“The Long Ships” – Translation

Earning ones upkeep is essential to write in peace, thus, I’ve been considering many professions. I’m dipping my toe into the translation business in the hopes that English is good enough to translate old Swedish prose (1940) into a comprehensible text. I hope you enjoy it.

Many men, of the unruly sort, left Skane to do battle in Hjorungavag with Bue and Vagn while others followed Styrbjorn to Uppsala. But when words spread that few of the men would return, great sorrow engulfed the land and memorial stones were raised in their honour. However, most sensible folk considered it a blessing as they could expect peace and quiet now when few men would feud over their families inheritance. There became many fruitful years and most people flourished; but those who found their yields to be poor they ventured to England and Ireland, finding great bounty, and many remained.

While peace was lasting, men with shaved heads came from the lands of the Saxons and England to preach about the Christian faith. They had many things to say and people were, at first, curious and listened intently to their words. The women found it especially enjoyable to be given white dresses and submerged in water by the strangers. But as soon as the dresses were no longer offered, the people stopped listening to their preachings that seemed tiresome and rather unbelievable; moreover, they spoke in a choppy manner that they had learned in Hedeby or on the Western islands, making the preachers seemed both childish and stupid.

Thereof, few were willing to adopt the Christian faith; and shaved men, who spoke highly of peace and would be most agitated by the gods, was sized by religious men and strung in holy trees, where they found their bodies full of arrows and presented as gifts to Odin’s crows. But others, who had managed to reach north, to the Gothic lands, where little religion was to be found, there they were hailed and bound to be sold as slaves in Smaland, in exchange for ox and bearskins. As thralls by the Smaland people, they would sometimes let their hair grow back and do good work as they were dissatisfied by Jehovah; but most continued their quest against the gods and baptised women and children rather than work in the quarries or the grind wheat, to the dismay of their owners. As a result, the Goths could no longer get even a few three year old Smaland ox for a healthy priest without paying a difference with salt and homespun. Then the attitude towards the shaved men changed.

One summer word spread through all of the Danish Kingdom that King Harald Bluetooth had adopted the new belief. In his youth, Harald had tried the Christian faith but quickly regretted it, but this time, he was sincere. For King Harald was now old and had, for a long while, been plagued by back pain, and have had little enjoyment of his ale and women. Clever Bishops, sent by the Emperor, therefore gave him herbs blessed in the apostle’s names instead of beer and made the sign of the cross over his shoulders to drive the devils out of him until the pain was gone and the King became Christian.

I do not own this story and belongs to Frans G. Bengtsson who has been dead for many years. It was originally published in the 1940s. This translation is not official and is just a test of my capabilities to translate.

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