Last Reviewed on March 16, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 962
Axel and Professor Lidenbrock set out on their way to Copenhagen, Denmark, in order to book passage on a ship going to Iceland; according to their secret document, this is where the journey into the earth begins. The two take a series of short trips by carriage, train,...
(The entire section contains 962 words.)
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Axel and Professor Lidenbrock set out on their way to Copenhagen, Denmark, in order to book passage on a ship going to Iceland; according to their secret document, this is where the journey into the earth begins. The two take a series of short trips by carriage, train, and steamship until they finally arrive. Passing themselves off as nothing more than tourists wanting to see Iceland, they find a ship set to sail in a few days’ time.
Having secured their transport, Lidenbrock directs Axel around the city, exploring the sites. The professor notices a church with an exterior staircase that spirals up the outside of a tower. He insists they climb it. Axel is reluctant, but Lidenbrock chides him for being a “coward,” and so they proceed. Axel has a dizzy and unpleasant experience of the climb, perhaps revealing that Axel is not as bold and adventurous as his uncle is, yet he perseveres, joining his uncle for the same climb over the next five days.
The day of departure comes, and their ship sets sail for Iceland. The journey lasts ten days and is largely without incident. As the schooner arrives in port, the professor shows Axel the mountain with a double peak that is their destination, reminding him to keep it secret. They disembark and meet their host, an associate of the professor, who shows them to his house.
Lidenbrock goes to research at the public library, leaving Axel alone to explore the city. Axel wanders through Reykjavík, which he finds an unremarkable city consisting of two “bleak, depressing avenues.” Axel expresses the same opinion of the local residents; he says that the women wear “sad, resigned faces,” while the men never smile. Axel returns to their host’s house, where he finds his uncle waiting.
Professor Lidenbrock and Axel enjoy a dinner with their host, Mr. Fridriksson, a man not as scholarly as the professor, but educated nonetheless. Fridriksson and Lidenbrock discuss various scientific matters, during which the professor casually steers the conversation, attempting to gain information without giving away his secret. He is successful in learning that the works of the writer of the parchment, a sixteenth-century Icelandic scholar, have all been destroyed, meaning that no one but himself likely knows the secret. He manages to have their host suggest that they explore the very mountain they are heading to. Fridriksson informs them that they cannot pass by water, as was Lidenbrock’s intention, and instead offers them a guide, a highly-skilled hunter, who will take them there. They agree to meet the guide the next day.
Axel wakes to hear his uncle speaking loudly to a man in the next room. He goes to join them and meets Hans Bjelke, the guide who will take them to the mountain. Axel describes Hans as a big man, “clearly of unusual strength,” with long, red hair. He speaks no more than he has to, but he seems more calm and composed than unfriendly. Lidenbrock hires Hans to take them to the town at the base of the mountain and stay with them for their journey, although he does not tell Hans any specific details as to what that journey might entail. They all agree to leave in two days.
Axel and the professor spend the next two days organizing their supplies for the trip, including climbing gear, navigation equipment, and provisions. During this time, they attend a dinner at which the professor is given a topographical map of Iceland.
The day arrives for them to leave. They bid farewell to Fridriksson, mount their horses, and leave.
Professor Lidenbrock and Axel follow Hans, who travels on foot, and the pack horses out of Reykjavik. They follow the shoreline through a barren landscape, stopping in small hamlets along the way to rest, eat, and get water. Eventually, they come to a fjord they cannot cross, but Hans assures them that if they wait for the tide, they can cross on a ferry. The ferry takes them all across in an hour. Shortly afterward, they arrive in a town to rest for the night.
The group is greeted warmly at the settlement and shown to a public house where they can rest for the night. Axel notes that because of the latitude, the summer sun does not set, but it is cold and they are tired nonetheless. They eat and rest well.
The travelers continue on the next day into a changing landscape that becomes increasingly difficult to traverse. While there are fewer people nearby than before, they encounter a leper, who runs away, though Hans greets him kindly. Hans explains that it is a hereditary disease on the island, but it is not contagious.
They continue on their way for several more days, stopping in settlements along the coast. Finally, they arrive in the settlement of Stapi, at the base of the mountain.
The three travelers must spend one night in Stapi before continuing to the mountain. They make preparations in town for their morning departure. The horses can go no further, so they hire three local porters to carry their provisions to the base of the crater. At this point, Professor Lidenbrock finally tells Hans of their intention to “explore the volcano to its furthermost limits.” Hans nods his head simply, unbothered by the suggestion. In contrast, Axel becomes very worried that the volcano might erupt, even though it has been dormant for hundreds of years. He queries the professor about his fears, but the professor reassures him. Even so, Axel has a nightmare that night about being in an erupting volcano.
The next day, they assemble with Hans and the porters and leave Stapi for the mountain, Snæfellsjökull.