Svava Jakobsdóttir: Gunnladar saga (Gunnlöth’s Tale)


The latest addition to my website is Svava Jakobsdóttir‘s Gunnladar saga (Gunnlöth’s Tale). This is another excellent and original novel from Jakobsdóttir. It tells the story of a mother going to Copenhagen from Iceland, as her daughter, Dis, has been arrested, apparently for smashing a glass case in the Danish Art Museum and trying to steal a valuable gold urn, associated with the Bog People. While she and her husband, as well as the police and her Danish lawyer suspect a number of motives – drugs, mental instability, terrorism and even poltergeists are all suggested – Dis tells a strange story of how she was pulled into an Icelandic saga, featuring Gunnlöth, the daughter of a giant, who is seduced by Odin in order to gain access to the mead she is guarding, which gives whoever drinks it the gift of poetry. Dis gradually tells the tale to her mother over the course of the book and the mother, from at first thinking her daughter has lost her mind gradually starts to understand what really happened in the museum, while we get a feminist reinterpretation of the saga. Just as things start to become somewhat clearer, environmental issues, in the form of the Chernobyl disaster, suddenly start to play a key role. It is an excellent and original tale, which may have not had the attention it deserves, as the book has, at least in part, been marketed as a fantasy, which may have encouraged some but put off others. While there is a strong fantasy element in the retelling of the saga, this should not detract from what is a fine and serious novel.

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