Six Questions XVI

Teresa Dröfn Njarðvík

Photo: Silke Schurack, 2014

Interview conducted via email by Joseph S. Hopkins, August 2018

Teresa Dröfn Njarðvík is an Icelandic academic, author, and heathen. Over the past year, two books on the subject of the runic alphabet authored by Teresa have entered publication:  Icelandic Runes: A Brief History, published by Almenna Bókafélagið, and Runes: The Icelandic Book of Fuþarkpublished by the Icelandic Magic Company (which will soon see an Icelandic language edition).

The native writing system of the ancient Germanic peoples, the runic alphabets were eventually replaced in general use by the Latin alphabet. While runes remained in use for specialized purposes in parts of the Nordic countries more or less until the present day, a revival of interest in the subject has occurred in modern popular culture in recent years. Outside of runology, Teresa focuses primarily on manuscript studies. Readers can find more of her work here.

1. Where did you grow up?
Well, I moved around a lot growing up but all my years were spent in Iceland. For the longest part I grew up in Bakkafjörður, a tiny village on the very northeastern peninsula of Iceland and then later in Mosfellsbær, on the outskirts of the capital city. However, I've lived almost all over the country.

Photo: Kristinn Ingvarsson, 2017

2. Can you remember when you first encountered Norse mythology or, more generally, Germanic mythology? And what was the context?
When I was young I used to read a picture book on Norse mythology that had been translated by my grandfather into Icelandic. He would also publish retellings of Icelandic saga episodes for children. I also learned quite a lot during my stay in the mandatory school system in Iceland.

3. What is your academic background in Germanic studies? (If you teach, what courses do you teach on the topic of ancient Germanic studies?)
I completed my B.A. degree in comparative literature, with a minor in folkloristics – where Germanic and Icelandic studies played a big role.

My B.A. thesis was on the heathen background of Beowulf and its age of composition and transmission. Since then I have moved completely over to manuscript studies within the University of Iceland. I have taught a course on editorial practices with 18-19th century manuscripts, and in the coming fall I will also be teaching a short course on Icelandic runes and runic history.

4. What was your earliest work on the topic of Germanic mythology?
At the age of 19, in 2010, I wrote a short article on the Icelandic runic poems that was published in the journal of Ásatrúarfélagið, Vor Siður. Ever since then I've been dabbling with runes and now have two books on the subject published. 

5. Which scholars had the greatest influence on your work? Why?
There are so many, it's hard to choose! I guess Þórgunnur Snædal has been a great influence and encouragement, seeing that she is practically the only one to have written on Icelandic runes and runic history in Iceland in the past decades.

Photo: Sigríður Hjaltadóttir, 2014

I've also been influenced by great scholars such as Jón Helgason, John McKinnell, Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir, Stephen Mitchell, J. R. R. Tolkien and so many others!

6. What research are you currently conducting that relates to ancient Germanic studies? What do you hope to work on related to the field in the future?
At the moment I am working on my PhD thesis, where I focus on unpublished saga and rímur material, Ölvis rímur sterka and Bragða-Ölvis saga. But I still dabble with runes and Icelandic magic on the side. 

Joseph S. Hopkins would like to thank Teresa Dröfn Njarðvík for her participation.