Sagnagrunnur: A new database of icelandic folk legends in print

Terry Gunnell*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


One of the main problems with researching "traditional" Icelandic legends (apart from the fact that only about 3% of them are available to people who cannot read Icelandic) is that up until very recently there has been no archive of folk legend material in Iceland. This has meant that the only way to find material on legends of a particular type, gender and job-related distribution of storytellers, distribution of legends, local beliefs and so on has been to plough through all the various collections, and listen to all of the tapes in the Arnamagnæan Institute in Reykjavík, a task daunting enough to put even the most dogged researcher off. Matters, however, are beginning to change in Iceland. Over the last five years, folklorists at the University of Iceland have been working on two large databases of printed and recorded legendary material, each containing over 10,000 entries. The plan is that these databases will eventually be linked, and connected to a mapping programme allowing immediate distribution analysis. In the following article, the situation in Iceland past and present will be analysed, and the draft form of the database of printed material (Sagnagrunnur) presented, along with a review of the possibilities that this will open up for scholars both in Iceland and abroad. At the same time as outlining the advantages of such an approach, some discussion will be made of the difficulties regarding such a database, and the potential weaknesses that need to be considered.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)151-162
Number of pages12
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Other keywords

  • Database
  • Folk belief
  • Iceland
  • Legends
  • Mapping


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