As Odal is known in Northern Europe that part of the property, which was in the Middle Ages for a long time or over generations in the same family and thus was subject to Odalsrecht.

Word origin

The etymology of the word Odal is not entirely clear. In the Elder Futhark, there is a rune with names Othala called utal in the Salzburg - Vienna Alcuin manuscript, which is in connection with real estate. It was also used as Begriffsrune and stood in Icelandic and Anglo-Saxon manuscripts as an abbreviation for " possession, homeland".

The earlier research (Jacob Grimm and others) considered the importance family estate, inheritance, an inheritance for the original meaning of the word Odal. This interpretation was based on the Scandinavian use of the word. However, in the continental Germanic dialects can this meaning not safe anywhere prove.

Whether the word aristocracy is related to the word Odal, is the subject of a long scientific controversy. Neckel wanted to set forth a complete identity of these terms. Kauffmann completed from the word similarity that Odal was ancestral home of a noble race. The contrary held that at the beginning of the tradition the authors of the word relationship was no longer present long. Also, can not be inferred from such discharges, that it has ever been a for - or common Germanic nobility. Behaghel even denied any connection between the words " Odel " and " nobility". Werner Conze but held on to a relationship of the terms, as is the current leading etymological dictionaries of the Germans, namely Kluge / Seebold and Pfeifer.

The connection between " Odal " and " nobility, noble " was interpreted to mean that played a decisive role in the formation of the nobility of the land. This corresponded to the state of historical research in the 19th and early 20th century. But this connection between the nobility and the land can no longer be maintained. The nobility was not based on economic elements, but on power-sharing in the sense of domination over men.

It is necessary to distinguish between the North Germanic and the West Germanic Odal. In the Nordic documents, the word is used as a neuter singular and plural and is only there " family estate ". In Old High German and Old English the word is, however, almost exclusively in the singular and also used in both the neuter and masculine in there and has the meaning " country, fatherland, wealth". The term originally covered three areas: 1 genotype, inheritance, then family estate; Second possession, property, tax; 3 home, land, homeland, also origin, parentage. In Old High German texts ōdhil usually occurs with the meaning of the Latin " patria ". This meaning is also in Old Frisian and Old English the most common. But out of all the findings can not be determined with certainty, the original meaning.


With the concept of the Odal restricted the landowner is connected. As a general rule, but not necessary, the male line had a privileged position in relation to the Odals country. This particular relationship between land and family exists in all cultures around the world. Here, however, only the northern European area is treated, in which the word Odal rooted.



Core of the Scandinavian Odals was the pre-emptive right of the relatives. If Odals country be sold or leased, the country had to first be offered to standing in direct succession relatives ( oðalsnautar ). Otherwise, this had a redemption right. Odalsgut could be shared in the inheritance, but every heir had the entire Odalsgut the legal Vorkaufsanspruch. The Odal enjoyed against claims of the Church and the King of punitive damages and confiscations special protection. The contrast to the Odal was the Kaufgut ( kaupajörð ). In Gulathingslov the entire eighth book deals with the rules of Odals.

Denmark knew no special Odalsrecht. However, there was general provisions on the real property, the elements of the Odalsrechtes without special terminology contained. They are summarized under the term Lovbydelse ( legal requirement ). These were to include provisions under which inherited land should first offer them to the relatives in the event of a sale. The oldest recorded provision is found in Skane - Lov (Law of Scania). There, it is stipulated that a violation of the commandment first offer land before selling to relatives, does not mean that they can reclaim the land from the buyer. Rather, they have to look exclusively to the seller. In Erik's Sjællandske Lov (Law for Eriks Zealand ), however, such a claim for a limitation period of three years is committed. The Jyske Lov ( Jütländische right ) contained a claim for an unlimited time. Mid-16th century, the nobility was exempt from these provisions. Formally repealed they were 1926.

In Norway, can the concept of Odals prove very early. Harald Hårfagre confiscated all Odalsgüter ( " MODULE OIL " ) of the subject areas. Then Odal meant the entire Norwegian kingdom, which was considered Erbeigen of the king. In the Hirðskrá the Norwegian kingdom is explicitly referred to as the Odal of the king. A key had the right of inheritance in the peasantry. Land that was inherited, became the Odal.

In Gulathingslov the country estates are enumerated, which have to be considered as Odal:

  • The first is that which has gone from man to man through several generations.
  • This is the second which has been paid as Mannsbuße.
  • This is the third that has been taken as a heritage brand.
  • This is the fourth that has been given as a gift of honor.
  • This is the fifth that has been given as a reward for hosting the King.
  • The sixth is a reward for the child's upbringing.
  • The seventh when someone changes his hereditary land to other land.

About the time in which a country must be in possession of a family to be a Odal, there were different definitions. In Gulathingslov five generations are required. Robberstad says that this program is created with the introduction of the Christian Right on the Mostrathing between 1024 and the Lateran Council in 1215. Because these were the five generations that defined the degree of relationship within which you were not allowed to marry according to the Christian right. The Lateran Council changed this degree of relationship. After Frostathingslov only three generations were needed. This suggests that this scheme emerged after 1215, when the marriage up to that degree of relationship was possible. The Landslov of King Magnus lagabætir called the period of 60 years or longer in the possession of a family. There is talk, a grave mound, in which a man was lying on the farmer could trace his pedigree also from óðalshaugr. This was a sign that the area in question belonged to his Odal. Concludes Robberstad that the emergence of Odalsrechtes in Norway was linked to ancestor worship.

First, the Odal could be passed only in the male line. In the 12th century women's rights were strengthened by also " ring women " were odalsberechtigt. The Odalserben could own the Odal also to the entire hand as Ganerben.

Later 12 Chapter 5 negotiated book of the Code of Christian IV 1604 from Odalsrecht. Christian V. treated in his law of 15 April 1687 Odalsrecht in Chap. 13 of the third book. This law was in force until " Lov om odelsretten above åsetesretten " 26 June 1821. It was essentially on the duration of private ownership for the adverse possession of the land or a thing. Christian V sat the duration of private ownership fixed at 20 years. Commission Regulation of 14 January 1771 Ersitzungszeit to 10 years, the right of repurchase was reduced to 15 years.

In Sweden there was a special Odalsrecht. In iorþær Balker (over land) of äldre Västgötalag there is a specific regulation on the Odalsteilung (2, 14). In Upplandslag is used Othal to distinguish the inherited from the father of the newly acquired estate. There was also the Oþol vatn, ie a legal classification of waters under the Odalrecht. The Odalbauer will eventually equated with the tax - farmers ( Skattebonde ) and as distinguished from the nobility and the king's pawn. For the sale of Odalsgut the " Bördsrett " ( ≈ Anerbenrecht ) was applicable, that granted the family members a right of first refusal on the property. The Odalsrecht was abolished in the 19th century.

For the old Iceland, the term " Odal " is not used. Rather, they used the word " Aðalból " = main homestead, later Höfuðból. So the guardian of minors to the settlement of claims against this initially had its leased land and rights to sell and had to, if he still had to sell the family estate, to prove that he had achieved the highest possible price. Otherwise, could the product sold out again demanding the minors after reaching maturity. Behind this expression thus hides a special protection of the family assets. However, this was not as strict as in Norway. Because the land was the most important asset in Iceland, so that too great a restriction of land transactions, the economy would be severely hampered. The protection therefore referred to, for example, only on pieces of land that were larger than in Norway. It was limited more to the basic protection of the estate and ran the economical and social equality between spouses. The introduction of church tithes led to an evaluation of the entire land ownership and the addition to the fact that the families tried to landlordism as long as possible to keep in the family against the efforts of the Church, the supremacy over all the land with which the private churches were equipped to gain.

With the Code Járnsíða the legal concept ODAL came in 1271 in the Icelandic legal tradition. Saga locations with the term Odal relate to the period prior to the settlement of Iceland. There older Norwegian models were adopted. The Odalsgut could be redeemed in the event of confiscation within ten years. When the law was introduced Jónsbók a private Odalskapitel in Iceland, it came to a right of first refusal close relative. In contrast, most turned to the Bishop of Skálholt, as the right of first refusal hindered the accumulation of property in the hands of the church. But the farmers insisted on this provision. The oldest text of the Odalskapitels has survived from the 16th century. However, it is treatments of previous laws with identical wording. The oldest graduate, in which the word " Odal " is used, is a royal confirmation of the investiture of Magnus Eriksson in 1375 with real estate in Iceland, "to the extent of such land not a Odal of the crown are ".

Old England

In the Anglo-Saxons the owner of a noble was also subject to restrictions and the male line given a preferential position in the acquisition of Odalsbesitz. But already during the 8th century it was by the statutory precious with them also donated a family estate, similar to the Familienfideikommiss.

Orkney and Shetland

In the Orkney Inga Saga is reported that the Jarl Einar Torv in time Harald Hårfagrs the Odel ( herein referred to as Udal Law ) of all farmers received and the Jarl Sigurd Digre it returned to the farmers. Furthermore, reported the saga that Jarl Ragnvald Kolsson allowed the farmers to initiate a law that made ​​him the heir of all Odelsgüter the farmers. Apparently, these are normal to ownership. In the " Time Pawn " was in the Orkneys Norwegian law. Shetlands Thingbok ( Court book) from 1602 to 1604 shows that Magnus lagabætirs Code was there at that time. 1604 was determined on the laws Thing that anyone who wanted to sell the land, had first to offer it to the next of kin. Did not buy the relatives, so it had to be offered at the same price the Jarl. 1611 Norwegian law in the Orkney and Shetland has been largely replaced by the law of Scotland.

Faroe Islands

In the Faroes also was Norwegian law. The output of the Gulathingslov Magnus lagabætir was there binding. The book is written in the first half of the 14th century and was named " Kongsbok " and is now in the Royal Library in Stockholm. There is also a copy of Faroese in 1571 after the first translation of the Code in Danish. There, the chapter is taken " Odelsbolken ". In Faroese Thing book, we find a Odelsentscheidung of in 1622.


A special Odalsrecht there are in Europe only in Norway and Iceland and the Orkney and Shetland.

In Norway, the Constitution of 1814 guaranteed the continued existence of § 107 Odalsrechtes. This was amended by Act of 28 June 1974 by women who were born after January 1, 1965 were treated as male Odalsberechtigten and Odals of inheritance was limited to nephews and nieces. This is the current legal situation in Norway. Reason for retaining the Odalsrechtes and the associated Anerbenrechtes is to maintain the agricultural use structure within the family property.

According to § 2 of the Act Odals a Odal must be at least 20,000 square meters in size, or it must belong so much other land or rights in land, that the productive value of the equivalent of 20,000 m². Forest must at least be a productive value of 100,000 m² and agricultural land under 5,000 m² are never counted as such. It must be also since at least 20 years in the possession of the family are.

The Odalsrecht passes to the heirs if he was born before the land is transferred to a non Odalsberechtigten. The Odal receives the oldest child. The spouse will not get the Odal of the deceased husband. Who receives a Odal, is to continue operation of agriculture and to stay on the Odal bound ( Odalspflicht ). Which he can escape by way of sale to the highest bidder. The following Odalsberechtigten it can but in this case, the Odal Odalstaxe to acquire ( Odalsløsning = right of first refusal to the prized price). The interested party must register its claim to acceptance within a year. Thus, the transferee acquires a duty to pull within one year there and to farm for 10 years. It can also be left to another farmer for agricultural use. There are numerous modifications and single determinations up to the liberation from the Odal. 2003, a commission was set up, which should produce an opinion on the question whether the Odals and Anerbenrecht should be preserved. The Commission recommended the retention of the legal position with some relief for land transactions.

In Iceland the Odalsrecht ( Ættaróðal ) is currently in Jarðalög 1976 nr. 65 May 31 in Chapter IV § 30 under the title " pre-emption " ( Forkaupsréttur ) and in Chapter VII § § 47 et seq under the title " Odalsland " ( To óðalsjarðir ) with small changes in Lög nr. 90/1984 and later 1995 and 1996 regulated.

In Orkney and Shetland the " Udal law" applies on the content of the property right on the ground. It corresponds to the Norwegian law of King Magnus lagabætir. The Scottish Court holds the Udal Law for the law. This plays for the laying of pipelines and cables today a crucial role.

Social significance

Possession of Odalsland gave the peasants ( Odalsbauer ) a comparison with other outdoor highlighted social position. He held the highest rank in the Thing Assembly and in the law of life. However, this was not true for the egalitarian society in this regard Islands, but for Sweden.

More similar legal institutions in Switzerland

The Odal similar legal institutions of family ownership with limited tradability and preference of the immediate family in succession is also popular among the nobility and earlier today in Central Europe, such as Switzerland, no longer -build legal institution of Fideikommiss. Existing Entails are legally recognized, but may be waived with the consent of all the beneficiaries of these. The Swiss Civil Code of 1907, even another similar legal institution, the home, one that could not be invested and traded freely and should be as inalienable as family property be a means to avoid total impoverishment of a family. While individual entails in Switzerland to this day still exist, homes have been practically never built because of their lack of attractiveness despite legal possibility.