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Hildur, Queen of the Elves and Other Stories: Icelandic Folktales

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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 Scan 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.


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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 Scan 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.

30 review for Hildur, Queen of the Elves and Other Stories: Icelandic Folktales

  1. 5 out of 5

    Larissa

    This was one of the books I shipped with me to Iceland with the intention of boning up on Icelandic mythology and folklore. It wasn't until just last week, however, that I finally cracked the volume, as part of research I was doing on Iceland's huldufólk (Hidden People) for an article that I was writing. The introduction here by Terry Gunnell proved to be invaluable, with great context about the settings and environments that folktales would be told in, a characterization of huldufólk and 'huldu This was one of the books I shipped with me to Iceland with the intention of boning up on Icelandic mythology and folklore. It wasn't until just last week, however, that I finally cracked the volume, as part of research I was doing on Iceland's huldufólk (Hidden People) for an article that I was writing. The introduction here by Terry Gunnell proved to be invaluable, with great context about the settings and environments that folktales would be told in, a characterization of huldufólk and 'huldufólk-lore' (my silly pun, not his), and information about Jón Árnason's collection of these tales in the mid-1800s. The retellings by J.M. Bedell (those I've read thus far) are indeed engaging, as was his stated intention: "In an attempt to engage my readers, I kept most of the marvelous details translated in the cited texts...but retained the right to use all the techniques available to any storyteller of fiction—writing scenes, creating suspense and drama, and varying points of view." My favorite huldufólk-tales in thus volume thus far have been "The Origin of the Hidden People," "The Father of Eighteen Elves," "The Elves' Dance on New Year's Eve," and, of course, the title story.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Csenge

    The book contains fifty-one Icelandic tales; most of them are legends, stories about events people believed to be true, featuring beliefs and creatures that are very prominent in Icelandic folklore. The stories are grouped according to these themes: There are separate chapters for Elves, Trolls, Ghosts, Water Monsters, Magicians, and other folktales. The tales have been translated from the Icelandic, and then re-told by the author; they provide and enjoyable reading experience, while retaining a The book contains fifty-one Icelandic tales; most of them are legends, stories about events people believed to be true, featuring beliefs and creatures that are very prominent in Icelandic folklore. The stories are grouped according to these themes: There are separate chapters for Elves, Trolls, Ghosts, Water Monsters, Magicians, and other folktales. The tales have been translated from the Icelandic, and then re-told by the author; they provide and enjoyable reading experience, while retaining all the names and details that give them their unique flavor. There is an extensive Introduction by Terry Gunnell, who talks about the context of Icelandic legends, their cultural background, origins and collections, and the beliefs and customs they represent. He points out that Iceland was a culturally diverse country even in the middle ages, and therefore the stories show elements from Scandinavian, Celtic, and several other traditions. There is a list of sources at the end of the book, and each story comes with a citation of its original text. An interesting, enchanting, occasionally chilling read.

  3. 5 out of 5

    Abi

    Highly entertaining, and also enlightening for the reader of Halldór Laxness.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Doria

    A very good collection of Icelandic traditional tales, preceded by a lengthy but valuable ethnographic description of Icelandic life during the time period which produced most of these stories. Most are translated retelling a from earlier folklore collections, and are scrupulously credited as such. The stories are grouped by category, so the reader can delve deeply into ghost stories, elf stories, tales of water creatures or suchlike as they please. Highly recommended for folklorists and aficion A very good collection of Icelandic traditional tales, preceded by a lengthy but valuable ethnographic description of Icelandic life during the time period which produced most of these stories. Most are translated retelling a from earlier folklore collections, and are scrupulously credited as such. The stories are grouped by category, so the reader can delve deeply into ghost stories, elf stories, tales of water creatures or suchlike as they please. Highly recommended for folklorists and aficionados of Icelandic culture, and anyone looking for some interesting read-aloud tales, as the pacing and length would lend themselves well for that purpose.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Saartje

    [b]3.5 Stars[/b] Good collection of Icelandy folk- and fairytales. The book is seperated into different parts for a few of the most common Icelandic mythical creatures. This helps you understand the folklore, but tends to make it drag a bit since some stories are quite similar. As with any collection some stories are better than others. Good read for anyone who has been to Iceland or is going there soon. I absolutely love the way Icelandic folklore is closely connected to the landscape.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Ibrahim

    Wonderful collection of Icelandic tales (my favorite being that of Hildur.) The only issue is that maybe it's a little TOO genuine - it sticks to a very direct, Icelandic form of storytelling that, in its brusqueness, comes off as dry at certain points. Otherwise, brilliant effort by the author. Wonderful collection of Icelandic tales (my favorite being that of Hildur.) The only issue is that maybe it's a little TOO genuine - it sticks to a very direct, Icelandic form of storytelling that, in its brusqueness, comes off as dry at certain points. Otherwise, brilliant effort by the author.

  7. 5 out of 5

    E.

    I didn't enjoy these legends and folktales as well as I normally do such things. I found them very dark and nightmarish. I didn't enjoy these legends and folktales as well as I normally do such things. I found them very dark and nightmarish.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephania

    Nice account of icelandic legends and oral traditions, especially when they refer to Iceland's geography (volcanos, cliffs, etc). The elves legends are particularly interesting :) Nice account of icelandic legends and oral traditions, especially when they refer to Iceland's geography (volcanos, cliffs, etc). The elves legends are particularly interesting :)

  9. 4 out of 5

    V

    The brevity of each legend makes it easy to pick up any time and the authenticity is palpable. These are not modern retellings. I can just imagine hearing one of these tales in passing, maybe after Sunday Mass, when so-and-so says, “Did you hear about that ghost over at Myrká? Gudrún saw it!”

  10. 5 out of 5

    A.

    This collection was divided into sections (elves, trolls, ghosts, etc.), and I read it for the elves, but found the other sections to be useful and informative also. It was a good overview of legendary creatures in Iceland, and the introduction was also useful. Will buy this one.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Yasmeen

    Really interesting insight into some legends I had never heard before.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Andrea

    So so dark!

  13. 5 out of 5

    Kate S

    How can I not give five stars to a book that contains the sentence "they decided to have some fun and create a supernatural bull." Well, sure! Great fairy tales. Fun to read! How can I not give five stars to a book that contains the sentence "they decided to have some fun and create a supernatural bull." Well, sure! Great fairy tales. Fun to read!

  14. 5 out of 5

    Andrea Floris

    Fascinating stories of folklore from a truly magical place.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Deborah Brannon

    You can read my review of this book at Green Man Review. You can read my review of this book at Green Man Review.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Sally Currie

  17. 5 out of 5

    Tosca Teran

  18. 5 out of 5

    a

  19. 5 out of 5

    Angela Keim

  20. 5 out of 5

    Saga

  21. 5 out of 5

    Nel

  22. 4 out of 5

    Kiah

  23. 4 out of 5

    Anneke

  24. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

  25. 4 out of 5

    Niveusp

  26. 4 out of 5

    Fraser Hoban

  27. 4 out of 5

    Sergio

  28. 4 out of 5

    Steffanie

  29. 4 out of 5

    Sanjana

  30. 4 out of 5

    Linda Isakson

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