A Feeble Translation of Brennu-Njal’s Saga

This translation is the final project from my Old Norse self-study sessions with Lucy. I went with a section from Njal’s Saga, specifically the part about stealing and cheese (section 48). This seemed appropriate, given our study material. I got up to the point where Melkolf returns to Hallgerd.

As you can see, I was in way over my head. I really only ever got the hang of present tense and masculine forms. And plurals, sort of. There were a few bits that I could almost make out, but mostly I was hunting through my copy of An Introduction to Old Norse for vocabulary words, stringing them together, and hoping each passage would somehow unscramble itself into English. I missed some words, but the thing that really got me into trouble was my poor understanding of Old Norse grammar and syntax. You’ll see there are places where I completely lost track of who was doing what to whom, and my translation just wandered off in a completely wrong direction. Anyway, without further ado…

My Translation of Njal’s Saga (48. kafli)

Gunnar rode to the Thing around summer, but before he lodged for the night, he saw a great force of men from the east. Gunnar offered to let them lodge for the night there, [since??] they were going to the Thing also. They declared [they would do it by hand??] Now he rode to the Thing. Njall was at the Thing and in his compound. The Thing was quiet.

Now Hallgerd came to speak with a thrall, Melkolf: “I have a brave mission for you,” she said. “You must go to Kirkjubae.”

“And why must I go there?” he said.

“Thereafter, you must steal two horses and food, butter and cheese, and you must set fire to the shed, and take care to [something about a message, and no one would have expected what had happened].”

The thrall spoke: “I have been wicked, but I have never been a thief.”

“Hear [something],” Hallgerd said. “You will be given good [something] where you have [both?] been thieves and [something], and you must not dare to defy me or else I’ll have you put to death.”

He thought [he was aware?] [something] if he did not go. That night he took two horses and set fire to the sheds of Kirkjubae. A hound was [not good to him?] and leapt at him [something]. Afterwards, he finished in front of the sheds and loaded up the two horses with food, killing the hound and burning it. He carried it up to Ranga. Then he broke [something?] and took his knife and [something]. He lay down by his knife. Then he [something] to come to Hlidarendi. He had lost his knife, but did not dare return for it. Now he returned to Hallgerd in the morning. She [recieved him?] gladly [something] his journey.

Penguin Translation of Njal’s Saga (48. kafli)

Gunnar rode to the Thing that summer. A great number of men from Sida in the east had been staying at his farm, and he invited them to stay again when they rode home from the Thing. They said they would, and they rode off to the Thing. Njal was there too, with his sons. The Thing was a quiet one.

Now to tell of Hallgerd, back at Hlidarendi: she spoke to the slave Melkolf and said, “I’ve thought of a task for you. You’re to go to Kirkjubaer.”

“What should I do there?” he said.

“You’re to steal food from them, enough butter and cheese for two horses to carry. Then set fire to the storage shed, and they’ll all think it was carelessness, and no one will suspect that anything was stolen.”

The slave said, “I’ve been bad, but I’ve never been a thief.”

“Listen to you!” she said. “You make yourself out to be so good, when you’ve been not only a thief but a murderer. Don’t you dare refuse this errand, or I’ll have you killed.”

He was quite sure that she would do this if he did not go. That night he took two horses and put pack-saddle pads on them and went to Kirkjubaer. The dog knew him and did not bark, but instead ran up to him and fawned on him. He went to the storage shed and opened it and loaded the two horses with food, and then set fire to the shed and killed the dog.

He returned along the Ranga river. There his shoe-string broke and he took his knife and repaired it, but left his knife and belt lying there. He went all the way to Hlidarendi and then noticed that the knife was missing, but did not dare go back. He turned the food over to Hallgerd. She was pleased.

Dvergarnir ok Grautinn

I’m very late posting this, but here is the little story I wrote for Old Norse homework with Lucy. Lucy’s story was about evil men, betrayal, and haunted islands. Mine is about… dwarves and porridge.

If you don’t know Old Norse, try puzzling out what the story means anyway — you might get farther than you think. If you do know Old Norse (or Modern Icelandic, or really any Scandinavian language), I apologize in advance for all the horrible grammar and usage errors. 🙂

Tomorrow, Lucy and I meet up to go over our respective translations of a section of Brennu-Njals Saga. Which section? Why, the one about thievery and cheese, of course! Wish us luck.

Luciusr ok Evanr eru svangir, ok vilja graut. Fjalarr er konungr ok dvergr. Fjalarr Konungr ok dvergarnir hefir graut goðan.

Luciusr ok Evanr brátt finna dvergarnir. Luciusr segir, “Heill, Fjalarr Konungr! þit eruð svangir, ok vilið graut.”

Evanr segir, “Ek hefi hatt gylltan. Hvart vilt þu hefir hattinn gylltan?”

Fjalarr er reiðr ok segir, “þit eigi takið grautinn.”

Nú Luciusr tekr grautinn. Lucius ok Evanr flýjið.

Fjalarr kallar, “þjofar! Ragir þjofar! Dvergarnir, foeri mer brand!”

Luciusr ok Evanr hjæja ok segja, “Nú vit hefið graut ok brátt eigi svangir!”