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Thread: Morality of the Sagas

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    Senior Member Gugnir's Avatar
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    Morality of the Sagas

    The Sagas are amazing stories, but I'm a little confused on their moral quality. We have, for example, Erik Bloodaxe, regarded as a Viking hero - yet he killed his own half-brothers to gain the throne, and was not particularly well-liked as a king of Norway. So was he really such a great guy beyond his military skills? What about Egil Skallagrimsson? He was a great poet and a master Rune-mage, but he was also kind of a psycho - he murdered people, and so did his father - yet he was also capable of noble acts as well.

    We just see so much of killing others to gain material power and wealth in the Sagas, yet we like to think of our Heathen ancestors as being committed to community and folk. I'm interested to hear others' opinions on this matter.

    -Gugnir

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    Senior Member Neophyte's Avatar
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    Killing people was not really frowned upon, as long as it was done openly and publicly and, above all, face to face. Challenging people to a fight to the death over their property (just because you wanted it) was accepted. Stabbing people in the back was not accepted and the perpetrator of such a heinous act would be declared an outlaw. Compare to chivalry and later duels.

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    I agree. Murder, the secret killing or to poison a man was what was frowned upon.

    Too, there were wergilds, for the redress of grievances.

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    We must realise too, how different our modern day moralities can be. Perhaps we would be openly mocked for being so soft on things. Being committed to community and folk does not mean we wouldn't, or indeed, in certain circumstances feel or have the need kill each other.

    In fact it may be a necessary part of our continued existence as a race, it is a world of eternal struggle after all and we don't want to breed weak tribes of blood shy choirboys and effeminate traitors. Oh! Wait!..

    Almost all of our greatest heroes have been killers of one sort or another, it's just our way I think. Perhaps in this morally degenerate age, there is a reason we still look back with a rosy tint at those times.

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    @Renownedwolf

    all the blacks I have ever known, were just talk. only tough when they had four or five others.

    imagine, if the laws permitted like in days of old. a black pops off his mouth to your woman. you simply stand, push his throat to the wall and demand he repeat himself. if he did, make him intimately familiar with your sword.

    I would love to see how quick they would be to talk as a community to our folk.

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    I have not seen this posted here, so I will add it in. Wisdom gleaned from the Sagas:

    1. A man's own hand is most to be trusted. (VGS, c.4)
    2. Let another's wounds be your warning. (Njal's Saga, c.37)
    3. Slow and sure. (Njal's Saga, c.44)
    4. Ill rede bring ill luck. (Njal's Saga, c.45)
    5. His hands are clean who warns another. (Njal's Saga, c.41)
    6. It is the turn of mind of all men first to give away what has been stolen, if they have it in their keeping. (Njal's Saga, c.49)
    7. Birds of a feather flock most together. (Njal's Saga, c.51)
    8. Never break the peace which good and true men make between you and others. (Njal's Saga, c.55)
    9. For with law shall our land be built up and settled, and with lawlessness wasted and spoiled. (Njal's Saga, c.69)
    10. When ill seed has been sown, so an ill crop will spring from it. (NjalSaga, c.114)
    11. But a short while is hand fain of blow. [1] (Njal's Saga, c.133)
    12. It may often be that those live long who are slain with words alone. (Njal's Saga, c.
    13. Better is one crow in the hand than two in the wood. (Laxdaela Saga, c.24)
    14. Never cheat your master. [2] (Njal's Saga, c.86)
    15. Be warned by another's woe. (Njal's Saga,c.13)
    16. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. (Njal's Saga, c.5) (HR, c.10, BH)
    17. Pride and wrong often end badly. (VGS, c.7)
    18. The nights of blood are the nights of most impatience. [3] (VGS, c.8) (VA, c.24)
    19. The cattle are like their master. (VGS, c.13)
    20. Braver are many in word than in deed. (GS, c.4)
    21. The friend warns his friend of ill. (GS, c.17)
    22. He knows most who most has tried. (GS, c.17)
    23. Many seem wise who are lacking in wit. (GS, c.17)
    24. The thrall alone takes instant vengeance; the coward never. (GS, c.15)
    25. Work not done, needs no reward. (GS, c.17)
    26. Many a trifle happens at eve. (GS, c.18)
    27. Every one is master of his own words. (GS, c.19)
    28. Long shall a man be tried. (GS, c.20)
    29. The guess of the wise is truth. (GS, c.31)
    30. Luck is one thing, brave deeds another. (GS
    31. True is the saying that no man shapes his own fortune (Luck). (GS, c.41)
    32. Be not a braggart for if any work done be praise-worthy, others will sing your praises for you.
    33. Often he who has many words says little of worth.
    34. The overpraised are the worst deceivers. (GS, c.45)
    35. One man's tale is but half a tale. (GS, c,46)
    36. One evil is mended by a worse one. [4] (GS, c.47)
    37. There is more in the heart of man than money can buy. (GS, c.47)
    38. The mother is best. (GS, c.17)
    39. Many have been brought to death by overconfidence. (GS, c.54)
    40. Ill is the lot of him who has an ill name. (GS, c.56)
    41. Oft in the woods is a listener nigh. (GS, c.59)
    42. The unjust man prospers ill. (GS, c.62)
    43. Trust no man so well that you trust not yourself better. Many are unfit to be trusted. (GS, c.67)
    44. The hand turns to its wonted skill, and that which was learned in youth is always most familiar. (GS, c.78)
    45. Many go to the goat-house to get wool. [5] (GS, c.78)
    46. There are few more certain tokens of ill than not to know how to accept the good. (GS, c.78)
    47. Old friends are the last to break away. (GS, c.82)
    48. It is ill to have a thrall for your friend. (GS, c.82)
    49. Bare is his back who has no brother. (GS, c.82)
    50. A wagging tongue is the beginning of ill works.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gugnir View Post
    The Sagas are amazing stories, but I'm a little confused on their moral quality. We have, for example, Erik Bloodaxe, regarded as a Viking hero - yet he killed his own half-brothers to gain the throne, and was not particularly well-liked as a king of Norway. So was he really such a great guy beyond his military skills? What about Egil Skallagrimsson? He was a great poet and a master Rune-mage, but he was also kind of a psycho - he murdered people, and so did his father - yet he was also capable of noble acts as well.

    We just see so much of killing others to gain material power and wealth in the Sagas, yet we like to think of our Heathen ancestors as being committed to community and folk. I'm interested to hear others' opinions on this matter.

    -Gugnir
    They were dark age barbarians, so I don’t think "Morality" ever entered their minds.

    And in those days Life was pretty short and dirty, so they were not really given much time to think over "Moral Issues".

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    Senior Member Gugnir's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by EQ Fighter View Post
    They were dark age barbarians, so I don’t think "Morality" ever entered their minds.

    And in those days Life was pretty short and dirty, so they were not really given much time to think over "Moral Issues".
    Uh... no?

    The dark ages were not in the Viking era...

    They were hardly barbarians. Yes, they were tribal, but they built great ships and great kingdoms and on and on.

    Life was not "short and dirty," as you say. In fact, Northern Europe was a lot cleaner before Christianity came in with its insanity.

    They had moral codes, and strict honor values. In addition, most of them were farmers, not raiders.

    This thread is about the morality found in the Sagas, not speculation on how "barbaric" they were.

    -Gugnir

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    Senior Member Bearkinder's Avatar
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    Remember that "saga" means story, tale, or history. It's a telling of how things were, not an instruction manual on living.

    Also, as other said, they were not so squeamish back then. It seems nowadays you can't speak of doing anything, even benign things without some weakling screeching "You can't do that!!"

    They didn't think like that. They just did it. Sometimes it worked, sometimes they met someone better at it than they, and the paid for it.

    The heroes of old are heroes not because they took the easy path, but because they took chances, and did things -- good and bad -- that lesser men did not have the stomach for. Look at how many heroes are written of, and how many people there were. Rest assured, most people just lead "normal" lives.

    I think it's also to the writer's story to tell the good and bad about someone. We like to sugar-coat our heroes these days, and make it look like they've done no wrong. But be honest, the kind of guys that take the chances that make them heroes, also take chances doing things not so noble. It is the way of things.

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    Though there are lots of different translations it all says the same, pretty much,

    75.
    Cattle die and kinsmen die,
    thyself too soon must die,
    but one thing never, I ween, will die, --
    fair fame of one who has earned.

    76.
    Cattle die and kinsmen die,
    thyself too soon must die,
    but one thing never, I ween, will die, --
    the doom on each one dead.

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