William Morris went to Iceland for the Sagas

Photo Credit: Philjama

William Morris‘s journey to Iceland in 1871 was planned along routes designed to see those places that are connected with the great Sagas, places which appealed to Morris far more than the more popular Geysirs which to most tourists were the principal attraction of the place. Morris was indignant that these Geysirs were all that ordinary people knew about Iceland – people who “have never heard of the names of Sigurd and Brynhild, of Djal, or Gunnar, or Grettir of Gisli or Gudrun.”

“In Morris’s mind,” according to Esther Meynell in her Portrait of William Morris (Chapman & Hall, 1947) “all the while he travelled this desolate land, was the background of the great Sagas – he knew and saluted each cleft and hill where the Icelandic heroes had lived and died, slain and been slain.

When he came to Thingvellir and the Hill of Laws he wrote:

Once again that thin thread of insight and imagination, which comes so seldom to us, and is such a joy when it comes, did not fail me at this first sight of the greatest marvel and most storied place in Iceland.”

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