Lessons in Manliness from the Vikings: Silence

Evening Gents, it’s Jonah from The Young Gentleman’s Guide here!

Today is my first blog post. I’ll be running a series of posts on lessons from Viking mythology and culture, taken from literature and historical reports, because I love history, literature, mythology, and stories in general.

“But Jonah, the Vikings were little more than barbarian warriors who ravaged the coasts of England!”

Not so, dear reader, not so.

The Vikings, or more properly, the Norse, were a Germanic people from Scandinavia who excelled at seafaring, trading, exploration, navigation, and yes, fighting. However, many aspects of Norse culture may surprise you, some things which I will explore over the next few weeks. You will find that we have much to learn from the Norse.

Like many cultures, the Norse had a  rich tradition of stories handed down from generation to generation, often in poetic form. The most common poetic form in those days was alliterative, meaning lines would contain many words starting with the same syllable. Many of these works were written down and adapted by the Icelandic poet Snorri Sturluson in the twelfth century.

One of these poems was called the Hávamál, which means “Sayings of the High One”. The first eighty verses are wisdom sayings, everyday maxims which were said to be told by the Norse god Odin in the myths. They are concerned with hospitality, etiquette, and living well. The Norse considered etiquette and courtesy a matter of honor.

For the first post, I will write about the value of silence. The Norse knew that to listen more than to speak is powerful.

For example, the 7th stanza of the Sayings of the High One advises,

7. “A wary guest to refection comes, keeps a cautious silence, and with his eyes observes: so explores every prudent man.”

A little context: the word refection is similar to refreshment, and means “refreshment by food or drink” (dictionary.com.) In this context, it is used in a party setting – a gathering at someone’s house or hall with food and drinks involved.

Consider also stanza 29:

29. “He utters too many futile words who is never silent; a garrulous tongue, if it be not checked, sings often to its own harm.”

If a person speaks overmuch, his words will not be taken as seriously. Also if a person talks excessively, he may say things that he regrets, things that hurt  other people, or cast a discolored light on his own reputation.

The Norse understood this, and that is why it was thought wise to be silent and listen more then you speak. If you speak less, your words will mean more. To be silent a little more often means letting other people speak and express their ideas. This shows that you value the other person in the conversation, and showing that respect is what being a gentleman is all about.

Speaking less in conversation also trains us to be good listeners, and to be humble. We ought not to be the center of every conversation. We will learn much by listening to what people have to say. We could learn profound things about who a person is, or realize important life lessons in a few words –  things we may have missed if we spoke more, or thought only, “What will I say next?”

To speak less is to be selfless, which is what a gentleman does – puts others ahead of himself. Again, selflessness is what being a gentleman, what being a man, is all about.

So let’s all speak less in conversation and listen more.

I hope you all enjoyed reading today’s post. Please be sure to share the post, follow the blog, and follow The Young Gentleman’s Guide on Facebook and Instagram. And on that note, this is Jonah Blessum from The Young Gentleman’s Guide, and I’ll see you next time!

 

 

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