The Emigration from Iceland to North America
The Weekly Newsletter - Nr 16
July 13, 2003  Keeping in touch every single week! (almost)
 The Dog Day King
Tell me, are you familiar with the term Dog Days?
The Dog Days or dies caniculares in Latin, last from July 13 to August 23. The term originated with the ancient Greeks who linked the heat of midsummer to the Dog Star, Sirius. In Iceland, of course, summer weather is rarely more than comfortably warm, so the Dog Days did not have the same implication as in Southem Europe.
The derivation of the term Dog Days was attributed to various local factors in Icelandic folklore; dogs were said to chew grass at this season of the year, possibly because they were in need of additional nutrients after the hard work of early summer, when dogs played an important role in herding sheep to their upland pastures. In the west of the country, the Dog Days were believed to derive their name not from dogs but from dolphins, known familiarly as "fishdogs." Tradition stated that dolphins had grown so fat by midsummer that they could hardly see, and were easy to catch.
The Dog Days coincide with the main haymaking season in Iceland, and so weather predictions became attached to the Dog Days. In general it was believed that the weather was liable to a sudden change at the beginning of the Dog Days and would then remain much the same until they ended.

It's raining here in Reykjavík these days, so according to the old believe it should be raining to late August :-(

The Dog Days have become attached to a picturesque chapter of Icelandic history in 1809, when the Napoleonic Wars were raging in mainland Europe. A Danish adventurer, Jörgen Jörgensen, set himself up as "Protector" of Iceland, sponsored by a maverick English merchant by the name of Phelps, who attempted to break the very disliked Danish monopoly on trade with Iceland. While in Iceland, Jörgen Jörgensen gathered around himself a small group of Icelanders, men who were at least willing to irritate the Danish authority. Together Jörgensen and five of his "life guards" rode across the country, visiting better off farmers, ministers and sheriffs and giving orders on all hands. Degrading some officials who were not willing to obey Jörgensen's orders and upgrading others.
Among Jörgensen's life guards were Sveinn Pétursson (1778-1839), called "Sveinn soldáti" (soldier Sveinn), from Skagafjarðarsýsla and later farmer in Mýrasýsla county and Samson Samsonarson (1783-1846), from Húnavatnssýsla, farmer at Yxnatunga, later farmer at Hólahólar in Snæfellsnes county. Descendants of Sveinn and Samson are numerous and many of them emigrated to "Vesturheimur" (North America).
Jörundur, the "Dog Day King," was also a talented caricaturist. In this drawing of a ball at the residence of the Danish governor in Reykjavík in 1809, he shows the lady's tall wig becoming entangled in the chandelier (click in the picture to see a bigger one).

Jörgen Jörgensen or Jörundur as he was called in Iceland, reigned from June 25 to August 22, before being deposed and deported by the English authorities. For some time he sat in an English prison and subsequently he was transported as a criminal to Australia where he had the job to search for and capture escaping convicts. Later he used his time for writing and his work as a writer includes a study of the Tasmanian Aborigine.
Jörgen Jörgensen ended his life in Tasmania and is buried in Hobart.
Known as Jörundur the Dog-Day King because his "reign" more or less coincided with the Dog Days, he became something of a folk hero to the Icelanders and did much for the continuance of the idea of the Dog Days. Jörundur is the subject of a popular musical, Þið munið hann Jörund (Remember Old Jörundur?; premiére 1970) by Jónas Árnason.

Ref. (mainly): "High Days and Holidays in Iceland" by Dr. Árni Björnsson, published by Mál og menning 1995.

 A Fantastic Book!
Few days ago I received a magnificient book from Canada, The Icelandic Heritage by the historian Nelson Gerrard, THE specialist on almost everything related to the Icelandic Emigration to North America. Strangely :-)
The Icelandic Heritage
The titlepage from Nelson Gerrard's wonderful book
I was not aware of this book until recently but is more than happy having it now in my hands. This is truly a beautiful book, full of enlightening pictures and the author invites you "on a voyage of discovery . . .   Journey into the forgotten past, into the pages of history, into the lives and times of your ancestors . . "
And from the author's foreword I cite:
"The objectives of this publication are twofold with regard to those now removed from Icelandic soil and culture by as many as two to six generations. First, the introductory chapters are intended to provide the reader with an overview of the history, lifestyle, and culture of his or her Icelandic ancestors down through the centuries. Many books on these subjects have been published in Iceland, but for the vast majority of "Vestur Íslendingar" - some of whom may now be only 1/16th Icelandic - the key to these sources, the Icelandic language, has been lost. Secondly, the charts and data provided in the latter section of the book are intended to assist the reader in organizing and recording a "family tree" extending back in time beyond the settlement of Iceland."
This book is a must for you, and as I happen to know that there are not to many still available in print, I urge you to grab your past by ordering your copy. The book can be ordered from:
Saga Publications,
Box 925, Arborg,
Manitoba R0C 0A0 Canada
- 204-378-2758

The Adventurer

Jörgen Jörgensen
the Dog Day King
of Iceland.
His "reign" lasted for a short period in the summer of 1809.

"In some ways, he was a Viking, born ten centuries too late; in other ways he was an adventurer on seas of thought born too soon…. Whether he rests now in Valhalla or in a Christian paradise or in any other have of far-faring mariners, he could at least have the satisfaction of having used his time on earth to the fullest extent."

The Stormy Life Of Jorgen Jorgensen
Sydney: Angus & Robertson, 1954, p. 476

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