NEW YORK—The English-speaking world has the tales of King Arthur. The Arab world has “One Thousand and One Nights.” The Scandinavian people of Iceland have the “Íslendingasögur,” or “The Sagas of Icelanders”—which are arguably more embedded in the landscape of its people than other ancient tales.

While the English might speculate about the location of Camelot, Icelanders know the exact locations of the sagas, even down to the farms featured in the stories.

“We have people living in the same farms,” said renowned Icelandic photographer Einar Falur Ingólfsson.

A new exhibit of paintings and photographs at Scandinavia House, in Midtown Manhattan, tiptoes across the centuries to make the sagas vividly come to life.

Set as early as the 9th century A.D. and anonymously recorded in the 13th and 14th centuries, the sagas tell stories ranging from the mundane to the mystical.

“They can be quite brutal at times,” Ingólfsson said. “They’re the first Scandinavian crime novels.” Amid the battles of warrior, outlaws, and chieftains, there also moving stories of wives and retribution, as well as references to a legal system that existed despite a central government.

“The sagas are really truly our cultural treasure,” Ingólfsson said.

Fast-forward to 1897, when British artist William Gershom Collingwood, enchanted by the sagas, made a 10-week trip to many of the specific sites mentioned in the sagas. Collingwood made around 300 watercolor paintings depicting the sites. A few decades later, they would also influence the works of “Lord of the Rings” creator J.R.R. Tolkien.

Fast-forward again to 2010. Ingólfsson set out to find the exact locations and perspectives from which Collingwood painted to recapture in the present. On their first trip to North America, his photographs are juxtaposed with Collingwood’s paintings, creating an epic and fascinating visual narrative.

Ingólfsson refers to himself as Collingwood’s twin. Both were 44 when they visited the saga sites. Collingwood often painted portraits of locals. Ingólfsson photographed locals in the same farms. In one case, he even photographed the great granddaughter of the little girl that Collingwood painted over 110 years ago…

Click here to read the rest of the story at The Epoch Times.

[Featured Image: Einar Falur Ingólfsson’s 2009 photograph “From Mt. Helgafell.”]

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