Legends for a "New" Iceland
A land of volcanoes, geothermal pools, and barren wilderness, Iceland is full of mists and mystery. For a thousand years, its inhabitants passed down oral histories that included fantastical fables as a way to understand their strange land. For settlers escaping starvation in the wake of volcanic eruptions and economic hardship, Manitoba's Interlake area held further mystery.
Bears, wolves, fish, forests, swamps, harsh winters, insect-infested summers, the unpredictable waters of Lake Winnipeg, people disappearing because of forces of nature or forces of the human heart, all provide a wealth of material from which Turnstone Press's first published author draws his inspiration.
A bear whose thoughts fill a fisherman's mind like ink in water, an ancient sturgeon who rescues a fair maid from drowning, and mischievous Christmas sprites who protect a poor girl from a nightmarish marriage: these and more tales combine a canon of Icelandic folklore with the landscape and wildlife of Canada for a truly absorbing reading experience.
In this collection of stories, W.D. Valgardson creates new legends, capturing the settlers' experience in New Iceland: how they tried to explain the unexplainable, and preserve the memories of loved ones for future generations. Blurring lines between reality and fantasy, Valgardson continues to be one of Canada's foremost storytellers
- "Valgardson's prose is as spare and sparse and sparkling as the Icelandic sagas that clearly inspire it."
—Tom Oleson, Winnipeg Free Press
- "What the Bear Said is a masterful array of tales by a skilled artist and storyteller. Accessible and engaging, it artfully combines elements of the tale or fable with the modern short story to re-interpret the lives of the early Icelandic Canadian settlers of Manitoba. A multicultural cross-genre work, it heralds a new hybrid form of Canadian literature, well worth reading and emulating."
-- Prairie Fire Review of Books
- "What the Bear Said is a marvellous collection of fables. The stories are immediate, the characters, both human and supernatural, crackle with life, as myth, harsh reality and superstition touch the lives of Icelandic immigrants, often in thrilling and heartbreaking ways."
—W. P. Kinsella, author of eight collections of Silas Ermineskin stories
- "A magical, thoughtful meditation on the bones of storytelling, What the Bear Said showcases Valgardson’s uncanny ability to meld deceptively simple prose, folktales and psychological suspense. From the inky darkness of a bear’s thoughts to the trek through troll-infested mountains, his stories quietly bring the reader back to a place we only remember in dreams."
—Eden Robinson, author of Monkey Beach
W. D. Valgardson is author of the Canadian classic Gentle Sinners (1980) in addition to The Girl with the Botticelli Face (1992), four short story collections, two collections of poetry and several books for children. Among his numerous awards are the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize (The Girl With the Botticelli Face) and the Books in Canada First Novel Award for Gentle Sinners. Currently he lives in Victoria, British Columbia and is the editor of Lögberg-Heimskringla, the Icelandic Community newspaper in Canada.