HEXAMITOS.

In a thread from the other day, L. Fregimus posted a very useful limited Google search for the word притин, which led me to this poem (about Grigory Skovoroda) by Arseny Tarkovsky (a wonderful poet probably best known as the father of the director Andrei Tarkovsky), whose ninth and tenth lines are “Есть в природе притин своеволью:/ Степь течет оксамитом под ноги” (‘There is in nature a confine for willfulness: the steppe flows like oksamit underfoot’). Oksamit? Off to the dictionaries; it turned out to be a variant of aksamit, an old word for a kind of velvet, and Vasmer said it was from Greek ἑξάμιτος [hexámitos], literally ‘six-thread,’ which also gave rise to German Samt. Wait a minute, thought I, that rings a bell… Sure enough, English samite (OED: “A rich silk fabric worn in the Middle Ages, sometimes interwoven with gold”) is from the same source (“The med. Gr. name, lit. ‘six-threaded’, has been variously explained. Usually it has been supposed that the original ‘samite’ was woven of thread composed of six strands of silk; but according to Middleton in Encycl. Brit. XXIII. 210/1 it ‘was so called because the weft threads were only caught and looped at every sixth thread of the warp, lying loosely on the intermediate part’”). In English it has indelible associations with King Arthur (1470-85 MALORY Arthur I. xxv. 73 “In the myddes of the lake Arthur was ware of an arme clothed in whyte samyte”); in Russian I know it occurs in the Tale of Igor’s Campaign («…помчаша красныя дѣвкы половецкыя, а съ ними злато, и паволокы, и драгыя оксамиты», “They seized the fair maidens of the Pólovtsy, and with them gold and cloths and costly samite”), but I don’t know what if any associations it has for a modern reader.

Comments

  1. As far as I can tell, “aksamit” is the standard Polish word for “velvet”. And although the standard Slovak equivalent is “zamat”, the archaic “aksamiet” is used in poetry.
    A fellow named Peter Aksamit was a Hussite-turned-mercenary who served under Ján Jiskra of Brandýs when the latter took control of most of today’s Slovakia. Aksamit later went rogue, started his own Hussite franchise and robbed monasteries and cities all across the northern provinces until Matthias Corvinus kicked his ass in 1458.

  2. michael farris says:

    “As far as I can tell, “aksamit” is the standard Polish word for “velvet”"
    Yes it is. I had assumed it was used in other Slavic (and other European?) languages too. I’m just full of dumb ideas like that.

  3. I don’t know what if any associations it has for a modern reader.
    I’ll always associate the word with “sword-and-sorcery” fantasy novels. I’m pretty sure I first encountered the word in Tolkien, or possibly Robert E. Howard.
    Of all the bizarre vocabulary I picked up from reading pulp fiction, samite stuck with me because I was astonished to learn that it was a real word, and not something made up like “mithril.”

  4. Most (geeky) English speakers will associate the word with Monty Python & the Holy Grail:
    “Arthur: The Lady of the Lake, her arm clad in the purest shimmering samite held aloft Excalibur from the bosom of the water, signifying by divine providence that I, Arthur, was to carry Excalibur. THAT is why I am your king!”
    I actually don’t remember it from Tolkien – sounds more like a Robert Howard word to me.

  5. sounds more like a Robert Howard word to me
    Yeah, either that or Clark Ashton Smith. I was reading a bunch of Smith online a few months ago, with the aid of various online dictionaries. I swear he used the entire corpus of obsolete words and terms associated with Medieval and Renaissance textiles.

  6. This has absolutely nothing to do with the Askimet spam filter.

  7. Actually, when I wrote “I don’t know what if any associations it has for a modern reader” I was talking about the Russian word; I’m trying not to be depressed at discovering that for the modern reader the English word is associated with Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, and Monty Python.
    C’mon, Malory, let’s go swig some mead and forget our troubles.

  8. I don’t remember it from Tolkien either. But isn’t that kind of prescriptivist to insist that a word remain in a particular century locked in a particular genre? Like the best crystal wineglasses, the best words should be taken out and used from time to time, even if all you’ve got is humble table wine.

  9. The word samite does not appear in the text of The Lord Of The Rings, and I’m willing to bet a reasonable amount it does not appear anywhere in Tolkien’s work. Smith, however, does use it in several of his works, including the stories “The Muse of Atlantis”, “The Double Shadow”, “The Death of Malygris”, “The Voyage of King Euvoran”, “The Dark Eidolon”, and the poem “In A Garden”. So it’s quite reasonable to associate the word with him.
    Nijma: I quite agree, and so did Tolkien, who is on record that it is far better to meet an archaic word like plenilune in a living context rather than slabbed in a glossary.

  10. I’m trying not to be depressed at discovering that for the modern reader the English word is associated with Tolkien, Robert E. Howard, and Monty Python.
    I’m with Nijma on this one – the above carries the distinct pong of snobbery. My pieriansipist passion for philology was first aroused by reading LOTR at 7 or 8, and the Silmarillion a year later, and Monthy Python’s fondness for erudite in-jokes has similarly enriched my reading choices. I’m sure Malory would be thrilled at the extent to which his words have spread through popular culture. At the very least, I doubt that he would have to “try very hard not to be depressed by it”.

  11. Like the best crystal wineglasses, the best words should be taken out and used from time to time … better to meet an archaic word like plenilune in a living context

    Like Gelahrtheit.

  12. Stuart’s right. I’m surprised that anyone who loves language would disparage Tolkien.

  13. The English /sam-aite/, compared with the shorter German Samt, recalls something I’ve always wondered about, namely learnèd pronunciation of Latin words by the English. (I don’t say British because I seem to remember they order these things differently in Scotland). Has there been something like a Great Don Shift in English vowels in words of Latin origin?
    I myself have never been able to remember vowel lengths in Latin. In America, classicists tend to pronounce Latin words using more or less “everyday German and French vowels” (as I would say today), not the American ones. Literate Germans (and those French ones that I have heard on television) cite Latin in this way. I think it occurs with Greek as well.
    In contrast, the literate English have of pronouncing Latin long “a” as in “late”, a long “i” as in “bite” and so on. As a mnemonic, I suppose it’s useful, but it grates on me. Could that have played a role in ἑξάμιτος [hexámitos] having remained sam-aite, instead of shortening to “samt” – quite apart from “purely phonological rules”?

  14. Perhaps that should be the Great Epideictic Fetter. The OED says

    a. Adapted for display or show-off; chiefly of set orations
    b. spec. in Ornith.: applied to collective displays and other conventional behaviour regarded by some as having evolved from the need to control the distribution of population.

  15. I wonder how plenilune is pronounced. Did anyone else see the brilliant upside down sliver of a moon tonight? There was an incredibly bright planet above it–I imagine Venus. With the moon still so close to perigee this would be a good time to dust off the Tolkien moon words.
    Did anyone else notice Tom Bombadillo–and Goldberry–got left off the movie?

  16. The OED says stress on first syllable, pronunciation like “plenty” (can’t get the IPA characters in here)

    Whose glory, like a lasting plenilune, Seems ignorant of what it is to wane

         1599 B. Jonson Cynthia’s Revels v. iii

  17. Did anyone else notice Tom Bombadillo–and Goldberry–got left off the movie?
    Yes. I never really expected them to be in it, and still regard the Fellowship as the best of the three movies. I tolerated The Two Towers and still wax apoplectic at the mere mention of the vomitous abomination that is The Return of the King. Not worshipping Peter Jackson is considered High Treason here in Zild, but I don’t care.

  18. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Grumbly, at my school in England in the mid-sixties there was a Great Vowel Shift in Latin. The older masters continued to flatten everything out with an English accent but the young ones started to speak and gesture as if Latin were Italian. Consequently there are in England now two ways of pronouncing many Latin words.

  19. Must be my age, I automatically associate samite with Malory, and hadn’t been aware of the more recent uses (though I love the Pythons).
    Stuart: I’m a happy member of the not worshipping Jackson brigade, so much so that I decline to see any of the films and just re-read LOTR regularly.
    And I don’t remember samite in there, either.

  20. A.J.P. Crown says:

    You sure you’re not thinking of Samsonite, Language? Innovative travel and business collections combining …

  21. Like the best crystal wineglasses, the best words should be taken out and used from time to time, even if all you’ve got is humble table wine.
    Of course they should, and I’m not “disparaging Tolkien,” for Pete’s sake—I read Tolkien with as much avidity as anyone, back in the day. But I would have thought the Arthur mythos would have retained its power for longer.

  22. @Grumbly:
    I once read that the English had the misfortune of adopting the reformed pronunciation of Erasmus just _before_ their great vowel shift. The English pronunciation of Latin participated in that shift. Hence sine die = “sigh-knee die-ee” etc.
    I think Germans reformed their pronunciation of Latin in the 19th century, and not much has happened in German pronunciation since then.
    American academics were heavily influenced by Germany in the 19th century and American classicists adopted their pronunciation of Latin from there.

  23. Gary is quite correct. I myself use the reformed pronunciation when reading Latin, but the traditional when using Latin phrases in English.

  24. Bill Walderman says:

    “I once read that the English had the misfortune of adopting the reformed pronunciation of Erasmus just _before_ their great vowel shift.”
    I thought the vowel shift occurred in the late 14th-early 15th centuries, about a century before Erasmus.

  25. An underappreciated vowel shift has taken place in our very lifetimes! “Bag” now rhymes with “vague”.
    It’s sort of like viewing an eclipse after only reading about them. I missed it by moving to the West Coast, but my friend who stayed in Minneapolis has shifted.
    I don’t know how many vowel shifts there have been, but apparently they’re rather rare, though not endangered.

  26. An underappreciated vowel shift has taken place in our very lifetimes! “Bag” now rhymes with “vague”.
    It’s sort of like viewing an eclipse after only reading about them. I missed it by moving to the West Coast, but my friend who stayed in Minneapolis has shifted.
    I don’t know how many vowel shifts there have been, but apparently they’re rather rare, though not endangered.

  27. But I would have thought the Arthur mythos would have retained its power for longer.
    Well doesn’t Monty Python show the durability of the Arthur mythos? It’s just Malory who hasn’t retained his power, the Arthur legends themselves are alive and well, and continuously retold. I can see how that might be depressing to a Malory fan – why remake what’s already well done? But every generation seems to feel the need to put their own stamp on these things, and the old gets shunted aside, regardless of merit.

  28. “Bag” now rhymes with “vague”.

    What does this mean?? Is it now a “bayg of peanuts”, or the other way around, “that’s putting it vagly”? Or do they sound the same, and are both pronounced “flesh curtain”?

  29. Bayg of peanuts.
    I have some of the Old French Arthur legends. Chretien is much wittier than I had expected. In Yvain (not Arthurian, I don’t think), a widowed queen falls in love with the man who had killed her husband (!) and then manipulates the men on the council which she has inherited to rule that, for reasons of realpolitik (to get the castle a protector), she should marry him, “thus getting them to tell her to do what she herself already wanted to do.” It’s pretty far from XIXc romanticism.
    French literature seems to have an enormous wealth of sardonic and ironic classics, as if that nation had institutionalized that kind of attitude as a kind of shibboleth.

  30. Bayg of peanuts.
    I have some of the Old French Arthur legends. Chretien is much wittier than I had expected. In Yvain (not Arthurian, I don’t think), a widowed queen falls in love with the man who had killed her husband (!) and then manipulates the men on the council which she has inherited to rule that, for reasons of realpolitik (to get the castle a protector), she should marry him, “thus getting them to tell her to do what she herself already wanted to do.” It’s pretty far from XIXc romanticism.
    French literature seems to have an enormous wealth of sardonic and ironic classics, as if that nation had institutionalized that kind of attitude as a kind of shibboleth.

  31. “I thought the vowel shift occurred in the late 14th-early 15th centuries, about a century before Erasmus.”
    Apparently the experts don’t agree with you:
    http://ancienthistory.about.com/od/language/qt/GVS.htm

  32. it does not appear anywhere in Tolkien’s work
    Even given his day job, though he didn’t publish much?
    At first I thought, it’ll be in Gawain. And sure enough, there it is in Jessie L. Weston‘s old translation. But that’s translating:

    2431  ne þe saynt ne þe sylk ne þe syde pendaundes

    (see text and translation side-by-side here). But is that sayntes or seint? And, of course, he went with cincture.

  33. Italians pronounce Latin exactly as if it were Italian. And, at least non-academics, refuse to believe that Cicero and Seneca didn’t pronounce it exactly the same way. The reformed pronunciation is just an Anglo/German conspiracy.

  34. A.J.P. Crown says:

    “the experts”, ha, ha, ha.
    Ve spit on “the experts”.

  35. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Italians pronounce Latin exactly as if it were Italian.
    And the English pronounce Latin exactly as if it were English (except for those who pronounce it exactly as if it were Italian).

  36. Bill Walderman says:

    I stand corrected. It appears that the Great Vowel Shift occurred over a period of several hundred years, beginning in the late 14th and ending in the 17th centuries. But did English Latinists really adopt a “reformed” pronunciation of Latin in the era of Erasmus, only to have it shifted in the late 16th or early 17th centuries? Some features of the traditional English pronunciation that distinguish it from the “reformed” (i.e., ancient) pronunciation would appear to have emerged independently of, and before, the Great Vowel Shift–e.g., the “soft” pronunciation of “c” and “g” before “e” and “i” (and “ae”); the de-diphthongization of “ae.” Also, an idiosyncratic pronunciation of Latin using the sounds of the vernacular emerged each of the European speech areas. In France, for example, Latin “u” was pronounced as a front rounded vowel; in Germany “c” before “e” and “i” was pronounced as “ts,” and in Italy, “c” and “g” before “e” and “i” were given “soft” pronunciations. (These pronunciations are still used by the Catholic Church in the various countries where they arose, though most classicists have followed the German/American lead in reverting to a pronunciation more or less based on what is believed to be the ancient Roman pronunciation.) I think that the emergence of the English pronunciation of Latin followed the same lines. As was noted above, German classicists first adopted the reformed pronunciation in the 19th century and American classicists, many of whom studied in Germany, followed suit shortly thereafter but the British didn’t begin to adopt the reformed pronunciation until after WWII.

  37. But is that sayntes or seint? And, of course, he went with cincture.
    Gawain himself is: With silk sayn vmbe his syde (l. 589), after all.

  38. CSandstrom says:

    “Samite” took me back to Malory, or possibly T.H. White. But the real pleasure of this post was going along reading about something new to me (oksamit, oksamit, okay) and then WHAM! well of course I know about samite, it’s the same thing? Kind of like the moment in the Pixar movie Ratatouille when the snobbish restaurant critic is catapulted back to his childhood by a taste of ratatouille. I hadn’t thought of samite for decades. The shift of perspective is astounding. It feels like something physical is happening in my brain.

  39. David Marjanović says:

    I had no idea the English word existed, or that the German one could be traced any further back than to the at most Middle High German sammet

    can’t get the IPA characters in here

    Windows: Character Table. Mac: click on the flag (for the keyboard layout), and you’ll find the character table near the bottom of the menu.
    I know a SuSE version whose character table doesn’t work, but apart from that, you can of course get most IPA characters in here.

    I think Germans reformed their pronunciation of Latin in the 19th century

    Some teachers have renounced the traditional pronunciation of ce ci cae coe cy as [tse tsi tsæ tsø tsy] and now use [k]- instead (I assume they’ve also dropped the frankly bizarre practice of saying [ø]); it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that this started in the 19th century. Most teachers still don’t use this reconstructed pronunciation, however, and I don’t think anyone pronounces v as [w]* or even just qu and gu as [kʷ] and [gʷ].
    * To be fair, the shift from [w] to [v] happened within Classical Latin — after the really Classical period, but before Late Antiquity. In Rome, anyway.

    What does this mean?? Is it now a “bayg of peanuts”, or the other way around, “that’s putting it vagly”?

    In non-rhotic terms, it’s vayergly a bayerg of peanuts. Or even a beer-g of peanuts. Check out the link!
    (Why, actually, do the comments on this blog pop up in a separate window that has a fixed size?!?)

  40. Don’t click on Comments; click on the timestamp.

  41. Thanks to all this information, I will start to think of 1989′s “sametová revoluce” not so much as a Velvet Revolution, as a samite one.
    All this and Latin pronunciation, too? Good, a chance to pass on favourite extracts from one of AP Herbert’s “Misleading Cases”. This is from “The Dead Pronunciation” (1934):
    Mr Wick, a young advocate appearing in the High Court for the first time, said:
    My lord, in these proceedings I ask for a rule neessee of kairtiorahree…
    The Lord Chief Justice: I beg your pardon?
    Mr Wick: Kairtiorahree. I am going to submit, my lord, that an order of the Chimney Magna justices was ooltrah weerayze…
    The Court: I hope you will do nothing of the sort, Mr Wick. What is all this about? (…)
    Mr Wick: My lord, ooltrah weerayze — ‘beyond the powers’…
    The Court: Can it be said that you have in mind the Latin expression ultra vires?
    Mr Wick: No, my lord; I never heard that expression before. My lord, in my submission the order of the magistrate was ooltrah weerayze… (…)
    Continuing, the young advocate outlined the facts which had led up to the magistrates’ order:
    Mr Pottle, the day yooray tenant of the storm-water channel, was preemah fakiay the beneficial ….
    The Court: Do you mean prima facie, Mr Wick?
    Mr Wick: No, my lord — preemah fakiay.
    The Court (after a moment’s hesitation) : Go on.
    Mr Wick: And, my lord, as the preemah fakay beneficial owner, he claimed by prescription the yooss waynahndee et piscahndee over the upper waters of the Float River, which issued through the conndewit…
    The Court: Nullum tempus occurrit regi, Mr Wick.
    Mr Wick: I beg your lordship’s pardon?
    The Court: Nullum tempus occurrit regi.
    Mr Wick: With great respect, my lord, I don’t quite understand.
    The Court: Oh, my sacred aunt! Would you understand if I said ‘Nooloom tempooss ohkooreet raygee’?
    Mr Wick (with a happy smile) : Perfectly, milord — perfectly. I am very grateful to your lordship. My lord I was coming to that point. But, my lord, Mr Pottle, summoned before the magistrates upon soob poynah
    The Court: Soob what?
    Mr Wick: Soob poynah, my lord.
    The Court: Do you mean that he was sub-poenaed?
    Mr Wick: No, my lord.
    The Court: Mr Wick, I am sorry, but this is not to be endured. I should be reluctant to think that you were treating the Court with levity
    Mr Wick: My lord — indeed, no! Noan possoomooss.
    The Court: Do not break into Latin again, Mr Wick. I take it that you have but recently concluded your education and that this is the first appearance in the King’s Courts of what is called, or was called, the New Pronunciation of Latin..
    Mr Wick: My lord, I pronounce the Latin tongue as I was taught at school.

  42. Stuart: I’m a happy member of the not worshipping Jackson brigade, so much so that I decline to see any of the films and just re-read LOTR regularly.
    Ah, but are you a KIWI non-worshipper? Here, admitting to being less than an adoring acolyte carries the sort of social stigma reserved for truly heinous social sins, like public urination, or being Australian.

  43. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Don’t click on Comments; click on the timestamp.
    Thank you, M. This will change my life, I am forever in your debt.

  44. I have nice wineglasses (bought them to supplement the family heirlooms). Their not that old, really, but they do still improve on the plonk. Just as the china makes the drip-coffee more festive.
    As a latecomer to Latin I try to use German-ish cardinal vowels. And to roll my rrrrrrrs in an Italinate manner. Of course none of that matters since I have no memory for length not stress (nor /w/).
    I don’t know a perfect translation for samite in Danish, but “velvet” is “fløjl”. Apparently borrowed via German from Dutch “fluwell” from French “veluel” ~ “velours”.

  45. David Marjanović says:

    I don’t remember Latin vowel length well either, because German vowels can only be long if they carry at least secondary stress, while Latin has no such rule… Perhaps I should learn Italian, except that would be a very stupid idea now that I’ve just started with Spanish.

  46. Stuart,
    I tolerated The Two Towers
    Then you, sir, must have a stronger stomach than I. I can forgive a lot of things when it comes to turning a book into a movie – Tom Bombadil is the least of them. But to turn Théoden and Treebeard (along with all Ents) into cowards and Faramir into a carbon copy of his brother, that’s nothing short of perversion. Jackson even had the audacity to put the words “I will not risk an open war!” into Théoden’s mouth. To hell with that movie.

  47. Well doesn’t Monty Python show the durability of the Arthur mythos?
    So it does, and you have made me feel better about the whole thing. I thank you.

  48. In French velvet and corduroy have related names which I cannot remember at the moment, with the result that many English-language books about Erik Satie call him “the velvet gentleman”, then actually he was the corduroy gentleman. Roger Shattuck gets it right, but many don’t.
    Thoreau was criticized for wearing corduroy, which was regarded as Irish. To me it seems wrong to hold an innocent fabric accountable for the sins of a nation, no matter how grievous those sins might be.

  49. In French velvet and corduroy have related names which I cannot remember at the moment, with the result that many English-language books about Erik Satie call him “the velvet gentleman”, then actually he was the corduroy gentleman. Roger Shattuck gets it right, but many don’t.
    Thoreau was criticized for wearing corduroy, which was regarded as Irish. To me it seems wrong to hold an innocent fabric accountable for the sins of a nation, no matter how grievous those sins might be.

  50. David, note that Krunuu has as much as told you that he’s not going to pay up.

  51. David, note that Krunuu has as much as told you that he’s not going to pay up.

  52. Why, actually, do the comments on this blog pop up in a separate window that has a fixed size?!?
    Not fixed, actually, you can mouse over the borders or even the corners and drag the size of the window to where you want it. I find this irritating though, and usually click on the most recent comments in the sidebar, or if I have missed too many comments, the archives, which both open in a larger window. Thanks for the hint about the timestamp.

  53. Malory was never that accessible in the first place. I do remember seeing the name at the top of some Arthurian chapter along with some unintelligible quotation and “Le Morte d’Arthur” written after it, but never the actual book of that title. If I had ever seen it, I bet I wouldn’t have been able to understand it without access to some gigantic dictionary that our university libraries wouldn’t have carried even if we had known what to ask for. Oh, I think it was “The Crystal Cave” that everyone on the night shift of the psyche ward was reading, having already gone through Ken Kesey and H.P. Lovecraft. There was also the film “Camelot” in the 60′s. Joseph Campbell (I know, I know) went into the French versions in one of his books–the Perceval/Wolfram (?) stuff–which I bumped into trying to track down stuff from Graham Hancock’s The Sign and the Seal about the Ethiopian branch of the Lost Arc story.
    I’ve never heard of either samite or Robert E. Howard or Peter Jackson. But if that’s what all the Ozzies and Kiwis are doing, I should probably keep up on it.

  54. Thanks to Sili, Geraint Jennings, David Marjanovic, Bill Walderman, vanya, and Gary I will never again have to speculate about that issue!
    Like Jerimiah, when I see an expert I reach for my phlegm (I wish I could clear my nose free-style without a Kleenex, don’t you? 60 years old and I still can’t). Nevertheless, I’m going to stick with the Anglo/German conspiratorial pronunciation, because that way I stand a greater chance of being understood everywhere I go (not that I fly around dropping Latin care tags that much). That Mr. Wick sounds like a Texas lawyer – which is fine in Texas, where the generous bougainvillea shades many a sin.

  55. marie-lucie says:

    In French velvet and corduroy have related names …
    Velvet is le velours, and corduroy is le velours côtelé, literally ‘ribbed velvet’. It is true that where there is no confusion possible you can use just velours for corduroy, as in the case of Satie. Both fabrics are very strong and long-lasting, as the pile protects the supporting cloth, preventing it from wearing out until the pile itself is gone. this is one reason why velvet was commonly used to upholster chairs, sofas, etc. Velveteen is called velours de coton as opposed to the more expensive silk velvet. The original hexamitos seems to have been a type of panne velvet, which has a longer pile lying in one direction.
    … with the result that many English-language books about Erik Satie call him “the velvet gentleman”, then actually he was the corduroy gentleman.
    In the 19th century corduroy pants (pantalons de velours) were typically worn by men doing heavy work, such as construction workers, so Satie was not wearing the elegant but fragile clothes of a dandy but the humble, long-wearing garb of a member of the working class. Good for you, JE!

  56. Emerson: a widowed queen falls in love with the man who had killed her husband (!) and then manipulates the men on the council which she has inherited to rule
    This is pretty much the classic European style of Queenship. If you start to notice the same themes, there is always a Queen and a Treasure. Usually the Queen and the Treasure are together. If they get separated, as on the battlefield, that is a big problem. If the Treasure gets captured, it’s a big problem, to be sure, but if the Queen gets captured it’s all over. Why do you think the stranger who shows up and slays the Dragon always gets to marry the Queen? That’s how you got to be king in those days–royal blood descended through the queen. The relationship of the Sister’s Son was also a big deal. If you start paying attention to detail, you will start to see it pop up in the Scandinavian stories too. If the Queen was not married and her son was not old enough to rule, she could often be quite powerful. But while a king might rule with force of arms, the queen ruled by being a skillful diplomat with the council. Sometimes there are more intrigues with the queen as she sends her son away for safety from her rivals (or second husband) or gives him a smaller province to rule, while she holds the major power (always with the connivance of the council). In later historical periods when there was more political stability the queens did not have so much potential for authority and queenship did not mean so much. The French literature that refers to this was not being sardonic or ironic–it was a true reflection of the customs of the time.

  57. marie-lucie says:

    Marrying the man who killed your husband: at a time when upper-class and royalty marriages were arranged for strictly political reasons, that might not seem such a bad idea. Consider what happened to some of the women who married Henry the Eighth.

  58. I think that the only shocking thing is that the queen only waited three days to initiate relations and another week or less to regularize the union. Apparently they weren’t all picky about “mourning” in those days.

  59. I think that the only shocking thing is that the queen only waited three days to initiate relations and another week or less to regularize the union. Apparently they weren’t all picky about “mourning” in those days.

  60. the queen only waited three days
    Did the guy have a small ( or large) militia? There is some Viking story about an heiress to the throne captured and the Viking leaders best friend take here in his rowboat and has a chat with her. He pointed out that the Viking leader could have taken her by force if her wanted (Vikings, of course didn’t do that, but they COULD have)but that his best friend was a very noble guy, also very good looking and brave and polite and a fearless leader, and that her country needed the protection that his militia could provide. Then she met him and saw it was all true. And of course what true Queen would not want to “provide for the common defense”. It would have been her first duty to look after her subjects. As I recall the protocol on these things, it’s the guy with the army who is responsible for setting the schedule. Maybe before there’s time to organize an uprising or something. If you start reading some sagas, you will start picking up on these little details.

  61. At my URL I have comparisons of Mongol and European versions of certain themes, including the captured Danish princesses who ridiculed the Norwegians’ silly ships by carving little ships out of cheese.

  62. At my URL I have comparisons of Mongol and European versions of certain themes, including the captured Danish princesses who ridiculed the Norwegians’ silly ships by carving little ships out of cheese.

  63. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Emerson, I would happily tell virtually anybody that I’m not going to pay up, but why might I be in debt to David Marjanovic? Unless it’s something to do with having spelled his name with two Rs, but at least I’m not copying and pasting it any more. Copying and pasting names, for me, Marie-Lucie, is a bad idea; it sidesteps the necessity I would otherwise have to read them properly in the first place.
    I’m off to the cheese ships, this might be something I could use …

  64. A.J.P. Crown says:

    Well, although the piece is very interesting, especially its conclusion, there is nothing about princesses making little ships out of cheese. One carves an anchor, but ships would have been better. Thanks for the idea, though.

  65. I was just enticing the reader with a slightly misleading description.
    Danish prinsessen can be real prima donnas at times.

  66. I was just enticing the reader with a slightly misleading description.
    Danish prinsessen can be real prima donnas at times.

  67. I don’t know if you could really call them princesses. Some translations say Thorkel was a lord and some say a great chieftain. I supposed that would make him something like an alderman or senator these days. King Harald’s saga says, “Thorkel Geysa paid a huge ransom for his daughters.” I suppose Thorkel’s daughters must have blogged about it or put it on Facebook for King Harald to find out and get so upset. Who would think someone would be so sensitive about ship anchors, but maybe the Norwegians just have a thing about their ships.
    No one in Iceland was going to say anything bad about King Harald, though, after he rescued them from famine. From King Harald’s Saga, p.86:

    He was also, indeed, a great friend to all the Icelanders. Once when there was a severe famine in Iceland, King Harald permitted four ships to sail to Iceland with flour, and he decreed that the price should not exceed a hundred lengths of homespun for three hundredweights. [footnote: This famine began in 1056.] He also allowed all the poor who could get themselves a passage from Iceland, to come to Norway. and thus the country survived, until conditions improved. King Harald also sent out to Iceland a bell for the church which had been built for the Althing at Thingvellir [location of the two-week national assembly] with timber provided by St Olaf.

    Harald was a king though, not a Viking, and took his Norwegian army raiding in Denmark and England. The real Vikings had ethics and when looking for a gig for the winter that would keep them inside a great hall with lots of mead and a king handing out gold bracelets, they took care with their PR. According to the Viking code, it was punishable by death if a Viking took a woman to the ship against her will.

  68. That’s what they told the girls when they first met them, anyway.

  69. That’s what they told the girls when they first met them, anyway.

  70. David Marjanović says:

    Not fixed, actually, you can mouse over the borders or even the corners and drag the size of the window to where you want it.

    :-o
    Which browser are you using?

  71. i’ve followed JE’s links and have learnt that wheel is adaptation from the west and a lot of languages have similarly sounding words for it, wheel to kolo to koleso, morever, my aunt’s name means that, Khorloo (wheel from Tibetan)
    makes me wonder why our dugui is different though
    i wonder whether in Norway somewhere there is a tomb of a Mongol warrior, my Australian friend told me once that she’s been to Norway and saw one, that far north! but couldn’t tell where and what exactly it was

  72. Which browser are you using?
    Not IE, that’s for sure. Firefox and Safari will both do it.

  73. A.J.P. Crown says:

    I live in Norway. I’ve never heard of a mongol warriors tomb, though there are many Viking burial mounds. I’ll ask around. Nijma knows of 5th century a.d. buddhist relics that were found in Sweden, so it’s not impossible. She also discovered a remarkable similarity in appearance between some temples in Thailand and the wooden stave churches in Norway from the twelfth century.

  74. Sounds like this’ll be a good thread to flog some webcomics.
    All the Bombadil you can ask for. I’m sure there’s a more recent strip too, but it seems that the transcription project has been put on the backburner.
    A modern retelling of the Arthur mythos. Rex quondam futuresque. Atque hodie.

  75. If you right-click on Comments, you can open them in the same window or as a new tab or new window.

  76. Forgot to add: that’s on IE. On Firefox, you have to double-click right.

  77. On Firefox, you have to double-click right.
    Not in my firefox, I don’t Single right-click in 3.0.5

  78. marie-lucie says:

    I don’t understand why there is such a fuss about the “comments’ window. I never use it. If you click on the time you get the full-size window, write your comment at the bottom (admittedly in small characters) and preview it full-size, exactly as it will appear when posted, so you can correct any mistakes.

  79. I never use it either, but apparently a lot of people didn’t realize that you can get the full post with comment window by clicking on the time stamp.

  80. That’s what they told the girls when they first met them, anyway.
    That’s what the vikings told each other before joining up. In chapter 9 of Arrow-Odd, after two days of fighting each other, the Viking Hjalmar discovers that the Viking Arrow-Odd hasn’t been doing very well with the summer plundering and doesn’t have any money or treasure aboard the ships. He declares that “there can’t ever have been a meeting of such stupid people before”, and proposes pooling their resources. All Hjalmar asks is that they follow the “the viking laws I’ve always kept”:

    The first point I want to make is that I and my men refuse to eat raw meat. Plenty of people are in the habit of squeezing a bit of flesh in a piece of cloth and then calling it cooked meat, but in my opinion it’s a habit more fit for wolves than men. I never rob merchants or peasants beyond the occasional raid to cover my immediate needs. I never rob women, even when we meet them on the road with plenty of money, and no woman is ever to be brought to my ship against her own free will. And if she can show that she’s been taken to the ship against her will, the one who took her, whether he’s rich or poor, shall be put to death.”

    A few chapters later, the law is tested as Arrow-Odd tries to drag a woman to the ship. She reminds him about Hjalmar, but he doesn’t care. So she barters for her freedom, first with money, then with the promise of a magical shirt that will protect Arrow-Odd as long as he doesn’t run away in battle.
    A year later when Arrow-Odd returns for the shirt she says she is afraid the kingdom will slip out of her hands and as a reward for making the shirt, asks him to stay for three years. So Odd marries Olvor and after the three years has rid Ireland of all the other vikings.

  81. I just recalled that we have another velvety word in Danish: “Ply(d)s”. From French “peluche”?
    The hook is that Winnie the Pooh is known as “Peter Plys” in Danish. “Plysdyr” being word for a childs toy animals. (“Plush”?)

  82. marie-lucie says:

    Sili, your “plys” may not be directly from French peluche (it might have travelled through English “plush”) but the French word is probably the original. La peluche is a kind of fabric that more or less imitates fur, for instance a teddy bear is un ours en peluche.

  83. David Marjanović says:

    I never use it either, but apparently a lot of people didn’t realize that you can get the full post with comment window by clicking on the time stamp.

    Yes, me for example, because on all other blogs I’ve seen you get to the full post by clicking on the title (or of course on the “read more” link if there is one).

    Sili, your “plys” may not be directly from French peluche (it might have travelled through English “plush”)

    German Plüsch (same meaning as in French) looks even more probable to me. It’s obvious that the German version isn’t the original one; I agree that the French one probably is it.

  84. marie-lucie says:

    The pel- in peluche is directly related to the pel- in Spanish pelo “hair” and to the French word poil “(body) hair, short animal fur”, both derived from Latin. I did not know the German word, which indeed is more probable than the English one as the immediate origin of Danish plys.

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