Hildur, Queen of the Elves, and Other Icelandic Legends. Retold by J.M. Bedell with an introduction and new translations by Terry Gunnell. (Interlink Books, 2007). ISBN: 9781566566339. Paperback.
“The heart and soul of Iceland can be felt in the rich context of every line of each story.”
Jón Árnason collected many Icelandic folktales between 1954 and 1961. This book is not a mere representation or republication of his writings. Bedell retells the stories in modern, accessible language sometimes on the back of new translations provided by professor Gunnell.
Gunnell’s introduction is a great start and immerses the reader in the Icelandic setting and atmosphere. I wish I had been to Iceland to confirm the quote above to you. What I can say is that I’ve read my fair share of folktales and legends from around the world, and this collection, in particular, pulls me straight into a mystique of people and creatures and their attitudes, and their place within the landscape.
The supernatural is the main character throughout the volume. It takes the form of hidden people, trolls and the like. The real magic, though, lies in the understated, realistic style and setting. The strength of the stories is enhanced by this powerful contrast. It is very similar to The Sagas of the Icelanders, too. And that’s why this collection of stories is an excellent companion to your copy of The Sagas.
Verdict: a fine collection.