Thursday, November 3, 2016

Lessons From The Sagas

The Northmen did not leave behind scriptures, as we in the modern West would think of them, but they captured many of their teachings in other ways that did survive to be of value to us today. One of those methods was the saga, the epic tales of heroic deeds that were often creation myth, morality play, and educational tool all rolled into one. Many of these sagas have influenced the modern world in so many ways that the threads can hardly be unwound anymore, and we can no longer tell where they end and we begin. That is a telling history. When the mark you have left becomes almost indistinguishable from the world at large, you have left quite a mark, indeed.

People have spent entire careers digging through the sagas, cross-referencing, and pulling out the lessons. For me, it is more of a hobby, but a fun and education hobby just the same. I hope you will enjoy some of these lessons which I have presented here.

Never break the peace which good and true men make between you and others. (Njal's Saga)

Few people are spoken of in the way they would choose. (Njal's Saga)

For with law shall our land be built up and settled, and with lawlessness wasted and spoiled. (Njal's Saga)

His hands are clean who warns another. (Njal's Saga)

What concerns those close to us concerns ourselves too. (Njal's Saga)

Let another's wounds be your warning. (Njal's Saga)

When ill seed has been sown, so an ill crop will spring from it. (Njal's Saga)

Better is one crow in the hand than two in the wood. (Laxdaela Saga)

Work not done, needs no reward. (The Saga of Grettir)

One’s back is vulnerable, unless one has a brother. (The Saga of Grettir)

One man's tale is but half a tale. (The Saga of Grettir)

No one is a total fool if he can be silent. (The Saga of Grettir)

Every one is master of his own words. (The Saga of Grettir)

Much happens that one expects the least. (The Saga of Grettir)

Braver are many in word than in deed. (Grettir's Saga)

He knows most who most has tried. (Grettir's Saga)

The mother is best. (Grettir's Saga)

Many have been brought to death by overconfidence. (Grettir's Saga)

The hand turns to its wonted skill, and that which was learned in youth is always most familiar. (Grettir's Saga)

A man's own hand is most to be trusted. (Viga Glum's Saga)

Boldly do men talk from a distance. (Kormak's Saga)

Best it is, for man's words to seek peace when it is possible. (Kormak's Saga)

It is better to keep one's oath. (The Saga of Thorstein Viking's Son)

Better to fight and fall than to live without hope. (Volsunga Saga)

Where wolf's ears are, wolf's teeth are near. (Volsunga Saga)

Be kind to friend and kin, and reward not their trespasses against you; bear and forbear, and win for yourself thereby long enduring praise of men. (Volsunga Saga)

Never swear false oaths; great and grim is the reward for the breaking of troth. (Volsunga Saga)

Ill it is to sit lamenting for what cannot be had. (Volsunga Saga)

Who can say what sorrow seemingly carefree folk bear to their life's end. (Volsunga Saga)

No harvest is had without the seed first being sown. (King Olaf Trygvisson's Saga)

What people wish they soon believe. (King Olaf Trygvisson's Saga)

Luck accompanies wisdom. (The Saga of Olaf Haraldsson)

A rotten branch will be found in every tree. (The Saga of Olaf Haraldsson)

Ill is the result of letting fear rule thine actions. (The Saga of Harald Hardrade)

Bravery is half the victory. (The Saga of Harald Hardrade)

Many are wise after the event. (Fljotsdale Saga)

Often is there regret for saying too much, and seldom regret for saying too little. (The Saga of Hrafnkel Freysgothi)

A person's actions are often worse than their intentions. (The Saga of Hrafnkel Freysgothi)

Often a man becomes brave in dire straights, who is not brave most other times. (Eyrbyggja Saga)

The ancient Scandinavians changed the world with their longboats and their legends, and I think they would be pleased with their place in history today. The shadow they have cast is certainly a long one, and they are well-remembered, even if the memory is not always a conscious one. People remember one thing and often forget that no people are only one thing. We all live in the same world and face the same needs. It can be amazing, if you stop and examine it, how often we come to remarkably similar conclusions about that world and those needs, filtered through where we are and what we have experienced. There is much to explore and much to learn, and we would do well to always be doing both.

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