The Icelandic nation has a long and rich history of storytelling. Throughout centuries characterized by hardship, poverty and dark winters, the Icelanders kept their spirits high and moral values intact by telling each other stories. In this collection of 15 Icelandic folk legends, we get a glimpse of the world-view of the Icelanders in centuries past as they endeavored to understand and cope with the natural phenomena around them. There are stories of malicious ghosts, outlaws living in carved-out boulders, hidden people residing in grassy knolls, trolls that are tripped up by their own stupidity, and much more. In addition, there is one story exemplifying a fairy tale motif that scholars have discovered to be unique to Iceland: that of the good stepmother (The Story of Himinbjörg). Throughout we get a powerful sense of the Icelanders’ beliefs, values and fears, as well as their strong need to cling to all that was pure and good.
While this is the first time the book appears in electronic form, 12 of the stories were previously published in physical form on two separate occasions. The book has been out of print for about four years. In the digital edition, an introduction has been added, as well as a “field guide” to the various apparitions that appear in the book, and three more stories.
From a review in the Reykjavík Grapevine:
"[T]his short collection of folk tales is a fascinating introduction to Icelandic myth for the uninitiated anglophone. Fascinating and confounding in equal measure. [...] Icelandic Folk Legends is a vivid portrait of pre-20th century Iceland – as much in terms of living conditions and landscape as of imagination, values and belief. Part of its appeal is that the tales spring from the magical imagination that Iceland’s varied and unforgiving landscape inspires. Beyond that, however, the questions they raise offer a fascinating window onto the values espoused by close-knit, rural communities as they struggle with the natural and supernatural forces that threaten their everyday lives."