On Aug. 13, 2018, The International Saga Conference, the principal scholarly event in the field of Old Norse-Icelandic studies, commenced. Over 400 attendees travelled to Reykjavík to take part in the event, illustrating a growing international interest in medieval Norse and Icelandic literature.
The International Saga Conference takes place triennially at universities and convention centres across the world. This is the 17th International Saga Conference, and this year, over 200 lectures will be held in both Reykjavík and in Reykholt, a historic settlement in West Iceland.
2018 marks the 900-year anniversary of the recording of the Icelandic laws in writing. The writing of the laws then set into motion other forms of creativity: the documentation of the stories of Viking settlers who first populated this country and lived in accordance with those laws. These stories later became what we now know as the Icelandic Sagas, which is the theme of this year’s conference.
Svanhildur Óskarsdóttir, the chairman of the event’s organising committee, said in an interview with RÚV that research into the Norse-Icelandic Sagas is as popular as ever in Iceland, adding that interest in the medieval Icelandic literature is growing abroad, as demonstrated by the growth in Scandinavian Studies programs that include a medieval component. She feels that the reason for the surge in popularity is tied to Hollywood’s pop culture portrayals of Nordic and Icelandic literature and mythology.
Óskarsdóttir stated that the HBO series Game of Thrones and J.R.R. Tolkien’s books, both of which were heavily influenced by the Viking Sagas, have drawn attention to Iceland and its rich literary traditions.
But new translations of the works are also at play. The entirety of the Norse-Icelandic sagas are available in German, English, Norwegian, Swedish and Danish, giving new readers access to the medieval world of the Viking settlers.