The Fluidity of Tradition: Place-Names, Travelogues, and Medieval Tales of the Western Icelandic Shoreline

Matthias Egeler

Abstract


This article discusses the fundamental fluidity of Icelandic place-lore. It approaches this topic through the example of the settlement of Auðr the Deep-Minded in western Iceland as described by the thirteenth-century ‘Book of Settlements’ (Landnámabók). I undertake an analysis of this medieval account, which places a central focus on the naming and narrative interpretation of the local landscape of the Hvammsfjörður fjord, with recourse to material preserved in nineteenth-century travel writing, folklore, and toponymy. I then relate my findings to classic perspectives in landscape theory and highlight the extreme ambivalences that become visible in the landscape construction represented by this material if one considers its linguistic minutiae.

Keywords


Icelandic literature; folklore; etymologies; placenames; Auðarsteinn

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