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Icelandic Folklore: Stories from a Landscape

Afternoon Lecture/Seminar

Tuesday, April 19, 2022 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:30 p.m. ET
Code: 1NV124
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
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Hvítserkur rocks, northwest Iceland

Iceland’s history, climate, and geography have shaped its rich folklore traditions. On a historically isolated island with dark winters and harsh living conditions, storytelling and other oral traditions thrived. The personification of Iceland’s natural features in its folklore reveals the character of its people and their attitudes toward the land and life itself. Tales of magic, monsters, and ghosts were also woven into Christian beliefs and customs and traditional aspects of Icelandic life such fishing, farming, and foodways.

Lecturer Christine Rai explores Icelandic folklore and its connection to history and the unique landscape of volcanoes, glaciers, lava deserts, geysers, and specific sites in Iceland. These folktales continue to flourish today, such as those centering on the four Landvaettir, guardian land spirits that are depicted on the Icelandic coat of arms and its kronur coins. Rai unfolds tales of the huldufolk, or hidden people, elves who exist in a parallel unseen world yet can wreak havoc or bestow blessings upon local humans—and even influence modern road construction.

Rai is an interdisciplinarian who specializes in food studies, culture, and folklore. She leads local and international trips and tours, talks, and tastings.

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