Further Reading

From: The Encyclopedia of Canada's Peoples/Icelanders/Anne Brydon

For an overview of Icelandic history and culture, Esbjörn Rosenblad and Rakel Sigurðardóttir-Rosenblad, Iceland from Past to Present, trans. Alan Crozier (Reykjavík, 1993), is engaging, and the bibliography and filmography are useful. The National Bank of Iceland’s yearbook Iceland 1986 provides a series of in-depth essays by various specialists concerning all aspects of history and society.

Ólafur F. Hjartar, Vesturheimsprent (Reykjavík, 1986), lists all publications by or about Icelandic Canadians. Dr Wilhelm Kristjanson, The Icelandic People of Manitoba: A Manitoba Saga (1965; repr. 1990), remains the most thorough introduction to Icelandic-Canadians of Manitoba, from the beginning of their migration to the early 1960s. Kristjanson derived most materials from interviews and primary sources, making them available in English for the first time. Although more factual than interpretive, his work provides a mine of information. Júniús Kristjánsson, Vesturfaraskrá 1870–1914: A Record of Emigrants from Iceland to America 1870–1914 (Reykjavík, 1983), provides primary factual information.

For exemplary, detailed settlement history, the writings of Nelson Gerrard have no equal. As well as publishing frequently in the Icelandic Canadian and Lögberg-Heimskringla, Gerrard has published, through his own Saga Publications of Arborg, Icelandic River Saga (1985) and The Icelandic Heritage (1986). Other significant histories include: The Icelanders in Canada (Ottawa, 1967) and The Saskatchewan Icelanders: A Strand of the Canadian Fabric (Winnipeg, 1955), both by Walter J. Líndal; and Ethel Howard, ed., Glimpses of Gimli, Past and Present (Gimli, Man., 1969).

Autobiographies such as Helgi Einarsson (1870– 1961), A Manitoba Fisherman, trans. George Houser (Winnipeg, 1982), are insightful entrées into pioneer life. Einarsson contributed significantly to the Manitoba fisheries as an independent fish buyer, and his stories are entertaining and informative. George Houser has also translated Framfari, New Iceland’s first newspaper (Gimli, 1986). This is an excellent primary source revealing many everyday details significant to the founders of New Iceland. Jónas Thór’s history of the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba, Íslendingadagurinn: An Illustrated History. Saga Íslendingadagsins (Gimli, 1989), provides an illustrated overview of this significant ethnic festival.

Jónas Thór, “A Religious Controversy among Icelandic Immigrants in North America, 1874–1880,” (M.A. thesis, University of Manitoba, 1980), analyses the dynamics of conflict in New Iceland. Emil V. Gudmundsson documents the beginnings of Icelandic Unitarianism in The Icelandic Unitarian Connection: Beginnings of Icelandic Unitarianism in North America, 1885– 1900 (Winnipeg, 1984). Early patterns of education can be found in R.H. Ruth, Educational Echoes: A History of Education of the Icelandic Canadians in Manitoba (Winnipeg, 1964).

Few sociological studies of the Icelandic community in Canada have been carried out. Exceptions are: James Richtik, “Chain Migration among Icelandic Settlers in Canada to 1891,” Scandinavian-Canadian Studies, vol.2 (1986), 73–88; John Matthiasson, “The Icelandic Canadians: The Paradox of an Assimilated Ethnic Group,” in Jean L. Elliott, ed., Two Nations, Many Cultures: Ethnic Groups in Canada (Scarborough, Ont., 1976), 195–205; Richard Rice, “Mothers, Daughters, and Grand-Daughters: An Examination of the Matrilateral Bias and Related Variables in Jews and Icelanders in Canada,” (M.A. thesis, University of Manitoba, 1971); Anne Brydon, “Celebrating Ethnicity: The Icelanders of Manitoba,” Scandinavian-Canadian Studies, vol.4 (1991), 1–14, and by the same author, “Mother to Her Distant Children: The Icelandic Fjallkona in Manitoba,” in Pauline Greenhill and Diane Tye, eds., Undisciplined Women: The (Dis)place(ment) of Female Traditional Culture in Canada (Montreal, 1996), 87–100.

Two works provide insight into the life and writings of Vilhjalmur Stefánsson: William R. Hunt, Stef: A Biography of Vilhjalmur Stefansson – Canadian Arctic Explorer (Vancouver, 1986); and Robert W. Mattila, A Chronological Bibliography of the Published Works of Vilhjalmur Stefansson (1879–1962) (Hanover, N.H., 1978).

One solid critical review of early literary efforts is Vidar Hreinsson, “Western Icelandic Literature, 1870– 1900,” Scandinavian-Canadian Studies, vol.6 (1993), 1–14. The original works of literature that Hreinsson discusses, listed in a useful bibliography, are all in Icelandic. Daisy L. Neijmann, The Icelandic Voice in Canadian Letters: The Contribution of Icelandic-Canadian Writers to Canadian Literature (Ottawa, 1997), is an up-to-date analysis of Icelandic-Canadian writing, from original settlement to the present, which also investigates questions of ethnic identity in Canada. See also Kirsten Wolf, “Heroic Past–Heroic Present: Western Icelandic Literature,” Scandinavian Studies, vol.63, no.4 (1991), 432–52. Wolf focuses on the use of the hero and argues that immigrants used this saga motif to help them narrate their present circumstances. Kirsten Wolf and Árný Hjaltadóttir have edited and translated twelve stories from a variety of authors and periods in Western Icelandic Short Stories (Winnipeg, 1992). The collection edited by Kristjana Gunnars, Unexpected Fictions: New Icelandic Canadian Writing (Winnipeg, 1989), samples recent writings by Icelandic-Canadians. Gunnars has also translated and edited Stephan G. Stephansson, Selected Prose and Poetry: Úrval úr Verkum Stephans G. Stephanssonar (Red Deer, Alta., 1988).

Critical writings about Icelandic-Canadian authors include the following: Terrence Craig, “The Confessional Revisited: Laura Salverson’s Canadian Work,” Studies in Canadian Literature, vol.10, no.1-2 (1985), 81– 93; Jane W. McCracken, Stephan G. Stephansson: The Poet of the Rocky Mountains (Edmonton, 1982); Richard Beck, History of Icelandic Poets, 1800–1940 (Ithaca, N.Y., 1950); and Watson Kirkconnell, “Canada’s Leading Poet: Stephan G. Stephansson, 1853–1927,” University of Toronto Quarterly, vol.5, no.2 (1936) 263–77.