Original TV dramas have always struggled in Iceland, largely due to the country’s small viewing market and the limited budget of the local networks. However, after the international success of Scandinavian TV programmes such as ‘The Killing,’ along with the streaming services online that can provide an international market, Icelandic producers have begun shopping around for original narratives to bring to the screen.
One of the latest is Emil Hjörvar Petersen’s 2016 novel ‘Víghólar’ (‘The Shroud’), which is now set to be adapted into a new series by local production company Saga Film. “Their scriptwriters are working on it, with me helping out as an advisor,” Emil says. “We had our first meeting the other day and it feels like a great fit.”
Elves, trolls, monsters and yule lads
The novel is the first in a series that blends together Nordic Noir and urban fantasy, applying Icelandic folklore to the narrative with the appearance of monsters and otherworldly places hidden amidst many familiar setting of Reykjavík. In the book, a middle-aged psychic named Bergrún and her grown daughter Brá assist the Reykjavík police in matters relating to Iceland’s Hidden World, the home of elves, trolls and the untold mythical beings of Icelandic folklore.
The second book in the series, ‘Sólhvörf’ (‘Solstice’), is out this Christmas in Iceland. There, Emil dips into the origins of the Yule lads—the Icelandic Santa Clauses. “Initially, the Yule lads were these troll-like beings, with long extremities and short torsos, and sharp claws and teeth that they used to feast on human flesh,” Emil explains. “In ‘Sólhvörf’ I’m trying to get back to that fear of the Yuletide as a time of witchcraft and monsters; the darkest time of year.”
Read our full interview with Emil here.