Gunnar argued for the independence of Iceland during Germany’s military struggles of the 1940s, on the principle that the land is written in the chain-linked patterns of the Icelandic sagas, with the suggestion that the Icelanders wrote the sagas in response to the chain-link rhymes of the land.
His observation is obvious. Equally obvious is how poor a tool such observations are for deflecting a military conqueror. Less obvious is the point that when you are from the land and have nothing and yet have to do something, you use what you have. Still, the approach has its dangers. It might stress one form of pattern, for instance, but it obscures another. So, let’s look at Gunnar’s saga again. This time, note the story of trolls and ogres written in the rock.
Gunnar was a humanist, a twentieth century man. This tale of ogres and epic battles is one he could have told as well, including how it generates the water of life as cold passes into warmth. That he didn’t is an example of how writers adapt to their audience. It is also an example of how we can re-read them, and free them… and us.
Or you can go to Gilsáfoss. It’s not so large, but it has spirit, and an ice troll, if you go in April.
Easy to get to, too. Drive east from the airport for 8 hours, turn left at Egilstadir, follow the lake through Hallomrstadir, and then, 30 minutes later, if you don’t stop to let the reindeer pass along the way, which is a fine reason to stop, for sure …
You’ll find it at the end of the lake, just upstream from the old bridge in the middle of this image. It’s the last stream before you cross the lake to the north side. Have a nice trip! The ice troll is waiting. Gulfoss will thank you.
Light tells its own stories in Þingvellir. We are here to witness. It’s no surprise the Icelanders first called Christ “White Christ.” He was the north, that place from beyond the world. Who nonetheless came, physically, as this Earth, in a harsh and beautiful mercy.