The Arborg Thorrablot


It was cold.  Not a little cold. The kind of cold that if your car breaks down on the highway, fifteen minutes later you’ve become an ice sculpture.

There was drifting snow swirling across the highway. The only evidence of life were four ravens on the white wasteland. Four ravens waiting for us to turn into ice sculptures. I could hear them muttering “We’ll start with their eyes. That’s the tastiest part.”

Three Ravens in snow

There was snow, snow all the way to the horizon. Snow drifts you could sink into up to your waist.

However, Arborg was having a Thorrablot and being there was worth any risk. Arborg knows how to put on a Thorrablot to die for.


Our MC for the evening.

Avery Simundsson was the Master of Ceremonies and she kept the evening organized and under control. I’d recommend  her as an MC for Thorrablot’s everywhere.

The highlight of a Thorrablot is always the food. The greatest compliment I heard was “This is just like a really good Lundar dinner.” No greater praise has any meal ever received. People left the buffet table with towering plates of hungikjot, roast beef, mashed turnip and potatoes, peas, cole slaw, green salad, gravy. The desserts glowed like jewels but since I have celiac disease I couldn’t eat any of the slices and pies. Instead, I helped myself to skyr. There was the biggest bowl skyr I’ve ever seen. With a platter of fruit beside it to assuage one’s conscience. I told Helga Malis who was sitting beside me as I gorged myself, the fresh pineapple, melon, strawberries, and grapes had negative calories so I shouldn’t put on any weight.

Our table was the Gimli table. People from the different communities gather at their own tables. It’s an ancient instinct, totally tribal. However, there was visiting among the tribes and visiting is second only to food. I was the only male at our table so I modestly claimed the other members of the table as my harem.  It was that kind of evening. Oh to be a teenager again. Me and ten beautiful women.

If you don’t go to Thorrablots, you won’t understand the importance of the visiting. I got to see Birna and PJ from the Icelandic department. Birna is the chair. Peter is a professor in the department. I got to see David Thomasson. His dad and my dad were good friends. They’re both now fishing on the big lake up yonder. Atli and Þruður were there. This will be one of their last events before Atli retires and they go back to Iceland after nine years among us. We all think the Icelandic government should just appoint him Consul General for Life. I met some Facebook friends, particularly Joel Fridfinnson. He promised to take us for a tour of the heritage property at Riverton. I look forward to it.


Rosalind and Einar Vigfusson

I got to talk to talk to the well-known carver, Einar Vigfusson. He  has been to Iceland five times to teach wood carving. I also got to talk to the translator, Borga Jakobson.

There was a program, the kind of program that it is worth travelling through the Arctic Chill to hear and see.

Pall Bjornsson and  his wife came from Iceland to join us in celebrating our survival of the winter. (Except, of course, the day after, a blizzard hit. I returned to Victoria that next day, not to escape six feet of snow and temperatures that would make a polar bear happy but because I had business to attend to.)

Pall gave a speech and slide show about the Legacy of Jon Sigurdson. He had an interesting talk on Jon. He showed us a picture of stacked up books written about this father of Icelandic independence. It is just slightly shorter than the Alps. He talked about Jon’s life after death. There is a museum about Jon, an annual celebration in his honour (for which Western Icelanders, that’s us, can take the credit), a statue in Reykjavik and a duplicate in Winnipeg, numerous commemorative plates with his picture on them, a gay bar named after him, pictures on Icelandic currency. He’s more alive now that he’s dead than he was when he was alive. No one has reported seeing him in Laundromats but like Elvis and Diana, or, more accurately, they, like him, have vigorous lives after death.

Atli gave a farewell speech. But I’ll talk about that separately because what Atli has to say to us takes some telling.

The amazing Rosiland Vigfusson, although she no longer trains and conducts a children’s Icelandic choir, organized a choir to sing for us. They only had a chance to practice five times and, in spite of that, entertained us admirably.


The choir

David Gislason, poet, translator, singer, introduced each of the songs. Havð er svo glatt (Jonas Hallgrimsson); Minni Íslands (Bövar Jakobsson, text, music Rosalind Vigfusson); The Wayfarer (Stefán G. Stefánsson); Vas við hofið (Hákon Aðalsteinsson, music Rosalind Vigfusson); Nú er su stund (traditional).


The women singing to the men

The highlight of the evening, though, was when the men got up to sing Fasturlandins Freyja  to the women and then the women got up to sing Táp og fjör og friskir menn to the men. (The spelling may not be exact as I’m in Victoria reading David’s handwritten notes. I hope I got it right and that the last two words of the women’s song shouldn’t read frisky men.)

There was music after the event but hardly anyone danced. That’s partly our age. I think, though, it  might be our Lutheranism lurking in the background. When I was a teenager, the church elders lived in fear of our having sex because it might lead to dancing. Instead, we did what Icelanders love to do, visit, talk, discuss genealogy, discover cousins of various sorts, renew acquaintances. Have a second helping of skyr.

By the time we left the hall, the cold had come down like iron. However, the wind had dropped. The snow ghosts had stopped scurrying across the highway. The road was good but there were icy patches. I drove very carefully. The ravens had given up hope of a meal of frozen eyeballs and had retreated to wherever ravens go at night.

It was a Thorrablot to remember.