Living Icelandic: Loving Duglegur

Part One: Lifting Heavy Stuff

In Lancashire there is a Latin quotation that means ‘Industry conquers all’, used sparingly (because people don’t speak or understand Latin) it refers to the industrial revolution that occurred in the North of England in the late 18th century.

The official Crest of Bury Football Club – if you don’t live by the latin, you aren’t included in the round

Generally the people that I know in Manchester and Bury have been steeped in this motto for the majority of their lives, and it has shaped the way they work and play. I too have been raised to understand that being industrious with one’s labour means that more gets done, and you build your character off the back of being hard-working. Being hard working also makes you trustworthy to your peers, which is vital if you go to the pub a few times a week where the community meets, because if they think you’re lazy and making a living off the efforts of others, they’ll never buy you a drink.

So it was with a really great pleasure that I discovered Icelanders also have a comparable work ethic – known as duglegur – that inspires them to work to the very limits of their potential for the betterment of themselves and their community. I’ve read lots of examples of dugleger in Icelandic history, from the settlement of a barren frozen rock and the inherent struggles therein, to more recent examples exemplified by the proto-nationalism coming out of economic destruction of the Icelandic economy in 2008. A particularly interesting element of this is the ‘traditional’ Icelandic sweater called the lopapeysa that became popular in 1944 after Iceland’s independence from Denmark, and then had a revival after the economic crash. The message being conveyed through the wearing of the lopapeysa being that Icelanders would use natural materials and knowledge to craft the products of their own survival (the lopapeysa is made from distinctive Icelandic wool – the hardy sheep offering an unusual fibre of wool that is both water resistant and soft to wear).

A lopapeysa – image from http://www.handknitted.is

But I’ve noticed that there is somewhat of a sea-change amongst people who say they work hard, from the traditional narrative of duglegur and industry to one of personal motivation, branding and lifestyle, promoting a form of ‘hustle porn’. This is the delusion of grandeur presented by people on social media platforms that talk about ‘the grind’ as a thing that they do which makes them better than others. You’re not successful? You didn’t work hard enough. You dream of a better life but struggle because of personal commitments or responsibilities? You’re weak and you need to let those haters go. To be frank it’s a fucked up way to approach the world and the people in it. People have a value independent of their efforts (or number of followers), and to laud a perspective that calls for you to cut people out who can’t support your delusions is, well, fucked up. That’s literally the definition of what a cult does.

Duglegur as different. Duglegur is about people working diligently and skillfully, showing care in what they do, and pride in their outcomes, no matter whether others see them as important. Inherent in duglegur is also the subtext that adversity is often a benefit, simply because the word is Icelandic, and Icelanders live on a frozen volcanic piece of rock in the middle of the ocean with an economy, culture and sporting heritage built on a population comparable to Sunderland. So in this first post on the theme of duglegur, lets have a look at an example of hard work that is a little different.

Fullsterkur

Fullsterkur is a documentary about strongmen and women in Iceland, who embody the spirit of duglegur by lifting really heavy stones. Why? Well, that’s a good question.

Icelandic folk tradition states that the Dritvik Stones at Djupalonssandur were tests of strength for fishermen to determine their cut of the boat’s profits. If you could lift the Amlóði stone (23kg) you were considered ‘useless’, if you lifted Hálfdrættingur (54kg) you were a ‘weakling’, the Hálfsterkur stone (100kg) showed you were ‘half strong’ and to be ‘full strong’ you needed to lift the 154kg Fullsterkur stone. In order to get a full share, you needed to lift Fullsterkur.

Watch it here:

Look out for – the natural stone xylophone created for Sigur Ross, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson carrying the Húsafell stone around Snorri’s sheep pen as though it doesn’t weigh 186kg, and the history of the only Viking church dedicated to the ‘old gods’.

Hope you enjoyed this quick read, if you did, please subscribe below for post updates!

Bless bless,

Rich

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