Apprehending Surtur: A Fiery Friend or Foe?

Apprehending Surtur: A Fiery Friend or Foe?
Golli - Kjartan Þorbjörnsson. 09/04/2021 "Showing the Volcano as a backdrop" #Reykjavik

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Meeting ID: 937 9210 4939

Passcode: 800615

Iceland does have the coldest name of all nations, but the impact of fire on its land and creatures is significant. Fire is its creator as well as a destructive force; fire’s monstrous powers endlessly test the resources of people and all other living creatures in Iceland. When ‘fighting’ – or attempting to tame - monstrous powers, resources and weapons vary, particularly when the forces of Nature are at play. In Iceland one such attempt is exemplified by the naming of nature. I will start with the name of ‘Surtur’. Google tells us, that Surtur is a “fictional character appearing in American Marvel Comics, commonly as the enemy of Thor”. He is also popular in the world of computer gamers. There Surtur is a Fire Demon, instrumental in the fall of the Old Gods. Some of this is correct, some is not. Surtur is not fictional, he is a giant (Jötunn) and his fiery sword caused the World of the Old Gods to be swallowed by fire. The effects of Surtur’s sword may be found in many places in Iceland. One example is Surtsey (‘the Isle of Surtur’) an island approximately 32 km. south off the mainland of Iceland. She was born in the morning of the 14th of November 1963. She is ‘protected’, a nature reserve, but while very few people have stepped on her, she has more than 1 million inhabitants (ca. 600 species), none of which are human. For humans, Surtsey is a science project, life ‘evolving’. Surtur is now active again. Surtur’s sword ruptured the grounds of Reykjanes (‘Smokey Peninsula’) in early 2021 and again in mid-2022. Surtur, it appears, is not easily controlled, particularly as volcanologists predict that Surtur’s (volcanic) activities will continue for some centuries in the area. Locals cannot consult a computer game walk-through for living with volcanos, but they do continue to name. The ‘Eye of the Devil’ (Auga djöfulsins) is already glowing through the 2021 lava of Fagradalshraun (‘Pretty-Valley-Lava’). In this presentation I will focus on the relationship between humans and forces of nature in Iceland as magma shapes land, people, and gods; will naming do the trick?

Helena Onnudottir is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Social Sciences, Western Sydney University. Research interests include Monsters and much more...

Date & time

Mon 19 Sep 2022, 3–4pm


RSSS building, room 2.56, and streaming online


Helena Onnudottir, Western Sydney University


Matt Tomlinson


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