Background

I am 27 years old, and a graduate of Edinburgh University, where I spent four years studying ancient history and Latin, and then a masters year in early medieval history and literature, focusing on Norse interactions with the British Isles.  I wrote my masters dissertation on the depiction of the British Isles in the Icelandic family sagas, a collection of about forty medieval stories that depict life in Iceland during the tenth century and the turn of the first millennium, and am now studying for a PhD at Cambridge University on these same texts.

My interest in the family sagas began when I first read Njals saga for a language course; I was immediately hooked.  I found the prose, the writing style, and above all the characters of Njals saga different from anything else I’d ever read or studied.  It is simultaneously direct and yet complex, fantastical and yet true to life, and I soon discovered that this could be said of every one of these old stories.

In August 2013 I set out to hitchhike round Iceland, visiting as many of the locations mentioned in the sagas as possible, in order to link the places with the stories.  Over the 25 days I spent traveling there were successes and disappointments – places I just couldn’t get to or find, but also wonderful sites I didn’t even know about until I came across them – and I met many good people, had an amazing experience, and brought the sagas that much more to life in my mind.

When I returned home I wrote a book about the experience, but getting a manuscript published is a lengthy and uncertain process.  So in the meantime I decided to share on this blog in writing and photos some of the experiences and places that made the trip what it was.  I hope you enjoy reading my blog; perhaps it will inspire you to look up some of the sagas yourself – or even take a trip to Iceland.  You won’t regret either.

Note: During my journey I carried and used the saga translations in the five volume Hreinsson (ed.) ‘The Complete Sagas of Icelanders’, published 1997 by Leifur Eiríksson Publishing, Reykjavík.  Saga extracts included in this blog are taken (with occasional minor adaptations) from the same texts.

All photos are my own, and should not be reused without permission.

2 comments on “Background

  1. Ahila says:

    Hi! Having enjoyed your posts on your travels following the places described in Njals saga, I have nominated you for the Shine on award (http://wp.me/p3Nc97-l0). Hope you choose to accept and pass on the award.

  2. Chris Boudin says:

    Hi, William. I took my first trip to Iceland this summer and have been completely enamored with it ever since. In fact I’ve already been back once, last month, to see it in the winter. When my Aunt Clare, who is your mom’s step-sister, heard about my love for Iceland she told me about your blog and book project. It’s looks really interesting and I’m excited to read about your travels. Skál!

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