How do the great storytellers create their tales?
It seems that the very best tellers are (1) deeply attached to the places they write about, and are (2) eager to explore the big questions of life. Then the events of the story -- plot, characters, the descriptions -- all are rooted in the uniqueness of real places and all are concerned with deeper meanings. With this in mind, I find myself eager to explore their art, and have been planning Storyfest Journeys with this in mind.
Iceland is such a place -- a fascinating landscape -- that is the setting for a profound exploration into the universal questions of human existence. The sagas from Iceland are a unique kind of storytelling not duplicated anywhere else. There are three or four sagas that are world-class masterpieces. And Njal's Saga is the best of them. Considered by literary critics to be written with the same powerful majesty as Shakespeare or the Bible.
For thirty years Robert Bela Wilhelm has been telling the Icelandic sagas across North America. For ten years, Robert and Mary Jo Kelly Wilhelm have been bringing specialty tours to Iceland focusing on the landscape, the people, and the sagas.
In the coming year we will be leading a storytelling and storylistening seminar to the places in Iceland where this story actually unfolded a thousand years ago. The journey will explore the natural and historical landscape day by day as we enter into each episode, chapter by chapter. And at the end of our week's journey we will visit the many places that are the "stage settings" for the most powerful chapters of Njal's Saga. Our journey to Iceland is September 23-30.
We stay at the Skalholt Conference Center with very comfortable modern lodging, and a superb chef who will prepare our meals. Skalholt is near to dramatic sites that we visit: Thingvellir -- the thousand year old outdoor parliament site for ancient Icelanders, set right inside a volcanic fissure that separates the North American and European tectonic plates. Also, Geysir, the powerful archetypal once-every-twenty-minutes eruption that gives us our word, "Geyser." And then, Gullfoss, a huge cascading waterfalls that is fed by the melting glacier ice. At these, and other sites, we listen to stories of Icelanders, and especially seek out episodes in Njal's Saga that are set in these dramatic landscapes of South Iceland.
How do we travel around? We use a family run charter coach service. Sigridur Benedeksdotter, her family, and her drivers, have served us well over the past ten years we have gone to Iceland.
Travel to and from Iceland on Icelandair is easy and inexpensive. There are many gateway cities in North America and Europe. Current fares from the East Coast of the USA are under $600 round trip. You can also fly on to many European cities before or after our tour for just an additional few hundred dollars. Icelandair's service is gracious and efficient, and you will enjoy flying with them.
Trip insurance is not only strongly recommended, but required. For your peace of mind, should anything cause you to cancel, please be fully covered with Trip insurance. This is your responsibility. Because our groups are small, we cannot refund any of your payments unless we have someone else take your place. Trip insurance should include reimbursement for airfare and all tour fees, as well as medical coverage. Because it is so important for your physical well being, please include medical coverage in your trip insurance. Purchase the trip insurance through your insurer, or directly from a travel insurance company. (Just send us an email saying you have trip insurance. No details are necessary.)
As of July 15 we have four vacancies for this Iceland Storyfest.