The Guardians of Iceland and other Icelandic Folk Tales

Iceland is a land of mystery and ancient legends.

These are the legends of Iceland. The stories were first told hundreds of years ago by the Vikings as they sat around the fires. They whispered of an ogre named Gryla who terrorized villagers from the Faroe Islands to Iceland. They told of the four powerful Guardians of Iceland –  a dragon, an eagle, a bull, and a giant -who had never been defeated. The Lagarfljótsormur – a mysterious dragon-like creature known as the Monster Worm who lived in Lake Lagarfljót for centuries. The Hidden Folk who live only in Iceland and are very powerful creatures that protect the land and punish those who harm it. Trolls of every shape and size that roamed the land. The stories of these and other legendary creature in Iceland are here for you to explore – if you are Viking enough.

Some of the best storytellers of all time wrote the Sagas, the history of the Vikings and their legends. Those stories are part of the culture and heritage of Iceland, unchanged for generations. However, Icelandic folklore has been overlooked by centuries by the rest of the world. That has changed. After being largely untouched for nearly 200 years, twenty-seven of Iceland’s classic stories have been updated and re-written for today’s readers.

The Children’s book review wrote: While each story stands alone, they vary in length from very short tales to longer ones, with established characters and more intricate events.  Iceland as the backdrop to all the folk tales, with Heidi Herman describing vivid landscapes and scenes that deftly transport readers to the time and place of each story. Readers will feel the cold, harsh winters and see the rugged Icelandic mountains as they enjoy stories of trolls, mermen, and Hidden People.  As a historical collection, the book is able to present different types of tales – some with fable-like messages at the end and some that are simply amusing stories passed down through the generations.   Some of the legends end by informing the reader about a location or event: “On that day, the canyon was renamed for her, and has been known ever since as Trollwife’s Canyon.”    And others present an outcome that has gone on to inform modern Icelandic culture: “To this day, any time an Icelander meets a stranger, they make sure to always be polite and courteous, sharing food and lodging freely, especially if the stranger is unusually beautiful. You can never be sure if it’s one of the Huldufolk.”  For teens and older readers, this book is a charming representation of Icelandic culture. It provides a glimpse into the fairy tales that inform many traditions and modern folklore in Iceland. It can be read from front to back, or picked up at any point in the middle to uncover a new magical legend from the early days of Iceland.”

Subscribe to our book recommendations