Thursday, 1 August 2013

Mountain Celebrates Icelandic Heritage

I came across this headline reading, as one does, the Grand Forks Herald, and immediately thought of the mountain in ch. 6 of Hálfs saga ok Hálfsrekka, a mountain which spouts poetry. If a mountain can speak verse, why could it not also celebrate its Icelandic heritage? Of course, the answer was rather prosaic - Mountain is a place in North Dakota where an Icelandic celebration will happen tomorrow.

The Hálfs saga anecdote, however, is splendidly bizarre, among several strange things that happen in this saga, with mermen and ogres also speaking poetry. What is particularly baroque about the speaking mountain is that it emerges from the Jutland Sea, and has the shape of a man (I suppose it would have to, to be able to speak poetry). Denmark is not noted for its mountains, but this one does emerge in the north, where Norway is, so I suppose there is some logic to it. Or the Icelandic author is having a joke with some old traditions. The poem spouted by the mountain prophesies the various fates of several characters - the whole story is highly compressed and doubtless the author struggled to write a convincing narrative around some old poems.

But the idea of speaking, and now celebrating, mountains always makes me smile.