My Top 10 Favorite Quotes from Icelandic Sagas

Viking1. One’s back is vulnerable, unless one has a brother.
Ber er hver að baki nema sér bróður eigi.

The Saga of Grettir the Strong, chapter 82

2. There are more things to be thought of by men than money alone.
En fleira er mönnum til hugganar en fébætur einar.

The Saga of Grettir the Strong, chapter 47

3. Never slay more than one man in the same stock, and never break the peace which good men and true make between thee and others.
Veg þú aldrei meir í hinn sama knérunn en um sinn og rjúf aldrei sætt þá er góðir menn gera meðal þín og annarra.

The Saga of Burnt Njal, chapter 55

4. Then said Atli, when he got the thrust, “These broad spears are becoming a fashion.” After that he fell forward over the threshold.
Atli mælti við er hann fékk lagið: “Þau tíðkast hin breiðu spjótin,” segir hann. Síðan féll hann fram á þröskuldinn.

The Saga of Grettir the Strong, chapter 45

5. He is bad-tempered, and may be that I shall let another’s wound be my warning.
Hann er skapillur og búið eg láti annars víti að varnaði.

The Saga of Burnt Njal, chapter 37

6. There are few more certain tokens of ill than not to know how to accept the good.
Fátt vísara til ills en kunna eiga gott að þiggja.

The Saga of Grettir the Strong, chapter 78

7. Where fault can be found, the good is ignored.
Fár bregður hinu betra ef hann veit hið verra.

The Saga of Burnt Njal, chapter 139

8. A tale is but half told when only one person tells it.
Jafnan er hálfsögð saga ef einn segir.

The Saga of Grettir the Strong, chapter 46

9. No one is a total fool if he can be silent.
Enginn er alheimskur, ef þegja má.

The Saga of Grettir the Strong, chapter 88

10. Eyes can not hide a woman’s love for a man.
Eigi leyna augu ef ann kona manni.

The Saga of Gunnlaugur the Worm-tongue, chapter 13

For the full texts of the sagas (both in English and Icelandic) see Icelandic Saga Database. Note that all texts are given in normalized modern Icelandic orthography. Feel free to share your own favorite Viking quotes from Icelandic sagas in the comments below.

Photo courtesy Stefán Freyr Margrétarson. Used under Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 Generic Licence.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Richard

Excellent advice.

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