Truer History of Relations Between Iceland and Our Cousins to the East


Ok, so it's more of a poor-cousin-badly-treated-by-other cousin kind of tree (see last post, plus comment from the wise Hel).

I had been thinking of the early times, during the 13th century, when "Iceland was for from being self-sufficient in overseas shipping so an agreement had to be made with the Norwegian king on necessary shipping to Iceland. The Norwegian king, however, did not always succeed in meeting his obligations with respect to a minimum shipping trade." 

I had always been under the impression that the Danes were specifically and purposefully repressive to Icelanders but that the Norwegians simply forgot us, often when we needed them most. Proud Icelandic chieftains had agreed to swear allegiance to Norwegian King Hákon, but refused to allow their country to become a Norwegian State. Still, a tax had to be paid annually to Hákon, and it was my understanding that the King didn't always hold up his end of the deal with his new "friends". In the 14th century, volcanic eruptions decimated a huge portion of the population, both human and livestock, and Icelanders needed help more than ever before.

But by 1380, Denmark took over Norway and aquired Icelands' feality in the bargain. And the years after that were not pretty, my friends. By the end of the 18th century, "Poverty and deprivation increased enormously. A virtually hopeless struggle for the acquisition of bare necessities sapped the nation's courage and enterprise." It would be another 150 years before the Icelandic people managed to shake the yoke of oppression the Danish monarchy collared them with. In 1918, Iceland, after a long struggle, gained full independence, though the King of Denmark was still the King of Iceland as well. By 1944, Iceland was finally a totally self-sufficient Republic, 57,000 people strong.

And now we go to Copenhagen to go shopping and to live a comfy socialized lifestyle, and think of ourselves as owning a bit of the Danish culture. Forgive and forget, maybe? Ask a random Dane in Denmark what they know about Iceland, though, and they'll screw up their face a bit and say, "Björk?"

We are the little cousins with bravado and courage and a more than a tinge of absurd self-importance. But the thing is, we survived all the devastating volcanoes and the ships that didn't come in time for winter and the Black Death and the hostile takeover of our land and commerce by mainlanders. And we deserve to be proud and we deserve that Christmas tree and we deserve to be able to pop on over to downtown Copenhagen for some shopping, culture and inexpensive beer. We've somehow clung to this land for over a millennia and it's ours, goddamit, in all it's flawed glory. Ísland. Hurra! Hurra! Hurra!!!

Now if we'd just dig up a little of that old fighting spirit and find a way to keep our own greedy, repressive native bad boys in check...

(quotes from Iceland: a Portrait of it's Land and People" by Hjálmar R. Bárðarson)

1 comment:

digdug said...

iceland has a sad and harsh history. surviving the hardships and deprivation has made y'all a stronger and more fiercely independent people.it is terrible that your country had to go through so much to get where you are now. so, who are the "greedy native bad boys"?