Getting to know Snorri

Snorri Sturluson stands just outside my window. I catch glimpses of him from the corner of my eye as I move around the apartment.  He is still, but it's as if he just stopped for a moment, a book under his arm, his thoughts elsewhere.

Statue of Snorri

Statue of Snorri

The weather continues to amaze - mostly sunny, not hot, not too windy, perfect for walking.  My time here in Reykholt has been divided between my desk at the library, my ersatz studio (bedroom desk) and exploring the region and immediate surroundings. It has been a very rich and productive residency here at the Snorrastofa so far, with just over a week to go. (I spent the month of June at Listhus Residency in North Iceland - click here for my previous blog post.)

Though I came to the Snorrastofa with a great enthusiasm for old books, history and all things Icelandic, I really didn't expect to become so thoroughly enamored with this man Snorri and his writings. But that's what happened. Word by word, bit by bit, I am making my way through the Gylfaginning section of Snorri's Edda.  I have been using Anthony Faulkes' painstakingly researched, compiled and transcribed version, an absolute tour de force of scholarship and research.  I'm reading his translation of Snorri's Egil's saga.  And finally, to give context to all this information, I'm reading a wonderful new book about Snorri by Nancy Marie Brown called "Song of the Vikings." See links below.

I love getting to know this person from the past whose writing preserved, shaped and informed a wonderful aspect of our, humanity's, cultural heritage. My creative self thrives in this immersion into language and history. I let the words wash over me. They bring me to a deeper understanding of Iceland and its history, and that perspective influences the way I perceive the Icelandic landscape. Thank you Snorri.  And thank you historians and scholars who created resources that allow me to peek into this rich past.  

The contemporary writer Nancy Marie Brown's recently published book "Song of the Vikings - Snorri and the Making of Norse Myths" has been an invaluable guide through this experience. I am excited that I'll have a chance to meet her later this week when she will bring a group of visitors to the Snorrastofa on a tour of the region's Saga history.  Here is the website for the company that hosts her tours, and here is a link to her book.

If your curiosity about Snorri's Edda is piqued, there are several English translations available in print and online.  But for the full geek-out experience, it's in Anthony Faulkes' four volume masterpiece, first reissued in 1988 by the Viking Society for Northern Research, that you must see. This is not a translation but a fine-grained transcription that takes into account all the relevant original manuscripts.  In lieu of translation he provides exhaustive materials for understanding and interpreting Snorri's words - glossary, explanatory notes, textual notes, general notes, glossary of names, appendix and bibliography. The four volumes cover all the sections of Snorri's Edda - Prologue and Gylfaginning, Skáldskaparmál, and Háttatal. Dig in! (I am not sure if these books are still in print, but the Viking Society for Northern Research has made all four available online for free as PDF's. - Here is a link to the Gylfaginning volume.) 

Here are some new drawings from my days at Snorrastofa.  

Snorri in his pool, with glacier, acrylic, graphite, 19 x 13   Broken mountain with glacier, collage, 13 x 19  Age of axes, age of swords, acrylic, graphite 19 x 13

Horses grazing in the shadow of Ýmir.  Acrylic, graphite 13 x 19

Horses grazing in the shadow of Ýmir.  Acrylic, graphite 13 x 19