Hvalvík

9 March 2012

Hvalvík really exists, sort of. There’s not a huge amount of feedback from people who have read Frozen Out and the few who have so far read Cold Comfort. There are the complaints about the complexity of the Icelandic names that, sorry, I really can’t simplify much further without calling characters Billy, Joe and Mary.

 

 

In fact, there is a real coastal village called Hvalvík, but it’s in the Faroe Islands. I couldn’t resist stopping to take a picture of the sign

 

But there have been questions about Hvalvík. There’s a real place in Iceland called Hvalvík but that’s not the fictional Hvalvík. The genuine Hvalvík is in the north-east of Iceland, and it’s a small, uninhabited inlet that’s hardly even a bay, a few kilometres north of Kópasker. The name means Whale Bay, and it’s not easy to tell how the name came about. Maybe a whale beached there in ancient times when a stranded whale could mean the difference between starvation and survival, or else it could just be that someone saw a pod of minkes off the coast there at some time and decided it would be as good a name as any for the place. Or there may be a hillock somewhere that reminded a settler of a whale’s back. It’s too far in the past to tell now.
The Hvalvík I’ve written about is an amalgam of half a dozen places. It would probably have been easier to adopt coastal village somewhere and use that. Somewhere on the south-west corner would have done the trick. Vogar, maybe, or else Sandgerði, or Garður. But let’s just say that Hvalvík is somewhere on the south coast, a few miles east of Grindavík.
I was happy enough to write about real places in and around Reykjavík, but taking on a smaller place with all the opportunities to find myself unwittingly portraying a real mayor, schoolteacher, petrol pump attendant, waitress or police officer were too risky to my mind. Going for a fictional place, even if it is simply an amalgam of the features of several fishing villages, seemed the safer route.

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