The Northern Way

Grimm Centenary: Sigfred-Arminivs and Other Papers

Page 7

The distinctive marks of the married woman were, the veiled head, to which the 'síðar slœðor' of the Rigs Lay may have reference; the long gown, 'kuen-uádir of kne falla,' in Thrymsk. 65; and the keys, id. 64 (which are so frequently found in English interments), are also mentioned in the Rigs Lay.

To set up housekeeping, used of the married couple was 'gœra bú,' Rig. 88; 'bioggo or unðo,' 82; and the husband is 'húsgumi,' Rig. 103; 'bóndi,' 91, 'búandi'; the wife 'hús-cona,' Rig. 105, 'kuán,' Gudr. kv. 35.

Polygamy is once mentioned in connection with some other archaic traditions.


                þo ero hagligar Hiöruarðz conor. Helg. II. 13.

Polyandry is looked on as disgraceful. When, in the Lacuna Lay, Sigfred seems to propose it as the solution of a difficulty, Brunhild refuses with scorn to have two husbands alive at once. And in Loka-senna, a change of polyandry is brought as an insult, even though it was of archaic type, a woman living with three brothers; the tradition that it had once existed being shown by the fact that it is there attributed to Wodin and his brothers.


                hefir æ uer-giörn uesið:
                es þá W .... oc W ...... létz þú W ..... s brœðr
                báða í baðm um tecit. Lokas. 105-7. cor.


        The disposal of a woman by will is apparently possible to some extent.


                þa nam at mæla mál ið efsta
                ..... K ...... áðr hann sylti:
                mic bað hann gœða golli rauðo
                oc suðr gefa syni Grimhildar. Oddr. 54-8.

How Divorce was effected we know not, but the woman, it seems, could for certain grounds leave her husband; while the husband could put away the wife at will, her dowry following her --- at least, where she was not to blame. The term for the woman was 'ganga frá,' to walk away; for man 'hafna,' to put away.


                at frá conungom cuánir gengi. L. B. L. 58. cp. Laxd. Saga, p. 66.
                fyrr scalec míno fiörui láta
                an þeirar meyjar meiðmom týna. L. B. L. 61-2.
                hafnaði Holm-Rygjom oc Hœrða meyjom. Horn-clofi, 89, and Cormac.

The marriageable age for women was twelve.


                uas ec uetra tólf, ef þic uita lystir,
                suá at ec œngom gram eiða seldac. L. B. L. 311-2.

The concubine, whom a man might have in addition to his wife or as a substitute for a wife, is 'friðla,' Hym. 114: a paramour, gallant, friðill, 33, cor. Children born out of wedlock, and acknowledged by the father, have a defined position, though they are not equal to the children by a wife; but this seems to be owing mostly to the mothers of such children being captives or slaves. The position of such an one is noticed in the Tale of Gudrun, where the captive princess speaks of her position in her captor's household, hated by the mistress, and loved by the master.

The bastard is 'hrísi,' Konungatal, 165, 'horn-ungr,' Hlod. 53: the outlaw's son is 'uarg-dropi,' W. Pl. 308, and has no rights. The classic passages are


                Her es Hlœðr cominn Heidrecs arf-þegi
                broðir þinn inn bed-scami. Hlod. 17-18.
                þetta es þiggjauda þýjar barni:
                þá hornungr á haugi sat
                es öðlingr arfi scipti. Hlod. 51-4.


        Adultery was called 'hórdom'; the paramour is 'hórr.'


                annars kuán teygðo þer aldregi
                        eyra-rúno at. Less. Lodd. 14, 15. (11)
                huerr hefir þínn hórr uesið. Lokas. 123.
                ......... hordómr micill. Vsp. 109.


        The offence of Incest was 'sifja-slit.' W. Pl. 211-3. cor.


                mono systrungar sifjom spilla. Vsp. 108. (12)

VIII.

The Property of the household consists in ---

  1. Land: 'óðal,' 'bú,' 'lænd' (plural form in this sense).

  2. Chattels: 'arfr,' which, like an equivalent, originally meant cattle, as the names, 'arfi, arfuni,' for oxen amongs other things, seem to show.

  3. Slaves: 'ambáttir'; 'þýjar,' 'man'; bondmaids, 'þrælar,' 'uíl-megir.'

  4. The heritage was what the dead man left, 'leifar' or patrimony, 'foðr-munir.' See C. P. B. i. 470 for note on this curious word.

To succeed or inherit is 'oeðlasc,' Rig. 183; and the dead man's Will apparently does not touch ethel-rights.

 'Drecca erfi,' to hold the arval, was a necessary ceremony, and it was then that the inheritance was entered upon and the heir took his father's place, succeeding to his rights and duties. The dirge over the dead is 'angrliod,' Helg. I. 341: on which see remarks above.


        With regard to inheritance the chief passages are ---


                uarga-leifar. O. G. L. 36.
                lönd es mer leifði G ........ Atlam. 345.
                þuí bregðr þú mer ........ at til fiarri siác
                        mínom feðr-munom. W. Pl. 89-90.
                Þótt misst hafim muna oc landa. Helg. I. 340.
                Á D ...... oc D ....... dýrar hallir,
                œðra óðal an ér hafið. Rig. 191-2.
                til I's óðal-torfo: ala mun hon sér iód, erfi-uördo. L. B. L. 247-9.
                sinna heim-haga. Havam. 89.
                erfi-uörðo, Ionacrs sono. Tregr. 25-26.

The curious 'erfi-uærdr' seems to refer to the heir as the care-taker of the heritage. Lat. hæres; cf. land-uærd, used of a king.


                œxti hon öl-dryccjor at erfa brœðr sína. Atlam. 269.
                        gœrt hefir þú þitt erfi. Atlam. 311.
                þar dracc Angantýr erfi Heiðrecs. Hlod. 12.
                at þú erfi at öll oss dryccir. Hamð. 60.
                Bróðor cueðja þú scalt bráðliga
                        arfs oc óðal-haga. W. Pl. 37-38. cor.
                gamalla oxna nöfn hefic gerla fregit,
                        ........ Arfr oc Arfuni. Fragm. C. P. B. i. p. 78.
                                trauðr ert-ðu
                arf at ueita einga-barni. Wak. 63-4.
                                hafa uilec halft allt þat es Heiðrecr átti.
                                cú oc calfi, cuern þiótandi,
                                (al, oc) af oddi (...... scatti),
                                þýjo oc þræli, oc þeirra barni,
                                hrís þat ið mæra ....... ;
                                gröf þá ena helgo ........ ;
                                stein þann inn mæra ......... ;
                                halfar her-borgir (her uoðir) ........ ;
                                lönd oc lýða, oc liósa bauga. Hlod. 24, 32.

'Aldauða-arfr,' escheat, is property left without heir; in Mod. Danish Law 'dane-fæ.'


                enn Hroðmarr scal hringom ráða,
                þeim-es átto ....... órir niðjar,
                sá sésc fylcir fæst at lífi
                hyggsc aldauða-arfi at ráða. Helg. II. 41-5 (cp. Note, p. 493).

There is, owing to the special circumstances under which most of the poems were composed and transmitted, singularly little evidence as to the tenure and condition of Land. 'Bú' is used like 'tún,' as equivalent to the familia, cf. Beda.


                réd hann einn at þat átján buom. Rig. 151.
                áttag at fullo fimm tún saman,
                enn ec þuí aldri unðac ráðe. Hialm. D. 29-30.

The chief details as to cultivation are derived from Rigs Lay, which gives a picture of foreign slave or serf labourers, free yeomen, and big land-owners, lords of many mansiones or bú.

There are in the Song of Saws a few words, which prove cultivation of grains, 'acr,' S. of S. 25, 27; rye and bear are mentioned in Alvismal. (13)


                acri ár-sánom. S. of S. 25.
                ax uið fiöl-cyngi. ---- 36.
                haull uið hý-rogi. --- 37.

The free household servants seem to be generally called 'inndrótt,' Love Less. 23, Hornclofi, 26; 'sal-drótt,' Love Less. 28; 'sal-þiód,' Volkv. 89; 'sal-drótt,' Love Less. 28; 'deigja,' Lokas. 228. Our Mid. Eng. deye is the maid-servant on the farm, but most of the words meaning labourers, workmen, refer to slaves.


                segita meyjom ne sal-þióðom. Volkv. 89
                mál es uíl-mögom at uinna erfiðe. Biarkamal. 2.


        The class of words in –megir is worth noticing separately.


                drótt-megir. Atlam. 5.
                uíl-megir. Skirn. 144. Less. of L. 96.
                ósc-megir, Lokas. 63.
                hróð-megir. Frag. Bk. vi. No. 37.


Compare the words


                lióð-megir. Hak. 17.
                sess-megir. Havam. 74.
                her-megir. Helg. III. 20.


        An instance of slaves being part of a lady's portion is in Brunhild's Lay.


                mínar þýjar fimm menjom göfgar (fimm ambóttir, in the paraphrase)
                átta þiónar eðlom góðir,
                fóstr-man mítt, oc faðerni
                þat es Budli gaf barni síno. L. B. L. 266-9.


        The following list comprises most of the more notable legal terms touched on above, and may be handy for those who would compare the old Northern law-terms with those of kindred nations. The references are not fuller as most of them will be found in the Dictionary.

Notes:

11. The words 'eyra-rúna' and 'mál-uinir' we should now take as equal to the finer Middle English sense of leman, and not as we took it in the Corpus (ii, 475) in the later degraded sense. The words are too pretty to be so misused. [Back]

12. If the reading be right, marriage of first cousins on the mother side was regarded as incestuous. [Back]

13. The use of scarecrows seems to be alluded to in the Guest's Wisdom, 105-6 ---
                uáðir mínar gaf-ec uelli at
                        tueimr tré-mönnom. [Back]

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