29 May 2007


Aka the Southern Cross Novel Challenge. It's like NaNoWriMo, but in June, so that those poor people in the southern hemisphere have something to do during the winter months as well. A friend sent me the link, and I must say it does sound tempting. I have two days to think of a plot, exams in mid-June, lots of tests next week, I'm starting work on Friday and I still need to write a few physics reports.

But maybe I'll do it. Maybe. Improvising is fun.

I finally got Marcus to stop the weird philosophical discussions, but I still need to figure out what happens to him next. He has got to get back to the north somehow but I'm not sure how, or with which legion. Once Cerialis gets to Mainz there will be about ten different legions (including the two who surrendered) to keep track of and it'll take a lot of post-its to figure out which legion was where at what time. I think Marcus will just have to stay with the Twenty-second; it's easier that way. It means that he won't be at the battle of Trier (but Geravan will be there so it doesn't matter), but the Twenty-second did go to Xanten just before the invasion of the Rhineland. Marcus would love to go back there, I'm sure.

Okay, novel problems aside. My ankle hurts like hell. I've gone jogging almost every day the last month and twisted my ankle about a week ago. Well, it didn't hurt much then, but the day after we had a running test during phys ed, 3 km. I got a new personal best (14 min 31 s, two seconds better than last time, lol) but I also wrecked my ankle even further. I can walk and bike, no problem, but it hurts. Argh. I'm actually starting to feel sorry for all that walk-in character whose ankle I broke because I had to get rid off him somehow.

Say hello to my cat :)

Cats have the weirdest sleeping places...

24 May 2007

No exam, mad characters, and more pictures

Well, I won't have a written exam. I'm not sure if I'm happy about it or not. Now I'll definitely have an oral. I don't mind holding presentations, but the thing is that there are some really nasty subjects that I can be chosen for. I don't know which subject I'll get until 15 June - four days before the exam - but already the rumours are swirling around, like they usually do. French is the most probable one, I think. Nobody from my French class got a written exam. Half of my math class did, though, but only the ones who have German. It could be a coincidence, and then it could not. French is better than physics anyway (imagine having to hold a presentation about nuclear physics o.0 ). Anyway, it's too early to worry about that now.

My characters, that's what I need to worry about. I somehow got Marcus to Mainz - though not before he was starved and ill and had spent a good many nights outside in the rain with wolves howling around him. He arrived at Mainz half-dead, and guess what he did first? Well, obviously he had to rest and recover a bit and find out what had happened during the months he had been besieged at Vetera or wandering through the wild, but then... He started having these philosophical discussions with one of the surgeons of the 22nd about being left-handed and the meaning of life. It's completely out of place and not making much sense either, but they just won't stop and get on with the story. I'll give them another 500 words, and if they haven't finished then I'm sending in the ninjas. If they come to the conclusion that the meaning of life is 42, I'll kill the other surgeon and make Marcus walk to Rome. Barefoot. And this time the wolves will actually attack him.

Those wood anemones are in my garden, or rather, were in my garden. Dad says they're weeds and attacked them with the lawnmower. They're pretty much gone now, except for the ones under the trees, but they'll be back next year. They always come back :)

To the right is a picture of the forest which is practically behind my house, not far from the viewpoint. It's taken last summer, it's not that green here yet!

This one was taken last Sunday, still in the same forest. The flowers are wood anemones, they grow everywhere.This is one of the brighter parts of the path. There is a bit which is very steep and surrounded by tall half-dead trees, which are creaking ominously all the time as though they're about to fall down (which they sometimes do when there's a storm).
A dark forest with creaking trees about to fall down is obviously rich in plot bunnies, or rather, in plot meese (a meese is a moose which has been trained by the StCP, a mad chocolate-loving moose in other words):
I ran into this young moose two years ago. He had a sibling too, but he didn't come into the picture. Apologies for the fuzziness, but I didn't dare get any closer because their mother was not far off (and they attack).

23 May 2007


I have a job! The first supermarket turned me down, but I got a job at the second one - at the meat & delicatessen. So I'll be spending six weeks cutting up dead animals this summer (I'm a vegetarian). Ugh. Never mind. The pay is good, and that's what counts.
I might not be online until June. Tomorrow I'll get to know whether I have a written exam (math or French) or not. If not, I'll have an oral one sometime in mid-June. Oral history would be the best of all, of course, but the written ones are much earlier and I'd prefer to get it over with asap. Plus, if I get an oral one there's always a chance they'll give me oral physics or social studies. I don't even want to think about that, so here are some pictures.

It's definitely spring now - green leaves and flowers and all that. I went for a walk in the forest on Sunday...

... to a viewpoint where you can see the valley and the mountains in the distance

19 May 2007

Bendik og Årolilja

Better late than never, right?

Bendik og Årolilja is a good example of a knight's ballad (riddervise). It tells the story of Bendik, a brave young knight, and the fair maiden Årolilja, the daughter of the king. The ballad archive lists 48 versions of it, so there are plenty of variants to choose from. Some are long, some are much more fragmented. Also, I got a book from the library, Eddadikt, skaldekvad, folkeviser (Gyldendal norsk forlag, 1941. The bit about ballads is written by Knut Liestøl). It has a very long, very detailed version of this ballad. I can’t find it on balladearkivet though. It might have been a version that was put together from various others. It is rather long (58 stanzas) so I won’t post the entire translation here. The stanzas I have quoted here are all from there, unless otherwise stated. Translations are all mine.

The ballad is made up of four-line stanzas, each followed by a one-line refrain, etterstev:

- Årolilja, kvi søve du so lengje? (- Årolilja, why do you sleep so long?)

The library version begins with Bendik riding to visit the king and his court, hoping to get himself a wife. His eye immediately falls on the fair Årolilja, but unfortunately the two don’t have the king’s blessing. The king builds ‘gullbrautine’, golden stairs, a bridge, steps, well something to stop people from entering Årolilja’s chamber anyway, and loudly proclaims that anyone crossing/threading them will die:

6) Kongjen byggjer gullbrautine
Både breie og håge:
“Den som dei i løyndo trør,
Han skò live låte!”

6) The king builds golden stairs,
Both broad and high:
“He who treads these in secret,
He will die!”

Bendik isn’t daunted. During daytime he rides out into the forest to hunt, but at night he secretly visits Årolilja:

10) “Eg tikje så vent om ditt gule hår,
Som epli dei dryp på kviste –
Sæl er den som deg må få,
Gud bære den som skò misse!

11) Eg tikje så, når eg sit hjå deg,
Som eg sat uti solskin bjarte;
Når eg og du me skyljast åt,
Då rivnar bå’hug og hjarta.

12) Eg tikje så, når eg sit hjå deg,
Som eg sat uti solskin bjarte;
Når eg og du me finnast att,
Då gledast bå-hug og hjarta.”

10) I think so highly of your yellow hair,
Like apples dripping on branches –
Lucky is the one who shall have you,
God help he who must lose you!”

11) “I think that, when I sit with you,
It’s like I’m sitting in bright sunlight;
When I and you must part,
Then both mind and heart will break.

12) I think that, when I sit with you,
It’s like I’m sitting in bright sunlight;
When I and you will meet again,
Then both mind and heart rejoice.”

A few versions start with the king building the stairs, and then Bendik sneaking into Årolilja’s chamber dressed up as a woman, but bringing sword and mail with him just to be sure.

In every version the lovers are betrayed by an evil servant of some sort, who steals Bendik’s sword and mail (in the versions where he brings them at least). Bendik is then seized by the king’s men, thrown against the floor, beaten and bound. However:

24) Dei tok raustan Bendik,
Batt han med taug og reip:

Om dei var alli så sterke,
Bendik dei sund’e sleit.

24) They took brave Bendik,
Bound him with ropes:
No matter how strong they were,
Bendik tore them apart.

Then the evil servant has an idea:

27) Dé tek Åroliljas gule hår
Og bind kring hendan’ kvite!
Så stend’e hugjen isama runnen:
Han nennest kje håret slite!”

27) You take Årolilja’s yellow hair
And bind around his white hands!
So strong is their love for each other:
He won’t have the heart to tear the hair asunder!”

This they do, and the servant is right: Bendik will not or can not escape when he isbound with Årolilja’s hair. The king has made up his mind to kill Bendik, and not even when Årolilja falls on her knees and begs him does he withdraw the command:

22) “Gakk burt ifrå meg, Årolilja,
Eg vil deg inkje høyre!
De samer seg so ille mitt goe sverd
Å rjost i kvende-døyre.”

22) “Get away from me, Årolilja,
I do not want to hear you!
It isn’t right for my good sword
To be stained red with woman’s blood.”

(In some versions Årolilja begs her father to spare Bendik after the servants have beaten him, in others, like in this one, she begs him right after he finds out that the two are in love – that’s why this is stanza 22 and the previous I quoted was number 27).

The next person to beg the king change his mind regarding Bendik is the queen, Mari. She reminds him of their own past together – he didn’t ask her of her father, but bore her away from her home and betrothed. She reminds him of a promise he made her as he took her away:

32) “Minnest du hot du lova,
Då du flutte meg av sta:
Kvòr den bøn som eg ba deg,
Sille allti vera ja?”

32) “Do you recall what you promised,
When you bore me away:
Every prayer I asked of you,
You would always answer yes?”

The king remembers, but says that he under no circumstances will spare Bendik’s life. Next everything and everyone on earth beg and pray for the king to release Bendik:

38) Dei ba fyr raustan Bendik,
Alt de som hae liv-
Tre-i utor grøne skogjen
Og bloman’ i fagerli.

38) They prayed for brave Bendik,
Everything that lives –
The trees in the green woods
And the flowers in the fair meads.

But the king still remains adamant. Bendik is eventually killed, and Årolilja dies of grief.

45) Utfyre kyrkjedynni
Der laut han Bendik døy;
I kyrkja, fure altaren,
Der sprakk hass vene møy

45) Outside the church door
There Bendik died;
In the church, before the altar,
There his fair maid burst.

The king, content that he has killed Bendik, is still unaware of his daughter’s death. He then sends his servants to fetch her, but when they return with the news that she is dead he is devastated. Mari the queen gives him a nice ‘I told you so!’-lecture:

50) “Høyr du det, du kongjen,
Så stolt’e som du står:
Inkje hev du dotter,
Alli fær du måg!”

50) “Hear now, you king,
So proudly you stand:
You don’t have a daughter,
And never shall you have a son-in-law!”

And the king suddenly realises that the two might have really loved each other:

51) “Ha’eg visst dette i gjår,
At hugjen ha’vori så sterk,
Inkje ha’Bendik silt livet låte
Fyr alt det i verdi er!”

51) “Had I known this yesterday,
That their love was so strong,
Not should Bendik have lost his life
For everything in the world!”

But it’s too late now. They’re both dead, and the only thing that can be done is to bury them:

56) Bendik la dei norda kyrkja
Og Årolilja sunna,
Det voks opp av deires grefti
Tvo fagre liljerunnar.

56) Bendik was laid north of the church,
And Årolilja to the south,
From their graves grew
Two fair lily-plants.

And of course the two plants entwine to show the love the two had for each other:

58) Det voks opp av deires grefti
Dei fagre tvo liljeblomar:
Dei krøktest i hop ivi kyrkjesvoli-
Der stend dei kongjen til domar.

58) From their two graves there grew
Those two fair lily-flowers:
They entwined over the church-
There they stand to judge the king.

I had planned on writing a long, detailed commentary about the use of symbolism and various other interesting details for each ballad, but Bendik og Årolilja doesn’t have much symbolism. It’s a knight’s ballad, it just tells the story of two young lovers who die tragically. But just because it doesn’t have any dragons, doesn’t mean it’s boring ;)

First of all, there is a nice mix of Old Norse elements and medieval chivalric literature, the latter which is probably the most obvious. The ending – the entwining plants – is the same as in Tristan and Isolde. Something else which shows that these ballads are different from Old Norse texts is the way Bendik expresses his love for Årolilja (see stanzas 10-12 above). Even Gunnlaug’s saga, which is perhaps the closest you can get to an Old Norse romance, isn’t as sentimental as this (there Helga is fair, Gunnlaug is brave, they love each other, and that’s it). There aren’t any long, sentimental rants. Another good example is Årolilja’s death: she dies of grief. Helga certainly was sad after Gunnlaug died, but she died in a much more mundane way (a disease).

At first glance it might be a bit difficult to detect the Nordic influence, but it’s there. Bendik and Årolilja is based on an old saga – the Saga of Hagbard and Signe. Unfortunately I haven’t read this saga (I can’t find it in the library), but there’s a little bit about it in my textbook, and a Wikipedia article, here.

Luckily for me, there is a ballad about Hagbard and Signe too. The story is much the same: Hagbard loves Signe, but Signe’s father is against their marriage. Hagbard visits his love in secret, dressed up as a woman, but is betrayed by a servant and hanged. Signe sets fire to her chamber and dies in a much less romantic way than Årolilja. Also, Hagbard and Signe ends much bloodier. Whereas Bendik and Årolilja are reunited in death by the flowers growing from their graves, there is nothing of this kind in Hagbard and Signe. Instead we get a lovely bit of revenge and punishment. The last stanza (of version 1) is like this:

34) Habbor blei hængd å Signelill brend
de va so ynkelegt mor
siden tok dei den slemme terne
å grov 'a livand i jor.

34) Habbor [Hagbard] was hanged and Signelill [Signe] burnt
It was so pitifully [something (can’t understand that bit of dialect)]
Then they took the bad handmaid [who betrayed them]
And buried her alive.

Some of the other versions have a stanza or two about the king regretting his actions though (but there are no entwining flowers).

Next is where the ballad takes place. It actually doesn’t really matter, because these ballads are timeless and placeless, but it’s interesting nonetheless. More than half of the 48 versions of Bendik og Årolilja listed in balladearkivet are from Telemark. However, this doesn’t say much, as that was only the region that was frequented by the collectors. In the library edition of the ballad the king is called the king of Sølondo. In version 1 he is “Serklands koningjen” – the king of Serkland. Again, in version 3, he is the king of Selando, and sometimes called “danske kongen” – the Danish king. Selando and Sølondo could refer to Sjælland, an island of Denmark, but this is just me guessing (I can’t find any information about in on the internet).

There are a few other stanzas which may shed light on the subject, too. The king says that he will kill Bendik no matter what:

17) Olavkyrkja i Trondheim
Ho er tekte med bly:
Bendik sko inkje livi njote
om ho var tri gongjer ny!

17) The Olavchurch in Trondheim
It is covered in lead:
Bendik shall not enjoy life
If it was three times new!

This is from the library version. Compare it to the following stanza from version 2:

34) Der stænd ei Kjørke norrafjøls
ho æ tækte me Bly
Bendik ska inkje Live njote
om ho va tri Gaangone ny

34) There stands a church north of the mountains
It is covered with lead
Bendik shall not enjoy life
If it was three times new.

They’re similar, except that version 2 doesn’t name the church. However, there’s a note to this stanza, saying the church is question is Lund church in Skåne, now in south Sweden (but it used to be a part of Denmark). Also other versions name the church as Lund church. It could be that the ballad originally was from Denmark (which fits in with Hagbard and Signe originating from Denmark), and then slowly became more and more Norwegian – replacing the unfamiliar Swedish/Danish church with a well known Norwegian one. Though if Sølondo/Selando is indeed Sjælland, I’d like to know which mountains are being described. Can’t have been very tall ones anyway.

The mention of Serkland is interesting - it was the Old Norse name for countries along the Mediterranean. It doesn’t necessarily mean that the ballad is based on events in Serkland, most likely this was just to give the song a more exotic feel. King Håkon IV Håkonsson (1204-1263) had a taste for French literature: he had Les Lais de Marie de France translated to Old Norse, a prose version known as Strengleikar, as well as a saga about Tristan and Isolde.

But like I said, this doesn’t actually matter much (so why am I bothering to write about it?).

Other than this, I don’t think there is much to say about Bendik og Årolilja. The rhyme is obviously lost in my translation, but in the Norwegian verses I’ve quoted you can find both “real” end-rhyme and assonance. Many lines, and sometimes whole stanzas, are repeated (for example, there are four stanzas describing the whole world praying for Bendik). This of course makes it easier to remember the song (I pretty much have it memorised now).

I’m not completely sure which ballad I’ll do next. Perhaps Margit Hjukse and/or Liti Kjersti (they’re quite similar). If you’d like me to write about a ballad with a particular theme, or you find a title which sounds cool, just tell me :)

5 May 2007

Procrastinating, procrastinating, procrastinating...

The essay about Bendik og Årolilja is coming, I swear. But it's not easy to concentrate on essays when the library has a nice collection of sagas... Fornaldersagas to be more exact: Göngu-Hrólfs saga and the saga of the Volsungs. I haven't gotten the Nibelungenlied so until I can find a decent translation of it I'll just go to the library and borrow the saga of the Volsungs each month.
School is getting busier and busier too, but I'm not really motivated enough to do much homework. So, of course, I spent Thursday reading about Sigurd and Fafnir and just skimmed through the exam booklet for Norwegian. It didn't matter much. The texts in that booklet are pretty much the same every year - about growing up and being yourself and depression and ways of life - so you can always guess what sort of essay topics you get on the exam day. Not that they call it exams here. They call 'em all-day tests because they last the entire day. Exams are very official tests, corrected by random teachers who don't know you and not by your own teacher. But that's beside the point. This all-day test actually wasn't too bad because the teachers decided to make their own essay topics, and one of them was writing a causerie about how addicted we are to modern technology, and causeries are fun to write. For some reason mine was invaded by toasters, I still haven't found out why. Never mind. I'd rather have toasters in my causeries than ninjas.

Okay, time for a picture:
A view of the mountains surrounding Þingvellir.

To continue with the reasons that I still haven't finished the essay yet: I was away all day, to my cousin's confirmation (in Norway it's more of a coming of age ceremony than a religious one). Lots of fun. Except for the fact that I had to wear one of those dresses where you can't move an inch. Of course we ended up playing football and of course running around after a ball while wearing a dress held together by buttons isn't a smart thing to do. I sort of accidentally ripped half of them off. But at least I escaped the horror that is high heels. And I managed a visit to the bookstore too (because a trip to Trondheim = bookstore) and got seven very cheap paperbacks - only 30 kr each, you can't just leave that on the shelves!
Next Saturday is my younger brother's confirmation and I still have to write my speech. No one's asked me to hold a speech but I'm going to do it anyway, because I'm his older sister and older sisters have to be evil, right? *grins* My grandmother from the Netherlands is coming over for the occasion and she's really great - she loves history and mythology, which means I'll have a real-life person to talk to about these things.

Aaaand of course, the best reason for not writing about ballads right now:
My NaNo-novel! It's almost three NaNos long now, and not nearly finished yet. I think Marcus has lost his mind completely: he escaped from the massacre at Vetera and decided to go to... Mainz. Yes, Mainz. A 300 km walk through enemy-ish territory, without food, money and only a very basic knowledge of the language. I haven't got a clue *why* he wants to go to Mainz, but it might actually be useful because he can join up with Cerialis' troops there. Anyway, he's doing better than I expected too (random walk-ins are helping him), he just passed Koblenz yesterday. But of course we can't have that, now can we? I don't control my characters anymore, but the weather still listens to me, so I sent a bit of a storm his way. At the moment he is very wet, very cold, very hungry and thoroughly miserable. And I kill every walk-in who intends to help him before they even enter the story so there's no chance of finding any help either. Needless to say, I'm thoroughly enjoying myself with writing Marcus all miserable and half-dead like this. It's revenge for all those times he refused to listen to me and killed Civilis or amputated legionary #34's leg and made me look up the procedure on medical websites.

I might have found a summer job. I got a call from the supermarket a few days ago (took them long enough, I gave them my application in February) and they want me to come to a job interview on Monday. I'm actually not nervous at all, and I guess that's a good thing. I just hope they don't end up asking stupid questions like "Why do you want this job?" because I'll give them the honest answer (which is "I need cash because I buy too many books.") and they might want me to give some sort of cheesy Hollywood answer.