Modern Literature: Fjords as Symbols and Settings


Modern literature is constantly evolving and exploring new ways to convey complex ideas and themes to its readers. One of the recurrent symbols and settings in literature that has gained popularity in recent years is the fjord. This majestic landscape found in Nordic countries such as Norway, Iceland, and Greenland has been used as a powerful tool by writers to convey a wide range of meanings and emotions.

The word “fjord” comes from the Norse term “fjǫrðr,” which means “going far inland.” As its name suggests, a fjord is a narrow and deep inlet of the sea surrounded by steep cliffs or mountains. Its unique blend of water, mountains, and wildlife has mesmerized generations of writers and poets, making it a prominent figure in modern literature.

One of the main reasons why fjords have become such a popular symbol and setting in modern literature is their ability to convey a sense of isolation and introspection. The remoteness of these landscapes, surrounded by towering mountains, evokes a feeling of solitude and detachment from the rest of the world. This makes the fjord an ideal setting for stories that explore the human psyche or deal with themes of isolation and seclusion.

A notable example of this is the novel “Independent People” by Nobel Prize winner Halldór Laxness. Set in the harsh landscapes of Iceland, the story follows Bjartur, a sheep farmer, who is determined to become independent and owning his land. The novel’s isolation and desolate atmosphere are vividly captured through the portrayal of the Icelandic fjords. They become a physical manifestation of the protagonist’s emotional and psychological state, emphasizing his struggle for independence and the sacrifices he makes to achieve it.

Moreover, fjords have also been used as a symbol of resilience and perseverance in the face of adversity. Their rugged and unforgiving nature has inspired stories of survival, persistence, and triumph against all odds. For instance, in his novel “The Snowman,” Jo Nesbø uses the Norwegian fjords to create a dark and chilling atmosphere where the main character, detective Harry Hole, must unravel a murder mystery. The harsh weather conditions and treacherous terrain mirror the challenges and obstacles that Hole must overcome to solve the case, making the fjords a powerful symbol of resilience and determination.

In addition to their symbolic importance, fjords also make for stunning backdrops in literature. Their breathtaking landscapes and rugged beauty have inspired countless poets and writers to use them as settings in their works. For example, in “Frost at Midnight,” renowned poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge describes a “land of bitter winds and blowing sleet” that bears a striking resemblance to the Norwegian fjords. His vivid descriptions of the desolate landscape evoke a sense of melancholy and solitude, highlighting the fjord’s ability to create a somber and reflective mood in literature.

Moreover, the unique blend of water and mountains in fjords also serves as a metaphor for the meeting of the human and natural world. This creates a sense of harmony and balance, making the fjords an ideal setting for stories that explore the relationship between humans and their environment. In his novel “My Struggle,” Karl Ove Knausgård uses the Norwegian fjords to capture the human longing for connection and the desire to understand oneself through nature.

In conclusion, the use of fjords as symbols and settings in modern literature has added depth, meaning, and beauty to literary works. Whether portraying isolation and introspection, resilience and perseverance, or the human-nature relationship, the fjord’s unique features have become a powerful tool for writers to convey a wide range of emotions and themes. The popularity of this landscape in literature proves its timelessness and its ability to captivate generations with its majestic beauty.