Hundadagar - Dog Days

 "Dog Days" last from 13th July to 23rd August. The term originated with the ancient Greeks who linked the heat of midsummer to the Dog star, Sirius.  In Iceland summer weather is rarely more than comfortably warm, so the Dog Days did not have the same implication as in Southern Europe.  The deviation of the term Dog Days was attributed to various local factors in folklore; dogs were said to chew grass at this season of the year, possibly because they were in need of additional nutrient 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, familiarly known as "fish dogs". 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.  (lets hope this is true for at least the south and south vest of Iceland!) 

The Dog Days have become attached to at picturesque chapter of  Icelandic history in 1809, when the Napoleonic wars were raging in  mainland Europe. A Danish adventurer, Jörgen Jürgensen, set himself up  as "Protector" of Iceland, sponsored by maverick English merchant  who attempted to break the Danish monopoly on trade with Iceland.  "King  Jörundur" reigned from June 25. to August 22. before being deposed and deported by the English authorities. He was subsequently transported as a criminal, and ended his life in Tasmania. 

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 hang Jörund ( remember old Jörundur?) "  premiere 1970 by Jónas Árnason.

" From High days and holidays in Iceland by Árni Björnsson" 

photography Kristin Jonsdottir!/index

Image : Skorradalur during Dog Days

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