Lögberg-Heimskringla - 04.06.1970, Blaðsíða 1

Lögberg-Heimskringla - 04.06.1970, Blaðsíða 1
 THJOOMINJASAFf: REYKJAV I K , I C L L A NI . Siofnað 14. jan. 1888 féetmsformgla Slofnað 9. sept. 1886 84. ÁRGANGUR WINNIPEG, FIMMTUDAGINN 4. JÚNÍ 1970 NÚMER 22 ANNUAL LITERARY SUPPLEMENT lceland's Early Settlers A few glimpses from a foríhcoming English translation by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards of the early 12th cen- tury Landnámabók (Book of Settlements). 1. Early references to Iceland In his book On Times1 the Venerable Priest Bede men tions ain island called Thule,2 said in other books to lie six days' sailing to the north of Britain. He says there's neith- er daylight there in winter, nor darkness in summer when the day is at its longest. This is why the learned reckon that Thule must really be Ice- land, for in mainy places there the sun shines at night when the days are longest, and isn't to be seen during the day, when nights are longest. Ac- cording to written sources, Bede the Priest died 735 years after the Incarnation of our Lord, and more than 120 yeairs before Iceland was settled by the Norwegians. But before Iceland was settled from Nor- way there were other people there, called Papar by the Norwegians. They were Christians and were thought to have come overseas from the west, because people found Irish books, bells, cro- ziers, and lots of other things, so it was clear they must have been Irish3. It is also said in English sources that sailings were made between these countries at the time.4 2. Time and Place At the time Iceland was discovered and settled by Norwegians, P o p e Adrian, and after him, Pope John the Fifth, occupied the Apostolic Seat in Rome. Louis son of Louis was Emperor over Ger many, and Leo and his son Alexander ruled in Byzan- tium. Harald Fine-Hair was King of Norway, Eirik Ey- mundsson and his son ruled over Sweden, and Gorm the Old over Denmark. Alfred the Great and his son Edward ruled in England, King Kjar- val in Dublin and Earl Sigurd the Mighty over the Orkneys5. According to learned men it takes seven days to sail from Stad in Norway west- wards to Horn on the east coast 'of Iceland, and from Snaefellsness four days west across the ocean to Green land by the shortest route. People say that if you sail from Bergen due west to Cape Farewell in Greenland, you pass twelve leagues south of Iceland. From Reykjaness in South Iceland it takes five days to Slyne Head6 in Ire- land, four days from Langa- ness in North Iceland north- wards to Spitzbergen7 in the Arctic Sea, and a day's sail to the wild regions in Green- Iand north from Kolbein's Isle. 3. Snowland The story goes that some people wanted to sail from Norway to the Faroes — a viking called Naddodd, to name one of them. They were driven out to sea westwards, and came to a vast country. They went alshore in the East- fjords, climbed a high moun- tain, and scanned the country in all directions looking for smoke or any other sign that the land was inhabited, but they saw nothing. In the sum- mer they went back to the Faroes, and as they were RICHARD BECK: Vilhjalmur Stefansson's Writings On lcelandic Subjects A crozier sailing away from the coast a lot of snow fell on the mountains, so they called the country Snowland. They were full of praise for it. Accord- ing to Saemund the Learned8 the place in the Eastfjords where they landed is the one now called Reydarfell. Continued on page 8. THERE exist several books and a vast number of news- paper and periodical articles in many languages concern- ing Vilhj almur Stefansson's remarkable life and far- reaching achievements, as well as his own basic works on his explorations and re- lated subjects, including his memorable autobiography, Discovery (1964). This article, perhaps in the nature of a mere footnote to the literary career of the great explorer, deals with a phase of his ex- tensive authorship which has not been surveyed continu- ously or in detail before: his writings on Icelandic subjects. Vilhjalmur Stefansson wais the son of Icelandic pio- neers in Manitoba, who had emigrated from Iceland in 1876. In 1881, when the fu- ture explorer was not yet two years of age, his family moved to the newly estab- lished settlement in what was then Dakota Territory, home- steading near M o u n t a i n , North Dakota, where he spent his formative years and grew to m a n h o o d. Stefansson, therefore, had deep roots in Icelandic ancestral soil, and throughout his life was ap- preciative of his Icelandic family background and of his rich literary and cultural Ice- landic heritage. As his books reveal, he also recognized the impact which the Dakota prairie and the rigors of pioneer life during his early years had left upon him, and he felt a deep attach- ment to these haunts of hiis youth. He expressed this memorably in a letter writ- ten in 1928 at the time of the Golden Jubilee of the Iceland- ic settlement in North Dakota to his boyhood friend, Gud- mundur Grimson, later Chief Justice of the Supreme Court of the State, saying in part: 'Nothing but the most serious obligations far away could have prevented my joining you in this celebration. For I think back fondly to the childhood days at Mountain and long to renew friendship both with the people and the land itself. . . . You are cele- brating a colonization that has been powerful in its re- sults upon the lives of all of us. Those results have been to our advantage, in most cases. I for one am grateful that my most formative years were spent near Mountain, under just those pioneer con- ditions.' (The letter is pub- lished in full in the special volume commemorating the Anniversary, Minningarrit, Winnipeg, 1929). The same note is echoed in his Introduction ( in both English and Icelandic) to Miss Thorstina Jackson's (later Mrs. Walters) history of the Icelanders in North Dakota (Saga íslendinga í Norður- Dakoia, Winnipeg, 1926) when he wrote: 'In writing the his- tory of the Icelandic colonies in North Dakota, Miss Jack- son has done an interesting and important work. Its first interest is for people like me who were ourselves part of that earlist movement, but it should be of almost equal concern for the younger gen- eration who have heard the stories of pioneer days from their parents. Next it should appeal to the loosely feder- ated sister colonies scattered through the Western World, and lastly to the people of Iceland themselves, who have in us the interest of parents for children.' As Stefansson acknowl- edged in detail in his autobio- graphy, he came under last- ing literary and cultural in- fluences in his patemal home in the Icelandic settlement in North Dakota. 'A background for all my recollections is reading and being read to,' he says and this one sentence tells volumes. In short, a deep-rooted literary interest ran strong in Stefansson's blood, an interest nursed for generations by his Icelandic forbears, brought up on one of the greatest literatures of the world. It was not long after he entered the Prepara- tory Department of the Uni- versity of North Dakota in 1896 that his creative literary talent expressed itself in his extensive writing of poetry. In his address 'The Univer- sity and the Scandinavian Americans,' delivered at the 75th Anniversary commemor- Continued on page 2.

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