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  • Tyrkjaránið – Arab Pirates in Iceland May 30, 2010

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Modern , trackback





    Despite rumors of a polar bear in medieval northern Africa and well attested penetration by Rus Vikings into the Volga in the tenth century contacts between the Arab world and Scandinavia are few until (very) modern times. All the more reason then for Beachcombing to enjoy the Tyrkjaránið, the Norse/Icelandic word for the ‘Turkish Kidnappings’ in Iceland in 1627. Iceland and ‘Turkish’ pirates were never going to be very well documented even in the seventeenth century. But Barbary pirates did, it seems, sail to Iceland in that year and took over two hundred Icelanders home with them to the slave markets of northern Africa – Beachcombing must note that the numbers given vary wildly.  One of the pieces of human flotsam washed away by this attack was Guðríður Símonardóttir. Andrew Evans in his Iceland (p. 215) tells us that she was twenty nine when kidnapped with her son. Apparently she was ransomned ten years later by the King of Denmark and eventually she had a second child by an Icelandic preacher: her first son was left behind. A statue now stands to her in Hvalfjörður (‘the Whale Ford’). This story reminds Beachcombing of another piracy story from the Arctic North – English ne’er-do-wells sacking the Greenland settlements at the time of Agincourt: for more see Kirsten Seaver’s brilliant The Frozen Echo: Greenland and the Exploration of North America.

    If anyone can help me document this then please let Beachcombing know: drbeachcombing[AT]yahoo[DOT]com


    1st Sep 2010: Three long months ago Beachcombing’s first post was on Arab Pirates in Iceland and the Icelanders carried away to the Maghreb. ‘Andrew from the Seventies’ – great name – put Beachcombing onto Davis’ Christian Slaves, Muslim Masters. Beachcombing greatly enjoyed the book and found there some more references including Helgason Bornsteinn, ‘Historical Narrative as Collective Therapy: the Case of the Turkish Raid in Iceland’, Scandinavian Journal of History 22 (1997), 275-89 – even better name! 400 were taken in 1627, eight years later there were only 70 survivors. There is a fascinating reference to the French slave d’Aranda having a fairly involved conversation (114) with one of these Icelanders in the koine of the slaves, a mishmash Romance language. Just today Jorge sent in this reference to a book in Danish about the Icelanders that looks fascinating. There is also The Travels of Reverend Ólafur Egilsson from an Icelandic publisher but when Beachcombing tried to buy a copy the following message came up: ‘due to the effects of the continuing economic crisis in Iceland the Reisubok is temporarily unavailable.’ Damnation! Thanks to Jorge and Andrew!