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Walking in Marstrander’s trail on the Blaskets

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Ambassador Else Berit Eikeland enjoyed her visit to Blasket Center. Here in front of the Kings house on the island

One of the more peculiar connections between Ireland and Norway is found on the west coast of Ireland, at Na Blascaodaí - The Blasket Island. Last week, Ambassador Else Berit Eikeland walked in the footsteps of the Norwegian linguistic researcher Carl Marstrander, 110 years after he first visited the Islands.

Carl Marstrander is one of the pioneers of humanities in Norwegian academia. In his youth, he was an aspiring pole-vaulter with a standing invitation to go to the Olympics in Athens in 1906. He declined the opportunity though, and instead went to The Blasket Island the year after to study Irish culture and language.

Marstrander believed that the origin of many Norwegian words was to be found in Ireland – where Norwegian Vikings had traveled over a thousand years before. The secluded Blaskets Islands, where neither language nor culture was deluded from outside influence, proved to be the perfect place to conduct historic and linguistic fieldwork.

Fittingly, the Islanders named him “the Viking” when he came ashore in 1907, welcomed by the King of the Island. He stayed for a year, living and working side by side with the natives. Later he was appointed to teach Old Irish in Dublin. To this day, Marstrander is remembered as a popular and important figure in the island’s history.

110 years later, Ambassador Eikeland got a firsthand impression of his importance when she visited the Blasket Center. On the Island, she got a guided tour to where he lived, and how his work contributed to preserving this vital part of the Irish identity.