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Leaving for Iceland

Updated: Apr 12

The Icelandic Roots Writers Group used an exercise to create a dialogue between two people planning to emigrate.

By Gay Strandemo

Sogne Fjord, Norway, sometime after the year 870


(Young Astrid and Bjorn have just been married—tying the knot and exchanging family swords. After looking each other over thoroughly and as surreptitiously as possible—because they’ve barely met (Bjorn, blonde, broad-shouldered and brawny—Astrid, strawberry blonde and hazel-eyed)—Bjorn gets right down to business).


Bjorn (surveying the summer-gathered well-dressed crowd with fine embroideries on clothing and plenty of silver jewelry): All looks well and peaceful for now—let us feast heartily and afterwards we have much to discuss.


Astrid (looking surprised) Big plans, Bjorn? I should not wonder, you being the son of Aksel, the king of Sogne, that you would have ideas in place. (Bjorn smelled the herb bouquet his bride carried and smiled. He liked her silvery laugh and pleasant voice).


Bjorn (looking serious): Yes, “place” indeed features in future plans—you will hear. Let’s quench our thirst and appetites now.


(Aksel the king raises a toast to his son and bride—all cheer. Dining begins and a blind harpist plays music and composes praises to the king and the newlyweds. It is a beautiful summer night and Astrid and Bjorn walk out nearby. Bjorn thinks, my bride is not beautiful, but something else, something better).


Astrid: We are fortunate to be wed and live in such a place on a perfect day for weather.


Bjorn: Yes, about that—regrettably, we’ll be leaving this place very soon—it’s what I meant to discuss with you.


Astrid (shaken): But your family has great wealth, peacefulness, and regard—why would you leave?


Bjorn: We are all leaving—none of my family is staying behind.


Astrid: But why and where to? (They hear the harpist’s music as they speak of serious things).


Bjorn: My father and older brothers have decided we will go to Iceland for its abundance of arable land with no indigenous population to resent us.


Astrid: But here… (she gasps)


Bjorn (interrupting): There is another and more important reason—My father is a proud king who refuses to submit to Harald the Fairhair.


Astrid: He fears what Harald will do if he refuses? 


Bjorn: Harald has conquered most of Norway and has amassed a huge army—my family has strength but not the power needed to overthrow him at this point. Harald has severely punished and killed all those who stood up to him.


Astrid: Iceland…what is it like there? 


Bjorn: I hear it is good for grazing sheep and growing fields of flax.


Astrid: But my parents and siblings…


Bjorn: Before our wedding, your father, Thorsten, and my father discussed this probable plan and Thorsten has decided to leave Norway as well—although a bit later to bring some crops to harvest. Hopefully not too much later as Thorsten’s brother has already caused bad blood between him and Harald. If given the slightest reason, Harald will not hesitate an attack. Your mother will read the runes to help make timeline decisions.


Astrid: Yes, she is good at that. I will beseech the gods for their favor and then hope for

the best for us all. 


Bjorn: I have married a good wife.


Astrid: And I, a strong husband—which will be useful for all the packing we need to do!


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