Hjörleifur & the history

Iceland’s history would probably have been different if the foster brother of the first settler, Ingólfur Arnarson, married to his sister Helga Arnardóttir, had lived longer. The foster brothers came together from Norway over to Iceland in 874 +/- and spent the first winter on two rocky headlands on the south coast, Ingólfur on Ingólfshöfði, south of Fagurhólsmýri and under the country’s highest mountain, Hvannadalshnjúkur in Öræfajökull. Hjörleifur wintered in the west, on Hjörleifshöfði just east of Vík in Mýrdalur, under Katla in Mýrdalsjökull. Both right under powerful volcanoes. Hjörleifur had gone on a raid west to Ireland, took slaves there who eventually killed him and fled with the women who were with him to Vestmannaeyjar, south and west of Hjörleifshöfði. But during the settlement era, people from the British Isles were called Westerners. Ingólfur and his men found them and killed them. Ingólfur and his wife, Hallveig Fróðadóttir settled in Reykjavík, after his slaves had walked the coast from Ingólfshöfði, until they found Ingólfur’s pillars in a bay east of Örfirisey, where Reykjavík Harbor is now, about 400 km away. We have this information from Landnáma and Íslendingabók. Here are some photos from and around Hjörleifshöfði and the surrounding area.

Hjörleifshöfði in the summertime

mynd 1: Hjörleifshöfði in the summertime

Kötlujökull, just north of Hjörleifshöfði

Hjörleifshöfði in the fall

 Looking north and west towards Mýrdalsjökull and Katla from Hjörleifshöfði

Hjörleifshöfði rising from Mýrdalssandur

Photographs & text: Páll Stefánsson
Reykjavík 02/10/2023 : A7R IV, RX1R II : 2.0/35mm Z, FE 1.2/50mm GM, FE 2.8/100mm GM