Longest Icelandic Love Letter Four Metres Long Skip to content

Longest Icelandic Love Letter Four Metres Long

By Larissa Kyzer

Photo: Screenshot, RÚV.

The longest love letter to have been written in Icelandic is four metres [13 ft] long and was written over a month-long period a hundred and twenty years ago, RÚV reports.

The letter was written by Sigurbjörn Á. Gíslason, who was living in Copenhagen, Denmark, to his beloved, Guðrún Lárusdóttir, who was in Reykjavík. The pair would marry a year later and have ten children together.

Willem van de Poll, CC0

Guðrún was a remarkable woman: a two-term member of parliament (1930 – 1934) and only the second woman to serve in Alþingi. She was also a translator of Danish, English, and German, and a women’s rights activist. Sigurbjörn was a pastor who founded Grund, the longest-running nursing home in Iceland, and was also an editor and publisher of a number of periodicals in Reykjavík. Both Guðrún and Sigurbjörn were known around the capital for their political and social work.

In a letter she wrote him in December 1900, Guðrún asked Sigurbjörn to send her a long letter when he next replied. Her lover rose splendidly to the challenge, pasting together sheet after sheet of paper and penning his epic, affectionate reply between December 1900 and January 1901. Sigurbjörn didn’t cheat, either–his letter is written in small, ornate script across densely spaced lines. His letter was long enough, he wrote, to embrace Guðrún while he could not embrace her himself. Perhaps in a nod to Guðrún’s linguistic skills, Sigurbjörn not only wrote his letter in Icelandic, but also Danish, English, and German.

The couple’s love story unfortunately has a tragic ending. In 1938, they were travelling with two of their daughters and a driver when the vehicle they were in plunged into the Tungufljót river. Sigurbjörn and the driver were able to escape, but Guðrún and her daughters drowned. It was the first time that anyone died in a car accident in Iceland and Guðrún and her daughters were much mourned, with a large crowd gathering for their memorial procession and funeral.

The four-metre love letter is archived in the Women’s History Archives, which is located on the first floor of the National and University Library, along with over a hundred other letters the couple wrote to one another.

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