Today the Dragon Wins

"Today the Dragon Wins" offers information from Fantasy Author and Professional Editor Sandy Lender. You'll also find dragons, wizards, sorcerers, and other fantasy elements necessary for a fabulous story, if you know where to look...

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Sandy Lender is the editor of an international trade publication and the author of the fantasy novels Choices Meant for Gods and Choices Meant for Kings, available from ArcheBooks Publishing, and the series-supporting chapbook, What Choices We Made.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Dragon Teaches You How to Kill Old English Style
Or…Anglo-Saxons do it a hundred different ways

One of the aspects of Old English study that tickled me when I was in college was this idea that the Anglo-Saxons had a whole lot of words for how to kill someone. You didn’t just “die” back in the day. No, if you were dying pre-1066, you died in a particular way…and there was a separate word for it to describe your fabulous, and probably bloody, death.

If you were hard at battle you could do the boring “kill” to your gewinna (adversary), which was geslean (long mark over the second e). Or you could do one of the following.

These are just a few examples:
Gescyrdan = cut your pig-dog opponent to pieces
Gestician = kill your opponent by stabbing or piercing him
Oferdrifan = merely defeat your opponent
Oferswithan = overpower your opponent
Oferwinnan = conquer your opponent
Ofsceotan = shoot down & kill your opponent (arrow/bolt)
Ofslean = kill by sacrificing or striking down your opponent
Ofsnithan = kill by cutting off your opponent
Ofstician = kill by piercing your opponent with a spear (because sticking him with a sword – see gestician above – might not make him dead enough)
Slagen = kill by striking down your opponent
Swebban = merely kill your opponent

The frightening thing is there are many more. There are separate words for “kill by the sword” and “kill by drowning” and “kill by hanging” and “kill by bludgeoning with a mace” and the list goes on. It was a warrior society and they had pretty creative ways for ending each other’s lives. So I guess they wanted descriptive ways to get the point across when they sat around in the mead hall boasting about it afterward…that would be just prior to the dead guy’s relative showing up seeking weregild.

I hope this week’s information on Old English literature and Anglo-Saxon “practices” serves to do more than just entertain, by the way. Yes, I’m sharing some of the elements that influenced my thoughts and decisions while writing my fantasy novel Choices Meant for Gods and its sequels, but my hope is these concepts will inspire other writers to fling some of these intriguing words and ideas into their writing time as well. Maybe it’s too far from your typical writing style to be something you keep during the editing process, but it’s an interesting exercise to see how our roots can affect your creative process.

“Some days, I just want the dragon to win.”

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Blogger Jeni said...

And from all that, we got the English language? Is it any wonder people have had so much difficulty understanding it over the years as it evolved to the ultra "easy" form we have today? LOL

11:06 AM  
Blogger M. B. Weston said...

Yep! I thought some of those words sounded just a bit familiar! I think when we fantasy authors make up words that stem from actual words, our made up words sound real instead of cheesy. I also find it interesting that Choices Meant for Gods has different feel from my novel, A Prophecy Forgotten--and that I use Spanish/Latin and a little German (morNACHT) in my made up words. I really think the culture we choose to base our words on affects the feel of the novel. I'm using Norse in the next one. Wonder how that will turn out.... How about you, Sandy? Using any other roots besides old English?

12:51 AM  
Blogger Sandy Lender said...

The other roots include Duran Duran, doncha know...
I've got a couple press releases going out about all this root business, as soon as I find the time to type in all the addresses. Eegads.

Sandy L.
"Some days, I just want the dragon to win."

9:59 AM  

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