Hildur Knútsdóttir

Hildur Knútsdóttir: Hrím. Youth novel, Forlagið, 2023. Nominated for the 2024 Nordic Council Children and Young People’s Literature Prize.


Hrím (“Rime”, not translated into English) is a fairy-tale coming-of-age novel about a young girl who leads a difficult battle to sustain her life in a cold and harsh landscape shared with colossal animals. Hildur Knútsdóttir has created a cohesive yet foreign world, where Icelandic landmarks form the backdrop and landscape of the narrative. Hildur juxtaposes the familiar place names in the area against the alien nature of the fearsome and gigantic animals that rule in this world. Some of these animals have never been seen, but indeterminate sounds and other signs suggest an imminent danger. All of this creates a mystique that reflects motifs from Icelandic folklore in a creative and imaginative manner. 


“The sunset cast a reddish hue over the cumulus clouds above Kinnarfjöll, and the sky and high plateau were reflected in the deep pool beneath them. Jófríður closed her eyes. She listened to the chirping birds, busy preparing for the night, and to the river’s cascading flow. No other river sounded quite like this. The salmon river had swept her sister away, and yet Jófríður found it beautiful. Where there is so much life, there was also much death. One inevitably followed the other.” 


The young girl Jófríður travels around the hunting grounds with her pack. Together they live in harmony with nature and the seasons, and so survive on what they can gather and catch. The hunts clearly demonstrate how weak humans are in the world of massive animals – such as when a large group of people is needed to haul a seal pup ashore. By depicting humans as small and lacking the superiority that technology gives them, the author raises questions about the protection of nature and the value of living in harmony with it.  


However, the story primarily revolves around a young girl. The reader can easily relate to Jófríður’s interests, such as a pearl-embroidered suit made of sealskin or complicated love, when she must choose between Suðri, the handsome lad in Ljósavatnsskaren, and his childhood friend, Bresi. Jófríður’s life is turned upside down when she’s tasked with bearing a heavy responsibility for the welfare and future of the entire pack. She sets off alone on an expedition, where she has no one to rely on but herself, and must find her own way to ensure the welfare of her people. The story is exciting and told at a fast pace, where the struggle against the forces of nature is the driving force, but where Jófríður’s inner struggle is equally central. The character portrayal is strong, especially in how Jófríður is depicted and her inner struggle, but the supporting characters also have depth and are thought-provoking.  


Hrím is an important story that powerfully and excitingly illustrates the vulnerable relationship between humans and nature, advocating for environmental protection. Hrím is a call to young readers and to all of us to advocate for nature.  


Hildur Knútsdóttir is a versatile and prolific writer of both children’s and adult literature, and her stories unfold in both everyday life and the realm of fantasy. Hildur has received numerous awards for her books, including the Icelandic Literature Prize in 2016 for the young adult novel Vetrarhörkur. Hrím received the Bookseller’s Prize in 2023 and was nominated for the Icelandic Literature Prize the same year.