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Ohthere was a Norwegian who sought the court of King Alfred. All we know of him is set out in his account of his voyages to Beormaland (Permia, in the White Sea region) and the Baltic (Ostsæ), which is recorded in King Alfred's version of Orosius. In the Old English Orosius it follows a description of the peoples of Europe, or at least of Germanic and Slavic Europe.

Along with the account of Wulfstan the Merchant which follows it, Ohthere's narrative is a remarkable first-hand account of northern Europe from a seaman's perspective, in sharp contrast to the monkish style that is found in much of the book. It is discursive and practical, not scholarly. It is what one man's eye has seen, not second-hand knowledge tidied up according to preconceptions.

Furthermore, the language of Ohthere and of Wulfstan is more everyday and up to date. As a petty example, in most of the Orosius, Ireland is referred to as Hibernia or Anglicized forms or that name such as Igbernia. In Ohthere we hear the name Iraland for the first time.

Ohtheres spellEdit

Ohthere sæde his hlaforde, Ælfrede cyninge, þæt he ealra Norðmonna norþmest bude. He cwæð þæt he bude on þæm lande norþweardum wiþ þa Westsæ. He sæde þeah þæt þæt land sie swiþe lang norþ þonan, ac hit is eal weste, buton on feawum stowum styccemælum wiciað Finnas on huntoðe on wintra and on sumera on fiscaþe be þære sæ.

He sæde þæt he æt sumum cirre wolde fandian hu longe þæt land norþryhte læge, oþþe hwæðer ænig mon benorðan þæm westenne bude. Þa for he norþryhte be þæm lande. Let him ealne weg þæt weste land on ðæt steorbord and þa widsæ on ðæt bæcbord þrie dagas; þa wæs he swa feor norþ swa þa hwælhuntan firrest faraþ. Þa for he þa giet norþryhte swa feor swa he meahte on þæm oþrum þrim dagum gesiglan. Þa beag þæt land þær eastryhte, oþþe seo sæ in on ðæt lond, he nysse hwæðer, buton he wisse ðæt he ðær bad westanwindes and hwon norþan and siglde ða east be lande swa swa he meahte on feower dagum gesiglan. Þa sceolde he ðær bidan ryhtnorþanwindes, for ðæm þæt land beag þær suþryhte, oþþe seo sæ in on ðæt land, he nysse hwæþer. Þa siglde he þonan suðryhte be lande swa swa he mehte on fif dagum gesiglan. Ða læg þær an micel ea up in on þæt land. Þa cirdon hie up in on ða ea, for þæm hie ne dorston forþ bi þære ea siglan for unfriþe, for þæm ðæt land wæs eall gebun on oþre healfe þære eas. Ne mette he ær nan gebun land siþþan he from his agnum ham for, ac him wæs ealne weg weste land on þæt steorbord, butan fiscerum and fugelerum and huntum, and þæt wæron eall Finnas, and him wæs a widsæ on ðæt bæcbord.

Þa Beormas hæfdon swiþe wel gebud hira land, ac hie ne dorston þæron cuman. Ac þara Terfinna land wæs eal weste, buton ðær huntan gewicodon oþþe fisceras oþþe fugeleras. Fela spella him sædon þa Beormas ægþer ge of hiera agnum lande ge of þæm landum þe ymb hie utan wæron, ac he nyste hwæt þæs soþes wæs, for þæm he hit self ne geseah. Þa Finnas, him þuhte, and þa Beormas spræcon neah an geþeode. Swiþost he for ðider, toeacan þæs landes sceawunge, for þæm horshwælum, for ðæm hie habbað swiþe æþele ban on hiora toþum (þa teð hie brohton sume þæm cyninge), and hiora hyd bið swiðe god to sciprapum. Se hwæl bið micle læssa þonne oðre hwalas: ne bið he lengra ðonne syfan elna lang. Ac on his agnum lande is se betsta hwælhuntað: þa beoð eahta and feowertiges elna lange, and þa mæstan fiftiges elna lange. Þara he sæde þæt he syxa sum ofsloge syxtig on twam dagum.

He wæs swyðe spedig man on þæm æhtum þe heora speda on beoð, þæt is on wildrum. He hæfde þa gyt, ða he þone cyningc sohte, tamra deora unbebohtra syx hund. Þa deor hi hatað hranas; þara wæron syx stælhranas, ða beoð swyðe dyre mid Finnum, for ðæm hy foð þa wildan hranas mid. He wæs mid þæm fyrstum mannum on þæm lande; næfde he þeah ma ðonne twentig hryðera and twentig sceapa and twentig swyna, and þæt lytle þæt he erede he erede mid horsan. Ac hyra ar is mæst on þæm gafole þe ða Finnas him gyldað. Þæt gafol bið on deora fellum and on fugela feðerum and hwales bane and on þæm sciprapum þe beoð of hwæles hyde geworht and of seoles. Æghwilc gylt be hys gebyrdum. Se byrdesta sceall gyldan fiftyne mearðes fell and fif hranes and an beran fel and tyn ambra feðra and berenne kyrtel oððe yterenne and twegen sciprapas; ægþer sy syxtig elna lang: oþer sy of hwæles hyde geworht, oþer of sioles.

He sæde ðæt Norðmanna land wære swyþe lang and swyðe smæl. Eal þæt his man aþer oððe ettan oððe erian mæg, þæt lið wið ða sæ; and þæt is þeah on sumum stowum swyðe cludig. And licgað wilde moras wiðeastan and wiðuppon, emnlange þæm bynum lande; on þæm morum eardiað Finnas. And þæt byne land is easteweard bradost and symle swa norðor swa smælre. Eastewerd hit mæg bion syxtig mila brad oþþe hwene brædre; and middeweard þritig oððe bradre. And norðeweard, he cwæð, þær hit smalost wære, þæt hit mihte beon þreora mila brad to þæm more, and se mor syðþan on sumum stowum swa brad swa man mæg on twam wucum oferferan, and on sumum stowum swa brad swa man mæg on syx dagum oferferan. Þonne is toemnes þæm lande suðeweardum, on oðre healfe þæs mores, Sweoland, oþ þæt land norðeweard; and toemnes þæm lande norðeweardum Cwena land. Þa Cwenas hergiað hwilum on ða Norðmen ofer ðone mor, hwilum þa Norðmen on hy. And þær sint swiðe micle meras fersce geond þa moras, and berað þa Cwenas hyra scypu ofer land on ða meras and þanon hergiað on ða Norðmen; hy habbað swyðe lytle scypa and swyðe leohte.

Ohthere sæde þæt sio scir hatte Halgoland þe he on bude. He cwæð þæt nan man ne bude benorðan him. Þonne is an port on suðeweardum þæm lande þone man hæt . Þyder he cwæð þæt man ne mihte geseglian on anum monðe gyf man on niht wicode and ælce dæge hæfde ambyrne wind. And ealle ða hwile he sceal seglian be lande. And on þæt steorbord him bið ærest Iraland and þonne ða igland þe synd betux Iralande and þissum lande. Þonne is þis land on þæt steorbord oð he cymð to Sciringesheale, and ealne weg on þæt bæcbord Norðweg.

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