The Icelandic Canadian Club of Edmonton is excited to host the 99th annual convention of the Icelandic National League of North America (INLNA) in Edmonton from April 26 to 28, 2018. Our theme is “Accolades” and our program will feature some of the best and the brightest individuals in Iceland today: people who are at the top of their diverse professions and industries. . . .
|Photo: Stefan Jonasson||Author: W.D. Valgardson, Victoria, BC
Water. I turned on the tap. Water poured out of the spout. I’m old enough for that to be a miracle. I stood there, watching the kettle fill up and thought of my mother. God help her. She married my father in 1938 when she was sixteen. They moved into their own house in 1940. Good house, a real house, not a shanty. Eight hundred square feet – three small bedrooms, a dining room, living room, and kitchen. A basement. A front porch that gave the house a touch of elegance. . . .
By Roger Newman
(Reprinted with permission from Roger Newman, the INTERLAKE ENTERPRISE, March 29, 2017)
Tammy Axelsson and Gunnvör Asmundsson display the Icelandic national
soccer team uniform that could soon be worn by a Gimli fan
Icelandic soccer fever is heating up again in Gimli.
It reached a peak last summer when Gimli pubs were filled with large screen TV viewers following Iceland’s unexpected long run in the 2016 European Cup tournament. Iceland, one of the smallest countries in the competition, eliminated soccer superpower England and was undefeated in four games before bowing out to host France in the “Euro” quarter-finals.
Now Gimli soccer fans — including about 20 native Icelanders, hundreds of Icelandic-Canadians and just plain sports junkies — are glued to their TV sets and computers to see if players on Iceland’s national soccer team can repeat their performance as giant killers. The challenge is even bigger this time as Iceland is currently attempting to emerge victorious from a group of six nations and qualify for the 2018 World Cup of Soccer in Russia.
“Iceland still has five games left in the qualifying round which is being held this year,” says Gunnvör Asmundsson, a native of Iceland and long-time Gimli resident. “Our team is competing in a group of nations that includes Croatia, Ukraine, Turkey, Finland and Kosovo.”
With the crunch still to come, Iceland remains in contention after four qualifying games to-date. Croatia leads the group with 10 points but Ukraine and Iceland are close runners-up with eight and seven points, respectively. The remaining contests will be crucial in a qualifying round where only 32 teams out of more than 50 in nine groups will make it to the big showdown in Russia.
Asmundsson has a particular interest in the world cup because she wants a Gimli fan to watch the TV games clad in the official uniform of the spectacular Icelandic 2016 Euro team. The uniform — including a jersey, shorts and socks — has been autographed by all of Iceland’s Euro players. It is currently being raffled to raise funds for Lögberg-Heimskringla, the Manitoba Icelandic newspaper which has survived for more than 90 years despite intermittent financial difficulties.
Asmundsson also hopes to re-live last fall’s Euro Cup when Gimli’s soccer fans congregated at the Ship and Plough pub, the Lakeview Resort bar and the ‘Oldie’ hotel to root for Iceland’s team. “Because of the time difference, Ship and Plough owner Scott Carman opened his bar at 11 a.m. to let us watch Iceland’s games,” Asmundsson recalled. “It was a time when the community came together and I was happy to be part of it.”
She is proud of Iceland’s sports prowess, saying that the Icelandic women’s soccer team is also doing well for a small country whose principal sports are soccer and handball.
“It was a group of Icelandic-Canadian — the Winnipeg Falcons — who won Canada’s first Olympic hockey championship in 1929,” she added. “Gimli’s Dan Johnson led a campaign to seek official recognition for the Falcons and there is now a plaque honouring them at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre.”
The winner of the complete soccer uniform — a gift from Manitoba’s Icelandic Consul Þórður Guðjónsson — will be drawn Wed., May 10. Tickets are available at the New Iceland Heritage Museum and the Ship and Plough.
Photo: Stefan Jonasson
A handcarved chest by Hallgrímur Jónsson of Naust (1717-1785) at the National Museum
It happened, once upon a time, that a large party of men were travelling together and pitched their tent, early one Sunday morning, on the fresh sward of a fair green meadow. The weather was bright and warm, and the men being tired with their night's journey, and having tethered their horses, fell asleep, side by side, all round the inside of the tent.
One of them, however, who happened to be lying nearest the door, could not, in spite of his fatigue, succeed in getting to sleep, so he lay idly watching the other sleepers. As he looked around, he discovered a small cloud of pale-blue vapour moving over the head of the man who was sleeping in the innermost part of the tent. Astonished at this, he sat up and at the same moment the cloud flitted out of the tent. Being curious to know what it could be and what would become of it, he jumped up softly, and, without awaking the others, stole out into the sunshine. On looking around he saw the vapour floating slowly over the meadow, so he set himself to follow it.
After a while, it stopped over the blanched skull of a horse upon the grass, around which hummed and buzzed a cloud of noisy blue flies. Into this the vapour entered among the flies. After staying a while, it came out, and took its course over the meadow till it came to a little thread of a rivulet, which hurried through the grass. Here it seemed to be at a loss how to get over the water and it moved restlessly and impatiently up and down the side of it until the man laid his whip, which he happened to have with him, over it, the handle alone being sufficient to bridge it across. Over this the vapour passed and moved on until it came to a small hillock, into which it disappeared.
The man stood by and waited for it to come out again, which it soon did, and it returned by the same way as that by which it had come. The man laid his whip as before across the stream and the vapour crossed upon the handle. Then it moved on towards the tent, which it entered, and the man who had followed it saw it hover for a minute over the head of the sleeper, where he had first seen it, and disappear. After this he lay down again and went to sleep himself.
When the day was far spent and the sun was going down, the men rose, struck the tent, and made preparations for beginning their journey again. While they were packing and loading the horses, they talked on various things, including money.
“Bless me!” said the man who had slept in the innermost part of the tent. “I wish I had what I saw in my dream today.”
“What was your dream and what did you see?” asked the man who had followed the vapour.
The other replied, “I dreamt that I walked out from the tent and across the meadow until I came to a large and beautiful building, into which I went. There I found many people reveling in a vast and noble hall, singing, dancing, and making merry. I stayed some time among them, and, when I left them and stepped out from the hall, I saw stretched before me a vast plain of fair green meadow. I walked for some time over this until I came to an immensely broad and turbulent river, over which I wished to cross, but could find no means of doing so. As I was walking up and down the bank, thinking about how I could possibly get over it, I saw a mighty giant, greater than any I had ever heard about, come towards me, holding in his hand the trunk of a large tree, which he laid across the river. Thus I was able to get easily to the other side. The river once passed, I walked straight on for a long time until I came to a high mound that lay open. I went into it, thinking to find wonderful treasures, but found only a single chest, which was so full of money that I could neither lift it nor count its contents. So I gave it up and bent my steps back here again. The giant flung his tree across the river, as before, and I came to the tent and went to sleep from sheer weariness.”
At hearing this, the man who had followed the vapour was mightily pleased and, laughing to himself, said, “Come, my good fellow, let us fetch the money. If one could not count it, no doubt two can.”
“Fetch the money!” replied the man. “Are you mad? Do you forget that I only dreamed about it? Where would you fetch it from?”
But since the man who had followed the vapour seemed really earnest and determined, he consented to go with him. So they took the same course that the vapour had taken and, when they came to the skull, the man who had followed the mist said, “There is your hall of revel.”
“And there,” he said, when they stepped over the rivulet, “is your broad and turbulent river. And here is the trunk the giant threw over it as a bridge.” With these words he showed him his whip.
The dreamer was filled with amazement and, when they came to the mound, having dug a little way into it, he really and truly discovered a heavy chest full of golden pieces. His astonishment was not one whit the less. On their way back to the tent with the treasure, his companion told him all about the matter.
Whether the two travellers complained of the weight of the money-chest or gave up counting its contents in despair, this story does not relate.
A traveller’s folktale from the collection of Jón Árnason (1819-1888), Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintýry (Icelandic Folk Tales and Legends), adapted from the translation by George E.J. Powell and Eiríkur Magnússon.
A folktale from the collection of Jón Árnason (1819-1888), Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintýry (Icelandic Folk Tales and Legends), adapted from the translation by George E.J. Powell and Eiríkur Magnússon. This version has been revised by Stefan Jonasson.
In former times, it is said that there was a married priest in Eyjafjörður, who had several children, and who had taken a poor farmer’s daughter as his foster child. Her name was Ólöf, a maiden fair of look and very courteous. The priest loved her quite as much as his own children and had her taught all sorts of handiwork and such other things as were deemed becoming for a woman to know. At the time of this story, Ólöf was grown-up.
Now the priest, her foster father, secured a living in the East at Möðrudalur and moved there with all his goods – along with his wife, children, and servants – in the early summer. It is said that he went the shortest way, through the wilderness. He left the innermost farm in a valley called Bárðardalur and intended to rest in the midst of the great lava district called Ódáðahraun. At night, the priest reached the resting place with all his company and pitched his tent. But when he had rested there a little while, there came forth from the lava a band of nine armed men. There was no exchange of greetings, for the outlaws fell upon the priest and his company, who were all weaponless, and killed every man’s child, but Ólöf. They carried her away to their dwelling, which was not very far off.
Ólöf soon saw that these fellows were outlaws, living by robbery and theft, and she wailed and lamented her position, which it was not within her power to change for the better. They did her no harm, but would make her sojourn as pleasant as they possibly could. They told her that, when winter should approach, they would draw lots to determine whose she should be, but that in the meantime she should make their meals and wait on them. Ólöf liked one of them the best; he was the youngest and mildest looking of them all.
Now the summer passed until a fortnight before the autumn roundup. The men prepared themselves to go away for a week to gather sheep from the commons. But a few days before they left, the youngest fell ill and kept to his bed. When the day came for their departure, he was a little better, but still not up to the journey with them, so it was agreed that he should follow them, if he got better.
Now the men started off and, when they had got fairly out of sight, the young man spoke to Ólöf in the following way: “I do not wonder that you are unhappy in our company and I should have helped you long ago to get away, if I had seen the slightest possibility of doing so. I must tell you that I, too, have been kidnapped by these fellows, for I am the son of a farmer in Mjóidalur. I have been here two years and have never yet found a chance of escaping. They keep me with them for robberies and thefts, but always against my will. I feigned to be ill in order to get a chance of speaking with you alone, hoping that we might be able to plan some escape from this hideous company. I wish that you should, at least, try to get away while the men are away from here, although it is a great risk. You must strictly follow the advice I am about to give you.
“Tomorrow, I am going away to the skálabúar (outlaws, literally “cabin-dwellers”), as they have bidden me. Two days after my departure, you must be ready to start. When you come out of the door, you will see a dappled horse; take it, bridle it, and saddle it – you will find the saddle in the house. The horse is mine – the best and speediest of horses. No other horse belongs to the robbers. Mount the horse and let it find its own way, but do not whip it, unless your life is at stake. Beware of leaving before the time I have told you. If you should get to the populated district, I beg you to do all in your power to ensure that this lot of wrongdoers is destroyed. But this will not be easy, for they are watchful and wary.
“You must not think of it before next autumn. When the men go sheep-gathering in the autumn, they are wont to rest in a little dale near Skjálfandafljót on the night when people go on their first search for sheep. That is the time when it is easy to attack these robbers. But, if you value my advice, try to arrange that the man who lies apart from the others in the dale be pardoned and granted his life and freedom. Do now as I have bidden you and, if you do not stray from my advice, luck and happiness will go with you.”
Ólöf thanked him for all this and said she would follow his advice. He went his way, but she sat alone, left behind and impatient. She found the life more irksome than ever before and the next day she found longer than a whole year. When she could contain herself no longer, she went out in search of the dappled horse. She found it, not far from the house, and, as she could not understand how it would make any difference if she went one day before the fixed time, she ventured to start off. All went smoothly until, all of a sudden, she heard a shout not far from her and guessed that it was the voice of one of the outlaws. Sure enough, it was, for one of them had seen her passing and recognized the horse she rode. He cried in a mighty voice to his companions, who, after a short while, came together and got so near to her that only a short space was left between them and her. The men ran as swiftly as birds fly and, although her horse was a fleet one, she saw that they would soon overtake her. She determined to give him a stroke with her whip and, when she did, the beast took so mightily to his feet that she nearly fell off. The horse, going half again as swiftly as before, soon left the outlaws far behind and sped to the farm of Mjóidalur, where the young man’s father was still alive. Ólöf told him all about her travels, and also where his son was staying, and the advice he had given her for duly overcoming the robbers.
Now the next winter and summer passed away.
In the autumn, the neighbours gathered together in order to destroy the outlaws at the right time and Ólöf was to lead the expedition. And, to cut a long story short, the men were all killed except the one who was farthest from the group, the farmer’s son from Mjóidalur. He went home with the expedition to his father, but, because he had partaken in the outlaw’s misdeeds, he was judged at the next Alþingi and sentenced to death, although it was left to the king’s mercy to determine his fate. Arrangements were made for him to sail on a vessel from Akureyri the next autumn. Many lamented his fate, Ólöf not least among them, for people affirmed that they were secretly very good friends. Before the young man embarked, he turned to Ólöf and begged her not to marry for five years, if she received no news about him during that time. But she gave him no answer, nor did she seem to pay any heed to his words.
Now time passed and Ólöf stayed with her kin in Eyjafjörður. Many hopeful youths wooed her, as she was deemed to be above all the women in those parts of the country, but she refused to marry anyone, saying that marriage was not her intention. People attributed his strange conduct to her melancholy and to a sort of madness that her stay in the company of the skálabúar might have brought upon her. So men ceased courting her.
Five years passed and, in the sixth, there came a vessel from foreign lands to Eyjafjörður. On board was a fine-looking man who spoke Icelandic. He was appointed by the king to the open seat of sýslumaður (magistrate) in Vaðlaþing. This young man soon became popular and beloved throughout the district. When he had been there for a short time, he wanted to secure a farm and a housekeeper – even a wife – to take care of his domestic affairs.
All pointed to Ólöf as the fittest of women in those parts, but they told him, at the same time, about her strange and stubborn determination not to marry. The magistrate said he would try to see if her determination remained the same when he was the man concerned. He asked Ólöf to be his wife and she gave him a decisive denial. But by the assiduous entreaties of the magistrate and the influence of many good people, she yielded at last and gave a rather unwilling consent.
Now a grand wedding feast was prepared and, in the midst of the company gathered at the table, the magistrate rose and said: “I hereby make it known to all that I am the son of the farmer at Mjóidalur, who was taken prisoner by the outlaws of Ódáðahraun and later given up to the king’s mercy, after the sentence of death had been passed upon me by the court of Alþingi. When the king heard the story of my life, along with my answers to all questions on the matter, he not only pardoned me, but aided me in finishing my schooling. In three years, I acquired so much knowledge in law and the legal affairs of the country that I was found fit to be entrusted with my present office. It gives me no little pleasure that the woman sitting at my side should be the same one who formerly saved my life when the other men were killed and that a chance has been afforded to me to reward her virtue and constancy.”
All marvelled at these words, for they thought the farmer’s son had long since died.
The feast was a gay one and the young couple began a happy life together at a fine and good farm in Eyjafjörður. They lived in joy and contentment to an old age.