Kortlagður gagnagrunnur yfir íslenskar sagnirA geographically mapped database of Icelandic folk legends

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Map of those places mentioned in the Shetland legends.

Sagnagrunnur began as a database of information relating to Icelandic folk legends in print which was started in 1999 by Professor Terry Gunnell, then lecturer in Folkloristics, who enlisted the invaluable help of his students. With the help of Trausti Dagssón, now working for the Arnamagnean Institute in Reykjavík, the Icelandic Sagnagrunnur has gone on to take the form of a geographically mapped database, returning the legends to the landscape that gave birth to them. The database has since been joined by another database on Icelandic wonder tales compiled by Professor Aðalheiður Guðmundsdóttir, and even more recently has been connected to the database of sound recordings housed by the Arnamagnean Institute, Ísmús, extending the number of narratives covered in the database to over 25,000.

The intention is that the new SagnagrunnurShetland database will also give users access to similar detailed information about both published legends and live recordings from Shetland (most of the latter coming from the Tobar an Dualchais/ Kist o Riches website ( containing archival material collected in Shetland by the School of Scottish Studies in Edinburgh. Compiled by Nicolai Lanz with the help of Amanda Green, and financed by research funding from the University of Iceland (Terry Gunnell) and the Shetland Amenity Trust (to whom we are especially grateful), the database initially focused on printed materials, and other source material collected and kindly shared with us by Vilborg Davíðsdóttir who wrote her MA thesis at the University of Iceland on the legends told by the famous Shetland storytellers Tom Tulloch (1914-1982) and Brucie Henderson (1891-1977) (see Our hope is that this site will continue to develop over the coming years. Indeed, materials from Orkney have now also been added, and our hope is that information about Faroese legends will also appear in the coming years.

As can be seen here, where possible, the legends are connected to their place of origin, the various entries containing summaries of the narratives in question, and details about where the whole story can be found (or heard), the collector, the storyteller, their gender, their place of residence, and those places mentioned in the account, as well as a list of key words (relating to a list compiled for the overall Sagnagrunnur project, but now also a number of additional words and concepts only relevant to Shetlandic folklore).When applicable, information is also provided about migratory legend types, allowing broader contextual comparison with stories found in neighbouring areas (which will come to include not only Iceland, but, as noted above, also the Faroes, Orkney and the Nordic countries (see also Sägenkartan; and the Danish Folklore Nexus As can be seen from the user’s manual, users can easily widen their search to include other areas, and use Google Translate to get basic translations of summaries in other languages.

Particular thanks are due to Vilborg Davíðsdóttir, Brian Smith and Angus Johnson (of Shetland Archives), Eileen Brooke-Freeman (of Shetland Amenity Trust); Dr Neill Martin (of the School of Scottish Studies) for their invaluable help. Thanks are also due to the Archive of the School of Scottish Studies for allowing us to reference their on-line materials 

The Sagnagrunnur: Shetland database is dedicated to the memory of the late Davy Cooper (1961-2021: of Shetland Amenity Trust in recognition of his keen interest in Shetland lore and traditions and the invaluable support he gave to this project; to that of the much beloved Lawrence Tulloch of North Yell (1942-2014), a living legend archive in his own right (; and to that of Professor Bo Almqvist (1931-2013) of University College Dublin, who had a lasting love of the folk legends of Shetland, and dreamed the dream that gave birth to the Sagnagrunnur (see Terry Gunnell, “In Memoriam: Bo Almqvist [1931-2013], Folklore 125.2 (2014), 258-261.



Shetland Amenity Trust
Shetland Amenity Trust

University of Iceland
University of Iceland