Today is Iceland’s Independence Day. Iceland gained Independence from Denmark in the mist of WWII—Formally becoming a nation in 1944. Iceland is always first to offer support to other nations seeking independence. When Lithuania was seeking independence from the Soviet Block, Iceland was first to recognize it as a sovereign country. There are many nations and people’s around the world who are not independent. Independence is something that is of utmost importance to Icelanders.
Iceland was founded by Norsemen who did not want to pay taxes to a new king, these Norsemen settled in Iceland and went to Ireland to take slaves, who were mostly young women. So many Irish women were taken that Icelanders are genetically half Irish. Slavery did not last long in Iceland and these slaves were freed usually within their lifetimes, and slavery as a practice was outlawed in 1117. The Norsemen who did emigrate to Iceland were very wealthy by Norwegian standards. The environment in Iceland, however, improvised subsequent generations. They still retained their love of knowledge and it was the Irish that gave Iceland its written word and thus its literary heritage. The Icelandic Sagas are the only written history of all of Scandinavia; they are even used as primary sources for early Germanic religious studies. What is most fascinating about the sagas is the environment that they were written in: farmsteads forged out of hills, made of mud and grass, heated with cow dung. Icelanders where an improvised lot and yet they cared enough to preserve the story of their ancestors for all of us to share. It was in Iceland’s impossibly harsh environment that individuals where valued for their abilities. This to me demonstrates what makes Iceland such a creative, special place—it is the force of a person’s personality that matters. Icelander’s are story tellers, artists, poets and philosophers–but they are all individuals: all independent people.