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Memories of the Settlement – Part 1
A lecture at the Settlement Festival at Hnausa – July 2, 1951
By Guttormur J. Guttormsson (1878-1966)

Those of the first Icelandic immigrants who imagined that America was Eden, and nothing was necessary other than to gather the fruit from the trees, were obviously disappointed.
The story goes that one of them was walking in the woods and saw hanging from the branch of a tree a large grey ball of wool. In the old country, it took a little more than that to produce textiles – to pick the wool, card it, spin and twist it, then wind up the yarn into a ball. But here in America, the wool balls grew on trees. He took the ball off the tree and tucked it into his bosom. Now he would have some new grey stockings. The worst was that nothing white was available in stocking yarn, there were no sheep in the whole of New Iceland, and nowhere could one find a white wool ball hanging from a tree.
While he was thinking about this, a fire was burning on his chest and something monstrous was always flitting about his face. He had pains in his chest and his cheeks. There was so much dust around him that he could not see the sun. He was only sure that something had caught fire on him and he was burning to death. He was determined not to let the wool ball burn and snatched it out of his bosom. Then he perceived that the dust was streaming out of a hole in the wool ball. This was of course the nest of poisonous insects, though he did not know it at the time. He decided not to keep the ball at this time and threw it away. The wool ball was bound to be hollow inside and there was nothing there worth keeping. This sort of textile material was unknown in Iceland.


Medieval wisdom for modern minds

Medieval & Modern II: Prophecies & Conjurations – A growing annual symposium from the Departments of English and Icelandic at the University of Manitoba

Photo courtesy of Ryan Eric Johnson Author: Ryan Eric Johnson, Winnipeg, MB

A great flurry of academic activity has taken place in the last year between students in the Department of Icelandic Language and Literature and the Department of English, Film, and Theatre (DEFT) at the University of Manitoba. A number of graduate students from the University of Iceland and the University of Manitoba have been able to come together through the Circle of Premodern Students (CoPS) and the University of Manitoba Institute for the Humanities (UMIH). CoPS consists largely of students from DEFT but also includes a retired Supreme Court judge, a PhD graduate, and a couple PhD candidates from the University of Iceland. Thanks must be extended to the Icelandic Department, the Icelandic Collection, and an especially heartfelt thanks to our main advisor throughout the process, David Watt. Thanks also go out to everyone involved from DEFT and UMIH, the President’s Office at the university, Mosaic: an interdisciplinary critical journal, University of Manitoba Archives, and the Icelandic Collection. Because of all of these bodies coming together, we were able to organize an excellent two-day symposium this year, Medieval & Modern II: Prophecies and Conjurations. It was a sequel to one held last year, which Birna Bjarnadóttir provided a great deal of support for, working in conjunction with Dustin Geeraert of DEFT, and it coincided with a Páll Guðmundsson lecture given by Gyrðir Elíasson and Pétur Gunnarsson.
In order to maintain Birna’s vision for such events, we proposed to the symposium committee that we bring in some of the members’ other most influential mentor from Iceland, Ármann Jakobsson. The graduate students involved in this enterprise all came together to secure the funding for Ármann’s visit. From there the situation only became more enterprising, as we expanded the symposium over two days, added a third day of activities with a manuscript and rare books workshop in the University of Manitoba Archives, and an evening public lecture. At the symposium itself, we had many outstanding speakers giving talks about influential authors from Marshall McLuhan to H.P. Lovecraft and on a great variety of subjects from human communication and gender to mythological archetypes. The Norse gods were of course represented, as well as the Icelandic sagas. Ármann even got to speak on the radio with Terry McLeod on CBC Radio’s Saturday morning program that week.


Snorri West in the heart of the continent

Photo: Alicyn Goodman  

The four participants in this year’s Snorri West program are charming their way through the heart of the continent. Sesselía Ólafsdóttir, Tómas Helgi Tómasson, Vala Margrét Jóhannsdóttir, and Gunnlaug Birta Þorgrímsdóttir arrived in Minneapolis on July 7, 2016, where they were welcomed at a meet-and-greet reception hosted by the Icelandic American Association of Minnesota at the Danish American Center. They spent five days in Minnesota, learning about the Icelandic presence in the state at the Minnesota History Center in St. Paul, then touring historic Minneota, Westerheim, and Lincoln County. After departing Minnesota, they spent two days making their way to Winnipeg through North Dakota, stopping at Fargo, Gardar, Mountain, and Icelandic State Park.


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