In the Land of Fire and Ice: Part Twelve


As the sun’s last rays shone golden light onto Aldeyjarfoss and the basalt rock columns surrounding it, I couldn’t help but imagine how scenes like this would inspire ancient Icelanders. Inspire them to write poetic tales of gods and monsters among men.

The basalt here was formed thousands of years ago from a nearby lava field. The otherworldly volcanic nature of the region combined with a fiery sunset made me wonder about the fire gods that resonated among the Icelanders of the middle ages. And so I did some research…

In Norse mythology, a few deific figures — Njordr, Balder, probably Odin —had power over fire, but were not specifically fire gods. Then there’s Logi, “the spirit of the fire.” But the most interesting primordial being has to be Surtr, a warrior giant who rides flames into battle and carries a flaming sword.

To religious historian Ruolf Simek, Surtr was to early Icelanders the animating force of the volcanic underworld. The giant also plays a major role in Ragnarök, the cyclical destruction of the Norse cosmos, leading his kin into battle against Thor, Odin and company. Surtr came from Muspelheim, the “ream of fire.” So that’s what I’m imagining for Aldeyjarfoss. I’m imagining it as a home to fire gods.

FIN This story is part of "Mapping Wanderlust," a project that seeks to inspire people to travel by creating an archive of global wonders. Learn more: Interested in supporting the project? Visit:

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