Odin's Island

A fairytale for grown ups, a political and religious allegory, a contemporary saga about belief, doubt, courage, and love - as well as about Scandinavia today.


Novel (495 p.), Centrum 1999
Atlantic 2006 / Gyldendal 2008
“Odin’s Island is a modern folk tale; one dealing with politics, the media, religion and a war between Denmark and Sweden over an island few people knew existed. The style is timeless, and Teller’s story builds slowly to an ending that is almost like Hans Christian Andersen in its simplicity. ... scarily prescient "  The Daily Telegraph

"The almost 500 pages conquer with no delay and seduce forever.” Le Soir

”With her magic tale, Janne Teller crosses paths of no less than Tolkien and Umberto Eco, and is in tune with as great a narrator as Karen Blixen. But Janne Teller has created her very own universe ... Odin’s Island is a wonderful joy to read.” BT

Also published in English, Spanish, French, German, Swedish and Italian.

"The story concerns the adventures and misadventures of one ancient, diminutive, one-eyed man, Odin, who happens onto a mystery island - a kind of world out of real place and real time - as a result of a meteor storm which has caused one of his horses, Rigmarole, to break her leg. Odin discovers genuine hospitality in one of the island's two small villages, Smedieby, but he must move on to find a veterinarian for Rigmarole.

After a severe winter snowstorm, Odin wanders on over the solidly frozen strait to The Continent, to South Norseland. A young woman, Sigbrit Holland, and a fisherman, Ambrosius Fiskeren, collaborate in trying to help Odin find medical assistance for his horse and return to the mystery island, whose location and access to outsiders are matters of mystery, forgotten royal decree, and modern-day intrigue.

With the arrival of Odin in South Norseland (clearly Denmark), all hell literally breaks loose, as rival religious fanatics and factions claim him as their own special prophet, seer leader, even as Jesus Christ, and disputes over possession of both Odin and the island - fairly well hidden behind sheer rock cliffs and precipices in the strait and in forgotten obscure historical records - lead Southern Northland and its neighbor to the north and east, North Norseland (Sweden) to the brink of war. Tensions build and multiply until Ambrosius and Sigbrit Holland, accompanied by ghostly shadow figures, such as the transparent woman, Brynhild Sigurdskær, the silent omnipresent stranger Der Fremdling, a hermit from Old Norseland (Norway), Harald Adelstensfostre, and a former inmate of an insane asylum, Gunnar the Head …." 
World Literature Today

Reviews

“Entertaining and moving, the book of Janne Teller is finely written and finely composed as well as reaching very far.  But there are even more reasons for which we would like this book to never end. Beneath the firework of wondrous events, essential questions are raised: the contrast between authentic faith and cheap spiritualism, between the rationality of rationality and the rationality of the spirit, between tolerance and fundamentalism, between accept and denial of diversity, between nihilism and hope, all within a world which doesn’t know where it is going, and perhaps not even where it comes from. All this in one book? Yes, if this is the book." Letture

 “Janne Teller has, with imaginative daring, harnessed Odin to our own times and culture. … Odin’s Island’s elaborate plot unfolds at a rapid pace … the timeless peace of its agrarian islanders consoles and, especially at its conclusion, offers hope.” The Independent

”A knock-out of a novel. ... A critique of civilisation, a satire of society, a thriller, a dooms day prophecy, and an unusual love story, all woven into a fabulous mythological tale... A greatly mastered, entertaining and vibrant book.” Weekendavisen

“Odin’s Island is a modern folk tale; one dealing with politics, the media, religion and a war between Denmark and Sweden over an island few people knew existed. The style is timeless, and Teller’s story builds slowly to an ending that is almost like Hans Christian Andersen in its simplicity. … understanding comes at an almost subliminal level.
       Published in Danish in the late 1990’s, Odin’s Island was written before the ‘Cartoon’ riots in Denmark made the news, which makes Teller’s description of a country riven by fundamentalism scarily prescient; not least for showing how quickly a supposedly rational culture can unravel.”
The Daily Telegraph

"This first novel by Janne Teller translated into French immediately calls to mind works by the great Nordic narrators, such as Selma Lagerlöf, Torgny Lindgren and Göran Tungström. … Here the love of life and human beings is also joined with an incredible imagination, humour, deep reflection as well as with an original world view, in producing one of these stories which you devour like a child a fairy tale. …  The accomplishments of Janne Teller’s novel is further upheld through the continued confrontation between opposing conceptions of the existence suddenly brought to meet before the unfolding events by a mischievous destiny.” Le Temps

“Perhaps a new understanding of reality lies hidden in Janne Teller’s experimental combination of mythology and realism, which could indicate a new direction for Danish literature.” Berlingske Tidende

"The story written by the Danish author Janne Teller, reminding me of our Benni, is born in the meeting of the imagination and the Nordic mythology as if today. It is a grand story of the imagination telling us about the contemporary world. Everything is explored and discussed, and the reader is compelled to pose himself thousands of questions while he travels with Odino on board a green and orange fishing boat.” Corriere della Sera

“The novel is enjoyable at all latitudes as it tells us of a society which is our own world: with the fanaticism and the extremism, the intolerance and the nationalism all being poetically unmasked by Odin using the simplicity of ancient wisdom.” La Repubblica

”In a truly epic narrative loaded with both humor and mystery, Odin’s adventures take us deep into an imaginary North. … a first novel by a magnificent story teller. Her Odin’s Island is at one and the same time a thriller, a comedy, a political satire, a burlesque reflection on human folly, a story of love and friendship as well as an eccentric tale … In short, a fabulous work of fiction. The almost 500 pages conquer with no delay and seduce forever.” Le Soir

 “The name Janne Teller won’t mean much to the average British book buyer, but mention her name in her native Denmark and you would get a very different reaction. She is known there for her controversial books which spark fierce debate. Odin’s Island presents the first opportunity for us here to find out what all the fuss is about. It is hard to pin-down the novel as it works, and can be read, on a number of different levels … part skewed look at religion and a modern tale about our own beliefs and moral codes. … This is a rich and intriguing story which has a bit of everything thrown into the mix, and introducing us as it unfolds to the most amazing set of characters you are likely to encounter for quite some time.” Nottingham Evening Post

”With her magic tale, Janne Teller crosses paths of no less than Tolkien and Umberto Eco, and is in tune with as great a narrator as Karen Blixen. But Janne Teller has created her very own universe in the novel Odin’s Island. ... Odin’s Island is a wonderful joy to read.” BT

”An intriguing, often amusing, blend of Nordic mythology and poetry, modern love story, biting social satire, political and religious intrigue, and pure fantasy, all woven into an irresistible narrative. In Odin’s Island, Janne Teller proves herself a master of fantasy, adventure, satire, and magic, of the description and peopling of an imaginary world beyond the quotidian. Odin’s Island deserves a second, even a third reading …” World Literature Today

 ”A complete and thrilling novel about the God Odin’s countless ordeals in a modern society struck by the fever of millennium change. ... To read Odins ø is like stepping into a large space governed by imagination and where the cold and compelling whisper of the Nordic Gods can be constantly sensed. ... You’re fascinated by the book, pose questions, and loose yourself to its universe.” Information

”Odins ø is a remarkable first novel – an amazing, mystical and at the same time very real story about the modern Danish society, seen through a fairytale lens which turns our focus to very new and unusual skies. At one and the same time, humorous and satirical to the almost farcical, as well as so magnificently fantastic, that its in tune with both folktale, mythology, and also Tolkien-like elements. ... A grandiose, comprehensive, colourful and spell-binding tale, a fable, a fairytale and a very thrilling, entertaining and absolutely wonderful story.” De Nordjyske Stifstidender

”A formidable and huge first novel ... Janne Teller is a colourful and sparkling storyteller, capable of holding the reader like a vice throughout the novel. For a first novelist to demonstrate such epical talent and compositional overview is no less than awe-inspiring.” Kristeligt Dagblad

"With her first novel the Danish writer Janne Teller ..., seems to induce all of us to disclose our inner nature and follow Odino's destiny in order to answer, with poetry, simplicity and wisdom, to the crises that grieve us." L'Osservatore Romano

"The author tells the story of the descent on earth of the old Odino, the head of the Nordic Gods, carrying imporant messages to humanity. ... Confronting characters and situations, he evokes the large spiritual themes of: faith and doubt, fanaticism and violence, religion and the ethics of responsibility ... At the end, Odino aided by his two ravens named "Thought" and "Memory" as well as by his poetry of ancient wisdom, Odino ends a war and tells men and women of our time something very important." Radio Vaticana, Pagine e Fogli