Island at the Top of the World (1974) dialogue

This clip is from an old Disney movie about a Viking civilization isolated from the rest of the world, where the son of a wealthy Englishman disappears. The Vikings are said to be speaking Old Norse in the movie, but their actors are actually speaking Norwegian, Swedish, Icelandic, etc.

I'm curious if anyone can write out what the Godi (pronounced "Goh-dah"; the one in the red cloak) and the lawspeaker (the one sitting in the chair pounding his staff) are saying. Some of the lines are translated by one of the characters, but other lines are not, like the exchange between the Godi and the lawspeaker when the Godi first appears.

I'm also curious just to know what Godi is saying in untranslated Swedish. His actor is Swedish but he seems to also be speaking one or two words of Norwegian. For example: "...vara ett straff för inntrengerne. Døden!" Here, "inntrengerne" would be Norwegian for "the invaders."

As for the lawspeaker, he's Norwegian so he's probably speaking Norwegian, but I've heard that Swedish and Norwegian are mutually intelligible.

June 1, 2018


Thanks for posting - this was fun. :)

The Swedish used is absolutely not representative of any kind of modern spoken Swedish. I imagine it was deliberately chosen to sound old-fashioned if not downright archaic. Almost every line is like that, so the translation requires quite a few notes to be understood by people taking this course.

Understand Norwegian isn't typically hard for a Swede, but the spelling has to be learned separately. I can translate what the lawmaker says into English, but I don't want to type out the actual Norwegian. To be honest, I don't think it's really contemporary Norwegian anyway either.

By the way, the Swedish word for Goði is gode. The word comes from the same root as the English "God" and basically meant a kind of pagan priest.

G for Goði, L for Lawmaker, T for Translation, N for Note. I've ignored all English lines.

G: Nog nu!
T: Enough now!

G: Hör icke på dem! Dessa män talar lögn!
T: Don't listen to them! These men speak lies!

L: As long as I am the lawspeaker, they shall be heard. Thus says the law, and you know that. All men are equal in front of the law.

G: Håll din dumma tunga, gamling.
T: Stay your stupid tongue, old man.
N: We say "hold quiet" to mean "be quiet" or "shut up" in modern Swedish. To "hold your tongue" is an archaic but perfectly understandable phrase. The word gamling means "oldtimer", but that doesn't make for a good translation.

G: Dessa män är illsluga skrälingar, som traktar efter vårt dyra land.
T: These men are cunning skrælings, who covet our dear land.
N: Oh wow, this needs a lot of notes.

  • N1: slug means "cunning" all by its own, but it has many synonyms or close meanings with various prefixes, such as ill- from illa meaning "bad".
  • N2: skräling was the Old Norse word for the natives of Greenland and Vinland. English has no perfect translation, though you could use e.g. "eskimos" or "inuits" to keep in line with the meaning. Also, I think if you asked a hundred random native Swedes what a skräling is, you might actually get a hundred people answering "I don't know".
  • N3: trakta is not used in modern Swedish, though natives will know the word, at least most adults.
  • N4: English "dear" has, among others, two related meanings - "expensive" and "precious". Swedish dyr used to have both but only the expensive sense is really used nowadays. The Goði uses the precious sense here, though.

G: Och han där är i lag med dem!
T: And he there is colluding with them!
N: To be in lag med works the same way being "in cahoots with" does in English, with lag meaning "league" or "team" here. It's mostly used as part of a set phrase - slå sig i lag med, meaning to join forces, typically for some nefarious purpose.

G: Han kom som spejare åt dem, att vinna tilltro och lära om oss.
T: He came as a spy for them, in order to gain trust and learn about us.

  • N1: spejare is a cognate of "spy", though other words like "scout" make for better translations. It really means someone who does reconnaissance here, not necessarily someone who infiltrates.
  • N2: Using att to mean "in order to" is even more archaic than most of the semi-archaic things in this monologue. Today, we say för att instead.
  • N3: In Swedish, you "win" trust rather than "gain" it.

G: Han kom med svek för att förgöra oss.
T: He brought deceit to destroy us.
N: A literal translation would say "he came with deception".

G: Jag har då alltid sagt att han skulle dräpas.
T: I have always said that he must be slain.

  • N1: The serves the purpose of enhancing the truth value of something you say, not unlike how "indeed" can be used in English. There's no great equivalent to put in the English phrase, so I'd just remove it from translation.
  • N2: dräpa means to commmit manslaughter and is only used in theatre, literature, etc. today. A modern translation might just say "be killed" instead.
  • N3: skulle is generally closest to "should", but it's really "must" that's meant here. Other phrases also use softer modals in Swedish, e.g. Cato's oratorical which is typically translated as "must" from Latin into English.

G: Kanske hör ni nu, och aktar gudarnas maning.
T: Perhaps now you'll listen, and respect the urging of the gods.
N: Neither akta nor maning is typical of modern Swedish - nor is the grammar in the first clause.

G: Vi ska alla dömas strax - och utan hörelse!
T: We shall all soon be judged - and without trial!
N: It's possible he says ni, the plural you, I can't tell for sure. It's quite possible the actor made up hörelse for the speech. He means it in the sense of "a hearing", so by extension a trial.

G: Detta är icke längre sak för rådet. Gudarna har talat!
T: This is no longer a matter for the council. The gods have spoken!

G: Om vi skonar dessa män ska flera komma i ??? efter att förgöra och ??? vårt heliga land.
T: If we spare these men, more will come in ??? of destroying and ??? our holy land.
N: It's really difficult to hear what the Goði says here, especially with the chap in green speaking at the same time. We can't trust his translation to be word-for-word correct, either - for instance, he says "to pillage and profane", but förgöra means "destroy". The word "pillage" would be plundra.

G: Det finns bara ett straff för inträngningar - döden! Döden! Döden! Döden!
T: There is only one punishment for invasion - death! Death! Death! Death!
N: intrång is the modern Swedish word for invasion or intrusion. To tränga in means to probe or to penetrate, so inträngning is synonymous but, again, not the choice you'd make here for modern Swedish.

June 1, 2018

What a marvelous reply. Thank you, devalanteriel!

June 1, 2018

Agreed. Thank you very much for your time and effort, devalanteriel! The curiosity was killing me on this, and I couldn't find the Swedish lines anywhere.

June 2, 2018

Awesome question, Darth8863! Please accept some lingots. I read the book years ago, which was originally issued as Lost Ones--love this kind of adventure--and will have to check out the movie. Thanks!

(FWIW, the author, Donald G. Payne, who published the book under the pseudonym Ian Cameron, also wrote, as James Vance Marshall, the book from which the movie Walkabout was made [book originally titled The Children].)

June 1, 2018

Thanks very much, slogger! I might have to read the book myself. My family and I watched the movie many times when I was a kid.

June 2, 2018
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