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The Republic of Iceland is a European, volcanic island country in the North Atlantic Ocean. It is warmed by the Gulf Stream, so it is possible to live in the country of bays and fjords, hot water springs, and ponies. And people maintain reading habits.
According to the Landnámabók from the end of the 1100s, Iceland began to be settled on a permanent basis in AD 874. Over the next centuries, people of Nordic and Celtic origin settled there. In the 1200s Iceland came to be ruled by Norway, and later Denmark, till it was given independence in 1944. About 320.000 people, a mixture of descendants of Norse and Celts, live on Iceland today, and about two thirds of them in its capital, Reykjavik.
Icelandic culture is based on the nation's Norse heritage. Its cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, the nationís poetry, and the medieval Icelandic Sagas. The proverbs gathered below, are mainly from such medieval sagas. The selection and translation is by - Tormod Kinnes
A bad rower blames his oars.
A good child sings good songs.
Bake while the fire burns. [Cf. Strike while the iron is hot.]
Blind is a man without a book.
Don't ask long for little. [Njåls]
He who has thrown fish overboard, may well fast.
Invalid are the words of minors. [Gislas]
It is a friend who warns (against evil). [Grettis]
It is late to fence in the well when the child has fallen into it.
Looks do not decide (show) the good qualities. [Njålssaga]
Many are difficult to see through. [Grettis]
Many go to a goats' house to ask for wool. [Grettis]
Many kinds of persons sail across the sea. [Eyrbyggja]
Much happens that one expects the least. [Grettis]
No one is excessively stupid if he can keep silent. [Grettis]
One thing is luck, another thing ability (or force). [Grettis]
Similar children play best together.
The burnt child fears the fire.
The gift expects another gift in return. [with Gislas]
The more renowned woman often has fewer rings.
The satisfied do not know where the hungry sit. (?)
There is often a witch in a fair hide (body). [Eyrbyggja]
Things look bleak for the one who lives in a foreign country. [Njåls]
Those who are considered good, resemble each other in much. [Grettis]
Those who get praised most loudly, disappoint me the most. [Grettis]
A system that works is worth gold.
All sails do not suit every ship.
All want to get older but none wants to be pestered with the cramps of old age. [Icelandic]
An able tongue often throws out words at the wrong time. [Icelandic]
An honest friend hinders evil. [Icelandic, (Stolpe, p. 53)]
Better to drink the milk than to eat the cow.
Drinks should be enjoyed only in moderate amounts.*
He who knows only few things, has little to forget.
If the icy snow carries you at midsummer, then we can expect a late spring.
If you get lost in an Icelandic forest, simply stand up and you will find your way. [There are no forests there.]
It is better to be a master in a cottage than servant in a castle.
It is better to suffer in name the truth than being rewarded for lying.
It is easier to look after hundred sheep than one girl. [Icelandic]
It is too late to cover the well when the child has fallen into it. [Icelandic]
Learning may bring renown. [Icelandic]
Loans seldom get home laughing. [Icelandic]
Love flares the hottest in secret. [Icelandic]
Many a man believes he is better than he is. [Icelandic]
Many are blamed for nothing. [Icelandic (Abr.)]
Need is a bad negotiator.
No doves come out of raven eggs. [Icelandic]
Nobody falls further than to the ground. [Icelandic]
Not everyone with a good reputation deserves it. [Icelandic]
Often a troll-woman is under fair skin, and virtue under dark hair.
Seriousness often lies behind playful words. [Icelandic]
She who dances with the chimney sweeper will eventually end up black.
Sift your speech like beer and get rid of dregs. [Icelandic]
Talk doesn't plow the field.
The child that lives solely at home, becomes short of sight. [Icelandic]
The experience is most truthful. [Icelandic]
The lazy man unwillingly leaves his warm bed. [Icelandic]
The presentiment is as good as a prophesy. [Icelandic]
There are men so poor that the only thing they have is money.
There is not much that is so good that nothing better exists. [Icelandic]
Tolerate nothing evil in the world but rejoice at everything that is good. [Havamal]
Tomorrow says the lazy.
Trusty as a troll.
Unbearably long is the day when the sun is not to be seen. [Icelandic]
We are to procure bread before a bride. [Icelandic]
Wealth flows to where there is gold already. [Icelandic]
What concerns those close to us concerns ourselves too. [Njåls]
When the storm abates, the waves roar. [Icelandic]
You blame your own errors the most on others. [Icelandic]
Jónsson, Finnur. Íslenskt málsháttasafn. [Islandsk ordtaksamling] KÝbenhavn: Gyldendal, 1920.
Scheving, Hallgímur Hannesson, saml. Islenzkir málshættir safnadir, uútvaldir og í stafrofsrøod færdir. Reykjavik: Reykjavíkur skóla, 1847.
Stolpe, Herman. Isländska ordspråk och skaldeord. Stockholm: LT, 1974.
Vilhjalmssón, Bjarni, and Óskar Halldórsson. Íslenzkir málshættir. 2. enl. ed. Reykjavik: bokafelagid, 1979. Icelandic only. Recommended.
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