German author publishes fantasy novel about Iceland Skip to content

German author publishes fantasy novel about Iceland

The fantasy novel The Woman and the Raven by Marlene vor der Hake about “a mysterious woman struggling to reach the stars” set in the Icelandic Eastfjords was published last month.

The author wrote the novel at Skriduklaustur, the residence of the famous Icelandic writer Gunnar Gunnarsson. “Perhaps it was the spirit of Gunnar Gunnarsson’s Advent, which is based on the rugged land that forms strong characters, that edged me on,” vor der Hake told

“I fell in love with Iceland when I first gathered wild flowers near the beaches of Snaefellsnes, flew low over the glaciers and lava fields with patches of pink thyme,” vor der Hake explained. “I fell in love with the endless, ever changing sky, the wild landscape and the long tradition of storytelling and poetry in your country that is still very much alive.”

“I wanted to explore other, remote parts of Iceland and I wanted to feel what it means to live on four hours of daylight in winter, so I asked Skúli Björn Gunnarsson at Skriduklaustur, which lies right in the middle of the ‘elf country’ if he would have me,” vor der Hake said.

The author arrived at Skriduklaustur in December 2005 and stayed for six weeks.

“So the turf-roofed house near the lake of Lagarfljót became my residence for a while. Watching the grey fog hang in the valley like a looming doom or the sun glitter in the snow, I slipped across icy roads and waded through the snow between the trees of the nearby forest and slowly a fantasy tale began to write itself.”

The Woman and the Raven features a lone woman who lives by an icy sea in the Icelandic Eastfjords.

Vor der Hake described the plot thus: “While constantly doubting her own skills and powers she gets caught up in dangerous adventures that seem to emerge from ancient legends that throw the reluctant heroine into the path of ghosts, monsters, and wicked wizards. In the end the woman realizes that it is not the apocalyptic creatures from hell that are her worst enemies but the words she whispers to her heart.”

“The sagas were never far from my mind nor Odin’s raven, but first and foremost the land took over my imagination,” vor der Hake explained. “The stories I heard about, like ‘the monster in the lake’ inspired the chapter ‘The Serpent of Lagarfljót,’ and elves and trolls find their places in the fantasy realm.”

“All otherworldly encounters in the tale are firmly set in existing locales, such as Hengifoss and the Eyjabakkar Valley,” vor der Hake added.

Marlene vor der Hake is a journalist, author and world-traveler, who holds two Master’s Degrees in English and Romance languages from the University in Konstanz, Germany.

The Woman and the Raven is published by BookSurge LLC, an company. It is available in English and a German version is on the way.

Read an excerpt from the book and click here for further information:

The Storyteller

Under a grass-roof live I

At the icy end of the sea

Neither young nor old

A smith of swords and songs

Turning moss and stones

I look for long forgotten wisdom

At the roots of trees and mountains

And in the deeps of darkness

Between stars


A long, long time ago when trolls and elves still roamed the earth there lived a woman at the far end of the sea where snow-capped glaciers and freezing rivers meet the ice floes dancing on the waves.

To find her turf-thatched house a wanderer had to follow the eastern fjords inland, wading through rapid rivers in summer or trusting to the treacherous ice in winter; stumbling over slippery stones on muddy tracks, with weary feet, hugging the weather-beaten mountain ranges south of the lake, where an unnamed monster was sleeping in the deeps.

Ever upward led the path past pads of wild thyme, over tricky crevices overgrown with dark moss, and high cliffs splattered with bright lichen while chill, wet storms bit into ears and fingers, or frosty fog clung to limbs like shrouds of ghosts.

There was no hope of a friendly word or a warm fire along the way. Too rarely would a lost lamb stray that far into the wilderness for a shepherd to risk the journey.

Even the elves in those days no longer revealed themselves to mortals and remained concealed in their great fortresses in the mountains of which only rumor and legend spoke.

The likeliest chance meeting the highlands offered to any one brave or naïve enough to venture into the hinterland of the eastern fjords was the last creature one would like to meet: a troll. It was true; most of the ugly mountain trolls with their thick, pimply noses and matted hair, lived way up north where cattle and men were more numerous to stuff their ample bellies.

Yet, in long, harsh winters, when supplies dried up, some of them galumphed across the frozen passes where the glaciers shook under their weight and chunks of ice broke loose under their giant feet careening down the mountainsides to look for prey nearer the ports.

Clumsy they were, but quick on the hunt; and the trolls did not care if a seal or a man was on the menu as long as they got their supper. No, you did not want to meet them. However, most of the time, apart from noisy flocks of geese in summer or a few snow buntings in winter when the highlands were white, the land lay deserted under the ever-changing sky.

The year was coming to an end. Fast-flying clouds of rose and apricot chased the low sun over the western peaks; snowstorms ruffled lonely shrubs; the foxes donned their winter coats; sheep were sheltered; it was getting time for dried fish, smoked lamb and paper-thin bread. The fires never went out.

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