Written by Natalie Guttormsson
Natalie is a Western-Icelander from Canada who currently lives in Reykjavík. She is passionate about music, movies, and her Icelandic heritage.
**This blog post contains spoilers for the Netflix movie “Eurovision Song Contest: The story of Fire Saga” starring Will Ferrell and Rachel McAdams.
In dark times, comedy serves as a great catharsis. Maybe that is why everyone is talking about the new Will Ferrell movie, “Eurovision Song Contest: The story of Fire Saga”. Since the movie centers around Iceland and the dream to win Eurovision, I believe it is our duty as descendants of Icelanders to know the facts from fiction in this film, in order to laugh harder at the jokes, while simultaneously explaining to our friends the bits that are completely made up.
Whether you love this movie or not, hopefully you will learn something useful from this list! Or just skip to the bottom to hear the song "Húsavík" again.
#1 - ICELANDIC FOLK SONGS
"Ja, Ja, Ding Dong" is NOT an Icelandic Folk Song, it was written by Andrew Steele and Will Ferrell for the movie. Although it is quite catchy and has Scandinavian sounding folk music behind it.
HOWEVER, at the very beginning the film does open with a pretty little Icelandic Folk song called "Sá ég spóa" which is often sung in a-round.
Here are the lyrics and a rough English translation. Watch the funny Icelandic commercial below to hear it and sing-a-long!
Sá ég spóa I saw a Whimbrel
Sá ég spóa suður'í flóa, I saw a whimbrel south of the bay
syngur lóa útí'móa: sang the golden plover out on the heath
"Bí, bí, bí, bí." "Bee, bee, bee, bee."
Vorið er komið víst á ný. Spring is sure to come again.
#2 - THE ICELANDIC ACCENT
Both Pierce Brosnan and Will Ferrell have Swedish accents. Will's wife is Swedish and in his interviews for this film he has admitted that he was trying to sound like his Swedish cousins, not trying to sound Icelandic. Rachel McAdams on the other hand, admits that she watched as much footage of Björk as possible, which explains why her accent at times sounds very good, but at other times is also exaggerated.
If you want to show an example of the Icelandic accent in this film, watch the scenes with the Icelandic actors.
Icelandic Actors and where you know them from...
Ólafur Darri Ólafsson (The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, Trapped)
Joi Johannsson (Fortitude, His Dark Materials)
Björn Hlynur Haraldsson (Trapped, Fortitude, The Witcher)
Alfrun Rose (Fortitude, The County, The Favourte)
Elin Petersdóttir (The Devil’s Bride, Home
Björn Stefánsson (Agnes Joy, Rift)
Jóhannes Haukur Jóhannesson (The Last Kingdom, Game of Thrones)
Hannes Óli Ágústsson (Metalhead, The County)
Hlynur Þorsteinsson (Áramótaskaup 2019 - Icelandic New Years Eve Farce Show)
#3 - IS THE EUROVISION SONG CONTEST REAL?
Yes - Eurovision is a really big song contest that sadly is not broadcast in North America. The 2020 competitions was supposed to be held in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, NOT Edinburgh, Scotland, which has not hosted the competition since 1972.
Many past Eurovision artists made cameo appearances in the film, especially in the "song-a-long" scene. Here is a list of them:
Salvador Sobral (Portugal) - 2017 winner
Loreen (Sweden) - 2012 winner
Alexander Rybak (Norway) - 2009 winner
Jamala (Ukraine) - 2016 winner
Conchita (Austria) - 2014 winner
Netta (Israel) - 2018 winner
John Lundvik (Sweden) - 2019
Anna Odobescu (Moldova) -2019
Bilal Hassani (France) - 2019
Jesse Matador (France) - 2010
Elina Nechayeva (Estonia) - 2018
#4 - THE ICELANDIC EUROVISION DREAM
It is true that Iceland has never won the Eurovision song contest, despite having some incredible entries. Unfortunately the 2020 competition was cancelled due to the global pandemic, which was particularly sad for Iceland because Daði Freyr's entry was a favourite to win.
Although many entries choose to sing songs in English, entries, and even winners have use a mix of English and their own language. In fact in 2019, Iceland's entry Hatari did sing in Icelandic and they finished 10th.
#5 - DO ICELANDERS BELIEVE IN ELVES?
This is a difficult one because for some reason the world LOVES the idea that there is this tiny country of Iceland where everyone still believes in elves in 2020 and that even the government lets this belief dictate their construction projects. It is a tired topic, which in my opinion is why storyline with the elves in this movie is so funny.
Are there some people in Iceland that are whole-hearted in their belief like Sigrit is? Sure, but it's a very small percentage.
When they say that 50% of Icelanders believe in elves, for me, the question is similar to that of believing in ghosts or magic or aliens. Most people have never seen them, but they won't dismiss the possibility that they might exist.
#6 - ARE ALL ICELANDERS RELATED?
In the film they make it seem like half of the town of Húsavík have the same father, including Sigrit Ericksdóttir and Lars Ericksson(g). When Sigrit and Lars are asked several times whether they are siblings, they respond with "No, probably not". But we find out later that the only reason they are not related is because Sigrit's mother was the only woman in town to reject Erick (Lars' father). Anyone who grew up in a small town can appreciate this joke, it's not exclusive of small-town Iceland.
As a genealogist I found this part of the movie extremely hilarious because we know indeed that Icelanders are indeed all related, but we have to go back 6 or more generations for the connections. We also know there are a few notorious Icelanders in history who did have many, many children.
Last but not least... the song Húsavík
This is just fact.
The song is beautiful even though the lyrics are meant to be cheesy (example: "where the whales can live because they're gentle people"), the song still brought tears to my eyes. I've been to Húsavík once and I even went on a whale watching boat too. One of my ancestors was from there, so to watch a movie filmed in the town, and to hear a love song about it, really moved me.
Further reading and watching :