Finally, the day the Central Bank of Iceland is releasing the brand new 10,000 króna banknote has come. The new bill features Jónas Hallgrímsson, a poet, naturalist and author.
But who was this man and why is he so special that Icelanders print him on their highest valued note?
Jónas was born in 1807 in Öxnadalur, North Iceland, and after receiving a thorough education he started working as a clerk and defense lawyer in Reykjavík in 1829. He courted and proposed to a lady named Christiane Knudsen who turned him down. Poor Jónas was heartbroken.
A few years later, he moved to Copenhagen; Iceland still remained under Danish rule at the time. He entered the University of Copenhagen with the aspiration of acquiring a law degree but changed his mind in the course of his studies and enrolled in literature and natural sciences. And apparently that was a smart move as Jónas did excellently. With fellow Icelandic students he founded the patriotic journal Fjölnir.
After his graduation he was awarded a grant to conduct scientific research in Iceland, a project which he worked on until 1842. Jónas’ passions were the natural history of his home country and the work he did for Fjölnir, both fields he pursued throughout his life. Excessive drinking and a protracted pneumonia slowed his work down.
In May 1845, Jónas slipped on the stairs at his home and broke his leg. He went to the hospital the next day, but died of blood poisoning. He was only 37.
His poems play an important part in the history of literature of Iceland, as Jónas Hallgrímsson is considered to have introduced romanticism to the literature and poetry of Iceland.
By publishing most of his romantic poems in Fjölnir, Jónas also revived the national and linguistic consciousness among his countrymen by praising Iceland's beautiful nature and glorifying Iceland.
Long story short, it made important contributions to the revival of Icelandic as a written language, and greatly influenced the cultural and political milieu in Iceland.
The imagery Jónas displays in his poetry was very much influenced by the Icelandic landscapes and he also introduced foreign meters into Icelandic poetry.
Charming and fair is the land,
and snow-white the peaks of the jökuls [glaciers],
Cloudless and blue is the sky,
the ocean is shimmering bright,
But high on the lave fields, where
still Osar river is flowing
Down into Almanna gorge,
Alþing no longer is held,
Now Snorri’s booth serves as a sheepfold,
the ling upon Lögberg the sacred
Is blue with berries every year,
for children, s and ravens, delight.
Oh, ye juvenile host
and full-grown manhood of Iceland!
Thus is our forefathers’ fame
forgotten and dormant withal.
So I guess Jónas was some kind of renaissance man, a poetry pioneer, natural scientist and a writer.
Anyhow, as of today Jónas Hallgrímsson’s poetry is still very popular, many of his poems have been set to music. Nobel prize winner Halldór Laxness even refers to Jónas as “the nation’s favorite son” in one of his books.
And now, “the nation’s favorite son” made it on the new 10,000 króna bill. I wonder what Laxness had to say about that.
I am excited about the new paper money, I admit it. I cannot wait to buy my first morning coffee with it.
Katharina Hauptmann – firstname.lastname@example.org