My Adventure into the Icelandic Heritage in Manitoba
Our trip from the house to Gimli Park & Beach took about an hour and a half. I was excited, weirdly because we were going to a place called Gimli. So what? one might ask.
You are not a Tolkien fan or, at least, unfamiliar with The Lord of the Rings, if you couldn't math the reason for my excitement. To the clueless: Gimli is the name of the dwarf who was chosen to accompany the hobbit Frodo Baggins, as a member of the Fellowship of the Ring, on the quest to destroy the powerful One Ring. And, because I am a die-hard Tolkien fan, the mere name of the place where we were going gave me a sense of something inexplicably enchanting.
During the trip, I kept on wondering if there was any connection between the name of that Manitoban town and that dwarven character of Tolkien, or if the appellation was only a mere coincidence. But, deep inside me, I felt that there was really some sort of a connection, regardless how trivial it might be.
As soon as we approached the town of Gimli, I almost exclaimed, I knew it! There it is! There's the connection.
As you can see on the picture above, Gimli is regarded as "Capital of New Iceland." Wait! New Iceland in Canada? Yes.
I learned that many residents of Manitoba's town of Gimli are descendants of immigrants from Iceland who in 1875 founded a community they called Republic of New Iceland. This republic existed as an independent state inside Canada for twelve years, until an expanded province of Manitoba absorbed it. With the dissolution of New Iceland, the Manitoba Government in 1887 created instead the Rural Municipality of Gimli.
Having read most of Tolkien's works, including a number of biographical books written about him, I know quite well that Tolkien derived the names of many of his characters and places from Norse mythology—the pre-Christian religion and beliefs of the Scandinavian people (Norwegian, Danish, and Finnish), including those who settled on Iceland. And, in this trivial kind of way that I felt enchanted having stepped on Gimli's soil, err, Gimli soil. Iceland has always had that certain allure to me. It's the European country I've always dreamed of visiting. I admire Iceland's captivating geysers, as well as its culture and literature.
Since my College days, I've always been a fan of Norse mythology as well as of Icelandic Literature. I can still remember my freshman days at University of Sto. Tomas in Manila City, Metro Manila, Philippines, in 1988—how I spent many solitary moments during vacant periods there at the UST pavillions near my college's building, reading articles about Iceland and beginning to immerse myself in the Icelandic sagas and the Eddas.
Always observant, I took notice of the crude signage above, which says: "Icelandic Vinarterta @ The Smith's." Mmm, what could vinarterta mean? Here's what I learned: "vínarterta is an Icelandic fruit-flavored layer cake popular especially during Christmas and other Icelandic festivals." Unfortunately, the festival ended the previous day; I would have most likely found a stall selling such cakes.
The Icelandic festival ended the previous day; but despite that, Gimli Park & Beach was still milling with people, mostly Caucasians, most of whom I supposed were Icelanders.
Many of the ships below are owned by Icelanders, as validated by the Icelandic flag waving from most of them. Most, if not all, Icelanders love sailing, mainly because of their Viking heritage.
According to Landnámabók, 'the Book of Settlement'—an important Icelandic literature which tells of the discovery of the country and of the journey of the settlers from territory to territory—Iceland was discovered first by a Viking named Naddoddr, who was sailing from Norway to the Faroe Islands (now an autonomous region of Denmark), but got lost and drifted to the east coast of a large island. He named this island Snowland.
The same book, however, credits Flóki Vilgerdarson, another Scandinavian settler, as the one who gave Iceland its current name. Deliberately looking for the same island, Flóki set up a winter camp upon reaching the place; come springtime he hiked up a mountain; and from there, he saw a large valley full of drift ice. He named the entire country Iceland.
Feeling like a Viking
No, that was not my ship. Unlike typical ships, like the one above, Viking ships were breathtaking, ornate and imposing at the same time.
Drakkar, or the longships, were the ones Viking used for their raids on coastal and inland settlements. The smaller and shorter knarr, on the other hand, was used primarily to transport cargoes. (Photo credits)
Trekking the shoreline of Lake Winnipeg... [Gimli, by the way, is located on the western shore of Lake Winnipeg, about seventy-five kilometers north of Manitoba's capital, Winnipeg.]
That's the official flag of the province of Manitoba.
Riding this jetski for an hour would cost you about 60 Canadian dollars.
Last eLf shots by the beach...
Last glance at the immaculate white earth angels in bikini frolicking at the beach...
Sigur Rós (Icelandic for Victory Rose) – a Post-Rock band formed in 1994 in Reykjavík, Iceland; the band recently toured and collaborated with Radiohead, which cited the Icelandic post-rockers as an influence to their album Kid A (2000). My recommended songs are "Leit af lífi" and "Streamside," both of which I was able to download from Sigur Rós's Web site.
Sigur Rós is Jón Þór "Jónsi" Birgisson (vocals, guitar), Georg "Goggi" Hólm (bass guitar), Kjartan "Kjarri" Sveinsson (keyboard), and Orri Páll Dýrason (drums).
The following photographs of Sigur Rós are courtesy of the band's Web site.
The Elgar Sisters (1984–1986) – a group formed by Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson and Björk Guðmundsdóttir (Yes, the now popular solo artist Björk). The duo composed and recorded several songs but, unfortunately, never released an album. Three of such songs (“Glóra,” “Síðasta Ég,” and “Stígðu Mig”), as well as a number of previously unreleased tracks from Björk's other early bands (including Tappi Tíkarass and KUKL), luckily, saw the light of day when Björk released them as part of her CD box set entitled Family Tree (2003). I was able to download "Masse Critique," one of The Elgar Sisters' original recordings.
Kukl – Another '80s Icelandic group of which Björk was a member; its style leaned more towards the Gothic subgenre of Alternative Rock music. Echoes of Bauhaus, The Cure, Killing Joke, and Siouxsie & the Banshees resonate especially from their debut album, The Eye (1984). Recently, Kukl's music became commercially accessible when Björk included a number of Kukl's tracks in her 2003-released CD box set Family Tree. My recommended songs are "Assassin," "Dismembered," "Gibraltar," and "Open the Window and Let the Spirit Fly Free."
Kukl was Björk Guðmundsdóttir (vocals), Sigtryggur Baldursson (drums), Guðlaugur Kristinn Óttarsson (guitars), Birgir Mogensen (bass), Einar Benediktsson Örn (trumpet/vocals), and Einar Arnaldur Melax (keyboards). (Photo credit)
The Sugarcubes (1986–1992) – I've known this band in the late '80s, way before its vocalist Björk launched a solo career. I first heard their single "Motorcrash" on DWNU 107.5, a Rock-format FM radio station based in Metro Manila, Philippines. Learning that the band was Icelandic hyped my interest in them. Other Sugarcubes songs that I like include "Birthday," "Hit," "Regina," and "Chihuahua."
The Sugarcubes were Björk Guðmundsdóttir (vocals), Einar Örn Benediktsson (vocals, trumpet), Þór Eldon (guitar), Bragi Ólafsson (bass), Einar Melax (keyboards), Margrét Örnólfsdóttir (keyboards), and Sigtryggur Baldursson (drums).
I'm using The Sugarcubes photo below with the kind permission of the owner of the Web site where I got it.
With me in that Gimli adventure were Grandfather, Tito Ren and Tita Lucy, Lhoy and Weng, Tito Donard, Tita Cora and Luchie, Hermie and children, Jasmine and children, and Tito Jun and Tita May.
The Last Weekend of July: Part One