n(o)t ever
  • segir -- verb; 3rd singular present of <segja (sagða)> say, speak; tell, tell of; relate -- said
  • Gizurr -- proper noun, masculine; nominative singular of <Gizurr> Gizur -- Gizur
  • þó -- adverb; <þó> yet, and yet; however, nevertheless -- since
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- ...
  • ek -- pronoun; nominative singular of <ek> I -- I
  • vita -- verb; 1st singular present of <vita (ssi)> know, be aware of; understand; know how (to); know of; find out -- know
  • at -- conjunction; <at> that -- that
  • líf -- noun, neuter; nominative singular of <líf> life -- life
  • mitt -- possessive adjective; nominative singular neuter of <minn> my, mine, of me -- my
  • liggi -- verb; 3rd singular present subjunctive of <liggja> be situated; lie (down); be slain -- will go
  • við -- preposition; <við> reaching to, against, with; towards, at; in exchange for; by; (together) with, close to; because of -- with (it)
  • er -- verb; 3rd singular present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- (but)... (a)re
  • þér -- pronoun; dative singular of <þú> thou, you -- you
  • sjálfrátt -- adjective; nominative singular neuter of <sjálfráðr> free -- free
  • at -- preposition; <at> to, towards, against; at, in; from; according to; regarding; concerning; after -- to
  • leggja -- verb; infinitive of <leggja> lay, place, put; put down, lay down; move, bring; thrust, throw; make; give -- come up
  • til -- preposition; <til> in; of, concerning; on; as, for, to obtain; until, to, up to the time -- with
  • ráð -- noun, neuter; accusative plural of <ráð> advice, counsel; expedient, means; plan; agreement -- (some) plans
  • þau -- demonstrative used as pronoun; nominative plural neuter of <> that -- that
  • er -- relative; nominative singular neuter of <er> who, which -- ...
  • dugi -- verb; 3rd plural present subjunctive of <duga> help, aid, be of avail, be of assistance -- would work
  • svá -- adverb; <svá> so, thus, in this way; also; as, as if -- ...
  • slœgr -- adjective; nominative singular masculine of <slœgr> clever, crafty -- a clever
  • maðr -- noun, masculine; nominative singular of <maðr> man, person; husband; henchman -- fellow
  • sem -- relative particle; <sem> as; as if, that; while; when; where -- as
  • þú -- pronoun; nominative singular of <þú> thou, you -- you
  • ert -- verb; 2nd singular present of <vera> be; stay; be done; happen -- (a)re
  • kallaðr -- past participle; nominative singular masculine of <kalla> call, cry out; name; say, declare -- supposed to be

Lesson Text

Skáli Gunnars var gǫrr af viði einum ok súðþakiðr útan, ok gluggar hjá brúnásunum ok snúin þar fyrir speld. Gunnarr svaf í lopti einu í skálanum ok Hallgerðr ok móðir hans. Þá er þeir kómu at, vissu þeir eigi hvárt Gunnarr myndi heim vera, ok báðu at einnhverr myndi fara heim fyrir ok vita hvers víss yrði, en þeir settusk niðr á vǫllinn. Þorgrímr austmaðr gekk upp á skálann; Gunnarr sér at rauðan kyrtil bar við glugginum, ok leggr út með atgeirinum á hann miðjan. Þorgrími skruppu fœtrnir ok varð lauss skjǫldrinn, ok hrataði hann ofan af þekjunni. Gengr hann síðan at þeim Gizuri, þar er þeir sátu á vellinum. Gizurr leit við honum ok mælti, "Hvárt er Gunnarr heima?"
Þorgrímr svarar, "Viti þér þat, en hitt vissa ek, at atgeirr hans var heima." Síðan fell hann niðr dauðr.
Þeir sóttu þá at húsinum. Gunnarr skaut út ǫrum at þeim ok varðisk vel, ok gátu þeir ekki at gǫrt. Þá hljópu sumir á húsin ok ætluðu þaðan at sœkja. Gunnarr kom þangat at þeim ǫrunum, ok gátu þeir ekki at gǫrt, ok fór svá fram um hríð. Þeir tóku hvílð ok sóttu at í annat sinn. Gunnarr skaut enn út, ok gátu þeir ekki at gǫrt ok hrukku frá í annat sinn.
Þá mælti Gizurr Hvíti, "Sœkjum at betr, ekki verðr af oss." Gørðu þeir þá hríð ina þriðju ok váru við lengi; eptir þat hrukku þeir frá.
Gunnarr mælti, "Ǫr liggr þar úti á vegginum, ok er sú af þeira ǫrum, ok skal ek þeiri skjóta til þeira, ok er þeim þat skǫmm, ef þeir fá geig at vápnum sínum."
Móðir hans mælti, "Gør þú eigi þat, at þú vekir þá, er þeir hafa áðr frá horfit."
Gunnarr þreif ǫrina ok skaut til þeira, ok kom á Eilíf Ǫnundarson, ok fekk hann af sár mikit. Hann hafði staðit einn saman, ok vissu þeir eigi at hann var særðr.
"Hǫnd kom þar út," segir Gizurr, "ok var á gullhringr, ok tók ǫr er lá á þekjunni, ok myndi eigi út leitat viðfanga, ef gnógt væri inni, ok skulu vér nú sœkja at."
Mǫrðr mælti, "Brennu vér hann inni."
"Þat skal verða aldri," segir Gizurr, "þó at ek vita at líf mitt liggi við. Er þér sjálfrátt at leggja til ráð þau er dugi, svá slœgr maðr sem þú ert kallaðr."

Translation

Gunnar's hall was made with one beam and overlapping boards on the outside, and there were windows by the ridge-beams and shutters fastened in front of these. Gunnar slept in one loft of the hall, as well as Hallgertha and his mother. When they arrived, they did not know whether Gunnar would be at home, and they said that someone should go up to the house and find out for certain, while the others set themselves down on the ground. Thorgrim, a Norwegian, went up to the hall; Gunnar saw that he bore a red kirtle up to the window, and Gunnar shot out a spear at his midsection. Thorgrim's feet slipped and his shield came loose, and he tumbled down off the thatch. Then he went back to the rest, Gizur among them, where they sat on the ground. Gizur looked at him and said, "Is Gunnar home?"
Thorgrim answered, "You find out; but I discovered this: his spear was home." Then he fell dead.
Then they rushed at the house. Gunnar lashed out at them with arrows and defended himself well, and so they got nothing done. Then some lept upon the house and intended to attack from there. There Gunnar came at them with arrows, and again they got nothing done, and it went on like this for a while. They took a rest and then attacked a second time. Gunnar shot some more, and they got nothing done and so retreated a second time.
Then Gizur the Fair said, "Let's press harder -- nothing comes of us." Then they made a third attempt and were at it a while; after that they retreated.
Gunnar said, "An arrow is sitting out there on the wall, and it's one of their arrows; I'll shoot it at them, and it'll be a shame if they take a hit with their own weapons."
His mother said, "Don't do that, or you'll rouse them when they've already given up."
Gunnar snatched the arrow and shot at them, and it came at Eilif Onundarson, and he received a great wound. He had been standing alone, and they did not know that he was wounded.
"A hand came out", said Gizur, "and a gold ring was on it, and it took an arrow which was stuck in the thatch; it wouldn't seek supplies outside if there were enough inside -- so we should attack now."
Morth said, "Let's burn him inside."
"That won't ever happen", said Gizur, "since I know that my life will go with it. But you're free to come up with some plans that would work, as you're supposed to be a clever fellow."

Grammar

16. Weak Nominal Declension

In contrast to the situation regarding adjectives, the property of being weak or strong is inherent in any given noun. A noun is either strong or weak lexically, and does not change depending on context. Thus maðr 'man' is strong, and so takes strong nominal endings at all times. But bani 'bane' is weak, and takes weak endings always. The weak nouns are historically n-stems, and are typically classified as such in the standard grammars. The -n has dropped, however, in most forms by the period of ON. It survives only regularly in the G pl. of feminine and neuter nouns, but rarely in masculines. The -n is less common in prose, but shows up in forms other than the G pl. in poetry.

Several feminine weak nouns show j before the vowel of the case marker. In stems ending in a velar, the j drops before the G pl. -na. Thus kirkja 'church', but kirkna 'of churches'. Stems which do not end in a velar take the G pl. ending -a and retain the j, e.g. hetja 'hero' vs. hetja 'of heroes'.

The stem-final i of masculine weak nouns is retained as j when it follows a velar and precedes a or u. Thus Væringi 'Varangian' vs. N pl. Væringjar 'Varangians' and D pl. Væringjum 'to the Varangians'. The i is also retained in some nouns when preceded by non-velars.

16.1. an/jan-Stems

The an- and jan-stem weak nouns are generally masculine and neuter. The masculine nouns are characterized by the vowel -i in the N sg., while the neuter shows -a. Both genders have -a in all the singular oblique forms. The masculine nouns bogi 'bow', bryti 'bailiff', gumi 'man', and the neuter hjarta 'heart', illustrate the declension.

    Masculine   Neuter        
                 
Stem   bogi-   bryti-   gumi-   hjarta-
                 
N Sg.   bogi   bryti   gumi   hjarta
A   boga   brytja   guma   hjarta
G   boga   brytja   guma   hjarta
D   boga   brytja   guma   hjarta
                 
N Pl.   bogar   brytjar   gum(n)ar   hjǫrtu
A   boga   brytja   gum(n)a   hjǫrtu
G   boga   brytja   gumna   hjartna
D   bogum   brytjum   gum(n)um   hjǫrtum
                 
16.2. ōn/jōn-Stems

All ōn/jōn-stem weak nouns are feminine. These nouns are characterized by a stem, and hence N sg., ending in -a. The singular oblique cases end in -u. Some nouns ending in -sjá also follow this declension. The nouns saga 'tale', stjarna 'star', ásjá 'help', brynja 'mailcoat' illustrate the paradigms.

    Feminine            
                 
Stem   saga-   stjarna-   ásjá-   brynja-
                 
N Sg.   saga   stjarna   ásjá   brynja
A   sǫgu   stjǫrnu   ásjá   brynju
G   sǫgu   stjǫrnu   ásjá   brynju
D   sǫgu   stjǫrnu   ásjá   brynju
                 
N Pl.   sǫgur   stjǫrnur   ásjár   brynjur
A   sǫgur   stjǫrnur   ásjár   brynjur
G   sagna   stjarna   ásjá   brynja
D   sǫgum   stjǫrnum   ásjám   brynjum
                 

Some nouns like ásjá could decline like á, with G sg. ásjár. The common noun kona 'woman' has G pl. kvenna or kvinna.

16.3. in-Stems

The in-stem nouns are all feminine. They are characterized by a final -i which remains as ending in all singular forms. These are typically abstract nouns, so that plural forms are rare. The nouns elli 'old age' and gørsimi 'treasure' illustrate the paradigm.

    Feminine    
         
Stem   elli-   gørsimi-
         
N Sg.   elli   gørsimi
A   elli   gørsimi
G   elli   gørsimi
D   elli   gørsimi
         
N Pl.   -   gørsimar
A   -   gørsimar
G   -   gørsima
D   -   gørsimum
         

The declension of the plural follows that of the ō-stems.

17. Adjectives

As already mentioned, adjectives can be declined according to either weak or strong paradigms, depending on the situation at hand. The weak forms are used in modifying a definite noun, while the strong endings are used to modify an indefinite noun. For example, sterkr víkingr 'a strong viking' vs. inn sterki víkingr 'the strong viking'; fǫgr kona 'a beautiful woman' vs. in fagra kona 'the beautiful woman'; skarpt sverð 'a sharp sword' vs. it skarpa sverð 'the sharp sword'. As one can see from these examples, there is no correlation between weak nouns and weak adjectives, nor between strong nouns and strong adjectives. The strong/weak distinction is lexical when applied to nouns, situational when applied to adjectives. An adjective must be weak when the noun modified is accompanied by a definite article. Even in the absence of a definite article, a weak adjective still has definite force. Thus Helga fagra and Helga in fagra are both 'Helga the Fair'.

17.1. Weak Declension

The weak adjective endings are listed below.

    Masculine   Feminine   Neuter
             
N Sg.   -i   -a   -a
A   -a   -u   -a
G   -a   -u   -a
D   -a   -u   -a
             
N Pl.   -u   -u   -u
A   -u   -u   -u
G   -u   -u   -u
D   -um   -um   -um
             

The adjectives sterkr 'strong', vænn 'handsome', gamall 'old', nýr 'new', frægr 'famous', rǫskr 'brave' illustrate the paradigms. The masculine forms are as follows.

Stem   sterk-   væn-   gamal-   nýj-   frægj-   rǫskv-
                         
N Sg.   sterki   væni   gamli     frægi   rǫskvi
A   sterka   væna   gamla   nýja   frægja   rǫskva
G   sterka   væna   gamla   nýja   frægja   rǫskva
D   sterka   væna   gamla   nýja   frægja   rǫskva
                         
N Pl.   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
A   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
G   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
D   sterkum   vænum   gǫmlum   nýjum   frægjum   rǫskum
                         

The feminine forms are as follows.

Stem   sterk-   væn-   gamal-   nýj-   frægj-   rǫskv-
                         
N Sg.   sterka   væna   gamla   nýja   frægja   rǫskva
A   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
G   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
D   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
                         
N Pl.   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
A   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
G   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
D   sterkum   vænum   gǫmlum   nýjum   frægjum   rǫskum
                         

The neuter forms are as follows.

Stem   sterk-   væn-   gamal-   nýj-   frægj-   rǫskv-
                         
N Sg.   sterka   væna   gamla   nýja   frægja   rǫskva
A   sterka   væna   gamla   nýja   frægja   rǫskva
G   sterka   væna   gamla   nýja   frægja   rǫskva
D   sterka   væna   gamla   nýja   frægja   rǫskva
                         
N Pl.   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
A   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
G   sterku   vænu   gǫmlu   nýju   frægju   rǫsku
D   sterkum   vænum   gǫmlum   nýjum   frægjum   rǫskum
                         
17.2. Comparison of Adjectives

Most adjectives form the comparative by adding the suffix -ar- to the stem, and then adding the case ending to this. The superlative is formed by adding -ast- and then the case endings. The comparative case endings are as follows.

    Masculine   Feminine   Neuter
             
N Sg.   -i   -i   -a
A   -a   -i   -a
G   -a   -i   -a
D   -a   -i   -a
             
N Pl.   -i   -i   -i
A   -i   -i   -i
G   -i   -i   -i
D   -um   -um   -um
             

Though these endings resemble those of weak adjectives, they are not necessarily definite, so that e.g. ljótari maðr is 'an uglier man'. The comparative of hvass 'sharp' illustrates the paradigm.

    Masculine   Feminine   Neuter
             
N Sg.   hvassari   hvassari   hvassara
A   hvassara   hvassari   hvassara
G   hvassara   hvassari   hvassara
D   hvassara   hvassari   hvassara
             
N Pl.   hvassari   hvassari   hvassari
A   hvassari   hvassari   hvassari
G   hvassari   hvassari   hvassari
D   hvǫssurum   hvǫssurum   hvǫssurum
             

The superlative declines like any other adjective, using the strong adjective endings for indefinite roles, weak endings for definite. For example, strong forms ljótastr (masc. N sg.) 'ugliest', ljótastir (masc. N pl.), ljótust (fem. N sg.), ljótastar (fem. N pl.), ljótast (neut. N sg.), ljótust (neut. N pl.). The declension parallels that of gamal-. Examples of weak forms: inn ljótasti (masc. N sg.) 'the ugliest', inir ljótustu (masc. N pl.), in ljótasta (fem. N sg.), inar ljótustu (fem. N pl.), it ljótasta (neut. N sg.), in ljótustu (neut. N pl.).

Several adjectives are derived by addition of the suffix -lig-. Addition of the comparative ending -ar- often results in syncope: when the a of the ending is unstressed and followed by a single consonant plus vowel, the a is dropped. This obtains in all forms of the comparative. For example, gørviligr 'accomplished' and líkligr 'likely' have the forms gørviligri 'more accomplished' and líkligri 'more likely'. This syncope usually is not found in the superlative, e.g. masc. N sg. líkligastr 'most likely', fem. N sg. gørviligust 'most accomplished'. Some words, however, do show syncope even in the superlative: efniligr 'promising', efniligri 'more promising', efniligstr 'most promising'. Generally disyllabic adjectives drop the a of the comparative and superlative endings.

Several adjectives form the comparative and superlative simply by adding -r- or -st-, respectively, with attendant fronting (i-umlaut) of the stem vowel. The case endings are the same as those for comparatives and superlatives in -ar- and -ast-. For example, langr (stem lang-) 'long' has the comparative lengri (masc. N sg.) and the superlative lengsti (weak masc. N sg.) or lengstr (strong masc. N sg.); ungr (stem ung-) 'young' has yngri and yngsti/yngstr. The adjectives which most commonly form the comparative and superlative in this way are listed below.

Stem   Positive   Comparative   Superlative (weak, strong)
             
- 'few'   fár   færi   fæsti, fæstr
fagr- 'fair'   fagr   fegri   fegrsti, fegrstr
- 'high'   hár   hæri   hæsti, hæstr
lág- 'low'   lágr   lægri   lægsti, lægstr
sein- 'late'   seinn   seinni   seinsti, seinstr
skamm- 'short'   skammr   skemmri   skemmsti, skemmstr
smá- 'small'   smár   smæri   smæsti, smæstr
stór- 'big'   stór   stœri   stœrsti, stœrstr
             

Some adjectives form the comparative and superlative by either method, employing either the suffixes -ar-, -ast- or -r-, -st- (with fronting). For example, djúpr 'deep' forms either djúpari, djúpasti, djúpastr or dýpri, dýpsti, dýpstr; similarly frægr 'famous' forms frægjari, frægjasti, frægjastr or frægri, frægsti, frægstr.

A few adjectives have comparatives and superlatives formed from completely different stems. The most common are listed below.

Positive Stem   Comparative Stem   Superlative Stem
         
góð- 'good'   betr-   bezt-
ill-, vánd- 'bad'   verr-   verst-
mikil- 'great'   meir-   mest-
lítil- 'little'   minn-   minnst-
marg- 'many'   fleir-   flest-
gamal- 'old'   eldr-, ellr-   elzt-
         
18. Relatives, Interrogatives, and Indefinites
18.1. Relatives

Old Norse employs the word er, earlier es, as an all-purpose relative particle. It is indeclinable, and can therefore represent any case, gender, and number. Sometimes it is preceded by a form of to indicate gender and number, e.g. sú er 'who' (fem. sg.). This form of may belong to the relative clause itself, but often it belongs to the preceding clause, so that its case bears no relation to the case represented by er: ...sverð þat er..., depending on context, could represent '(that is) the sword, which (bears his name)' as well as '(that is) the sword, by which (he was killed)', or '(that is) the sword, of which (the legacy is well-known)'. er is also used with demonstrative adverbs or particles to make relatives, e.g. þar 'there' vs. þar er 'where', þá 'then' vs. þá er 'when'. The word sem is often used with the same functions as er, especially in the later texts. There are no separate relative pronouns or adjectives, and, unlike other Indo-European languages, the stem of the interrogative pronoun is not used in this role.

18.2. Interrogatives

The basic interrogative stem is hverj- 'who, which, what', used both as an adjective and as a pronoun. As an adjective it takes strong endings. The paradigm is given below.

    Masculine   Feminine   Neuter
             
N Sg.   hverr   hver   hvert
A   hvern   hverja   hvert
G   hvers   hverrar   hvers
D   hverjum   hverri   hverju
             
N Pl.   hverir   hverjar   hver
A   hverja   hverjar   hver
G   hverra   hverra   hverra
D   hverjum   hverrjum   hverrjum
             

The pronoun sometimes employs the same forms, but alternate forms are quite common. These are listed below.

    Masc./Fem.   Neut.
         
N Sg.   hverr   hvat
A   hverjan, hvern   hvat
G   hvers, hves(s)   hvers, hves(s)
D   hverjum, hveim   hví
         

The plural is the same as the adjective, with hveim used as a common contraction for the D pl. hverjum.

The pronoun hverj- in the sense 'which (of many)' contrasts with hvár- 'which of two'. hvár- declines as a regular strong adjective, e.g. masc. N sg. hvárr, pl. hvárir; fem. N sg. hvár, pl. hvárar; neut. N sg. hvárt, pl. hvár.

Certain case forms of the interrogative pronouns were frozen and used as interrogative adjectives. The most common are listed below.

Interrog. Adv.   Meaning
     
hvaðan   'whence'
hvar   'where'
hvert   'whither'
hvárt   'whether (or not)'
hvé   'how'
hvenær   'when'
hví   'why'
hversu   'how'
hvernig   'how, by what means'
     

The negative correlation is expressed with hvárki... né 'neither... nor'.

18.3. Indefinites

For the most part, indefinite pronouns are formed in the same fashion as normal indefinite (i.e. strong) adjectives. Several of the indefinite pronouns, however, have minor peculiarities and differences from strong adjective declension. The most common indefinites are treated below.

all- 'all' follows the regular adjective declension, e.g. masc. N sg. allr, pl. allir; fem. N sg. ǫll, pl. allar; neut. N sg. allt, pl. ǫll.

sum- 'some, (a) certain' follows the regular adjective declension, e.g. masc. N sg. sumr, pl. sumir; fem. N sg. sum, pl. sumar; neut. N sg. sumt, pl. sum.

ein- 'one' as a pronoun is distinguished from the numeral ein- 'one'. As a pronoun it signifies any given indefinite referent, and occurs only in the singular. All of its forms follow the regular strong adjective declension, except the neut. N and A sg. forms eitt (instead of *eint).

annar- '(an) other' has a variant stem aðr- before case endings that begin with a vowel. Contraction yields masc. A sg. annan, and assimilation yields neut. N/A sg. annat. See Section 13.2 for the declension.

nǫkkur- 'any, some; a certain' declines as a regular strong adjective, except for a contracted masc. A sg. form nǫkkurn and neut. N/A sg. nǫkkut. The stem nakkvar- is also used. The declension is as follows.

    Masculine       Feminine       Neuter    
                         
N Sg.   nakkvarr   nǫkkurr   nǫkkur       nakkvat   nǫkkut
A   nakkvarn   nǫkkurn   nakkvara   nǫkkura   nakkvat   nǫkkut
G   nakkvars   nǫkkurs   nakkvarar   nǫkkurar   nakkvars   nǫkkurs
D   nǫkkurum       nakkvarri   nǫkkurri   nǫkkuru    
                         
N Pl.   nakkvarir   nǫkkurir   nakkvarar   nǫkkurar   nǫkkur    
A   nakkvara   nǫkkura   nakkvarar   nǫkkurar   nǫkkur    
G   nakkvarra   nǫkkurra   nakkvarra   nǫkkurra   nakkvarra   nǫkkurra
D   nǫkkurum       nǫkkurum       nǫkkurum    
                         

ein- + hverj- 'one, some'. These two stems often combine to form a pronoun. The second member hverj- is always declined; the first member may either remain invariant or be declined along with the second member. For example, masc. G sg. einshvers or einhvers.

19. Present Participle

The present participle is derived by adding the suffix -nd- to the verbal infinitive. The declension follows that of comparative adjectives. Thus þegja 'be silent', þegjandi 'being silent'; hlæja 'laugh', hlæjandi 'laughing'; ganga 'go', gangandi 'walking'. The present participle of sofa 'sleep' serves to illustrate the declension.

    Masculine   Feminine   Neuter
             
N Sg.   sofandi   sofandi   sofanda
A   sofanda   sofandi   sofanda
G   sofanda   sofandi   sofanda
D   sofanda   sofandi   sofanda
             
N Pl.   sofandi   sofandi   sofandi
A   sofandi   sofandi   sofandi
G   sofandi   sofandi   sofandi
D   sofǫndum   sofǫndum   sofǫndum
             

The participle denotes an action ongoing at the time of the main verb. Its use is much less frequent in ON than its counterpart in Modern English, though for the most part it is able to fill the same roles. It may be used in a simple adjectival role, e.g. logandi brandr 'a burning brand'. The force of the participle can be adverbial, e.g. hon gekk þegjandi 'she went being silent', which has the sense of Modern English 'she went silently.'

Some common nouns are in origin present participles, such as bóndi 'farmer, husband' (= búandi < búa 'dwell, settle') or frændi 'kinsman'. These follow the declension of the nd-stem nouns discussed in Section 11.2.

20. Adjective Use

As already noted, adjectives have strong and weak forms. The strong forms are indefinite, while the weak are definite. A predicate adjective, not used as a substantive, is strong. An attributive adjective is usually strong in poetry, even when prose would use a weak adjective with the definite article. For example: fyrr vil ek kyssa ólifþan, en þú blóþogri bryniu kastir 'sooner will I kiss the lifeless king, than you cast off the bloody byrnie'. This use is not confined to poetry alone; examples from prose are not uncommon: með fǫþur sinn gamlan 'with his old father'. Though the possessive sinn serves to make the noun definite, the strong form of the adjective is still used. Even epithets may occasionally use the strong form of the adjective instead of the more common weak form: Eiríkr rauðr 'Erik the Red'. In prose the vocative more often employs the strong form of the adjective: forþa þér, vesall maðr! 'save yourself, unfortunate man!'

Often ON uses a simple adjective where Modern English would use a phrase or some other circumlocution. The adjective usually takes the strong form in such situations, even when used in conjunction with a definite article. Examples are í miðjum hauginum 'in the middle of the hill'; um þueran skálann 'straight across the hall'; ǫndorþan vetr 'the first part of the winter'. Such usage even applies to pronouns, e.g. þeir margir 'many of them'.

Poetry and high-style composition make more frequent use of substantives with indefinite form than does simple prose. For example: blindr er betri, en brendr sé 'a blind (man) is better off than a burned (man) would be'; hvat muntu, ríkr, vinna 'what would you tell, powerful (man)'; rétt 'Right (vs. Wrong)'. Definite adjectives with a definite article are uncommon even in poetry. Their use in prose is mostly confined to names of peoples, e.g. inir ensku 'the English'. These forms are also used with ordered items, e.g. inn yngri, inn ellri 'the younger, the older'.

The weak adjective is found in prose without the definite article in epithets following the name, e.g. Hákon góði 'Hakon the Good'. The same is found with comparatives, superlatives, and ordinals placed before the noun they modify: fyrra sumar 'last summer'; á vinstri hlið 'on the left side'; í næsta hús 'in the next house'; við þriðja mann 'with the third man'.