A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
"And what is the title of this marvellous work?" I asked with an affected eagerness which
he must have been very blind not to see through.
"This work," replied my uncle, firing up with renewed enthusiasm, "this work is the
Heims Kringla of Snorre Turlleson, the most famous Icelandic author of the twelfth
century! It is the chronicle of the Norwegian princes who ruled in Iceland."
"Indeed;" I cried, keeping up wonderfully, "of course it is a German translation?"
"What!" sharply replied the Professor, "a translation! What should I do with a translation?
This IS the Icelandic original, in the magnificent idiomatic vernacular, which is both rich
and simple, and admits of an infinite variety of grammatical combinations and verbal
"Like German." I happily ventured.
"Yes." replied my uncle, shrugging his shoulders; "but, in addition to all this, the
Icelandic has three numbers like the Greek, and irregular declensions of nouns proper like
"Ah!" said I, a little moved out of my indifference; "and is the type good?"
"Type! What do you mean by talking of type, wretched Axel? Type! Do you take it for a
printed book, you ignorant fool? It is a manuscript, a Runic manuscript."
"Yes. Do you want me to explain what that is?"
"Of course not," I replied in the tone of an injured man. But my uncle persevered, and
told me, against my will, of many things I cared nothing about.
"Runic characters were in use in Iceland in former ages. They were invented, it is said, by
Odin himself. Look there, and wonder, impious young man, and admire these letters, the
invention of the Scandinavian god!"
Well, well! not knowing what to say, I was going to prostrate myself before this
wonderful book, a way of answering equally pleasing to gods and kings, and which has
the advantage of never giving them any embarrassment, when a little incident happened
to divert conversation into another channel.
This was the appearance of a dirty slip of parchment, which slipped out of the volume
and fell upon the floor.
My uncle pounced upon this shred with incredible avidity. An old document, enclosed an
immemorial time within the folds of this old book, had for him an immeasurable value.