Iceland goes out of its way to build its roads around rocks where elves might live; one tradition involves throwing Skyr yoghurt at a building, and a former mayor of Reykjavik also used to professionally check rocks for elf residents. The many Icelandic sagas include men who could turn into super powered wolf warriors, and the word ‘berserk’ comes from the mystical burst of energy Scandinavian warriors in sagas used to cut down their enemies during battle. If someone goes berserk in a Scandinavian saga, an entire army of enemy soldiers is in trouble.
So far, I’ve only been to Norway and Iceland. But if those countries are anything to go by then the whole of Scandinavia is a wonderful mass of insanity, epic myths and traditions; some of which we are familiar with and some we aren’t. During my last visit to Iceland, land of both ice and volcanoes, I learned about ‘Egil’s Saga’ in which the eponymous ‘hero’ uses tricks, poetry and berserker magic to get what he wants and achieve, what are at times, devious ends. The saga itself is famous for its poetry, as is Egil himself; like many mythical warriors of Scandinavian history, his legend is grown from history.
Maybe our fascination with Scandinavia comes from our own association with it as we are related, after all. Those Vikings stretched out to our tiny island and beyond, injecting much of their rich and colourful culture into ours. Whilst the names of our months may come from the Romans, the names of some of our days are handed down from Norse myth: ‘Tyr’s Day’. ‘Wodin’s Day’, ‘Thor’s Day’, and ‘Freya’s Day.’ Britain is Scandinavia’s close cousin, as an interesting study on Icelandic genealogy revealed that many Icelanders have Irish ancestors, as those intrepid Danes and Norwegians collected a few Irish women as slaves on their way to their new land.
We also have a strange but understandable love of the Scandinavian crime thrillers; Wallander, The Bridge, and The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo to name a few, but that might just be because they make a great crime thriller. I can only personally recommend Iceland and Norway, but as most people know about Iceland anyway I’ll just put Norway forward for its chilly air, surplus of history and museums filled with Viking artefacts. I went in November, and it was kind of like visiting Christmas Land bathed in bright sunshine that never actually made anything warmer.