From Iceland — Well, You Asked: King Ugly-Face!

Well, You Asked: King Ugly-Face!

Published October 10, 2022

Well, You Asked: King Ugly-Face!
Valur Grettisson
Photo by
Art Bicnick

Is there any wildlife in Iceland?

Yes; birds, mice, rats, arctic foxes and a whole lot of birds. That’s kind of it. If you go to the east, you will perhaps find some reindeer in the highland. But the most interesting creatures are obviously the drunk Icelanders that you will find doing their odd mating dance late on Friday and Saturday nights. Remember to bring binoculars, as it can be dangerous to be up close and personal when it comes to those predators.

I’ve heard that names always have meaning in Iceland, what do your name and last name mean?

The most common understanding of my first name (Valur) is that it means falcon. But the name is a bit more ominous than that. if we go back to paganism. Val means untimely death. For example, Valhalla means palace of death (Val/death – halla/palace ). Valkyries mean the chant of death. Now, my last name though, Grettir, literally means ugly face or an ugly mug. So, in short, my name is untimely death, son of an ugly face. If you’re feeling sorry for me, don’t, this is not the worst translation for an Icelandic name. For example, my oldest son’s name could be like this in English: King Ugly-Face Son Of Death—or Ólafur Grettir Valsson, for convenience.

Is it true that Icelanders can have a whole discussion by just using Já, jú and Jæja? And what does it mean?

Já means yes, jú means the same. And yes, we can have a meaningful conversation, more or less, with these three words. Jæja is hard to translate but can have a lot of meaning. The magic here is in the tone. If you inhale and say já, for example, you’re in shock over whatever the other person just said. You can then add jæja with a questioning tone, and that can mean, “tell me more,” or, “that is incredibly interesting.” You can even threaten the other person using the word jæja if you put the right attitude into it. Add jú, or even jújú, and you can schedule a doctor’s appointment, a trip to the theatre or determine what to buy for dinner.

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