Tag Archives: old norse

Join Jesse Byock and Noah Tetnzer as they discuss one of the most legendary of the legendary sagas (fornaldarsögur): the Saga of the Volsungs (Völsunga Saga). We’ve collected some of the best parts of their conversation here, but you can listen to the full podcast here.

Old Norse is the language of the Vikings, sagas, runes, eddic and skaldic verse. The Norse language is still spoken by Icelanders today in a modern style. Medieval Scandinavians called their Old Norse language the ‘Danish tongue,’ dǫnsk tunga. No one is quite sure why this was so. Perhaps it was because Denmark was the first of the Scandinavian lands to become a powerful, centralized kingdom, and the speech of the influential Danish court became for a time the accepted standard. It may also have been because the Danes were closest to the Frankish Empire and the rest of Europe. Several questions concerning Old Norse arise. One is: How close was Old Norse to Old English? The answer is that Old Norse was related to, but different from, the language spoken in Anglo-Saxon England. With a little practice, however, Old Norse and Old English speakers could understand each other, a factor that significantly…

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Vikings sailed over one-third the globe and were the first northern Europeans to harness the technology of long-distance seafaring. Wherever they went, Vikings brought their myths, legends, and sagas. The term ‘Viking’ is not a modern invention. Early Scandinavians employed the word víkingr, although they did not, as is done today, use it in an ethnic sense. Almost surely they would have understood the concept of a Viking Age, but calling Scandinavian society a ‘Viking society’ would have been a misnomer to them. Throughout medieval Scandinavia, víkingr (singular) meant ‘pirate’ or ‘freebooter,’ and víkingar (plural) were bands who raided from ships. The term applied to those who sailed the seas to steal and conquer as well as to mariners who robbed neighbors at home in Scandinavia. Víkingar also referred to non‐Norse pirates, such as the Slavic Wends and tribal groups who from the southern shores of the Baltic Sea harassed shipping…

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