Out of the country’s fascinating geography and history emerge a plethora of poetic and imaginative Icelandic legends that hold a particular wary respect of nature, and a wry wisdom at turns gentle and sharp: that we human beings are mere tenants on earth, with no control over weather or ghosts or wild. On the one hand, these stories come out of the great wellspring of Scandinavian tales that have so influenced the Western imagination: Here are elves and trolls, ghosts, goblins, and monsters; drama and mystery and moral. But Iceland’s particular geography, its long nights and savage weather, also led to the development of a unique oral tradition, from which grew the famous Icelandic family sagas and stories.
J.M. Bedell is the author and co-lyricist of the children’s musical Mischief and Eve and a full-time writer of fiction and nonfiction for children. Terry Gunnell is the head of folklore at the University of Iceland. He is the author of The Origins of Drama in Scandinavia.