The Wasdale Web

By a happy coincidence, I have just been (re-)reading Vatnsdœla saga today, on the very same day that fellow blogger Emily, over on Saga-steads, is travelling through Vatnsdalur itself (its northern reaches pictured right). Her blog is its usual readable self, with interesting observations about the afterlife of the sagas in present-day Iceland, and some beautiful photos (she seems to have had better weather than I did!). But the best nugget in her blog is that the inhabitants of the valley are currently working on a tapestry version of the saga, à la Bayeux. So far, all they seem to have is a drawing of chapter 26 of the saga, on which they are embroidering away, but it looks really good – you can recognise the events of the chapter quite easily.

Even my favourite bit of chapter 26 is there, though it is hard to represent visually (see if you can find it…). The hero Thorstein sends his shepherd off to find out what is going on at a neighbouring farm he is in dispute with. He tells him to recite poetry while he waits for them to answer his knock. When the shepherd returns and tells Thorstein that he had recited twelve verses before they admitted him, then Thorstein knows for sure that skulduggery is afoot. Presumably, it can be worked out by timing a standard dróttkvætt stanza and multiplying it by twelve – I make it about six minutes. An interesting thought that poetry can be used as a measure of time…

The title of this post, by the way, refers to Vatnsdalur’s English namesake, Wasdale in the Lake District, and its WWW presence. Just thought I’d get that in, since I’m going thither again soon – but it also seemed appropriate. W.G. Collingwood thought Vatnsdalur one of the most beautiful valleys in Iceland, and the same could be said of Wasdale. Now they just lack a tapestry (and a saga).

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