The Northern Way

Grimm Centenary: Sigfred-Arminivs and Other Papers

Page 3

The foe is 'dolgr,' the person with whom one is at feud, a word not merely of abuse, as is proved by the Ala-dolgr of Ynglinga-tal, 108; though in the Christian poems one sees 'söko-dolgar' (Chr. W. 99), originally persons suable, take the meaning of criminals. The origin of the word is obscure. The compound 'dolg-viðir' occurs W. Pl. 285. Other words are 'and-scoti,' adversary, Havam. 58, Doom. 44; and 'fiándr,' a word which in English comes to mean Ghostly Enemy, as 'dolgr' sinks to Demon in Old Northern books. 'Heipt-megir,' feud-man, is found in Havam. 57, and Suipd. 35; the curious 'fifl-megir' in Vsp. 153 only. The Editor suggests that it stands for 'frefel-megir,' cf. German 'vrevel' = felon.

There are also particular words pointing out the enemy's special relation to the person on whom the duty of blood-revenge lies. These are 'bani,' 'fonoj,' and its compounds. The slayer of a man is named after the person he has slain, 'Fáfnis bani,' 'Hunding's bani,' cf. Haddingja-scaðe (cf. 'Argeifonthj,' 'Ipponooj bellerofonthj,' and 'regi-cida,' 'pari-cida'); thus there are 'bróðor-bani' and 'sonar-bani.' The 'fodor-bani' does not appear in the poems, but doubtless existed; the very word 'hefnendr,' which expresses the son who is bound to avenge his father, is proof that the father's slaughter by an enemy was the most deadly wrong of all. Thus the proverb 'the feud never falls while the son is alive,' L. B. L. 48, is amply illustrated by such vows as that alluded to in the Doom of Balder, 42-4, by the Icelandic Family Histories, such as Færeyinga, and, finest instance of all, by the Vengeance of the Sons of Ingemund the Old, now found inserted in the Landnáma-bóc.

The actual doer of the deed is 'hand-bani'; the contriver of it 'ráð-bani,' Hym. 72; the man who does the deed alone without help or counsel is 'ein-bani.'

                bana muntu mer brœðra bœta aldregi. Atlam. 258.
                sins um bródor slær hann hand-bana. Short Vsp. 46.
                orms einbani. Hym. 85.

See also 'bródor-bani,' Lokas. 69; W. Pl. 309; Ch. W. 83-4; and O. G. L. 119; and note the whole beautiful passage in Sonatorrec, ending with the words ---

                Enn ec ecci eiga þóttomc
                sacar-afl uið sonar-bana,
                þui-at al-þióð fyr augom uerðr
                gamals þegns gengi-leysi.
                Mic hefir Marr myclo ræntan,
                grimmt es fall frænda at telja. Sonat. 37-42. cor.

Indeed the whole poem (like the only one fit to be put beside it, Durayd's Dirge over his brother Abdallah) is the best possible example of the aspect in which the ancients looked on the subject.

As in Arabia, the sword might be bought off or borne, and it was quite as honourable to accept the offered were-gild or blood-wite as it was to exact revenge sword in hand. The institution of the were-gild, the existence of a tariff at which the injuries done to or slaughter of individuals of each rank of free-men were duly appraised, was of course necessary to this way of ending a feud. That such existed early in the North there seems evidence, but the exact tariff is not known, for Grágás and the later authorities only reckon in silver or wadmal, the currency of their day. The older tariff was probably expressed in terms of beasts, cows, and slaves, somewhat as in Ireland.

The compensation was sometimes a mere affair of setting off slain man against slain man, and paying the excess when a man more was slain on one side than the other. See Icelandic Sagas.

But often there were more complicated questions: --- Was such a slain man an outlaw or criminal to be paid for or not? how far back was the reckoning to go? and so on; and, as a matter of fact, these questions appear, judging by later analogy, to have been usually submitted by both sides to arbiters or daysmen, 'iafnendr' lit. eveners, men who set matters straight. (3)

Sometimes however one party will not be satisfied with anything but self-doom --- to wit, that the other party should absolutely give him the right of making his own award in the matter. It was then said to be 'sialf-scapa' (the 'sialf-dœmi,' of the Sagas), scapa being the word used (cf. leggja, to lay down) of shaping or creating the judgment or doom, which was termed 'dœmi.' The office is rather akin to that of a judge than a juryman; the facts are plain, but the inference to be drawn is often hard to decide.

The word for a settlement, by self-doom, or by others award is 'sætt,' which was imparted into O.E. as 'saht,' and survives in N. Mid. Eng. to the fifteenth century. See Atlamal, 252, and

                sem iafnendr unno es occr uilja sætta. Harb. 116.
                sáttir letosc meðan saman drucco. Ch. W. 87.

There is in the Thulor App. a curious phrase defining an old law-word, 'liónar heita þeir menn es ganga um sættir manna.' Cf. Dict. s.v. 395. The word occurs in Ynglinga-tal 14, where one would read lióna bragi.

There are several words used for the compensation, but the regular legal term seems to be 'bót,' the O.E. bót and the 'boot' of our half-fossil phrase 'What boots it?' --- a word discussed in Paper V above. Another word, giæld, 'gildi,' payment, is applied to other kinds of payment besides the legal one; its compound ið-giæld means repayment. A third word is 'laun,' 'hand-laun,' which survives in the O.E. leán, our loan, in a different sense. In the Eddic poems it seems simply a synonym for 'bót.'

                Bœta scal þer þat þá munda-baugi. Harb. 115.
                þo hefir M ......... mer um fingnar
                bölua bœtr. Sonat. 88-9.
                oc bœtir þer suá baugi B..... Lokas. 46.
                þat má ec bœta brátt. Havam. 80.
                Huer giöld fá gumna synir
                        ef þeir liúgasc orðom á. W. Pl. 11, 12. cor.
                Haf-þu H ....... heim harms at giöldom
                brúðr baug-uarið oc burir þínir. Helg. I. 277-8.
                þat es orð mælt at engi geti
                sonar ið-giöld. Sonat. 78-9.
                íll ið-giöld lét-ec hána eptir hafa. Love Less. 27.
                oc launa suá lýðom lygi. W. Pl. 270.
                huer hann af hraun-bua hand-laun um fecc
                es hann bædi gallt börn sín fyrir. Hym. 147-8. cor.

The classic passages in which an offer is made of Weregild or bót are (---cf. Beowulf, 1080)

                mani munec þic hugga, mætom ágætom,
                silfri snæ-huíto, sem þu sialf uilir. Atlam. 249-50.
                tolf hundrað gefec þer manna (mana?),
                tolf hundrað gefec þer mara,
                tolf hundrað gefec þer scalca þeirra es sciöld bera,
                manni gefec huerjom mart at þiggja
                [annat cedra] ..........
                mey gefec huerjom manni at þiggja,
                meyjo spenni-ec huerri men at halsi,
                munec um þic sitjanda silfri mæla,
                enn ganganda þik golli steypa,
                suá á uega alla uelti baugar,
                þriðung God-þióðar, þuí scaltu einn ráða. Hlod. 40-50.

The refusal of compensation was an insult of a deadly kind (cf. the famous story of Haward's vengeance in the Isfirdinga Saga).

                Oln né penning hafdir þú þess aldregi
                        uan-rettiss, uesall. Lokas. 162-3.

The use of ell and penny in this latter citation instead of the chattels of the earlier ones proves late date. (4)


Of the details of Procedure there are not as many hints in the poems as one would like to have, but such as there are, are in full consonance with the idea that one would gather from the later evidence. There is a Moot, the 'thing' whereat all legal as well as political business was done, precisely as in Tacitus' day, in public before the whole congregation, 'al-þióð,' Sonat. 62, 74, in broad daylight. But law cases were not judged by the Assembly, but by a special Tribunal consisting no doubt of the king or officer that spoke the law and his assessors. They sat in a full court on judgment-seats in a ring, see Story of Starkad, C. P. B. i. 466, 467, and their office was 'um sacar dœma,' to deem or judge cases (Gripi, 115), according to the law.

 The Moots were held at regular seasons, and the riding to the Moot is a notable part of a man's public duty. As to battle so men rode to moot, in their best clothes and fully armed, though the court-stead itself, being hallowed, was a place of peace, and any breach of peace there punished in the same way as if committed in any other sanctuary. How the Moot-field and the Law-hill or Law-rock were hallowed we have no evidence, but from allusions in old prose phrases one would imagine that the typical moot-field would be a plain accessible to the range of country whence those who flocked to it came, near some spot made sacred of old time by a temple or a grave, or both, with good water and grazing ground for the horses of the assembled multitude. There would be a rock, hill, or great tumulus on which the judges sat and did their law-work, in a circle of seats of turf or stone, inside an enclosure marked off by stakes and ropes. From the rock or hillock the Speaker of the Moot would address the congregation, put matters to the vote (a vote taken by acclamation no doubt), and recite the new laws which were to be considered by the assembly. Here too no doubt the kings were chosen and proclaimed. There are many moot-steads or thing-fields in the British Islands whence the situation and character of such places can be studied. The Eddic poems do not deal much with peaceful moots, the battle or moot of War, as they put it, is more common in consonance with their spirit. But there is a glimpse of the procession of the judges to form the court 'fara í dóma' ('dómar fara út' of the Sagas), and in the Story of Starcad the solemn court is seen sitting, each man on his seat, one delivering his opinion or sentence after another in order.

The word 'mál' (cf. L. L. mallus, O.E. maþelian) applies to any public business conducted in speech; the king's business is 'þiodans mál,' and it is a late use that confines the word to the law case or causa of the individual. 'Mál-uinr' and 'for-mælendr' are terms difficult to prove the exact meaning of, but they would seem to denote the patron or powerful neighbour or kinsman that takes up a man's case and conducts it for him as for a client, maintaining him, as the English lawyer would put it. Judging from Egil's poems and the Icelandic authorities, the good 'mál-uinr' was not only expected to uphold his client's cause with the tongue at court, but also back him sword in hand if necessary.

The whole picture, which may be recovered in parts from the Eddic Lays, is marvellously in agreement with that drawn by Tacitus in the Germania, and that given by Ari in his Historical works.

                þueginn oc mettr ríði maðr þingi at
                        þótt hann sé uæddr til uel. G. W. 305-6.
                hon sua gœrr at þú gair eigi
                        þings ne þióðans mála. Less. Lodd. 10.
                mic héto ........
                        þrór þingom at. Grimm. App. 42-3.
                Grani rann af þingi. O. G. L. 9.
                senn uóro Æsir allir á þingi
                oc Ásynior allar á máli,
                oc um þat réðo rícir tíuar
                huí uæri ......... Doom 1-4.

Of the Dooms--- the Court as distinct from the Moot---

                þá gengo R ....... öll á rœc-stóla. Vsp. 20.
                á þuí þingi es þióðir scolo
                        i fulla dóma fara. W. Pl. 240-1.
                ....... ne um sacar dœmir. Grip. 115. Cf. also Grimn. 55-56.

The 'mælendr' are in question ---

                mál-uinr manna. Grott. 35.
                maðr es á mót um cœmr, (5)
                        oc á for-mælendr fá. G. W. 115-6.
                þá þat fiðr es at þingi cœmr
                        at hann á for-mælendr fá. G. W. 193-4.
                ...... Idja glys-mölom,
                Þiaza þing-scilom. Biarkam. 18.


3. 'Swiðri,' one of Woden's names, Jacob Grimm suggests to be such a law term, pacifier, 'pacator.' Note that purification is necessary to appease the gods after great crimes, even when atoned for legally, among Homer's Greeks. [Back]

4. There is a curious word with 'geld' in Béowulf --- 'gamban.' This is, I believe, one of the few words in O.N. (like gaman, as Prof. Kluge has neatly shown) which retains the affix g --- its second element, ombun, is met with in O.N., it means tribute, wages, and the like. It was paid by tally, called gamban-tein ---
                        gaf hann mér gamban-tein. Harb. 63.
The tallies of our Exchequer were thus the survival of a very early mode of receipt and audit of debt. [Back]

5. We suggest à mót um, for, með mörgom. [Back]

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