September 17th, 2005

Fishy Circumstances

Old Norse

Since the Middle Ages are an enormous catch-all of a thousand years or so, I don't feel too badly admitting I know absolutely nothing about Old Norse, a language that many of my medievalist colleagues have and are studying. Since many of you are handy, and surely I'm not the only one who doesn't know these things, I have some questions for you about the language.

When and where was it used?
Linguistically, what came before and after it? Is there a "Norse" to contrast with "Old Norse"? How does it relate to Germanic?
What are your favorite works written in the language?
Anything else I should know about the language offhand?

The depths of my ignorance on this subject occurred to me yesterday after encountering this sentence, written about the Pilgrimage of Charlemagne, a wacky Anglo-Norman poem which flirts with the chanson de geste genre, but really isn't in all sorts of ways: "The poem cannot have been written later than the translation into Old Norse, unaninmously dated in the thirteenth century, which derives from something very close to, if not identical with, the extant Pèlerinage."

This Old Norse translation isn't mentioned anywhere else in the materials I have handy. Are any of you familiar with it?