Jul 6, 2009

Landscape of Desire

Overing, Gillian R. and Marijane Osborne. Landscape of Desire: Partial Stories of the Medieval Scandinavian World. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994. 141 pgs.

If you have read The Saga of Grettir the Strong, you can surely imagine what it would be like to spend the night on Drangey Island, the remote location where Grettir met his death. Can you imagine what it would be like to spend the night there all alone--the only person on the island? Marijane Osborne longed to do just that, and did. Most people who spend the night on the island are there to hunt puffins, or gather puffin eggs, and they likely choose to do this in small groups. Not Marijane; she was all alone. She hoped to dream of Grettir, and wondered if she might encounter his ghost. If you are wondering if she did, then you will want to read this book.

Osborne and Overing, scholars in the field of Medieval studies and literature, write this book from a sociologist's perspective. They are intrigued with self, place, and stories.

We map our world, our spaces and places, with our bodies, even as our body is inscribed by them.


...place is above all a negotiative activity, whereby we may extend, develop, or invent our dialogue with the past.


The authors travel the paths that Grettir, Gudrun, Gunnar, and others may, or may not, have followed. Their discoveries along the way make for interesting, introspective reading. The photographs in the book are few, but they are very evocative; included are some really amazing photos of Drangey. Having climbed Drangey Island in 2006, I was fascinated to read an account by someone who had a similar, compelling longing to stand where Grettir stood, and to see what he saw.

Do you have any Icelandic coins in your possession? One of the illustrations in the book prompted me to take a look at mine. The illustration shows the four quarters of Iceland (Western, Northern, Eastern, Southern) and the four mythological figures that represent each geographical section (bird, dragon, giant, bull), and describes how these symbols are pictured on the Icelandic ten-krona coin. Sure enough, my coin depicted those same images.

I mentioned to John that one of these coins would make a nice necklace, and even inquired about that when Antonia and I visited a favorite shop that has jewelry made out of foreign coins. Imagine my surprise when my anniversary present (4th of July! 28 years!) turned out to be ... an Icelandic one-krona necklace! As it happened, John purchased it months before I read this book and got the idea, which is pretty weird. And when I examined it carefully, I found a different version of the same motif. The coin on my necklace is from 1965; the current design is below .








So, I have read The Saga of Gisli, Son of Sour, Grettir's Saga, and Landscape of Desire. Next up: Lisa Brewer's thesis.

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