Icelandic: Ólafur Liljurós

Aryaman

Member
Greek
This seems to be a traditional icelandic song, it has many verses but only two lines change in each verse. I haven't managed to find a translation online. I was wondering if someone could translate the first verse of it, or knows of a complete translation.

Ólafur reið með björgum fram,
villir hann, stillir hann,
hitti'hann fyrir sér álfarann,
þar rauður loginn brann,
blíðan lagði byrinn undan björgunum fram.
 
  • Silver_Biscuit

    Senior Member
    English - UK
    I have translated this song before for fun as an exercise to help learn Icelandic, and my best guess was this (although this is just an attempt, and can probably be improved by a native speaker):
    Ólafur rode with rocks ahead
    Led astray, he was calm,
    He found before himself an elf-dwelling
    There the red flame burnt
    Mild blew the breeze from under the rocks ahead
    In the third line, 'hitti' translates as 'met', but that doesn't really work in English, so I changed it to found. The last line I have not translated exactly literally; it's more like 'The mild weather laid the wind from under the rocks ahead' (I think? Maybe not), but that doesn't sound too well in English.
    The second line I also took some liberties with. I'm still a little confused as to what the literal translation would be. Hann can't be the object because otherwise it would be in the dative for villa, and it doesn't really make sense as the subject since villa is not in the reflexive form and there's no object (hann villist - he gets lost, hann villir - he leads astray). Likewise with stilla (hann stillist - he calms down, hann stillir - he calms (somebody)). Clearly from the rest of the song, though, it is Ólafur who is being led astray, by the heathen elf-maiden trying to tempt him to renounce his Christianity and live with the elves, and he remains calm in the face of this, so that's what I put, even though I'm not sure about the grammar.
    There are different versions of this song, and I don't think I translated the same one as you are looking at (the one I came across just had 'logi brann', instead of 'loginn'.) The basic story, though, is that Ólafur comes across this elf-dwelling and some elf-maidens come out. One of them tells him to go into their dwelling and live with them, but Ólafur refuses, saying he'd rather have faith in Christ. The elf goes off to a grove and gets a knife, then tells him he mustn't leave without giving her a kiss. Ólafur has his doubts about this, but he leans down and kisses her. She stabs him with the knife and he sees his heart's blood running down his horse's hoof. He rides off home to his mother and sister and has them tend to him, but he dies within three hours.

    Edit: Now I think about it more, I think lagði might be an impersonal verb there and blíðan an adjective to go with byrinn. Then it sort of would mean 'Mild blew the breeze from under the rocks'. But I can't be sure. Also, bjarg might be better translated as cliff, but again I'm not sure.
     
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    Aryaman

    Member
    Greek
    Thanks a lot for the translation. If you have your complete translation saved somewhere in your pc and could send it with a pm i would like to read it, if not never mind. Icelandic has much more complex grammar than norwegian so it is hard to translate using a dictionary, but i could still identify some small differences like the ones you mentioned i think.
     

    Segorian

    Senior Member
    Icelandic & Swedish
    I came across this while searching for something else in the forum and thought I’d add a few comments for clarity.

    First, we are dealing here with the first stanza of “Kvæði af Ólafi Liljurós”, the Icelandic version of a ballad known all over Scandinavia, with origins in the Middle Ages. Wikipedia has an article about it under the name “Elveskud”.

    Second, most native speakers would have more or less the same difficulties as Silver Biscuit in trying to analyse the grammar of these few lines. In the end, the translation is mostly correct and I only have minor niggles:

    1. In the first line, as in the last, the word fram does not have the meaning ‘ahead’. Með björgum fram means ‘along the cliffs’, and undan björgunum fram means ‘from under the cliffs’.

    2. The second line is translated correctly, in my opinion. The peculiar grammar is probably just poetic licence.

    3. In the third line, hitti can very reasonably be interpreted as having the meaning ‘found’, especially given the age of the text.

    4. As Silver Biscuit suggests in the edit, blíðan in the last line is an adjective that goes with byrinn. Dropping the word ‘ahead’ gives a good translation.

    Versions of this song are now all over Youtube. At least one of them has an English translation in the comments.
     
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