Sunday, August 14, 2011

We are told that in Finland the great wealth of the people lay in certain animals

Surely the etymology of "reindeer" admits of no dispute. The earliest English description of the animal bearing the name is, I think, that which we find in King Alfred's book on Geography. In that book we are told that in Finland the great wealth of the people lay in certain animals. The king's informant said that lie himself owned—tamra deora unbebohtra syx hund (tha deor hi hatath hranas) tharu waeron syx stael-hranas, tha beoth swythe dyre mid Finnum, for tham hy foth tha wildan hranas mid — six hundred tame deer unpurchased (the deer they call ranes), of them six were decoy ranes, which are of much value with the Finlanders, for with them they catch the wild ranes.

Rane was the name by which the Finlander distinguished the animal which we, not understanding the origin of the word, call reindeer, rangifer, &c. In my translation I give deer as the equivalent for deora, not presuming to judge whether the original word in that connection signify " deer" in our modern sense of the word, or simply "wild animal" in its more extended meaning: ("Rats and mice and such small deer.") Your readers can for my "deer" substitute "beast" if they please.

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