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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 Bǫðvarr Bjarki

Síðan fór Bǫðvarr leið sína til Hleiðargarðs. hann kømr til konungs atsetu. Bǫðvarr leiðir síðan hest sinn á stall hjá konungs hestum hinum beztu ok spyrr engan at; gekk síðan inn í hǫllina, ok var þar fátt manna. Hann sezk útarliga, ok sem hann hefir verit þar lítla hríð, heyrir hann þrausk nǫkkut útar í hornit í einhverjum stað. Bǫðvarr lítr þangat ok sér at mannshǫnd kømr upp ór mikilli beinahrúgu, er þar lá; hǫndin var svǫrt mjǫk. Bǫðvarr gengr þangat til ok spyrr hverr þar væri í beinahrúgunni. Þá var honum svarat ok heldr óframliga: "Hǫttr heiti ek, bokki sæll." "Hví ertu hér", segir Bǫðvarr, "eða hvat gørir þú?" Hǫttr segir, "Ek gøri mér skjaldborg, bokki sæll." Bǫðvarr sagði, "Vesall ertu þinnar skjaldborgar!" Bǫðvarr þrífir til hans ok hnykkir honum upp ór beinahrúgunni. Hǫttr kvað þá hátt við ok mælti, "Nú viltu mér bana! Gør eigi þetta, svá sem ek hefi nú vel um búizk áðr, en þú hefir nú rótat í sundr skjaldborg minni, ok hafða ek nú svá gǫrt hana háva útan at mér, at hon hefir hlíft mér við ǫllum hǫggum ykkar, svá at engi hǫgg hafa komit á mik lengi, en ekki var hon enn svá búin sem ek ætlaði hon skyldi verða." Bǫðvarr mælti: "Ekki muntu fá skjaldborgina lengr." Hǫttr mælti ok grét: "Skaltu nú bana mér, bokki sæll?" Bǫðvarr bað hann ekki hafa hátt, tók hann upp síðan ok bar hann út ór hǫllinni ok til vatns nǫkkurs sem þar var í nánd, ok gáfu fáir at þessu gaum, ok þó hann upp allan.

Síðan gekk Bǫðvarr til þess rúms sem hann hafði áðr tekit, ok leiddi eptir sér Hǫtt ok þar setr hann Hǫtt hjá sér. En hann er svá hræddr at skelfr á honum leggr ok liðr, en þó þykkisk hann skilja at þessi maðr vill hjálpa sér. Eptir þat kveldar ok drífa menn í hǫllina ok sjá Hrólfs kappar at Hǫttr er settr á bekk upp, ok þykkir þeim sá maðr hafa gǫrt sik œrit djarfan, er þetta hefir til tekit. Ilt tillit hefir Hǫttr, þá er hann sér kunningja sína, því at hann hefir ilt eitt at þeim reynt; hann vill lifa gjarnan ok fara aptr í beinahrúgu sína, en Bǫðvarr heldr honum, svá at hann náir ekki í brottu at fara, því at hann þóttisk ekki jafnberr fyrir hǫggum þeira, ef hann næði þangat at komask, sem hann er nú. Hirðmenn hafa nú sama vanda, ok kasta fyrst beinum smám um þvert gólfit til Bǫðvars ok Hattar. Bǫðvarr lætr sem hann sjái eigi þetta. Hǫttr er svá hræddr at hann tekr eigi mat né drykk, ok þykkir honum þá ok þá sem hann muni vera lostinn. Ok nú mælti Hǫttr til Bǫðvars: "Bokki sæll, nú ferr at þér stór knúta, ok mun þetta ætlat okkr til nauða." Bǫðvarr bað hann þegja. Hann setr við holan lófann ok tekr svá við knútunni; þar fylgir leggrinn með. Bǫðvarr sendi aptr knútuna ok setr á þann sem kastaði, ok rétt framan í hann með svá harðri svipan at hann fekk bana. Sló þá miklum ótta yfir hirðmennina.

Kømr nú þessi fregn fyrir Hrólf konung ok kappa hans upp í kastalann, at maðr mikilúðligr sé kominn til hallarinnar ok hafi drepit einn hirðmann hans, ok vildu þeir láta drepa manninn. Hrólfr konungr spurðisk eptir, hvárt hirðmaðrinn hefði verit saklauss drepinn. "Því var næsta", sǫgðu þeir. Kómusk þá fyrir Hrólf konung ǫll sannindi hér um. Hrólfr konungr sagði þat skyldu fjarri, at drepa skyldi manninn -- "hafi þit hér illan vanda upp tekit, at berja saklausa menn beinum; er mér í því óvirðing, en yðr stór skǫmm, at gøra slíkt. Hefi ek jafnan rœtt um þetta áðr, ok hafi þit at þessu engan gaum gefit, ok hygg ek at þessi maðr muni ekki alllítill fyrir sér, er þér hafið nú á leitat; ok kallið hann til mín, svá at ek viti hverr hann er."

Bǫðvarr gengr fyrir konung ok kveðr hann kurteisliga. Konungr spyrr hann at nafni. "Hattargriða kalla mik hirðmenn yðar, en Bǫðvarr heiti ek." Konungr mælti, "Hverjar bœtr viltu bjóða mér fyrir hirðmann minn?" Bǫðvarr segir, "Til þess gørði hann, sem hann fekk." Konungr mælti, "Viltu vera minn maðr ok skipa rúm hans?" Bǫðvarr segir, "Ekki neita ek at vera yðarr maðr, ok munu vit ekki skiljask svá búit, vit Hǫttr, ok dveljask nær þér báðir, heldr en þessi hefir setit; elligar vit fǫrum brott báðir." Konungr mælti, "Eigi sé ek at honum sœmd, en ek spara ekki mat við hann."

Bǫðvarr gengr nú til þess rúms sem honum líkaði, en ekki vill hann þat skipa sem hinn hafði áðr. Hann kippir upp í einhverjum stað þremr mǫnnum, ok síðan settusk þeir Hǫttr þar niðr ok innar í hǫllinni en þeim var skipat. Heldr þótti mǫnnum ódælt við Bǫðvar, ok er þeim hinn mesti íhugi at honum.

Ok sem leið at jólum, gørðusk menn ókátir. Bǫðvarr spyrr Hǫtt hverju þetta sætti; hann segir honum at dýr eitt hafi þar komit tvá vetr í samt, mikit ok ógurligt -- "ok hefir vængi á bakinu ok flýgr þat jafnan. Tvau haust hefir þat nú hingat vitjat ok gǫrt mikinn skaða. Á þat bíta ekki vápn, en kappar konungs koma ekki heim, þeir sem at eru einna mestir." Bǫðvarr mælti, "Ekki er hǫllin svá vel skipuð sem ek ætlaði, ef eitt dýr skal hér eyða ríki ok fé konungsins." Hǫttr sagði, "Þat er ekki dýr, heldr er þat hit mesta trǫll."

Nú kømr jóla-aptann. Þá mælti konungr, "Nú vil ek at menn sé kyrrir ok hljóðir í nótt, ok banna ek ǫllum mínum mǫnnum at ganga í nǫkkurn háska við dýrit, en fé ferr eptir því sem auðnar; menn mína vil ek ekki missa." Allir heita hér góðu um, at gøra eptir því sem konungr bauð.

Bǫðvarr leyndisk í brott um nóttina; hann lætr Hǫtt fara með sér, ok gørir hann þat nauðugr ok kallaði hann sér stýrt til bana. Bǫðvarr segir at betr mundi til takask. Þeir ganga í brott frá hǫllinni, ok verðr Bǫðvarr at bera hann, svá er hann hræddr. Nú sjá þeir dýrit, ok því næst œpir Hǫttr slíkt sem hann má ok kvað dýrit mundu gleypa hann. Bǫðvarr bað bikkjuna hans þegja ok kastar honum niðr í mosann, ok þar liggr hann ok eigi með ǫllu óhræddr. Eigi þorir hann heim at fara heldr. Nú gengr Bǫðvarr móti dýrinu; þat hœfir honum, at sverðit er fast í umgjǫrðinni, er hann vildi bregða því. Bǫðvarr eggjar nú fast sverðit ok þá bragðar í umgjǫrðinni, ok nú fær hann brugðit umgjǫrðinni svá at sverðit gengr ór slíðrunum, ok leggr þegar undir bœgi dýrsins ok svá fast at stóð í hjartanu, ok datt þá dýrit til jarðar dautt niðr. Eptir þat ferr hann þangat sem Hǫttr liggr. Bǫðvarr tekr upp ok berr þangat sem dýrit liggr dautt. Hǫttr skelfr ákaft. Bǫðvarr mælti: "Nú skaltu drekka blóð dýrsins."

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.]