The Sagas of Iceland: Creating Terra Nova
Janina Ramirez, presenter of a new BBC documentary on Iceland and its literature, explores the country’s sagas, their wide-ranging legacy and what they tell us about the history and culture of the Arctic island and its peoples.
The monk Dicuil, writing around 825 in his Liber de Mensura Orbis Terrae, records that the first settlers on Iceland were a group of monks, like him, from Ireland. These religious recluses spent the summer months on the island but were forced to return to their monasteries in Ireland during the winter to avoid attacks by ‘Norsemen’. This early reference highlights not only the close cultural links that existed from the beginning between the British Isles and Iceland but also the fact that this inhospitable land tested the endurance of even the most hardy eremitic pilgrims.
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