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On 27 April 2017 at 03:38, Mark J. Reed <[log in to unmask]> wrote:
> If Old Norse used "blue" to refer to dark skin, does that mean that Hel was
> not what modern Anglophones would call half-blue, but instead just
> half-dark-skinned? Perhaps she resembled the Cheronians from "Let That Be
> Your Last Battlefield"..

Darn good question, of the sort which keeps historical linguists
specializing in the Scandinavian languages awake at night!

Good arguments can be made either way. For example, mythological
descriptions of Hel as "half-blue" likely hail from a time before the
practitioners of that religion had significant contact with
dark-skinned people, so "blue" meaning "dark-skinned" as a descriptor
for people may be a late development in reaction to the new need to
describe such people, given that the natural descriptor "black" was
already understood to apply exclusively to hair color. That line of
reasoning would suggest that Hel is, in fact, supposed to be half-blue
as we would understand that phrase in English.
However, the word usually translated as "blue" was *also* used to
describe, e.g., ravens. So maybe it really did cover a range of both
black and blue to start with, in which case Hel may be supposed to be
actually black on one side (perhaps a shiny black, like a raven
feather, and quite different from what "half-black" means as applied
to people in modern English!)
And of course a third possibility is that the color term in this case
is entirely metaphorical, and *actually* supposed to indicate that Hel
is half *dead* and necrotic, since necrotic tissue can sometimes turn
sort of blue, but without indicating that it is actually that
color....

-l.