Snorrilaug and the Ganges

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In 2014 I visited Reykholt as part of a sort of saga pilgrimage. Here is the hot pot known as Snorrilaug, or Snorri’s Bath. It is believed to have existed in the fourteenth century, when the saga writer and preserver Snorri Sturluson lived in the area, and to have been used by him. As you can see from the steam and my attire, it was just the sort of freezing day that makes a hot soak sound good. Of course the pool is not open for swimming, and the spot is not quite quiet enough to sneak a dip. But looking at the pool that day, I felt a little like a pilgrim standing on the edge of the Ganges. If that holy river can purify a penitent soul, what might Snorrilaug do for a hopeful writer?

Skallagrim’s Horse

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In the middle of a small park in a small town not far from Reykjavik, there is a grass-covered mound. No fence protects it from climbing feet or digging hands, but a placard nearby reports that it contains the bones of the horse that belonged to Skallagrim, the father of the legendary saga character Egil. (It perhaps also contains the remains of Skallagrim himself, and/or Egil’s son Bodvar. I can’t tell because the sign is in Icelandic.)

Snorri Sturluson

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I once stood among a group of writers at a talk presented by then-Icelandic President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson. He said that we would notice Iceland had no statues of presidents or generals, but had many of artists and poets.

In Reykholt, I saw a statue of a man who may have qualified as both. A big man of his time, Snorri was engaged in all sorts of power struggles and eventually died a violent death. He is also credited with preserving (and possibly writing some of) some of the world’s greatest literary treasures, Iceland’s sagas.