Greyscale image of Fjallkonan, larger version.

Fjallkonan. This famous representation of Iceland as the Lady of the Mountains first appeared as an illustration in an English translation of a selection of Jón Arnason's folktales. It is the work of the German painter J. B. Zwecker, who drew it to specifications provided by Eiríkur Magnússon, one of the translators. Eiríkur described the picture in a letter to Jón Sigurðsson (11 April 1866):

This image of a woman is intended to represent Iceland, since she wears on her head a crown of ice from which flames dart upward. On her shoulder is a raven, Iceland's most characteristic bird — Óðinn's old comrade, the favorite of the poets, a bird of prophecy, exceedingly wise. A gull hovers above the water and across the seething ocean of time and history runestaves drift ashore into the woman's grasp; one of them is already in her hand. They are intended to represent our country's literature and history. Above the woman is a night sky with stars and a moon. Behind her are mountains, their summits washed in moonlight.

(See Gamlar þjóðlífsmyndir, Árni Björnsson skrifaði texta, Halldór J. Jónsson sá um myndaval [Reykjavík: Bókaútgáfan Bjallan, 1984], p. 152.)

Source: Icelandic Legends (Collected by Jón Arnason), tr. George E. J. Powell and Eiríkr Magnússon, Second series (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1866), facing p. [xviii].

Copyright © 1996-8 Dick Ringler. All rights reserved.

Jonas' MS flourish for the end of a poem For technical assistance:
Library Technology Group
University of Wisconsin-Madison
General Library System