One of my first theatre memories is a terrifying scene from an Icelandic play called Fjalla-Eyvindur (Eyvindur of the Mountains) written by Jóhann Sigurjónsson. It’s based on the legend of famous Icelandic outlaws, Eyvindur and his wife Halla. In this particular scene towards the end of the play, Halla throws their newborn child down a waterfall. They are on the run from the authorities and this is an act of desperation. Before she drops the baby down the waterfall she sings a lullaby, Sofðu unga ástin mín. As a child I was heartbroken by this scene. In spite of it being really sad it’s a beautiful lullaby and very popular among Icelanders.
Sleep, my young love.
Outside the rain is weeping.
Mummy is watching over your treasure,
an old bone and a round case.
We should not stay awake through dim nights.
There is much that darkness knows,
my mind is heavy.
Often I saw black sand
burning the green meadow.
In the glacier cracks are rumbling deep as death.
Sleep for a long time, sleep quietly,
it is best to wake up late.
Sorrow will teach you soon,
while the day is quickly decaying,
that men love, lose, cry and mourn.
As pointed out in the article ‘These Icelandic lullabies are absolutely terrifying‘ Sofðu unga ástin mín is not the only lullaby from Iceland that’s either sad or creepy. Then again, lullabies from other countries quite often are like that as well. I wonder why?