Nature of Man
… nothing that happens to Man is ever natural

11 July 2006, Tuesday

Herr Mannelig

Filed under: Uncategorized — Mordred @ 15:02

A few weeks ago Galadriel sent me this translation of the Swedish medieval ballad Herr Mannelig (made popular by Garmarna, but also sung by In Extremo and Haggard), so today I finally find some time to post my own translation from several years ago.

The translated lyrics are intended to be sung, with the occasional change of stressed syllables. Since I don’t know Swedish, this was translated from the English translation by Alistair Cochrane. Special thanks to my friend Eowyn, who read the first draft and made comments and corrections based on the original lyrics.

A notable note ;) she made regarding the last verse: the she-troll was hoping to avoid burning in Hell (being a pagan creature and spawn of the devil) by marrying the christian lad. He, being a devout christian, of course resisted the elaborate bribes and apparently won immortality in both Heaven and song.

(Смяната на ударените срички е отбелязана с удебелени букви)

В едно ранно утро преди слънце да изгрей
Преди свят зората да събуди
Черна горска тролка на момък запя,
Със змийски лъжи го омайва:

Сър Манелиг, Сър Манелиг, приставам ти аз
и за зестра всичко ти давам,
Кажи ми що желаеш, само “да” или “не”,
както сърце те зове

Давам ти жребци, дванадесет на чет,
Сал на сянка тучна трева пасли,
Никогаш седло не носили на гръб
И юзда не слагали в уста си

Припев: …

Давам воденици, дванадесет на чет,
Наредени от Тилло до Търно:
С камъни от злато червено блестят,
С колела в сребро обковани.

Припев: …

Давам ти меч със позлата и звън
от петнайсет пръстена златни.
Въртиш ли го в бран, замахнеш ли в бой,
Знай, победа няма да се бави.

Припев: …

Давам ти риза от чудно платно,
по-красива още не видяна,
Шита не с игла, не бродирана с конец,
А с коприна бяла тъкана

Припев: …

Дарове тъй знатни с готовност бих приел
Ако беше мома християнка,
Но горска мома си, баща ти е трол,
на дявола кръвен роднина

Припев: …

Горската тролка на прага стои
И със сълзи горчиви нарежда:
“Де да бях невеста на момъка красив,
от пъклото бих се спасила”

Припев: …


  1. For me this rejection is based on pride and lack of charity (aka Christian love).
    Or, the most probable reason is that she simply wasn’t his type;)
    Thumbs up, great song, great translation.
    Now go back to your deadline with clear conscience:P

    Comment by Haz — 12 July 2006, Wednesday @ 13:24

  2. The last two verses go

    “Hade jag fått den fager ungersven
    Så hade jeg mistat min plåga.”

    Had I obtained the handsome youth
    I would have lost my suffering.

    The note about Hell is just an interpretation I read in a book. Thinking about it now, I’m not sure I agree.

    Comment by (Eo)wyn-che — 20 July 2006, Thursday @ 19:48

  3. Lookie lookie what I found - a quiz with a question on our song!

    Question3: As the song goes, “Herr Mannelig, will you marry me … I will give the twelve flour mills that stand between Tillo and Terno”. Is this a good deal?

    Answer3: Not really, Tillo and Terno are islands. And according to the next lines, the grinding wheels are made of the reddest copper, with silver weights, so the bread would have tasted awful.


    - Don’t marry the girl, Herr Mannelig. Not unless she throws in a brewery or two.

    - A good deal for the mountain troll, maybe not so good for Herr Mannelig.

    - Depends if Herr Mannelig is into mountain trolls.

    - For Herr Mannelig? I dunno, I’d give between, say, eight and fifteen flour mills. So I guess twelve is about right.

    - For me, yes. The nature of building construction and the remoteness of Tillo and Terno mean that I have to employ full time security, so rendering the production of flour uneconomic. Herr Mannelig can do what he likes with them.

    - Generally, any dowry is a good dowry, but it needs to be converted into standard units of monetary measure, i.e. pigs. Not knowing the flour-mil-to-pig exchange rate, it’s a bit hard to say, but let’s say it was 20 pigs to the mill. In which case we have 240 pigs-worth of dowry, which is substantial in any man’s language! Plus a willing woman thrown in - so I think it’s not a bad deal. Of course, there should also be a 3-year 30,000 loaf warranty on a good miller’s wife.

    - Given that the wheels are loaded with silver and that you get them before the wedding ceremony, yes. You could hire some bad ass mercenaries as bodyguards, get through with the wedding, expose her as a troll immediately after the ceremony, have her killed and spend the rest of your life on an island in the Caribbean, leasing for yourself instead of being bought.

    - Good deal, good schmeal, already, how could twelve flour mills be a bad deal, no matter where they stand. Phooie Dr Bob! I can see you’re not Jewish. No head for business.

    - I have a 50/50 chance of getting this right. I will say no, because looking after flour mills isn’t going to be much fun. But then again, being married to a Russian singer isn’t gonna be much fun either… Specially if they’re mates with Bjork. Because we all know the Russians and Icelanders are tight.

    - Is it what!?! Twelve flour mills with brass stones and silver wheels!! I’d kill for those twelve flour mills! PLEASE ASK ME TO KILL FOR THOSE TWELVE FLOUR MILLS!!!!!

    - marriage is never a good deal

    - My parents used to work for White Wings Flour Mills (true) and they were shit jobs and the mills went broke, so I’ll say no.

    - No, as there is no island called Tillö and thus there are no mills between those places.

    - No, she had bad teeth, suffered from flatulence and expected her mother to move in with them after the wedding. However, sixteen mills would probably be OK

    - Proposed to wed with a slight cough, The offer was met with a scoff. “Ten flour mills are fine. Eleven, divine But twelve mills is just showing off.”

    - Prostituting oneself for flour mills is never big or clever, I clearly remember my mother telling me that.


    Comment by (Eo)wyn-che — 20 July 2006, Thursday @ 20:23

  4. Wikipedia says that the she-troll wants to become a human being, which sounds too far-fetched to my ignorant ears. I like the interpretation of escaping the fires of Hell (it’s the best story among the alternatives; this is not backed by any knowledge on the subject of course ;)

    OT, I took the chance to fix the Wikipedia article giving proper credit to Alistair Cochrane; how can you not love the greatness built in this system!

    Comment by Mordred — 20 July 2006, Thursday @ 22:27

  5. As a non-Christian, I always interpreted it as the Lady Troll was lonely and actually fell in love with Mannelig so she tried to bribe him, knowing that she was not Christian nor Human that her case would likely be rejected outright due to his religious beliefs and likely seeing her as a monster. So in the end, what I gathered was she ran from the cottage in heartache and cursing the night that the man she loved saw her as a thing and nothing more and that she’d forever be alone. Then again, that’s assuming the original ballad was being poetic and not influenced by Christians, which is a fair yet stretched interpretation. I’ve always loved this song.

    Comment by RaynBeaux — 22 May 2017, Monday @ 04:35

  6. Christians often “Christianized” old songs and tales that were otherwise never written down and shared word of mouth for centuries, such as Beowulf. So I assume there was once an original version of this that was purely Swedish Norse Pagan in content.

    Comment by RaynBeaux — 22 May 2017, Monday @ 04:37

  7. In response to Mordred, there was a belief back then in those ares of Europe that fae and other folktale creatures could become human if they wed a human. That element, in regards to my theory and the Christian version, falls under both version as a possible motivation though it was never outright stated in the song itself, if memory serves me.

    Comment by RaynBeaux — 22 May 2017, Monday @ 04:39

  8. Some really nice and useful information on this web site, also I conceive the style and design holds superb features.

    Comment by James — 19 September 2018, Wednesday @ 01:57

  9. I see a cursed woman that once was a human, and needs to marry a human to break the curse. Herr Mannelig needs to be conservative and patient, and the troll falls back to the darkness. Here it seems we have lost the chance to save a sinful being, or we have prevented a devil to penetrate good people community. you may face it in your own life today or tomorrow, you will be able to save and need to choose, or you may need a saviour!

    I also agree to the the “Christianized” old songs theory.

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