The Iceland Guide

Companion websites

The Globe Travel Bookshop
This site gives access to numerous online bookshops around the world that sell travel books. There are also links to second-hand bookshops and to publishers

The Globe Travel Shop
Accommodation and transport around the globe. And lots more interesting things!

The Globe Travel Guide
Illustrated travel articles about various countries, including France, Iceland, Scotland and the USA.

The Scotland Guide
Illustrated encyclopaedia articles on Scotland. At present there are over 200 articles about Glasgow, the country`s biggest city. The articles are based on the guidebook The Glasgow Guide.



Books by David Williams
These include travel guides to Iceland and Scotland.

The land and the people

Culture: The Sagas

Old Icelandic prose is dominated by the Sagas. These have been described as the first prose novels of Europe. They are unparalleled in mediaeval literature, being written in the vernacular at a time when the rest of European literature was given over to religious themes.

The sources for the Sagas remain uncertain; most probably these are a mixture of written "authorities" and tales passed down via oral tradition, or recorded in the form of skaldic poetry. In the isolated communities that together comprised the Icelandic nation, stories of historical events or the deeds of the leading figures of the day were always in great demand, much as news bulletins are today — with the difference that the Sagas' creators used considerable authorial licence to shape their factual material into a satisfying artistic whole. The annual two–week summer festival of the Althing offered an especially good opportunity for news to be passed, old stories told and new stories learned.

The Sagas take as their subject–matter the lives of the great Icelandic figures of the tenth and eleventh centuries. Underlying the surface narrative, but influencing it at every crucial turning, lies the Viking (and Icelandic) conception of how the individual should conduct himself within the society in which he lives: in other words, their moral code. Honour was of paramount concern, both personal honour and, equally importantly, the honour of the family. An insult or injury to oneself or to one's family must be avenged without fail; this was the code of behaviour that lay behind the frequently bloody feuding that took place from the time of the Settlement, reaching its peak with the violent infighting of the "Sturling Age" just before the "Agreement of Union" of 1262. The Sturling Age was itself the subject of the Sturlunga Saga, written by a nephew of one of the main protagonists, the remarkable Snorri Sturluson, who was himself probably the author of Egil's Saga.

Most of the important Sagas are gathered into one of several collections, compiled at different times. The earliest of these, Sagas of Icelanders, was written mainly in the thirteenth century, and dealt with events of the tenth and eleventh centuries. It includes two of the greatest of all the Sagas: Njál's Saga and Egil's Saga.

The Kings' Sagas are a group of tales that deal with the lives and exploits of kings and earls from the Norselands, while The Family Sagas were written in the thirteenth century and detail the history of leading families, particularly from the north and north–west of the country.

Romantic and chivalrous tales from the rest of Europe form the basis of many later Sagas.

The peculiar brilliance of the best of the Sagas lies in their portrayal of character, their psychological insight and their narrative ability — their fundamental grasp of the art of storytelling. Their style is direct, factual, objective. Many are characterised by restraint, almost understatement, despite frequent detailed descriptions of battles and dramatic confrontations. Fate plays a prominent part in many of the Sagas: a man's heroic conduct can be judged by how he carries himself when Fate turns its hand against him.

What`s in the website ?


The land and the people

The first explorers
The Age of the Settlement
The conversion to Christianity
The discovery of Greenland and America
The collapse of the Commonwealth
The Dark Ages
The nineteenth century
The twentieth century
Culture in the Icelandic environment
Old Icelandic literature
Eddic and skaldic poetry
The Sagas
Later literature
Modern literature
Painting, sculpture and music
The Icelanders
Traditional living conditions
The seasons
Changes in the modern world
Independent minds
Superstition, morality and the media
The land
On the edge of Europe
The shape of the land
The volcanoes
The glaciers
The natural world
The climate
The economy and infrastructure
Industry and energy