That sums up, pretty inarticulately I’ll admit, Iceland.
Quite apart from the staggering, breathtaking scenery, Iceland has a really fascinating history and an incredibly rich literary tradition… Icelanders love their stories. When we were there a few months ago, our guide told us tales from legend, from ancient history, from more recent history, and from the Sagas and they were all fascinating.
The one that stuck with me, though, and made a tear trickle from the corner of my eye was The Seal’s Skin, a tale about selkies (a kind of Norse mermaid).
Here it is…
Once in the east of Mýrdalur a man went along the cliffs on the seashore early in the morning. He came to a mouth of a cave and heard the sound of merrymaking and dancing inside. Nearby he saw many seals’ skins. He took one of the skins, brought it home and locked it in a chest.
In the daytime he came again to the cave. There sat a young and pretty woman who was naked and cried desperately. She was the seal whose skin the man had taken.
He let her dress herself, comforted her and brought her home with him. She grew fond of him, but did not get on with others. She often sat and looked at the sea, for she had seal children whom she’d left behind.
Some time later the man married her. They lived in harmony and had many children, but the farmer kept the seal’s skin locked up in the chest and had the key with him wherever he went. Many years later he once went outdoors and left the key at home. Some say the farmer went to celebrate Christmas with his men, but his wife was ill and could not go with them. While he changed his clothes, he left the key in a pocket of his everyday wear. When he came back home, the chest was open, and both the woman and the skin disappeared.
She had taken the key, looked into the chest out of curiosity and found her seal skin there. She could not resist the temptation, bade farewell to her children, put on the skin and plunged into the sea. And before she plunged into the sea, they say, she whispered:
“Where have I to flee?
“I’ve seven children in the sea
“And seven children on dry land.”
They say the man grieved much for that. Afterwards, when he went fishing, a seal often swam round his boat, and it seemed that tears ran from her eyes. Ever since that man always had good catch and was lucky.
When their children went to the shore for a walk, people often saw a seal that swam in the sea not far from them, both when they were on land and near water, and threw motley fish and pretty sea shells to them. But their mother never came back…
I read a version of this fairytale at the Black Sand Beach at Vík.
Rather than wax lyrical about how stunning the country is, though, it’s probably easier to just show you: this album contains photos from everywhere we visited. When you think how beautiful the place looks, imagine it in person: it’s 10 times more beautiful in real life. If you get the chance to go to Iceland: do it!
In the meantime, if you want to know more about the power of stories and how you can use them in your own business, grab yourself a copy of my book Business For Superheroes. I’ve been told it’s quite good.
Vicky Fraser is a copywriter, author, and entrepreneur. She really did run away with the circus… but when she’s not swinging from a trapeze, she’s showing other copywriters and small business owners how to work with better clients, make more money, and stop missing bathtimes, first words, and dinners with angry partners. In fact, she wrote the book on it. Get your copy here.