Watch Björk, Age 11, Read a Christmas Nativity Story on an Icelandic TV Special (1976)

The hol­i­days can be hard, start­ing in Octo­ber when the red and green dec­o­ra­tions begin muscling in on the Hal­loween aisle.

Most Won­der­ful Time of the Year, you say? Oh, go stuff a stock­ing in it, Andy Williams!

The major­i­ty of us have more in com­mon with the Grinch, Scrooge, and/or the Lit­tle Match Girl.

Still, it’s hard to resist the preter­nat­u­ral­ly mature 11-year-old Björk read­ing the nativ­i­ty sto­ry in her native Ice­landic, backed by unsmil­ing old­er kids from the Children’s Music School in Reyk­javík.

Par­tic­u­lar­ly since I myself do not speak Ice­landic.

The fact that it’s in black and white is mere­ly the blue­ber­ries on the spiced cab­bage.

It speaks high­ly of the Ice­landic approach to edu­ca­tion that a prin­ci­pal’s office reg­u­lar who report­ed­ly chafed at her school’s “retro, con­stant Beethoven and Bach bol­locks” cur­ricu­lum was award­ed the plum part in this 1976 Christ­mas spe­cial for the Nation­al Broad­cast­ing Ser­vice.

It would also appear that lit­tle Björk, the fierce­ly self-reliant latchkey kid of a Bohemi­an sin­gle moth­er, was far and away the most charis­mat­ic kid enrolled in the Bar­namúsik­skóli.

(Less than a year lat­er her self-titled first album sold 7000 copies in Iceland—a mod­est amount com­pared to Adele’s debut, maybe, but c’mon, the kid was 11! And Ice­land’s pop­u­la­tion at the time was a cou­ple hun­dred thou­sand and change.)

As to the above per­for­mance’s reli­gious slant, it wasn’t a reflec­tion of her per­son­al beliefs. As she told the UK music webzine Drowned in Sound in 2011:

…nature is my reli­gion, in a way… I think every­body has their own pri­vate reli­gion. I guess what both­ers me is when mil­lions have the same one. It just can’t be true. It’s just…what?

Still, it prob­a­bly was­n’t too con­tro­ver­sial that the pro­gram­mers elect­ed to cleave to the rea­son in the sea­son. Ice­landic church atten­dance may be low-key, but the over­whelm­ing major­i­ty of its cit­i­zens iden­ti­fy as Luther­an, or some oth­er Chris­t­ian denom­i­na­tion.

(They also believe in elves and 13 for­mer­ly fear­some Yule Lads, descen­dants of the ogres Grýla and Lep­palúði. By the time Björk appeared on earth, they had long since evolved, through a com­bi­na­tion of for­eign influ­ence and pub­lic decree, into the kinder, gen­tler, not quite San­ta-esque ver­sion, address­ing the stu­dio audi­ence at the top of the act.)

Note: An ear­li­er ver­sion of this post appeared on our site in 2015.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Hear the Album Björk Record­ed as an 11-Year-Old: Fea­tures Cov­er Art Pro­vid­ed By Her Mom (1977)

A Young Björk Decon­structs (Phys­i­cal­ly & The­o­ret­i­cal­ly) a Tele­vi­sion in a Delight­ful Retro Video

Björk Presents Ground­break­ing Exper­i­men­tal Musi­cians on the BBC’s Mod­ern Min­i­mal­ists (1997)

Ayun Hal­l­i­day is an author, illus­tra­tor, and Chief Pri­ma­tol­o­gist of the East Vil­lage Inky zine. She is proud to orig­i­nat­ed the role of Santa’s mor­tal con­sort, Mary, in her Jew­ish hus­band Greg Kotis’ Nordic-themed hol­i­day fan­ta­sia, The Truth About San­ta. Fol­low her @AyunHalliday

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