One of the very many things I enjoy about Ancient Icelandic literature is the insights into their culture that the language offers.
In my Old Norse dictionary, for example, there is no word for harvest. There are, however, 9 different words for battle, 6 for smite, 5 for fight, 5 more for attack, 3 for slaughter, 2 for manslaughter and a separate word for multiple manslaughters.
There are 6 different words for brave, 6 more for courage and an extra 3 for daring. There are 5 for strength and 5 for honour, 4 for glory and 4 for power, as well as 3 extra words for might. There is only have one word for weak. There is only one word for flee.
There is a word for merchant and a couple for trader, but there are also 7 different words for wise and 7 for desire. There are 6 words for difficult, 6 for king, 5 for terrible, 4 for poverty, 4 more for wife and 3 words for ugly.
Naturally, there isn’t a single word for fruit, but there are 7 words for sea, 5 for ship, 4 for wind and another 4 for sink…
There are 6 different words for break, 5 for wound and – although there is only a single word for vengeance – there are 5 different words for compensation.
Surprisingly, there are only 3 different words for dead…but there are special words to describe what kind of dead: sword-dead, axe-dead, spear-dead, old-age-dead and so on.
I can’t imagine living in a land where nothing grows and where my only real chance at survival involves leaving by tiny boat onto a lethal ocean… Of course, archaic as it sounds, that is still reality for many people.
The Viking invasions of Britain seem brutal, but they put warfare and modern charity, especially asylum, in a different light. It makes for a particularly view out here, comparing the relative situations of the Australian Aboriginals and the New Zealand Moari.
Set out with axe and fire, and you might just get what you want. Try asking for help and understanding in a language of love…and you may as well stay home. Or give your home away, as the case may be.