Application 26. Handout.  On Paroemial Cognitive Patterning in an Old Icelandic þáttr. Presented in Panel Discussion: "'Most Evident,' or 'Most Tricky'? Toward a Methodolocy for the Paroemiological Study of Medieval Literature and Culture" sponsored by the Early Proverb Society, 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI 14-17 May 2015.
Richard L. Harris, English Department, University of Saskatchewan                           heorot@sasktel.net

Walter J. Ong on the pre-literate repository of knowledge and its structuring of human thought:
“How could you ever call back to mind what you had so laboriously worked out?  The only answer is: Think memorable thoughts.  . . . you have to put your thinking into mnemonic patterns . . .  Your thought must come into being in . . . epithetic and formulary expressions . . . in proverbs which are constantly heard by everyone so that they come to mind readily and which themselves are patterned for retension and ready to recall, or in other mnemonic form.  Serious thought is intertwined with memory systems.  Mnemonic needs determine even syntax. (Havelock 1963, pp. 87-96. 131-2. 294-6).” p. 34.
“Fixed, often rhythmically balanced, expressions of this sort . . . can be found occasionally in print, indeed can be ‘looked up’ in books of sayings, but in oral cultures they are not occasional.  They are incessant.  They form the substance of thought itself.  Thought in any extended form is impossible without them, for it consists in them.” p. 35.
Walter J. Ong, Orality and Literacy. The Technologizing of the Word. NY, 1982, 2002.

“I contend that there was a body of folk-wisdom, not yet in metrical form, a body which can be sensed as a living, pulsing, gnomic background to all Germanic poetry—not just verse specifically intended as didactic.     Carolyne Larrington, A Store of Common Sense, Oxford, 1993, p. 18.
Work particularly with the process of proverbial allusion has led me to consider the proposition that the proverbs which we notice in the Íslendingasögur might be studied more accurately as partially extant evidence of the early existence of a much larger and more complex oral repository of wisdom formulas central to the ethics and mores of the pre-literate culture.  In fact, it must in its immanent entirety have delineated those conceptual structures describing the behavioural expectations of the pre-literate society of Iceland and its inhabitants’ continental forebears.  Such a repository was so deeply embedded in the consciousness and of such profound psychic impact that it informed, at least in part, the very thinking even of the literate and in some cases highly educated composers of the sagas, as well as that of the characters whose utterances and undertakings they described. This paroemial cognitive patterning of the pre-literate saga mind, though so far of purely conjectured existence and with little clarity of form or content, may eventually prove useful to us in our effort to understand what the sagas, written as they were on the cusp of that society’s transition into literacy, were meant to be about.
Richard L. Harris. ‘In the Beginning was the Proverb: Communal Wisdom and Individual Deeds in the Íslendingasögur,’ for “Word-Play: Proverbs in the Middle Ages,” session sponsored by Classics, Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Univ. of SaskatchewanThe 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, 9 May 2013.

My adoption of the term paroemial cognitive patterning was meant to address perceived reflections of an ancient background of communal wisdom in particular passages of [saga] narrative where there is neither utteranceof, nor the least explicit allusionto its formulaic encoding in proverb texts.
Richard L. Harris, ‘On the Decline of Paroemial Cognitive Patterning in Some Later Icelandic Sagas,’ for Old Norse Discussion Group, MLA, Chicago, 10 January 2014.

The character of Hreiðarr heimski:
Hann var ljótr maðr ok varla sjálfbjargi fyr vits sǫkum.  Hann var manna frávastr ok vel at afli búinn ok hógværr í skapi, ok var hann heima jafnan.  [ÍF XXIII. Morkinskinna I. 26. 152.] 
. . . an ugly man and had scarcely the wits to take care of himself. He was swift of foot and very strong, with an easygoing disposition. [Andersson and Gade, tr. Morkinskinna 24. 171.]

1. Foolish people: the witness of Hávamál to the paroemial background:
St. 6. Þá er horskr ok þǫgull kømr heimisgarða til,/sjaldan verðr víti vǫrom;/þvíat óbrigða vin fær maðr aldregi/en manvit mikit. [  ]
When a wise and silent man comes to a homestead seldom does shame befall the wary; for no more trustworthy friend can any man get than a store of common sense.  [Larrington, The Poetic Edda. “Sayings ot he High One”. 6.15.]
St. 17. Kópir afglapi er til kynnis kømr,/þylsk hann um eða þrumir;/allt er senn, ef hann sylg um getr;/uppi er þá geð guma.  [  ]
The fool gapes when he comes to visit, he mutters to himself or keeps silent; but it’s all up with him if he gets a swig of drink; the man’s mind is exposed.  [Larrington, The Poetic Edda. Sayings ot he High One. 17.16.]
St. 27. Ósnotr maðr, er með aldir kømr,/þat er batst at hann þegi;/engi þat veit at hann ekki kann,/nema hann mæli til mart./veita maðr hinn er vetki veit,/þótt hann mæli til mart. [   ]
The foolish man in company does best if he stays silent; no one will know that he knows nothing, unless he talks too much.   [Larrington, The Poetic Edda. Sayings ot he High One. 27.18.]

2.  The Slug-a-bed.
“Vaki þú, bróðir! Fátt veit sá er søfr.” [ÍF XXIII. Morkinskinna I. 26. 153.]
“Wake up, brother. The slug-a-bed is slow to learn.” [Andersson and Gade, tr. Morkinskinna 24. 171.]

3. A brother’s protection: Hreiðarr heimski argues with his brother Þórðr and with King Magnús using this idea:
“. . .mun þá hverr maðr draga af mér fé okkat, alls ek kann engi forræði þau er nýt eru. Ok era þér þá betra hlut í at eiga ef ek ber á mǫnnum eða gerik aðra óvísu, þeim er um fé mitt sitja at lokka af mér, en eptir þat sé ek barðr eða meiddr fyr mína tilgerðir; enda er þat sannast í at þér mun torsótt at halda mér eptir er ek vil fara.”  [ÍF XXIII. Morkinskinna I. 26. 152.]
“Everybody will set about cheating me out of our money since I have no management skills that will avail. Your part will be not easier if I come to blows with men or am otherwise embroiled with those who are after my money and try to steal it from me. It might turn out that I am beaten or wounded because of my actions. It is also true that it will be hard to hold me back if I want to make the voyage.”  [Andersson and Gade, tr. Morkinskinna 24. 171.]
“Svá er þat ok,” segir hann, “en eigi mun svá mannfátt vera at eigi komi þat þó upp er mælt verðr, allra helzt þar er hlœgi þykkir í, en ek maðr ekki orðvarr, ok jafnan berr mér mart á góma. Nú kann vera at þeir reiði orð mín fyr aðra menn ok spotti mik ok drepi þat at ferligu er ek hefi at gamni eða mælik. Nú sýnisk mér hitt vitrligra at vera heldr hjá þeim er um mik hyggr, sem Þórðr er bróðir minn, þótt þar sé heldr fjǫlmenni, en hinnug þótt menn sé fáir ok sé þar engi til umbóta.  [ÍF XXIII. Morkinskinna I. 26. 157.]
“That is so,” said Hreiðarr, “but there are never so few people that word of what is said doesn’t get around, especially if it seems amusing.  I’m not cautious in my speech, and a lot of words slip out. It might happen that people are angered at my words and mock me and make too much of what I have said in Jest. It seems to me wiser to be near someone who cares for me, like my brother Þórðr, even if there are a lot of people present, rahter than to be where there are few people and none to take a hand on my behalf.”[Andersson and Gade, tr. Morkinskinna 24. 174.]
Saxo’s version of Berr er hverr at baki, nema sér bróður eigi:
O-R Liber quintus. 114. III. 8. At ubi ad regiam perventum est, prior introitum petens fratrem pone consequi iubet. . . . Ericus itaque semifusus nudum habere tergum fraternitatis inopem referebat.
PF Book V. 128.  Erik approaches Frothi's court:

When he reached the palace, before seeking admittance he asked his brother to follow close behind him. . . . Erik, leaning at an angle, remarked that a brotherless man has a bare back. 42 HED 77  42This is a popular saying quoted more than once in the sagas: Berr er hverr at baki, nema sér bróður eigi (Bare is the back of the man without a brother). This is found in Njáls Saga 152 and Grettis Saga 82. cf. Kallstenius p. 20, no. 17, where he gives a Danish equivalent.
Saxo (Kallstenius) 20. Frändskap. 17. nudum habere tergum fraternitatis inopem, referebat, s. 13519. – Bar er broderløs Bag, Vedel s. 8911. Se vidare D n:r 395 med komm., Rosenberg a. a. II s. 601 not, Gering Ark 32 s. 6 och JR II n:r 169 (s. 19).
TPMA 2.   128. BRUDER/frère/brother 1. Ein Bruder ist wertvoll und von grossem Nutzen 1.3. Wer keinen Bruder hat, ist nackt (ungeschützt) Mlat. 9 Nudum habere tergum fraternitatis inopem, referebat (scil. Ericus) Er (Ericus) rief, dass der Bruderlose einen ungeschützten Rücken habe SAXO GRAMM. 135, 19. Nord. 10.11 Berr er hverr á bakinu (NJÁLS SAGA: at baki), nema sér bróður eigi Jeder ist am Rücken nackt, ausser demjenigen, der einen Bruder hat GRETTIS SAGA 82, 13 (= JÓNSSON, ARKIV 25. GERING S. 6. JÓNSSON 22). NJÁLS SAGA 152, 5. 12 Fratribus orbatus est pro nudo reputatus. – Bar ær brodherløss man Jemand, der seiner Brüder beraubt ist, wird als nackt angesehen. – Ein bruderloser Mann ist nackt LÅLE 395. Variiert: 13 Opt kømr mér Mána brúþar (H.s.: bjarnar2) Í byrvind Brœþraleyse; Hyggjomk umb, Es hildr þróask Oft kommt mir der Mangel an Brüdern in den Sinn (wörtl.: in den Fahrtwind der Mondbraut [des Mondbären]); ich denke darüber nach, wenn der Kampflärm anschwillt EGILL, SONATORREK 13, 1 (→EGILS SAGA S. 305).

Andersson, Theodore M. “The Displacement of the Heroic Ideal in the Family Sagas,” Speculum 45 1970 575-93.
___________________ .  “The Textual Evidence for an Oral Family Saga,” Arkiv förnordisk filologi 1966 81 1-23.
Clover, Carol. “The Long Prose Form,” Arkiv förnordisk filologi 1986 101 10-39.
Danielsson, Tommy. Hrafnkels saga: eller Fallet med den undflyende traditionen. Södertälje 2002.
________________ .  Sagorna om Norges kungar: Från Magnús góði till Magnús Erlingsson. Södertälje 2002.
Gísli Sigurðsson. The Medieval Icelandic Saga and Oral Tradition. A Discourse on Method. Cambridge, Mass. 2004.
________________ .  “16. Orality and Literacy in the Sagas of the Icelanders,” in A Companion to Old Norse-Icelandic Literature and Culture, ed. R. McTurk.  Oxford 2005 285-301.
Harris, Richard L.  Concordance to the Proverbs and Proverbial Materials in the Old Icelandic Sagas http://www.usask.ca/english/icelanders/
______________.  “In the Beginning was the Proverb: Communal Wisdom and Individual Deeds in the Íslendingasögur” Presented at the 48th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, May 2013. http://www.usask.ca/english/icelanders/applic_PCP.html
______________.  “ ‘Jafnan segir inn ríkri ráð.’ Proverbial Allusion and the Implied Proverb in Fóstbræðra saga.” To appear shortly in New Norse Studies, ed. Jeffrey Turco, a volume in the Islandica Series of the Fiske Collection, Cornell University.
______________.  “The Literary Uses of Proverbs in Njáls saga.” Presented for CMRS, St. Louis University, at the 36th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, 6 May 2001. Published in Proverbium 18 2001, 149-166, in a revised and expanded version.  http://www.usask.ca/english/icelanders/applic_Njala-proverbs.html
______________.  “The Proverbial Heart of Hrafnkels saga Freysgoða: ‘Mér þykkir þar heimskum manni at duga, sem þú ert,’” Scandinavian-Canadian Studies 16 2006 28-54.   http://scancan.net/article.htm?id=harris_1_16
Larrington, Carolyne, tr. The Poetic Edda. Oxford 1996.
________________________ . A Store of Common Sense: Gnomic Theme and Style in Old Icelandic and Old English Wisdom Poetry. Oxford 1993.
Morkinskinna.  Ed. Ármann Jakobsson and Þórður Ingi Guðjónsson. 2 vols. Íslenzk fornrit. 23-24. Reykjavík 2011.
Morkinskinna. The Earliest Icelandic Chronicle of the Norwegian Kings (1030-1157) Tr. Theordore M. Andersson and Kari Ellen Gade.  Islandica 51. Ithaca 2000.
Thesaurus Proverbiorum Medii Aevi. Lexikon der Sprichwörter des romanisch-germanischen Mittelalters. Kuratorium Singer.  Vols. 1-13 & Quellenverzeichnis Berlin & New York 1995-2002.

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