Icelandic Journals: Notes on 1871 Journey

Thursday, July 20, 1871


'stead of the Sturlung period'
Iceland's early history is often divided into periods, or 'Ages,' thusly: the Age of Settlement, 870-930; the Age of Sagas, 930-1030; the Age of Peace, 1030-1180, and the Age of Strife, 1180-1260. During the Age of Strife, also called the Age of the Sturlungs, after the powerful family so named, writers like Snorri looked back to more heroic times, and set their tales then, in the tenth and eleventh centuries. These are the Family Sagas, and now the Morris party is moving into areas where the greatest of them, Njals Saga, takes place.

'Bergthorsknoll'
A stead named for Njal's stalwart wife, Bergthora, and the site of their death, by 'burning-in,' in Njals Saga, a culminating event in this, the best of the Family Sagas, and thus on the itinerary of many British travellers, especially after the publication in 1861 of Sir George Dasent's translation and edition of the Njala (see above, my note on the 'avenging of Njal,' under July 10).

'fear extinguished curiosity'
Morris is not nearly as explicit regarding the cramped and filthy and smelly interiors of Icelandic farm-houses as were other travelers, whom—interestingly enough—Morris mentions a few lines earlier when he identifies the source of his fear, the 'obnoxious animal' (the louse), which he admits that he fears because he is 'moved by silly travellers' tales,' an admission perhaps made easier to understand when we recall Georgie as his primary audience.