Iceland has a rich culture that can be traced back to the settlement of Iceland in the 9th century. The country‘s cultural heritage is built on the island‘s Scandinavian heritage, as well as the influence of Celtic culture from the time of settlement and Gaelic folklore. Iceland‘s cultural heritage includes traditional Icelandic cuisine, Icelandic literature, and medieval sagas. Icelandic culture has its roots in Scandinavian culture. Icelandic literature is popular, in particular the sagas and eddas that were written during the High and Late Middle Ages. The island‘s best–known classical works of literature are the Nobel Prize–winning “Iceland‘s Bell“ by Hannes Sigurðsson and the eponymous epic poem “Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar“ by Snorri Sturluson. Iceland‘s cuisine has changed little over the centuries. Fish such as codfish is common. Locally caught fish is served in bread with butter or in a casserole. Grilled lamb is also eaten frequently. Vegetables are usually boiled or steamed; there are not many fried dishes. Iceland has a long tradition of pickling, and many foods are preserved in this way for winter. Iceland has a rich music culture, with many famous musicians, including internationally known bands Sigur Rós, Of Monsters and Men, Mammút, and Retro Stefson. Traditional Icelandic music is strongly religious. Choral singing is a significant part of Icelandic music, and is often performed a cappella. Icelandic literature and theatre has been overshadowed in recent decades by a thriving film industry, but its roots go back to the 12th century with the “Rímur“, epic tales based on Norse mythology. Iceland is home to the annual Reykjavík International Film Festival, which every February hosts screenings of feature films, short films, and documentaries from Iceland and the rest of the world. Iceland is home to a wide variety of musicians, many of whom use the traditional Icelandic instruments, like the “harpa“. Iceland is also famous for its traditional “Viking metal“ scene, which has included some now well–known bands like Amon Amarth, Einherjer, and Skálmöld. Iceland has a long literary tradition. The most famous medieval Icelandic works are the sagas. The first known permanent settlement in Iceland was established in 874 AD by Ingólfur Arnarson. According to Ingólfur‘s saga, he decided to settle there following a dispute with his neighbours, but he did not stay there for long. He left to explore the rest of the island and established a second settlement in the southwest. The latter settlement was abandoned after its leader Ívar decided to return to Norway. The saga of Ingólfur is the longest of the Icelandic sagas. It is primarily a love story. The main source of information about the early history of Iceland comes from the Icelandic sagas. The oldest of these is Íslendingabók (The Book of the Icelanders), written in the early 12th century. This saga deals primarily with the settlement of Iceland, the first permanent settler being Ingólfur Arnarson. The saga is written in the form of a biography of Ingólfur, and the final chapters describe the disputes between him and his neighbours, which led to his leaving and the settlement of Iceland by Norwegian and Danish settlers. The remaining sagas of Icelanders deal mainly with the history of Iceland. They are based on oral tradition, written down in the 13th and 14th centuries. The sagas describe the struggles of the early Icelanders to survive, and many of them recount tales of Íslendingabók. Iceland‘s parliament, the Althing, was founded in 930 at Þingvellir, which is also the location of the first parliament in the world. This site is now a World Heritage Site and a popular tourist attraction. The oldest existing manuscript of the Icelandic sagas is “Frá Fornjóti“, a contemporary copy of “Íslendingabók“, which is considered the best known and most translated saga. Iceland‘s best known classical works of literature are the Nobel Prize–winning “Iceland‘s Bell“ by Hannes Sigurðsson and the eponymous epic poem “Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar“ by Snorri Sturluson. Snorri‘s “Prose Edda“ and “Heimskringla“ are also notable works of Icelandic literature. Iceland is also home to the Icelandic sagas, medieval texts that are generally considered to be the most significant works of Icelandic literature. These include the “Saga of the People of Laxardal“, the “Saga of the People of Vatnsdal“, the “Saga of Gunnlaugr Serpent–Tongue“, “The Saga of Hrafnkel Frey‘s God“ and the “Vilhjálmssaga“. Iceland‘s best known modern writers include the Nobel Prize–winning novelist Halldór Laxness (who wrote “Independent People“ and “The Fish Can Sing“), and the poet and children‘s writer Jónas Hallgrímsson (“The Christian“), whose most famous work is “Undir helgiske yfirbragði“. Iceland‘s best known classical composer is Jón Leifs (1899–1981), who was inspired by Icelandic folk music. Iceland has produced many great artists and the arts are a vital part of cultural life in Iceland. The National Gallery of Iceland holds a permanent collection of Icelandic art from the 18th century and onwards, including works by such artists as Jóhannes Kjarval, Jóhannes Sveinsson Kjarval and Ásmundur Sveinsson. Icelandic visual arts prominently feature the nation‘s rough, volcanic landscape and dark winters. Contemporary Icelandic visual art began with the founding of the Kjarvalsstadir Sculpture Park in the 1970s. The park was an initiative of the sculptor and conservationist Ásmundur Sveinsson and it continues to be a leading centre for contemporary sculpture.
November 17, 2020