The JÄRNHANN Saga

Posted Sep 2, 2007
Last Updated Apr 12, 2008

VERSES FROM THE JÄRNHANN SAGA
(With the Kumalo translation)

    The original Järnhann Saga (den Ynglinga sagan) was written in a 29th century Neoviking dialect by a tribal skald and his talented and dedicated apprentice.  The translations into New Home Anglic are by Nikko Kumalo, principal ethnologist on both expeditions.  It exists with us only as scattered verses rescued and restored from the wreckage of the courier shuttle Lynetta.  In fact a few verses are missing opening words or lines.    
    The entire story of Nils Järnhann, from a New Home cultural viewpoint in Anglic prose, was also written by Nikko Kumalo.  The surviving excerpts, and translations, of the original Neoviking saga (below) are presented in presumed chronological order by Jenni Kumalo, based on their apparent reference to the events in her mother's prose version.
    Unfortunately the verses we have do not constitute, or even approach, a coherent whole, but they do give a sense of the Neoviking culture, and of Nils Järnhann, its consummate cultural hero.

    A brief description of 29th century Scandinavian, with its approximate pronunciation, is appended at the end of this catena, for those interested.


Den Ynglinga Sagan

[Prefatory verse]

Fanns allri nannan som Ynglingen han--
milt som mjök (öjnar leene),
stark som storm (men allri rastne),
vis som jodens sälva annen.

Ã… varelse var han, aj dykt.
________________________________

There was never other like the Youngling,
mild as milk (his eyes smiling),
strong as storm (but never raging),
wise as the spirit of the earth.

And living man was he, not myth.


Sväädkunnig glödde krytt på pojken,
nybörjan bland de Äldra pojkarn,
de som flinte på d' yngste
lärling i d' hela skaran.
Knappt fyllt treton år d' ungan,
men stod liksom lång som de
som fyllte sjutton år i liven.
Lång å jängli, men i kroppen,
stark å vig, mer än de visste.

Sjefen såg en ledlös pojke,
träsvääd i d' långa handen,
pojkuppsynen lunn å munter,
utan iver, ingen märke.
Då rinkte tränena sin panna.
Ryktbar kjämpen, härdad räd'ren,
kjennte väl vad livsslås 'hövde.
Nikkte sjefen då, å mente,
d' var dragen som kunn' bli
gutts styrke, om man skölte rätt ham.
________________________________

Matts the Swordwise eyed the novice
standing 'mongst the older boys who
leered at one they all expected
to make sport of in their training.
Newly turned thirteen, although as
tall as almost any of them.
Long and gangling, looks deceiving,
strong and agile more than seeming.

The drill chief saw a loose-limbed boy,
whose long hand held a wooden sword
with neither nerves nor avid hunger,
calmly cheerful.  Matts' brow furrowed.
Famous warrior, hardened raider,
to mortal combat was no stranger,
knew the attributes of heroes.
Calm could be the special strength
of this young boy if he was taught well.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


....släkting till ham, Olof Snabbhann,
å på den som dråpte gubben.
Tytte på å log föraktfullt.
"Ju men Du ä modi kjämpe!
att Du dråpt' d' gråa gubben
mä din knivslag i sin hjärta.
Kansje vi kan möta när jag
kjämpeflätor ha i åren --
om Du stanna ikke hemma."

Rötte då d' rasne kjämpen,
slog på pojken mä sin näve.
Men d' yngres näv var snabbre,
slog i käken som en hammar,
brötte halsen, läggde kjämpen
låg i dyen, död som fiske.
Så fikk han sin kjämpenamme,
Järnhann för sin mäkti näve.
_______________________________

....of his kinsman, Olof Quickhand,
and at he who'd killed the oldster.
Looked at him and sneered disdainfully.
"No real warrior shows his valor
in the murder of a graybeard,
in the knifing of an old man.
In a year, my hair in warrior braids,
we can meet in single combat_
That is if you're not too cowardly."

Roared with rage the red-faced warrior,
swung his heavy fist to strike him.
But the youngling's fist was quicker,
struck the warrior like a hammer,
broke his neck and sent him crashing
to the mud, his dead eyes staring.
It was thus he earned his warrior name,
Ironhand was what they called him.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *



Då kom modern hans å grätte
för att han blev 'klarad frejlös.
"Gråta ikke mor," sa Järnhann,
"de ha jort mej tjänst, de dom're.
Ja' har alltid velat att ja'
skulle se vad ligger på d'
söra sidan Jötasjö'n.
Ja' ä ikke född att stanna
hem bland dem ja' växte upp blann.
Hellers ska ja' vannra över
joden, trots d' faror fanns där.
Sitt' ja' ikke hem i trygghej.
Fara ut i vääden ja' å
träffa vad de öder ville."
_______________________________

Then his mother came a-grieving
that the ting had named him outlaw.
"Don't cry, mother," Ironhand told her,
"They have served me well, those judges.
I have always wished to travel
south across the Jöta Sea and
find what's to be seen and done there.
I was never born to stay
at home among those I grew up with.
Rather would I wander 'cross
the world, despite the dangers found there.
I could never sit in safety.
Rather travel o'er the world and
meet whatever may confront me.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

Fann dom då d' stilla kjämpen,
hal av blod å omedveten,
där han låg ne'en döjda trollen.
Dröjd ham fri och bar ham hemåt
t' d' danska kyngens fäste.
Lämte hos en danske läk're,
Rådjiver han kalls i landen,
Rådjiver d' mäkti sajkarl,
å sin dotter, sjöna Signe.
Vårde de d' unga jälten.
_______________________________

There they found the limp young warrior,
slick with blood and lying senseless,
'neath the sea troll where he'd killed it.
Drew him free and bore him homeward
to the castle of King Jörgen.
Left him with a Danish healer,
Raadgiver the people called him,
Raadgiver, the mighty wizard,
and his lovely daughter, Signe.
Tended they the mighty hero.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


Naken stod han, svääd i handen,
öjnar lunn å vass som pilar,
stod å vjennte vad som hände.
Såg en rörelse i porten.
Uti dagjus kom en ojur,
kom en katt som kalls lejonen.
Stor som björn å nog mer vålsam,
kattkvikk han, mä tänn som kniver,
inte född i fyra dagar.
Vänt mot Ynglingen å mörrde
skräkkli mer än boms i vrede....
_______________________________

Naked stood he, sword held tightly,
calm eyes sharp and quick as arrows,
stood and waited what was coming.
Saw a movement in the portal.
Came a beast into the sunlight,
came a cat they called the lion.
Bear-big he, and far more savage,
cat-quick he, with teeth like daggers,
hunger gnawing, four days fasting.
Turned toward the youth and snarled then,
dreadful more than raging he-bear....

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


Han var Ahmed, son t' Ahmed,
han var säd a Kassis spihunn
i Kyng Janos hov på Pestad.
Svathud var han liksom faren,
långsynt åsa som d' älren,
slug å kall i pann' som faren.

Hörde ikke tankar tväätom,
såg han aj i själ som faren,
fäsen tävelte om makten
i d' sajkarl hövdingringen.
Ikke fegling som d' älren,
dolte aj i prysi jömme,
kjämpe han, jääv likså vasam,
hövding han blann orkahodern.

Hade rival, luden Drekå,
han som glädje sej i törtyr,
själson t' d' aset Kassi.
_______________________________

Ahmed was he, son of Ahmed,
was the seed of Kazi's spy-dog
in the Magyar court of Janos.
Black-skinned was he like his father,
patient also like the elder,
ruthless, cunning, as his sire was.

Was no telepath, however,
read not minds as had his father,
though he strove to rule the psi men.
Was no coward like his father,
skulking in a velvet covert,
was a warrior, hard and wary,
was a chieftain in the orc horde.

Had a rival, hairy Draco,
he whose pleasures lay in torture,
Draco, soul-child of dead Kazi.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


Sågs d' förste a en pojke,
dä d' svävte upp i himmlen,
jussom örn ör lunna vannen
när d' stirra ned på jedden
simne upp t' jämne ytan.
Röpte höd å pekte uppe.
"Dä jussom kjämpnar tälte om,
som döjtsa häxen sejta
bärar gamlarna fra sjäänor."
_______________________________

It was first a child that saw it,
saw it hovering in the morning
like an eagle over water
watching ready for the salmon
rising to the quiet surface.
Called aloud and pointed upward.
"'tis the thing the warriors spoke of,
that the German seeress told us
carries ancients from the stars!"

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


Stor t'dragen han t' flikkor,
ofta kjikt i ham på sölstig,
blikkor fölte ham om middag,
nog dröjd när' en mö i sjymning,
viskte bjääli t' vä ellen.
_______________________________

Fascinating he to women,
often glanced at him by morning,
followed him their eyes at midday,
lingered near sometimes at twilight,
whispered to him in the firelight.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *

[Interlocutory verse]

D' döjtsa häxen käste ned
böjen, näpte bågen upp
å spennte senan, öjnar stadi,
pilan vjenntanne mä fäädi döjn.
_______________________________

The German seeress threw aside
her bucket, quickly took her bow and
drew the string taut, cool eyes steady,
arrow waiting then with ready death.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


Svarta fagren, sajflikk' henne,
trånt i glumen för d' lunna
Yngling', far t' tvillingarna
på befanningen a Kassi,
ty han vela äga jener.

Gryma Kassi, feg erövren,
Belsabubb han åsa hette,
stamfar han a orkahodern.
Imperatör, döjd vä kjärren,
klöv ijäl a mäkti Järnhann,
huven ligganne i dyen
hel sväädlent fra blori halsen.

lste hon d' mäkti kjämpe,
dråvare a hennes fader,
han som stypte trollen Kassi.
Älste Ynglingen å vela
riska livet, bli d' nödi
att befria ham fra Drekå,
_______________________________

The dark seeress, black-skinned beauty,
yearned to hold again the calm-eyed
Youngling, sire of her twin infants
by command of the Lord Kazi
so that he could hold his genes.

Cruel Kazi, cowardly conqueror,
Beelzebub had been his byname,
founder of the orcish armies.
Caesar rotting by the reed fen,
smote to death by mighty Ironhand,
proud head resting in the muck now,
sword's length from his severed neck lay.

Yes she loved the mighty warrior,
loved the man who'd slain her father,
he who'd felled the ogre Kazi.
Loved the Youngling and was willing
to risk death if that was needed
to deliver him from Draco.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *



Kniven låg i slappa sommen,
söv vä sidan a sin stridshäss,
söv iblann sin drömna kjämper
slumranne på stilla sletten
i d' lägren trygg å sikker,
slutan om a vakna posser
å a smylla hässpatryller.

I Knivens panna pette viske,
snydde vä å blåste drömmen
bort, då satt han upp å stärde.
Ingen vaken såg de öjnar.
Plyssli i d' mörka natten,
någon vita, jenomsynli,
viste sej t' Knivens springor.
Såg han mäkti Järnhanns spöke,
kjennte Ynglingen i annen
viskanne i sjäänli stillen.
_______________________________

Listi lay relaxed and sleeping,
lay beside his horse in slumber,
lay among his dreaming warriors
sleeping on the silent prairie
in their war camp strong, protected,
guarded round by watchful sentries
and by stealthy scouts on horseback.

In his mind there came a whisper,
touched and broke his fragile dreaming,
sat up then and looked about him.
Nothing waking caught his vision.
Then within the darkness flickered
something thinly white, transparent.
As he stared with eyes thin-slitted,
saw the ghost of mighty Ironhand,
saw the spirit of the Youngling
whispering in the starlit stillness.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


...brej å svart d' stod i himmlen.
Atjikk glödde på kolosen,
pekte på å sa d' rätta,
"d' ä ikke vanli skybrott,
ja' har hört om såna förre,
finns en mäkti jordspök hos att
slå Stenklivare, sin hammar."
 
Pålt vi rask vår häster därom,
spredde brej att stormen ikke
skulle dödslå allihopa
mä en enkel vålsam blixhugg.

Då vi läggde oss på marken,
platt som möjli därför att vi
ikke bli så goa måler
för jordspökens brakne blixslag.
Läggd vi oss mä näs' i gräset.

Alla utom Yngling' läggd sej.
Rakt stod han å såg på stormen,
å förente sej mä jordspök',
höll jordspök' mä milda sinnen,
kjente ham i annen därför
att vi skulle släppa dödslag....
_______________________________

...broad and dark stood in the heavens.
Achikh stared at the colossus,
pointed and observed correctly,
"That is not a common storm cloud,
I have known of others like it,
dwells therein an elemental,
bursting hammer poised to strike us.

Quickly picketed our horses,
scattered broadly so the storm-soul
could not kill us all together
with a single stroke of lightning.

Then we lay down on the prairie,
low and flat so that we wouldn't
be good targets for the lightning,
for the ax blows of the storm-soul.
Embraced the ground as close as lovers.

All lay flat except the Youngling.
Straight he stood and watched the storm
approach, joined spirits with the storm-soul,
embraced in love the elemental,
that we might be spared its death strokes.

*   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *   *


Kodoka d' burrjat jätten,
skrätte på d' milda Yngling',
stod mä hännerna i sidan,
skrätte hån å glödde hatfullt.
"Vågar Du att brottas?" sa han,
"Du som står så långt i kroppen,
Du så brej som ja' på axeln!
D' finns ingen a di annra
som törs brottas mej," han skrötte.

Då sa till Nils sin själsvänn Atjikk
att Kodoka hade dråpit
varje man som brottas vä ham.
Ty var han så stark i kroppen,
brottsknep hans så fasli dödsam,
ingen kunne överleva.
Log ännå d' mäkti Järnhann,
frågte vilka häst Kodoka
tykkte bäst om sina ridjur.

Bröllte, Kodoka då pekte
på en hingst stån höj som älje
bland di småa burrjat häster.
"Där d' står," sa han, å gapte
då Järnhann slog d' helt på näsan
så d' föll ju döjd på marken.
Då vände Ynglingen å sejta,
"Brottas ikke vä dej, jäkkla,
slås vi oss mä näver bara,
t' d' ena ligger asen.
_______________________________

Kuduka the giant Buriat
laughed aloud at the mild Youngling,
stood there with his arms akimbo
laughing scorn, his black eyes eager.
"Wrestle with me, if you dare to,
thou so large, so tall of body,
broad as I am in the shoulders!
There is none of all these people
who dare wrestle me," he boasted.

Achikh warned his soul-friend Järnhann
that every man Kuduka wrestled
died with neck or backbone broken.
So terrible his strength of body,
the deadly clever holds he levered,
no one ever had survived them.
Nonetheless the Youngling laughed and
asked which horse the prideful Buriat
liked the best of all his horses.

Puzzled, Kuduka then gestured
at a mighty stallion standing
tall among the Buriat ponies.
"That's the one," he said, then gasping,
saw the Youngling strike the creature
on the nose.  It fell down lifeless.

Then the Youngling turned and told him,
"Wrestling you would be a fool's game.
We'll fight instead with fists and see
which one of us will live to tell it."
_________________________________




BARDIC POETRY AND LINGUISTIC CONSERVATISM IN 29th CENTURY SCANDINAVIA

    In this paper, "Scandinavia" refers to the Scandinavian Peninsula comprising the pre-plague nations of Norway and Sweden.  To the south, the Danish peninsula and islands, whose people are equally Scandinavian, genetically and historically, has developed a very different culture, and its language is no longer readily intelligible to their cousins farther north.

    The dialects of 29th century Scandinavia are mutually readily understood.  In fact, they differ notably less than the dialects of 21st century Scandinavia, and much less than those, say, of the 19th century.  Furthermore, the linguistic changes there, over a period of more than seven centuries, have been remarkably modest.  Thus Dr. Kumalo, having hypno-learned 21st century Swedish before departing on the First Expedition, was able, almost at once, to at least somewhat understand 29th century Swedish.
    Since the Plague, the Scandinavian people have dropped the neuter gender.  Furthermore, the conjugation of most verbs has changed: Before the Plague, strong verbs had become infrequent; since then they have become usual.  Also, conjugation has become somewhat flexible, seemingly for reasons of poesy. 
    Furthermore, the usual 29th century spellings are even more closely phonetic.  Here again, poesy seems to have been a factor, as the most highly regarded post-plague Scandinavian writing has been the faithful transcription of oral poetry. 
    Many words have changed, but most such changes are not great.  Existing parchments indicate that the major vocabulary changes took place during the first two post-Plague centuries.  Many changes amounted simply to dropping sounds which often were elided in the pre-Plague vernaculars.  (Of course, almost the total pre-Plague technical and commercial vocabularies were lost; they were no longer relevant.)
    Several cultural, poetry-related factors seem to account for this remarkable linguistic conservatism.  The first three seem to be responsible for the modesty of changes over the first several post-Plague genertions: (1) The Scandinavians in general retained a knowledge of writing and reading, even if they didn't do much of it.  (2) The old spellings tended to follow standard pronunciations, which in turn tended somewhat to stabilize pronunciations and usages.  And (3) their peninsula became very largely isolated from outside  languages and cultures.
    After the first two or three centuries, another factor came to play the major role: As fighting and heroes became increasingly prominent culturally, poetry became much used to celebrate champions and record events, and skalds became the models and arbiters of language.  There is clear evidence that the changes in the conjugation of verbs grew out of poets modifying words, to make them more graceful and more amenable to popular meters.  The same is true of words which have lost syllables.  It has even been suggested that the neuter gender was dropped because neuter grammatical endings sounded less pleasing.  Furthermore, many words now have more than one form, providing poets with choices to fit whatever meter they may select.
    Every clan in every generation has its principal skald, who not only composes but teaches poems, and who knows the works of poets outside the clan.  Besides these clan skalds, every village has its principal reciter of poetry, often a man or woman with some debilitating physical handicap.  These village skalds may or may not compose poetry of their own, though usually they do.  They function not only to record and entertain, but to memorize as many poems as possible.  Commonly they are provided with complete subsistence for their efforts.
    Beyond these are wandering skalds who travel not only from village to village, but from clan to clan and tribe to tribe.  These wanderers, almost invariably treated with respect, recite publicly, and also teach the local skalds favorite or recent poems of other clans and tribes.
     Thus, in their own homeland, a poem composed by a skald of the Ice-Bear Clan of the Norskar, far up the Norwegian coast — say a poem celebrating a famous polar bear hunt — may be heard and learned verbatim by skalds of the Eel Clan of the Jötar at the southern end of Sweden, or the Reindeer Clan of the Svear, near the head of the Gulf of Bothnia.
    During the long winter nights, many persons other than skalds learn to recite verbatim their favorite poems, or at least their favorite cantos.  And while they tend very much to favor tales of their own heroes, more than a few others are from far away.
    I said verbatim.  That is very important.  Those who recite verbatim, follow not only the words, but the pronunciations of the composer, as far as they're aware of or imagine them.
    The principal skalds usually own and pass down to their successors, written copies of numerous poems, especially the most highly prized.  And additional copies may be made by persons who can afford the parchment and ink.  (The ink has to retain its visibility well, of course, and ink-making is an art among the Neovikings.)
    Spelling, like pronunciation, in general tends to follow those of the skalds, and through poetry, those of different tribes and clans influence each other.  Poets among the Svear and Jötar in particular spell very much alike, and their considerable written volume has influenced considerably the orthography of Norse poets as well.  (Yet there is flexibility in spelling.  A poet may spell a word differently in the same poem, to accommodate cadence!)
    Moreover, the common people tend to follow the usages of their poets not only in poetry, but in general diction, pronunciation, tonality, and spelling.
    It is therefore not surprising that Scandinavian speech and writing remain intelligible between clans and tribes.  Linguistically they are tied together by poetry — the stories of heroes and sometimes villains — recited dramatically around fires in longhouses and log huts throughout the Neoviking culture.
________________________________________________________________

PRONUNCIATION GUIDE FOR
NEOVIKING SPEECH AND POETRY

    For those interested, here are descriptions of how Neoviking words and names are pronounced.  There are only modest dialectical irregularities.  To begin with, in a large majority of words, the stress is on the first syllable, though with some words, this may be altered to fit poetic meter.

Consonants.  Most consonants are pronounced more or less as in Anglic, with the following exceptions: The letter G is almost always pronounced hard, as in go; the exceptions can be ignored here.  J is pronounced like the Y in "yes."  If you wish to go a step further in refinement, R typically is trilled in stressed syllables, but not in unstressed.
    In most dialects, the two-letter consonant KJ, is pronounced approximately like the CH in "chair," and we recommend this.  In other dialects, it is intermediate between Anglic CH and SH.  The two-letter phoneme written SJ is more difficult to describe.  For simplicity we recommend that you pronounce it like SH, which seems to be invariable among the Norskar.  Actually, in dialects of southern Jötland it sounds rather like WH in Old Anglic, but with the lips more or less compressed, giving it somewhat the sound of FWH.  Other dialects vary somewhat, often pronouncing SJ more or less like the familiar Anglic SH, but mostly with the lips more rounded and the tongue-tip raised.

Vowels. (The following are approximations): A is pronounced AW or AH, depending on the letters which follow, and varying with the dialect, but AW more than AH.  That of E resembles AY as in pay or E in yet, but AY the most often.  I is pronounced EE or the shorter IH, but more often EE.  O is the most variable, but is pronounced OO as in boot or (more or less) as short OH, but OO more often than not.  U sounds similar to yew, or similar to U in put, but mostly as yew.  Y is always a vowel, and can be approximated by saying EE with the lips rounded.  Å is usually pronounced as broad OH among the Svear and Jötar, but often AW among  the Norskar.  Ä is rather like the AI in air, or sometimes as EH.  The doubled ÄÄ is simply a longer Ä, marking the  eliding of the soft R in pre-Plague Scandinavian, and is often found before a V, or sometimes before an N.  The letter Ö (Ø among the Norskar) is pronounced rather like the UR in fur, but with the R more suggested than actually sounded.
    Thus for example, lagman is pronounced lawg-mahn; Isbjörn is ees-byurn, while Järn (sometimes Jään) can be either yairn or yeahn.  (In the appelation Järnhann, however, the R is seldom elided and generally written, apparently out of respect.)
    There are no dipthongs in the Neoviking dialects, except for EI (pronounced aye) and AU (pronounced OW) in some Norska proper nouns.

    Purists can, if they wish, go further than the above in approaching Neoviking pronunciations, by learning the rules for the above variations, and the verbal idiosyncrasies that depart from the rules.  And the small but distinct differences in the sounds of other letters from their equivalents in Anglic, often the result of articulating sounds more with the lips and tongue-tip, than further back in the mouth. 
    All the present dialects are notably tonal, some more strongly than others, but the tones are not written.  They are learned by cultural osmosis.  On New Home, of  course, those of us who care to play with (or work at) modern Scandinavian may choose simply to gird up our loins and memorize which words have the acute accent and which the grave accent.  And while failure to learn them seldom results in serious misunderstanding, the grave accent is the default tone, in this resembling Anglic, thus robbing the resulting idiolect of Neoviking character.  "The words without the music," so to speak.      I refer here to Scandinavian conversation, because poetry is another matter.  Fortunately, in Neoviking poetry (and singing), meter and flow generally (invariably?) override tonality.  Tonality is a characteristic primarily of non-poetic Neoviking speech.

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