Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Iceland & Greenland

The poll is closed:

There was a late surge for Southeast Asia and there is a clear interest in my mapping the far east in general.  That won't be overlooked ~ though for the time being, obviously, I'm going to be working on the North Atlantic.

Before I feel I can potentially move onto Canada, I want to clean up all the lands surrounding Iceland and Greenland.  I did complete the Fritz Josef lands a long time ago (I call it Humutya and I know precisely what lives there).  I've never tackled Svalbard, however.  That is mostly just plotting the coastline.

The same is true of the Faeroes Islands, which lie between Scotland and Iceland.  There's just one town on those; there are a mess of islands to create, but it's fairly simple once the lines are drawn.  After the Faeroes, there are two little islands ~ Bear and Jan Mayan ~ that I'll have to plot and figure out where they are.

These are things I can do before or after Iceland, it makes no difference.  I'll probably insist on working these out, however, before I apply myself to the Greenland Coast.  That is going to be a bitch.  I did get some of the west side done just for giggles a while ago, but it is a long, long coast that stretches over about five sheets.

What to do about Greenland, that's the question.  The occupants in 1650 were the Thule Culture, that settled into Greenland after migrating from the area around Alaska.  By then, the Norse were all gone, driven out by the Little Ice Age.  The Thule were a very primitive hunting culture, perfectly suited for the environment but . . . well, dull.  I'm not much interested in letting them have all of Greenland ~ and I have a rule about my world design that big, empty areas ought to be occupied by non-humans.  So here is what I imagine.

We begin with 13,000 years ago, when the svirfneblin of the Dovrefjell (Norway) reached a point of cultural cohesion following breakthroughs in subterranean food cultivation.  After 3,000 years, these spawned the surface gnomish people, who migrated outwards across the northern forests of Europe.  These encountered halfling cultures who moved north out of Britain and Denmark ahead of the spread of human culture; the halflings and gnomes, both relatively passive as races, quickly made pacts of friendship.  Since the gnomes preferred forests and the halflings dells and pastures, there was room for both peoples.

But humans continues to spread and their population increased in Scandinavia.  Steadily, the gnome and halfling populations were isolated and the surface lands fell to human tribes.  This diminished the surface hunting lands for the subterranean Svirfneblin, who themselves began to migrate westward and north to the lands of Spitsbergen, Iceland and Greenland.

Iceland proved to be unpleasant to the cold-loving Svirfneblin, being highly volcanic; but Greenland was excellent.  They began to create a new stone-and-ice dwelling culture that reached its height around 100 BCE.

The culture was in long decline, growing extremely passive until the arrival of the Norse in the 9th century.  The warm weather had driven the Svirfneblin further underground, where they were able to find enough heat to sustain their subterranean agrarian culture.  The Norse, who had developed friendships with the gnomes, proved to be more tolerant of the Svirfneblin than their forebears had been; trade was developed between the surface and the subterranean, which lasted for six hundred years until the change in the weather broke the Norse culture.

The increase in cold, however, has resulted in the Svirfneblin occupying many of the surface villages of the Norse.  They drove the Thule (who are not human) from their hunting/fishing grounds and in the last 150 years the Svirfneblin population in Greenland has tripled.

Now, Iceland.

The first step to mapping the island is to research the individual towns, gathered from this map:

I count 19 settlements: Akranes, Akureyri, Bildudalur, Blonduos, Egilsstadir, Hafnarfjordur, Hofn, Isafjordur, Keflavik, Kopasker, Oddi, Olafsfjordur, Olafsvik, Raufarhofn, Reykjavik, Seydisfjordur, Siglufjordur, Vik and Vopnafjordur.  These have to be individually looked up on the web, wikipedia most likely, but elsewhere if wikipedia has no record.  We also want to look at any provinces or regions included, since we'll be figuring out how it is divided politically for the final map.

We're looking for when it was founded, what disasters or troubles it may have suffered and who owns/runs it.  Iceland is simple for this last: Denmark owns the whole island, and will for a long time.  In the bigger sense, however, we want a "feel" for Iceland.  This is one of the best parts.  Having researched the place, I begin to feel like I've been there.  Like, if I went in actual fact, I would be ready for what I found.  I get a real kick out of meeting people from the places where they come from, only to describe their country to them, accurately.  Most people who travel a great distance are surprised if someone has even heard of the place they're from.  I'd enjoy meeting someone from Hofn in the next six months, after working on this map.

So, I'll get started researching Iceland.  Won't take long.  Why don't you give it a try.  Just go through Wikipedia one name at a time.  You might find some very interesting plot ideas.

In fact, as I go along, I'll include the links.

Oh, and forgive me.  Please reconsider supporting me on Patreon.  If you can't help me out this month, perhaps you might consider giving me a hand in April.


Alexis Smolensk said...

Damn. Doesn't take that long to get into difficulty. Icelandic farthings, for example:


Go ahead, pronouce that. Try.

Tim said...

Visited Iceland a few years back in the springtime; one of my favourite trips abroad. Arrived in Reykjavik and after a few days my dad and I flew across Iceland to Egilsstaðir to stay at a tiny fishing village (Borgarfjörður Eystri, right on the eastern edge of the island - not too far from Seyðisfjordður) of around a hundred people.

Our hosts were happy to traipse around the countryside with us on hikes, show us around the town and share stories with us and the many Danish, German and Scottish tourists. Pretty much every one of our hosts could knit and had an interest in folklore (one of them was doing a folkloristics degree in Reykjavik - this was her summer job).
Some things I remember from the trip which stuck with me:
- elves and trolls were a big (albeit exaggerated for tourists) deal; there were all kinds of rocks with doors painted on them which elves lived inside (sounds like a natural fit for your gnomes)
- so much fish hanging up to dry everywhere, and copious (and delicious) fish stew; somehow the many puffins and seabirds did not get too greedy
- remains of old turf houses (a touristy modern reimagining was in our village) which had a bottom floor for animals and a top floor for people, to use the body heat of the animals to keep the place warm
- sheep wandering the fjords until the autumn (no natural predators); they started at the bottoms of the hills and slowly made their way up as the season went on and they ran out of grass
- the parliamentary national park
- loads of waterfalls, glaciers, volcanoes and sulfurous, bubbling pools; legends of trees that used to be there (but which were cut down when the Norse showed up), leaving the island to slowly erode into the sea

The country has a lot of very "classic" (i.e. Tolkienesque) fantasy tropes, so I'm interested to see if you will end up spicing it up. It has a lot of features similar to Argyll; perhaps a few more dragons are in order?

Alexis Smolensk said...

From what you say, more like making a quarter of the island a troll entity.

Embla Strand said...

Hmm. If we end up in Greenland and acquire followers there, would it be possible to have svifrniblin follower?

Sofia Viktorova Koleva said...

I didn't vote, but this post and Tim's comments have piqued my interest in Iceland being given the Alexis treatment.

James said...

I just spent this past New Year's Eve in Iceland, mostly Reykjavik. I really enjoyed it, and will be interested to see your map of it.