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Magnificent literature of Iceland

Magnificent literature of Iceland

Article by Asberg Jonsson

Till a few years back, Iceland was also known as “the unknown land”. But for few years now, it has been given a new name i.e. “the land of  unknown surprises”. This name is given by all those tourists and visitors who have visited Iceland and witnessed these surprises themselves. Every tourist going there has only one impression in his/her mind. To see and to feel which has never been seen and never been felt before. This is Iceland-the land of surprises. Almost every visitor to Iceland wants to enjoy its untouched and unspoiled nature and also its historic background and literature. People come here to enjoy and to come closer to nature and every kind of adventures.

Let’s talk about the literature of this very splendid north European country “Iceland”. The main Icelandic literature was formed by the inhabitants of Iceland at the time of country’s settlement way back in ninth century. Because Old Norse and Icelandic are the same language that’s why, sometimes, Iceland’s medieval writings are also called Old Norse literature.

The main attraction of Iceland’s literature is the saga of medieval periods. These sagas were written between twelfth and fourteenth centuries. Sagas are basically stories about Norwegian kings and real legendry heroes. These heroes include both man and woman from the land of Iceland as well as Scandinavia. These sagas were initially composed into a prose by unknown authors. It is believed that they have been hugely recited by people and storytellers before getting written into books. Although, no original manuscript is available or exists, but there are some transcripts and collections. These are the revision and extension of the originals.

Handrit-Ágrip_af_NóregskonungasögumHundreds of sagas were written during medieval period in Iceland. These sagas are basically divided into four main parts.

[1] “The Sagas of kings” which includes snorri sturluson’s ‘heimskringla’. This saga outlines the stories of rulers of Norway from ancient time till 1777 AD.

[2] “The sagas of knytlinga” which consists the stories of Danish kings from gorm the old to canute.

[3] “The legendary sagas or the lying saga” which includes the real stories and some fantasies of romance and love stories of knights.

[4] “The sagas of Icelanders”, this category consists the whole account of the so called saga age [900 to 1050 A.D].

This category includes some evergreen sagas like Egil’s saga-the life of warrior poet; laxdaela saga-a triangular love story; gisla saga-the tragic tale of a hero. These sagas are considered the best in Icelandic literature history because they are full of complexities of human and social conflicts.

The same way i.e. the writing form of sagas was used in thirteenth century to write the contemporary history as it was also evolving around the important personalities of that time. This is popularly called “the saga of sturlunga”. This saga narrates the gruesome details of the thirteenth century which led to the conclusion of Old Icelandic commonwealth. Some other historical writings of medieval Iceland includes “the islendingabok” [the book of the Icelanders] by Ari Thorgilsson and “the lananamabok” [the book of settlements] which is also probably written by Ari Thorgilsson. Icelandic literature also includes “eddas” and the “skaldic poetry”.

After the initialization of fourteenth century, the literature of Iceland declined. It is believed that from 14th century to 19th century, nothing has been written but still the Icelandic literature has got everything, a typical literature history requires in making it notable in this world.

About the Author

Asberg Jonsson is the manager of Iceland Visitor, a company specializing in packages for Vacation in Iceland and day tours in Iceland. For more information visit www.icelandvisitor.com