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Early Indo-European Texts

Old Norse

Todd B. Krause and Jonathan Slocum

This page contains a text in Old Norse with a modern English translation. This particular text and its translation are extracted from a lesson in the Early Indo-European Online series, where one may find detailed information about this text (see the Table of Contents page for Old Norse Online in EIEOL), and general information about the Old Norse language and its speakers' culture.

from the Tale of Bvarr Bjarki

San fr Bvarr lei sna til Hleiargars. hann kmr til konungs atsetu. Bvarr leiir san hest sinn stall hj konungs hestum hinum beztu ok spyrr engan at; gekk san inn hllina, ok var ar ftt manna. Hann sezk tarliga, ok sem hann hefir verit ar ltla hr, heyrir hann rausk nkkut tar hornit einhverjum sta. Bvarr ltr angat ok sr at mannshnd kmr upp r mikilli beinahrgu, er ar l; hndin var svrt mjk. Bvarr gengr angat til ok spyrr hverr ar vri beinahrgunni. var honum svarat ok heldr framliga: "Httr heiti ek, bokki sll." "Hv ertu hr", segir Bvarr, "ea hvat grir ?" Httr segir, "Ek gri mr skjaldborg, bokki sll." Bvarr sagi, "Vesall ertu innar skjaldborgar!" Bvarr rfir til hans ok hnykkir honum upp r beinahrgunni. Httr kva htt vi ok mlti, "N viltu mr bana! Gr eigi etta, sv sem ek hefi n vel um bizk r, en hefir n rtat sundr skjaldborg minni, ok hafa ek n sv grt hana hva tan at mr, at hon hefir hlft mr vi llum hggum ykkar, sv at engi hgg hafa komit mik lengi, en ekki var hon enn sv bin sem ek tlai hon skyldi vera." Bvarr mlti: "Ekki muntu f skjaldborgina lengr." Httr mlti ok grt: "Skaltu n bana mr, bokki sll?" Bvarr ba hann ekki hafa htt, tk hann upp san ok bar hann t r hllinni ok til vatns nkkurs sem ar var nnd, ok gfu fir at essu gaum, ok hann upp allan.

San gekk Bvarr til ess rms sem hann hafi r tekit, ok leiddi eptir sr Htt ok ar setr hann Htt hj sr. En hann er sv hrddr at skelfr honum leggr ok lir, en ykkisk hann skilja at essi mar vill hjlpa sr. Eptir at kveldar ok drfa menn hllina ok sj Hrlfs kappar at Httr er settr bekk upp, ok ykkir eim s mar hafa grt sik rit djarfan, er etta hefir til tekit. Ilt tillit hefir Httr, er hann sr kunningja sna, v at hann hefir ilt eitt at eim reynt; hann vill lifa gjarnan ok fara aptr beinahrgu sna, en Bvarr heldr honum, sv at hann nir ekki brottu at fara, v at hann ttisk ekki jafnberr fyrir hggum eira, ef hann ni angat at komask, sem hann er n. Hirmenn hafa n sama vanda, ok kasta fyrst beinum smm um vert glfit til Bvars ok Hattar. Bvarr ltr sem hann sji eigi etta. Httr er sv hrddr at hann tekr eigi mat n drykk, ok ykkir honum ok sem hann muni vera lostinn. Ok n mlti Httr til Bvars: "Bokki sll, n ferr at r str knta, ok mun etta tlat okkr til naua." Bvarr ba hann egja. Hann setr vi holan lfann ok tekr sv vi kntunni; ar fylgir leggrinn me. Bvarr sendi aptr kntuna ok setr ann sem kastai, ok rtt framan hann me sv harri svipan at hann fekk bana. Sl miklum tta yfir hirmennina.

Kmr n essi fregn fyrir Hrlf konung ok kappa hans upp kastalann, at mar mikilligr s kominn til hallarinnar ok hafi drepit einn hirmann hans, ok vildu eir lta drepa manninn. Hrlfr konungr spurisk eptir, hvrt hirmarinn hefi verit saklauss drepinn. "v var nsta", sgu eir. Kmusk fyrir Hrlf konung ll sannindi hr um. Hrlfr konungr sagi at skyldu fjarri, at drepa skyldi manninn -- "hafi it hr illan vanda upp tekit, at berja saklausa menn beinum; er mr v viring, en yr str skmm, at gra slkt. Hefi ek jafnan rtt um etta r, ok hafi it at essu engan gaum gefit, ok hygg ek at essi mar muni ekki allltill fyrir sr, er r hafi n leitat; ok kalli hann til mn, sv at ek viti hverr hann er."

Bvarr gengr fyrir konung ok kver hann kurteisliga. Konungr spyrr hann at nafni. "Hattargria kalla mik hirmenn yar, en Bvarr heiti ek." Konungr mlti, "Hverjar btr viltu bja mr fyrir hirmann minn?" Bvarr segir, "Til ess gri hann, sem hann fekk." Konungr mlti, "Viltu vera minn mar ok skipa rm hans?" Bvarr segir, "Ekki neita ek at vera yarr mar, ok munu vit ekki skiljask sv bit, vit Httr, ok dveljask nr r bir, heldr en essi hefir setit; elligar vit frum brott bir." Konungr mlti, "Eigi s ek at honum smd, en ek spara ekki mat vi hann."

Bvarr gengr n til ess rms sem honum lkai, en ekki vill hann at skipa sem hinn hafi r. Hann kippir upp einhverjum sta remr mnnum, ok san settusk eir Httr ar nir ok innar hllinni en eim var skipat. Heldr tti mnnum dlt vi Bvar, ok er eim hinn mesti hugi at honum.

Ok sem lei at jlum, grusk menn ktir. Bvarr spyrr Htt hverju etta stti; hann segir honum at dr eitt hafi ar komit tv vetr samt, mikit ok gurligt -- "ok hefir vngi bakinu ok flgr at jafnan. Tvau haust hefir at n hingat vitjat ok grt mikinn skaa. at bta ekki vpn, en kappar konungs koma ekki heim, eir sem at eru einna mestir." Bvarr mlti, "Ekki er hllin sv vel skipu sem ek tlai, ef eitt dr skal hr eya rki ok f konungsins." Httr sagi, "at er ekki dr, heldr er at hit mesta trll."

N kmr jla-aptann. mlti konungr, "N vil ek at menn s kyrrir ok hljir ntt, ok banna ek llum mnum mnnum at ganga nkkurn hska vi drit, en f ferr eptir v sem aunar; menn mna vil ek ekki missa." Allir heita hr gu um, at gra eptir v sem konungr bau.

Bvarr leyndisk brott um nttina; hann ltr Htt fara me sr, ok grir hann at nauugr ok kallai hann sr strt til bana. Bvarr segir at betr mundi til takask. eir ganga brott fr hllinni, ok verr Bvarr at bera hann, sv er hann hrddr. N sj eir drit, ok v nst pir Httr slkt sem hann m ok kva drit mundu gleypa hann. Bvarr ba bikkjuna hans egja ok kastar honum nir mosann, ok ar liggr hann ok eigi me llu hrddr. Eigi orir hann heim at fara heldr. N gengr Bvarr mti drinu; at hfir honum, at sverit er fast umgjrinni, er hann vildi brega v. Bvarr eggjar n fast sverit ok bragar umgjrinni, ok n fr hann brugit umgjrinni sv at sverit gengr r slrunum, ok leggr egar undir bgi drsins ok sv fast at st hjartanu, ok datt drit til jarar dautt nir. Eptir at ferr hann angat sem Httr liggr. Bvarr tekr upp ok berr angat sem drit liggr dautt. Httr skelfr kaft. Bvarr mlti: "N skaltu drekka bl drsins."

Translation

Then Bothvar made his way to Hleithargarth. He came to the king's residence. Bothvar then led his horse to the stall near the king's best horses and asked no one about it; he then went into the hall, where there were a few men. He set himself at a distance, and when he had been there a little while, he heard some rummaging over in a certain spot in the corner. Bothvar looked there and saw that a man's hand was coming up out of a great pile of bones which was lying there; the hand was quite black. Bothvar went over and asked who was there in the bone pile. Then came a reply, rather timidly: 'I'm called Hott, dear sir.' 'Why are you here', said Bothvar, 'and what are you doing?' Hott said, 'I'm arranging protection for myself, dear sir.' Bothvar said, 'You're pitiful at protecting yourself!' Bothvar seized him and snatched him up out of the bone pile. Hott cried aloud and said, 'Now you'll kill me! Don't do that -- just before I was quite secure, but now you've thrown asunder my protection; and I had just made it so high about me that it had protected me against all your blows, so no strikes had landed on me for some time, though it was not so secure as I had intended it should be.' Bothvar said, 'You'll no longer have use of this protection.' Hott wept and said, 'Will you kill me now, dear sir?' Bothvar told him not to be so loud, then took him up and carried him out of the hall and to some water which was nearby -- few took notice of this -- and washed him all up.
Then Bothvar went back to the place he had taken up before, and led Hott behind him and set Hott next to himself. But he was so frightened that his limbs and joints shook, even though he seemed to understand that this man would help him. Soon evening came on and men entered the hall, and Hrolf's troop saw that Hott was set up on a bench, and it seemed to them that this man had become rather daring to have done so. Hott made an expression of contempt when he saw his acquaintances, since he had met ill at their hands. He was eager to leave and go back to his bone pile, but Bothvar held him so he couldn't get away, since he seemed less exposed to their blows as he was now than if he be allowed to go thither. The retainers now took up their usual custom, and cast forth small bones across the floor at Bothvar and Hott. Bothvar acts as if he doesn't notice it. Hott is so frightened that he takes neither food nor drink, and it seems to him time and again that he might get hit. And then Hott says to Bothvar: 'Dear sir, now a great knuckle-bone is coming at you, and it might mean to do us harm.' Bothvar told him to be quiet. He set out an open palm and received the knuckle-bone -- the leg-bone followed. Bothvar sent back the knuckle-bone and directed it at the one who threw it -- straight at him with so hard a blow that he caught his death. A great fear came over the retainers.
Now this news came to king Hrolf and his champions up in the castle, that an imposing man had arrived at the hall and had slain one of his retainers, and they wanted to be permitted to slay the man. King Hrolf asked in return whether the retainer had been slain without cause. 'Nearly so,' they said. Then the whole truth came out before king Hrolf. King Hrolf said it to be far from the case that they should kill the man -- 'You have taken up a bad habit here, to strike blameless men with bones; it is a disgrace for me, but a great shame for you, to do so. I have spoken often about that before, and you have paid it no heed, and I suspect this man, whom you have just attacked, might be no trifle compared to you. So summon him to me, so I might know who he is.'
Bothvar goes before the king and greets him with courtesy. The king asks him for his name. 'Your retainers call me Hott's-guard, but I'm named Bothvar.' The king said, 'What compensation will you give me for my retainer?' Bothvar said, 'He got what he deserved.' The king said, 'Will you become one of my men and take his place?' Bothvar said, 'I wouldn't refuse to be one of yours, but we shall not part as matters stand, Hott and I, but will both stay nearer you than that man had been sitting; otherwise we'll both be on our way.' The king said, 'I see no honor in him, but I would not deny him food.'
Bothvar now goes to the spot which pleases him, but he does not wish to occupy the one which that man had before. He snatches up three men in a certain spot and he and Hott set themselves down there farther in the hall than was designated for them. The men consider Bothvar difficult to deal with, and they hold great resentment toward him.
And as it came toward yule time, the men became depressed. Bothvar asks Hott what this all amounts to; he tells him that a certain animal had come there two winters in a row, big and terrible -- 'and it has wings on its back and it flies continuously. For two autumns now it has visited here and done great damage. No weapons cut it, nor do the king's champions come home, those who are greatest of all.' Bothvar said, 'The hall is not as well built as I had thought, if one animal will destroy the king's kingdom and property.' Hott said, 'That is no animal, but the greatest troll.'
It came to Christmas Eve. The king said, 'Now I want that my men be quiet and silent during the night, and I forbid all my men to go into certain danger against the animal, but the livestock fares according to whatever happens; I will not lose my men.' They all promise good behavior, to work according to what the king commanded.
Bothvar stole away during the night; he makes Hott go with him, and he does so unwillingly, and claimed it would be his death. Bothvar says that that might turn out better. They go away from the hall, and Bothvar ends up carrying him, so afraid is he. Suddenly they see the animal, and right then Hott cried out such as he could and said the animal would swallow him. Bothvar commanded this dog of his to be silent and cast him down upon the moss, and there he lay , not completely unafraid. Nor did he dare to go home. Then Bothvar goes to meet the animal; it happens that his sword is stuck fast in the scabbard as he wishes to draw it. Bothvar now tugs hard on the sword and shakes the scabbard, and now tries a sudden jerk of the scabbard so that the sword comes out of the sheath and he thrusts it quickly under the animal's shoulder so hard that it stuck in its heart, and the animal dropped down dead to the earth. After that he goes back where Hott is lying. Bothvar takes him up and carries him to where the animal lies dead. Hott shakes violently. Bothvar said: 'Now you shall drink the animal's blood.'
[N.B. Hott comes back from the escapade a changed man, with a renewed sense of confidence.]