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Mity i stereotypy. Wizerunki Islandii dawniej i dziś

Anna Pietrzkiewicz-Read

How do you like Iceland? Iceland's Image Before and Now

Throughout the centuries, Iceland has fascinated travelers and continues to do so today. In the ancient and early medieval times, it was perceived as Ultima Thule or the Otherworld. After the island had been colonized by actively travelling Vikings, the North-Western borders of the known world became broader. The end of the golden era of Icelandic culture in the 13 century and its loss of independence deepened again Iceland’s isolation from th the rest of Europe. Foreigners who visited Iceland, mostly to trade, perceived Icelanders as a barbaric and primitive nation. This negative image had been kept until the 18th century. Icelanders reacted to it by creating the ‘proper’ descriptions of their land and customs. In the 19th century, along with the Romantic fascination with the North, the image of Iceland underwent a total change. Once barbarians, the Icelanders were perceived then as noble children of the North unspoilt by civilization and their severe and austere island as a kind of northern fairy land. Nowadays, we can notice the tendencies of the earlier centuries both in the way in which foreigners perceive Iceland and in how Icelanders attempt to present themselves to the rest of the world. Tourists come to Iceland with an image of the island ready in their heads, put there by the richly illustrated guide books. This image, as in the 19th century, is often idealised, based on the Romantic notion of the North. On the other hand, Icelanders are constantly preoccupied with listing their country’s qualities. It is, in their opinion, the best country in the world. Exposed to the tourist’s gaze, they take care to maintain the image of Iceland as a place of unusually beautiful landscapes, unpolluted, of a high level of cultural and economic development, where modern lifestyle goes hand in hand with old traditions. Despite being presented in a stereotypical way, Iceland still appears to be an unusual place.