Þjóðsagnasöfnun hefst

1850

Systematic collecting of folktales started around the middle of the nineteenth century in Iceland. Like elsewhere, an interest in folk culture and oral tradition went hand in hand with Romanticism but was also connected to the struggle for independence in Iceland. The first collection Íslensk ævintýri (Icelandic Fairy Tales) was published in 1852 by the collectors Jón Árnason and Magnús Grímsson. Jón‘s renowned, extensive collection (six books) was not published in whole until 1954-1961.

It has often been pointed out that folk stories are a feminine genre of literature; it was first and foremost women that preserved and told these stories, though men later collected them and committed them to print. One exception from this is the collection of Torfhildur Hólm, Þjóðsögur og sagnir from 1962.

The collection of folk stories continued throughout the twentieth century with many collectors taking part. Needless to say, the collecting of folk stories is never completed.

Icelandic folktales have lived an extraordinarily strong life within the nation, although shunned by the church and the elite at times. During the height of pietism they were banned, but thrived despite the church‘s efforts. Numerous writers have sought inspiration in this heritage for all types of literature, poetry, prose and plays, both for children and adults. Some of the best examples of folktale material in contemporary literature can be found in the works of poet and novelist Gyrdir Elíasson (b. 1961), who regularly taps into folklore in a unique and original way.