The Heroic Age

A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe

Founded 1998   |   ISSN 1526-1867

Issue 13 (August 2010)  |   Issue Editor: Larry Swain

Icelandic Fylgjur Tales and a Possible Old Norse Context

Eric Shane Bryan

Assistant Professor of English, Missouri University of Science and Technology

© 2010 by Eric Shane Bryan. All rights reserved. This edition copyright © 2010 by The Heroic Age. All rights reserved.

Abstract:  Icelandic folktales of the Fylgjur group have long been dissociated from the fylgjur, or attendant spirits, of Old Norse literature and pagan belief, a view supported by both Jón Árnason and the eminent folklorist Einar Ólafur Sveinsson. Despite their obvious differences, significant similarities persist between the earlier and later fylgjur figures. The later fylgjur represent a much changed version of their medieval ancestors. Understanding how fylgjur from the earlier and the later era relate to one another facilitates a better understanding of how belief evolved throughout religious development in Iceland, starting in the pre-Christian era, and moving through Christianization and beyond. Many of these later folktales have not yet been translated into English, and thus remain outside the purview of the general scholar. I have therefore included translations of three representative tales from this group.

§1.  Icelandic folktales have been on the periphery of Old Norse studies since Árni Magnússon (1663–1730) began collecting Munnmælasögur ("stories from oral tradition") from Icelandic farmers of the seventeenth century. When the fascination with folklore and folktale collections exploded throughout Europe in the early nineteenth century, Iceland was primed for the boom and in some ways ahead of the curve. It is not surprising that German folklorists like Konrad Maurer1 took an interest in the Icelandic folk tradition, particularly after the linguistic connections between German and Icelandic had been suggested just a few years earlier by Jacob Grimm and Rasmus Rask.2 The tales became a curiosity for English speakers not long after Árnason began his work. In 1864, just two years after Árnason released the first edition of Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintýri, George Powell and Eiríkur Magúnsson arranged the first of a two volume English translation for many of the tales in Árnason's collection.3 Following their work, however, new translations have been somewhat scarce. In addition to working their way into various collections of Scandinavian folklore, a few scholars have made efforts to preserve and improve upon those early translations. Jacqueline Simpson's translations Icelandic Folktales and Legends, first published in 1972 (and a second edition in 2004), and her lesser-known collection entitled Legends of Icelandic Magicians (1975) both excellently present the tales in a scholarly context. Only for a few tales, however, does she deviate from those originally translated by Powell and Magnússon. We must also be grateful to Alan Boucher (1975–1978) for compiling his translations, which were first presented in the Iceland Review, into several short volumes, but again, few new translations were offered. It is perfectly understandable why translators have not tackled additional tales beyond those in the Powell and Magnússon volumes. The Powell and Magnússon translations are quite extensive, for one thing, and they furthermore represent the most engaging of the tales collected by Árnason in terms of both reading enjoyment and interest to comparative folklorists.

§2.  Still, for the interested reader some valuable tales have fallen through the cracks. One such group of tales is the body of so-called "fylgjur" tales. Simply put, fylgjur tales are tales in which some attendant spirit—either in the form of an animal, an apparition of some sort, or a ghost of physical4 substance—attaches itself to a family or an individual. As I discuss below, attendant spirits are not a recent development in Icelandic lore. Written evidence of such spirits can be found in Icelandic literature from the twelfth to the fourteenth century, with indications of roots in pre-Christian Norse belief. After the fourteenth century, however, evidence for attendant spirits fall out of record, and accounts do not appear again until mid seventeenth century. In a work entitled Nova Descriptio Islandiæ (c. 1680), P.H. Resen records an account of ghosts in Iceland, originally written by Icelander Gísli Vigfússon (whose original work is now lost). These later attendant spirits possess significantly different characteristics from those in medieval accounts. As discussed below, in the later sources the spirit's attachment is, with some important exceptions, to the detriment of the attendee, while in the medieval literature, the relationship is, again with some important exceptions, beneficial. Vigfússon, for instance, described troll-like figures who, after death, attach themselves to a family or individual.5 The characteristics of the earlier and later spirits are so different, in fact, that it is generally assumed that they have no significant connection with one another.

§3.  Both Boucher and Simpson appreciate the Fylgjur group enough to include a sample of one or two stories, but despite their efforts the importance of these tales has yet to be fully realized. In conjunction with this essay, I present three representative tales from Árnason's Fylgjur group, each interesting for its own reasons. I offer here a discussion of those tales (and a few others) in an effort to argue for possible connections between these fylgjur tales and Old Norse stories of spirits by the same name. It is generally correct to acknowledge, along with Jón Árnason himself in his introduction to the Fylgjur group, that the tales comprised in the group are not themselves the same as the stories of fylgjur we see in Old Norse sources. Yet there persists enough comparative evidence, one might say, to indicate that the later fylgjur tales are the late offspring of those earlier mythological beings, and acknowledging such a heritage brings us closer to understanding the development of folk belief in Iceland.

The Pagan Image of Attendant Spirits

§4.  In Old Norse myth and literature, three supernatural beings, fylgjur (sg. fylgja), hamingjur (sg. hamingja), and dísir (sg. dís) held status as attendant spirits. Linguistically, dís and hamingja hold a more straightforward connotation. The word dís generally refers to a goddess or priestess, but in the terms discussed here it denotes a female guardian spirit.6 The word hamingja, interestingly, can suggest outright luck or fortune, while still holding on to the meaning of a guardian spirit. Cleasby-Vigfússon remarks that hamingja and fylgja are contextually almost synonymous, for hamingjur, like fylgjur, often take the shape either of an animal or of a human, typically female, form. The hamingjur developed from the mythological Norns, or the "hamingjur of the world" (Cleasby-Vigfússon 1957, "hamingja").7 The word fylgja, however, has a more diverse connotation. As a noun it can hold the connotation (even in modern Icelandic) of a spirit or ghost, but it can also refer to the placenta, meaning that which follows or attends the newborn child.8 In Old Norse, specifically, the noun fylgja can refer again to a spirit, but especially to a pagan female attendant spirit who watches after and sometimes reveals the fate of the individual it attends. The verb að fylgja means "to attend" or "to follow" in the sense of giving someone support. The attendant spirit grants assistance to a person or a family, and also goes before them, which supports the notion discussed below of a person's fylgja appearing somewhere before the actual person does. The connotation "to back," or "to help," leads to the prefix fylgi-, meaning help or support. A fylgisamur is a faithful follower, fylgð is a "following" or "backing," and the adjective fylginn means "adherent."

§5.  Clearly, the terms are complicated, as they appear in different contexts and circumstances that often shade meaning.9 Even acknowledging the differences between the fylgja and the more Christian version of a soul, fylgjur often appear as a rather unique figure in the Old Norse literature. Some fylgjur act more like the valkyrir of Norse mythology, serving to direct the fates of living individuals. These attendant figures, who are variously referred to as fylgjur, dísir, and hamingjur, stand as independent entities, free of any semblance with the soul, though very much interested in the fate of the individual it serves. H.R.E. Davidson remarks on the difference between the two types of figures, making a distinction between animal fylgjur, which more closely resemble the soul, and another type of fylgja—often a fylgjukona (fylgja-woman) or kynfylgja (family-fylgja)—which functions as more of an attendant for the individual than it does a soul or spiritual extension of the person (Davidson 1968, 130–31).10 She later sharpens the image, saying of the two types of attendant spirits,

one is that of the animal fylgja, which might be translated 'fetch'; it accompanies a human being through life, can be seen by others in dreams or in waking hours if they have the gift of second sight; and the life of the owner depends on its well-being. . . . The other conception, as we have seen, is that of a supernatural woman guardian, who attends an individual until death, and survives him; after his death he is able to enter her abode, and she then attaches herself to another, often in the same family (1968, 138).

In Hallfreðarsaga, chapter 11, a fylgjukona comes to Hallfreðr and declares that their relationship has come to an end (of course, boding ill for Hallfreðr), afterwards she negotiates the transference of her guardianship to Hallfreðr the younger, an arrangement that seems to please all parties involved. Davidson observes in this passage and numerous others like it11 that spiritual attendants (whether called fylgjur or hamingjur) work to affect the fate of the individual under their protection. Generally, the guardian spirit's services benefit the individual, though not always; the fylgjukona in Hallfreðar saga often works ill fate for the one under her care. At certain significant times, the guardian spirit will transfer its allegiance to another individual, often a descendant or friend, and at other times, the guardian spirit will be lent to another individual, as in Þorsteins saga Vikingssonar, chapter 22. The diversity of references to fylgjur, hamingjar, and dísir make it difficult to lay down an accurate description of these spiritual figures. For now it is important to notice the distinction between the two types of attendant spirits in Old Norse belief, but while Davidson's distinction appears to hold fairly consistent, there do not appear to be any hard and fast rules that articulate the characteristics of these figures.

§6.  After the introduction of Christianity into the Norse belief system, these attendant spirits metamorphosed extensively. Evidence for the shift can be seen in a number of places, perhaps most remarkably in well known story Þiðranda þáttr ok Þórhalls, where two competing bands of fylgjur vie for the life of Þiðrandi at the farmstead of Síðu-Hallr, who, incidentally, is said to have played a key role in Iceland's conversion to Christianity. Nine women in black tear Þiðrandi to pieces before the nine women in white can arrive to defend him. From these apparitions, the prophet Þorhallr predicts that conversion is imminent. Of the episode, John Lindow states, "some time between the late twelfth and late fourteenth century, a learned author saw little difference between fylgjur and dísir and saw no difficulty depicting them in terms of color symbolism to represent opposition between the old faith and the new" (2002, 97). Thomas A. DuBois suggests that the concept of attendant or guardian spirits has a long and plentiful representation in all Nordic religions, remarking further that the tradition would have found a likely correspondent in the Christian concept of the guardian angel and saints (1999, 52). Be that as it may, it seems unlikely that the Nordic figures would have derived from the same tradition as the Christian guardian angels. Ross rejects the notion posited by Gallén that harbingers of fate such as the nornir (other guardian attendants) might have suffered influence from Christianity. Ross argues that "the concept of a tutelary spirit is widespread in early Norse culture and is unlikely a foreign import" (1994, 245).12 Independent though they are, a person's fylgja clearly symbolizes much about the character, origins, and fate of the person it attends.

§7.  In a similar study, Dag Strömbäck examines the concept of the soul in Nordic tradition, stating that one consistent theme in the Norse concept of the soul is "the belief in the soul as a spiritual element, not only incorporated in the individual but also more or less invisibly emanating or—if I may say so—radiating from an individual and capable of exercising influence at a distance" (1975, 16). Indeed, the latter portion of this statement can be attested to by the fact that fylgjur often act as an agent for the one they attend, going before them and causing a drowsiness or other affliction to come over their owner's enemies, as in Sturlunga Saga, Njáls Saga, and other sources.13 Strömbäck cites examples of this phenomenon in later Nordic folktales in the form of an attack (Icelandic aðsókn, a term that, according to Strömbäck, refers specifically to this sort of aggression) that one's soul can make on another individual. In the later traditions the attacks, interestingly enough, can take place involuntarily, in which case the individual whose "soul" has executed the attack must often pay compensation for the damage done (1975, 14–15).

§8.  These literary instances may serve as markers of the attendant spirit's place in Norse pre-Christian belief, though more likely (at least more verifiably) they indicate how early Christian (as to say, literate) Icelanders viewed them. Both possibilities are worth noting, but in order to discern how the perception of attendant spirits resolves, we must turn to the folktales of a later, post-Christianization era. Jón Árnason dedicates a section of his folktale collection to fylgjur, citing their similarity to the attendant spirits of earlier belief. Árnason includes hamaskipti (shape-shifters); mannafylgjur and aðsóknir (individual "followers" and attendants);14 ættardraugar, Mórar og Skottur (family ghosts called Mórar and Skottur);15 and lastly bæjardraugar (farm ghosts). The classification of these spirits as fylgjur is problematic, however, since it remains questionable how much these spirits ought to conjure images of attendant spirits from Old Norse accounts. Einar Ólafur Sveinsson agrees that all of these figures are certainly attendant spirits, but he also makes a distinction between them and the fylgjur of earlier Norse belief:

The belief in 'attendant spirits' is clearly no new thing here at this time, but it is unlikely that it was very widespread until the late seventeenth century, or even until on in the next century . . . These 'attendant spirits' had one thing in common with the class of spirits known by the same name in ancient Iceland (fylgjur, 'guardian spirits'), they went in front of the person to whom they were attached, but these did nothing but evil, both to that person and to others, while the ancient guardian spirits did no harm, unless their 'owner' was an evil person or in an evil mood . . . The two types of spirit have thus little more than the name fylgja in common16 (2003, 188).

While the differences between the ancient belief and the later are inescapable, I suggest four additional similarities between the ancient supernatural attendant spirits and those ghosts in the fylgjur folktales collected by Jón Árnason. First, we cannot ignore that these later ghosts are "inherited," as it were, by subsequent family members, which indicates a familial connection like that observed in Hallfreðarsaga and other stories. Second, certain of the later tales present a fylgja as soul, much in the same forms indicated by Davidson and observed in more detail by Strömbäck. Third, despite the fact that the later ghosts generally do harm, they are often observed trying to do something like a beneficial service, demented though it may be, for their "owner." True, their efforts never turn out well, but the intent remains. Finally, much like earlier versions of fylgjur, who exacted punishment upon their owners, the fylgjur of the later folktales punish their owners for similar reaasons. These similarities suggest that there may be a stronger continuity between the earlier and later traditions of attendant spirits than what has traditionally been assumed.

The Folktale Tradition

Inheritance of the Attendant Spirit

§9.  The inheritance of attendant spirits in later folktales will be obvious from the translations presented alongside this essay, so only limited illumination is needed here. "Sels-Móri eða Þorgarður" ("Sels-Móri or Þorgarður"; JÁ 1: 373–76), which I have translated here, serves as an exemplary story. The general line of the story is as follows: A certain man, Þorgarður, who has been condemned to death for a crime, seeks help from a great diplomat, Jón. Jón is reluctant to help but finally agrees after Þorgarður vows to serve him and his family for as long as Jón deems necessary. Hearing of the plan, however, Jón's wife Guðrún refuses and demands that Þorgarður leave. The bitter Þorgarður responds by cursing the couple: "Ekki mun hér skilið með okkur; því ekki er það meira en fyrir mig að sjá svo um að kveðja mín fylgi ykkur hjónum og ætt ykkar í níunda lið" "I will not divide us—Instead I will keep my promise, and I will attend (fylgi) you and your family for nine generations"; JÁ 1: 374). The couple is haunted all their lives, and their only child, a daughter suspiciously named Þorgerður, inherits the ghost. Þorgerður marries Halldór Bjarnason, and they have two children, Bjarni and Jórunn. Interestingly, as in the case of several other fylgjur tales, the male child is here exempt from the haunting (while Bjarni's daughter, Þuríður, is in fact haunted). Jórunn, Haldór's daughter, is greatly affected by Móri (as the ghost becomes know; see below for an explanation of the name), and is even cursed by another ghost, herself. Jórunn has married Eyjólfur, and their child, Þorgerður (named after her grandmother), grows up to marry a good man named Eggert. At this point geography becomes a vital factor, as Eggert and Þorgerður move east, escaping the family curse presumably because the ghost cannot be in two places at once (he still haunts Jórunn at this point). Things go on until Jórunn dies from her affliction and Þorgerður goes south to mourn the loss. When the couple gets close to her parents' home, Þorgerður becomes infected by her mother's insanity and dies shortly thereafter. As is clear from the tale, Móri's haunting obeys what seem to be predetermined rules of inheritance. This and other tales go so far as to establish the number of generations that will suffer under the ghost's curse. More importantly, people close to the family seem to understand the logic behind the rules, for many have warned Eggert against the journey southward. The familial connections here are not as clearly defined as in the story of Hallfreðr, perhaps, but the lineage is obvious. Much as the attendant spirits perceived in the Old Norse tradition, the fylgjur of later folktales are transmitted along genealogical lines.

Fylgjur as Soul (Aðsókn or Hugr)

§10.  One of the two conceptions of attendant spirits, the "fetch," stays with an individual through life as a kind of soul. Most often thought to be an animal, fetches tend to go before the individual they attend, announcing the individual's arrival or presence, as well as betraying various characteristics of the person. They can be seen by those who have second sight, and the well-being of the person depends upon his or her fetch. These mythic figures have a direct correspondence in the later fylgjur tales, and often these later figures act in much the same way as their Old Norse predecessors. In Jón Árnason's collection, five fylgjur tales in specific deal with this figure: "Dalakúturinn" ("The Treasure Cask"; Jón Árnason 1954, 1: 342–43),17 "Tvær Sagnir um Fylgjur" ("Two Stories about Fylgjur"; Árnason 1954 1: 344–45), "Þeir Koma þá Fjórir" ("They Come then Four"; Árnason 1954 1: 345), "Galtardalstófa" ("Galtardal's Fox"; Árnason 1954 1: 345), and "Anna á Bessastöðum" ("Anna in Bessastaður"; Árnason 1954 1: 346), which I have translated here.18 In the tale "Dalakúturinn," which, incidentally, has a remarkable correspondent in Albigensian folklore,19 a group of travelers stops for rest and all but one go to sleep. This man sees a blue light escape the travelers' tent, and he follows the light over the landscape to a certain point, then returns. When the men wake, one of them (from which the light originated) gives an account of a strange dream he had in which he went on a journey to find a chest of gold. The waking man then laughs, saying that he had seen the man's fylgja, at which point they all follow the same path to find the gold. The tale mirrors the Old Norse belief that certain clairvoyant individuals can see the fylgja of another person, and in doing so somehow benefit from the ability. The same clairvoyance plays a role in "Tvær Sagnir um Fylgjur" and "Þeir Koma þá Fjórir," in which the ability to see the fylgjur of others lends motivation to the anecdotes. In "Anna á Bessastöðum" (translated here) the concept of the fetch plays a more vital role. The tale takes place in a fishing village, where Anna, herself clairvoyant, serves the fishermen, making them coffee and doing other such things to help around the fishing camp. One morning she goes down to the shore and sees sixteen men coming out of the sea, all of them soaked. When she asks whether they have just landed, she gets no answer. Thinking this strange she goes into the house where the fishermen stay, only to find them around the fire, having not even put on their fishing clothes. Knowing that she has seen their fylgjur, Anna warns them not to go out that day, as the omen bodes ill for them. None listen to her, and all fishermen die in a horrible storm. Here, the fylgjur clearly represent the souls of the men, much as they would have in Old Norse belief, but being clairvoyant, Anna takes on the role of guardian figure, rather than the fylgjur (of a different sort) guarding over the individuals they attend. As such the tale suggests a kind of split from the old belief. Still a female guardian (in Old Norse, the fylgjukona), she looks after certain persons, but rather than being a fylgja herself, she must rely upon her ability to see the fetches to indicate when danger is near.

§11.  In "Galtardalstófa" the role of a female attendant echoes the one served by Anna. This time, however, the fetch does not reflect the person under guardianship but rather the perpetrator of the offence. The same clairvoyant girl who saw the fylgjur in "Þeir Koma þá Fjórir" here sees a rust-brown fox that stands before a man (a clear reference to the older concept of a fylgja as one who "goes before") who wants to marry a certain woman, though the woman has rejected him. The fox bears with it a curse that the woman will not be happy in her chosen marriage, as she will grow a spoiled temper. The curse echoes the reputation of the fox, for just as in English, the word tófa, fox, bears in Icelandic the same connotation of vixen, or spiteful, mean-spirited woman. The second-sighted Guðrún sees the fox from afar and warns the appropriate parties, thus taking on the role of a guardian figure, herself; and when people learn of it, they reckon that this fox is a Sending20 conjured by the man she has rejected. The notion of the fox as a Sending is an interesting one if taken alongside Dag Strömbäck's study of the soul in Norse societies. Strömbäck discusses the soul in terms of a spiritual extension of the individual that can actually have an effect on other people. What he calls "emanations or radiations" refers to the extension of a person's fylgja (in Icelandic terms) as an attack upon another person, which can come in the simple form of drowsiness, sneezing, or hiccups, or in the more sinister forms of sickness or death. These attacks Strömbäck refers to as "aðsókn," calling upon the Icelandic action of attack (að sækja). "Galtardalstófa" suggests a similarity between this function of the soul or fylgja and the function of a Sending, which serves much the same purpose and which is often conjured from similar motivation. The connection holds particularly true in those cases when the Sending is not an actual corpse but, as is often the case, a mist, fly, or some sort of animal, all of which would be more characteristic of a fylgjur. It is not too far afield to suggest that some crossover has take place between the two folk beliefs, and this is certainly the case in "Galtardalstófa." With its references to the Sending, the notion of a fetch as a soul, and the presence of the second sighted guardian figure, this short tale (only about 200 words) serves as a point of convergence for a variety of Icelandic motifs, though the intersecting motifs seem to hit upon a similar kind of life experience. It remains to ask how they are similar. For one thing, the characterization of the fox as both Sending (as the people reckon) and the scorned man's fetch (aðsókn, to use Strömbäck's terminology) must suggest some association between the fox and—if not guilt, per se, then certainly offense. The woman stands guilty of the offense and she must suffer for it accordingly. The same sort of romantic offense motivates other tales about fylgjur, particularly those concerning malignant attendant spirits. As the discussion shifts from fetches to these ættardraugar, the relationship between culpability and attendant spirits becomes more pronounced. In these tales, however, punishment for the offense takes the form of either a male or female (Móri and Skotta, respectively), who plays harsh tricks on the individual, killing livestock, destroying property, and sometimes even killing humans. These ghosts also attach themselves to a certain family, transferring their attendance, much like the fylgjur of pagan belief, from one generation to the next.

Demented Assistance

§12.  Though they always bring about strife in the end, it does not appear to be the case that the fylgjur of later folktales always seek to do their owners harm. Of family ghosts, or ættardraugar, one of the few translated tales (and at that, only about half of it has been translated into English) shares the motif of a scorned lover. Irafells Móri ("Móri of Irafell"; Árnason 1954 1: 364–73), shares the long and involved tale concerning Kort and his wife Ingibjörg and their descendants. Just as in "Galtardalstofa," Ingibjörg has rejected many lovers in order to marry Kort. Here, however, the rejected lovers collectively pay a wizard to send a Sending against the family, and commanded that the ghost should follow the family for nine generations. People call the ghost Móri, as he is seen wearing grey breeches, some sort of hat, and a rust brown (mórauða) colored sweater, thus attaining his name (all Mórar share a similar description). As the tale proceeds, however, the significance of initial motive fades, and the haunting bears a distorted semblance to the attendant spirits of Norse paganism. In one instance, a certain of Kort's sons, Einar, goes on a journey Skrauthólar, and arriving late at his destination he looks in the cow house for shelter, since he did not wish to disturb his hosts. Finding a stall in which to spend the night he goes to sleep, but in the morning he discovers that Móri has actually arrived ahead of him and killed the cow that once occupied the stall, thus making room for Einar to sleep. Two interesting aspects of the tale arise: First, that Móri goes ahead of Einar indicates the same kind of motif intersection observed in "Galtardalstófa," in which the fox (a fylgja) goes out ahead of the haunted woman, Margréta. Móri acts as Einar's fetch when he goes ahead of Einar, and yet Móri remains the Sending sent to haunt Einar, son of Kort. Likewise, while inextricably bound to (and responsible for) the actions of his attendant spirit, Einar possesses no control over Móri's actions. In this event, Móri stands, in a way, in the same position as the old pagan attendant spirit, for they too would act both according to their own volition and yet on behalf of the individual they served. The difference, of course, being that the pagan attendant spirits (generally) served the best interests of their charge, whereas Móri hardly follows that suit. Nevertheless, and this brings me to the second point, although killing the cow remains consistent with Móri's typical pattern of destruction, the destruction was meant as a service to Einar.21 The same type of service motivates the events of another anecdote later in "Irafells-Móri," when Kort Kortsson has lent his leather jacket to a friend, Þorsteinn, for a windy horse ride home. When the two riders reach the point at which their paths diverge, Þorsteinn turns on his way, forgetting to return the jacket to Kort. As he begins to ride away, Þorsteinn feels something pulling at the jacket, and his horse falls down dead beneath him. It is believed in the tale that Móri was trying to return the leather jacket to Kort. True enough, Móri's "service" in both of these instances does invariably more harm than good, but it remains as a distorted, perhaps grotesque shadow of the attendant spirits of Norse pagan belief.

Retribution and Punishment

§13.  These phenomena show up in other tales, as well, but in several cases the motivation for the haunting derives from a significantly different origin. In the tale "Móhúsa-Skotta" ("Skotta of Móhús; Árnason 1954 1: 347–48), translated here, the attendant spirit begins to haunt not because of scorned love but because she, herself, has been scorned. Skotta, the female version, often wears the traditional Icelandic headdress, turned backwards on her head and dangling behind her like a tail (skotta), from which she gets the name. In the case of "Móhúsa-Skotta" a certain man, Jón Þórðarson, lived in a district called West Móhús, where he strove to acquire a fortune. On a night of particularly inclement weather, a young girl came to his house asking for lodging for the evening, but Jón turned her away for no apparent reason. The young girl died of exposure and thus the haunting begins. Wherever Jón went she would be nearby, going ahead of him to kill livestock and play evil tricks. That Skotta goes ahead of Jón calls again on the characteristic of the pagan fylgjur, particularly the fetch-like version discussed by Davidson. Associating Skotta's fetch with the young girl's death suggests that the Skotta also represents the girl's soul taking revenge upon Jón for not accommodating her, but unlike Strömbäck's aðsókn the motif of a fetch has shifted from an extension of the soul to the very thing, itself.22 The ancient benevolent attendant spirit has become the vengeance of wrongdoing, and again she comes in the more grotesque and (literally) twisted version of the old guardians. Even her name, Skotta, "tail," refers to a tradition (the traditional headdress) that has been twisted backwards. But it must be remembered that pagan attendant spirits from pagan often punished those who had offended them. Lindow (2002) points to passages in Ynglinga saga, chapter 29, in which King Aldis is thrown from his horse and killed while riding by a site reserved for sacrifice to the dísir. It seems then that the role of attendant spirit as benevolent guardian figure has fallen by the wayside and only the vengeful figures remain in the later folktales.

§14.  The same holds true in the two other significant tales: "Hítardals-Skotta" (Árnason 1954 1: 351–52) and "Hörgslands-Móri," (Árnason 1954 1: 363–64). In the tale "Hítardals-Skotta" the Reverend Vigfús has been friends with another priest for many years, but when Vigfús's friend commits a certain crime, the punishment of defrocking the priest for his crime falls to Vigfús. Afterwards, the defrocked priest vowed revenge, and shortly thereafter Vigfús's demeanor change for the worse and a Skotta was seen in his midst. The defrocked priest clearly sends the Skotta against Vigfús, and thereby the tale echoes the motif of aðsókn mentioned above, and again Skotta serves as a vengeful spirit. Perhaps even more important than these observations, the tale confronts the audience with the question of whether Vigfús acted rightly when he defrocked his friend. Clearly, his friend sends Skotta to haunt him for this express reason (as no others present were cursed), and the particular curse laid down implies that defrocked priests expects his friend to defend him: "Þú varðst þá, vinur, fyrstur til að færa mig af hempunni; vera má að þér þyki jafnmikið sem mér nú áður langt um líður" ("You become, friend, the first to pull at my cassock; it may be that you are regarded just as well as I am now, before too long"; Árnason 1954 1: 351). The haunting by Skotta serves as a kind of penance for Vigfús, and the subsequent haunting as a reminder to his family.

§15.  The tale "Hörgslands-Móri" tells the moving tale of the Priest Oddur, whose son died while very young. On a certain winter day the priest rode away from home over a stretch of solid ice, but when the boy saw his father leaving, he ran after horse and rider and, hitting a weak point in the ice, fell through and died. After the incident the priest fell into deep despair and his wife, both because of the priest's despair and because of the loss of their son, divorced the priest. The tale states that the priest then sends a Sending in the form of a dog after his wife for her betrayal. The Sending is called Móri first apparently because it follows the woman's family for nine generations and second because it acts typically like a Móri. This explanation aside, it seems fairly clear that the Móri in this case represents, at least figuratively if not overtly in the narrative, the young boy who was lost beneath the ice. Characteristic of a fetch (in the sense of a soul) Móri in this tale can shift its shape from a dog to a mist, and it seems in keeping with the interpretation that Móri would begin his haunting with the mother who abandoned the beloved father, thus breaking up the family from which he originally came. This again situates the motivation for the haunting in the realm of vengeance, though in this case the father finds himself free of that vengeance since he clearly suffers enough grief at his own hands. Instead, the mother, who tries to escape her responsibility of grief by leaving her husband, becomes the object of Móri's haunting, and for nine generations he serves as a reminder of the mother's mistake. Additionally, here again Móri acts as a more grotesque and even petty remnant of pagan attendant spirits, causing mischief and madness most often. Both of these tales exhibit the vengeful nature of Skotta and Móri; their nature of the hauntings and the characteristics of the fylgjur suggest a connection to older concepts of fetches and aðsókn, while at the same time serving as reminders of the importance of familial and filial faithfulness.


§16.  I have argued here that the differences between the fylgur of the Old Norse literature and those of the later Icelandic folk tradition do not preclude a relationship between them, and furthermore that similarities between them indicate that the later tales share a heritage with the older figures. I will suggest in closing that both the similarities and the differences can tell us something about the means by which belief has developed in Iceland from the pagan era (or at least the early literate era) to the post-Christianization era. There is, understandably, reluctance to associate the later Icelandic folktales with the earlier Old Norse literature of the sagas and Eddas. For one thing, religious developments such as the reformation have obviously affected the folk sentiments towards religious development. Observable folk reactions against Christian doctrine, for instance, may be more likely a reaction against Lutheranism than a remnant response to Christianization. Comparisons must proceed with caution. Still, by observing folk belief evident in the later Icelandic folktales, we have the opportunity to discern something about how the Icelandic belief system evolved along its trajectory of belief from a pre-conversion to an overtly Christian folk setting.


Anna in Bessastaður23

§17.  Not far from the farm at Bessastaður in Skansinn, there lies an anchorage. From there three fishing crews would row out to go fishing. The crews seldom had a chance to return to their homes, but a girl there named Anna would heat coffee for them in the morning before they rowed, and she would do other such things to take care of them, as well. One of the foremen there, named Eiríkur, had been working at Bessastaður for a long time and had the temperament of a sorcerer. One morning before daybreak, Anna was on her way to prepare the coffee for the young men, but as she went she saw sixteen men, all wet from the sea, coming towards her. She thought it a very strange thing and called out to them, "Have you just landed, boys?" But they didn't answer. Then Anna went inside to where the boys were staying, and there were all the boys without their oars and not even wearing their fishing attire. "You're not rowing today, boys," Anna said, "I have seen your fylgjur." But they laughed at her and all three crews rowed out as planned. During the day, Anna came home to Bessastaður and said it would not go well for the boys that day, telling all that she had seen, but everyone dismissed her talk as nonsense. That same day, however, there came a deadly snowstorm and many crews were lost, among them the crews from which Anna had seen the boys' fylgjur. Eiríkur, however, survived and he saved many ships. Now, Anna had told her story before the weather broke, so it must be authentic.

Sels-Móri (or Þorgarður)24

§18.  In Bústaður there lived a certain couple, and next to them lived a workman named Þorgarður. It was joked that the woman might have been unfaithful to her husband with this man, and what's more, it came to light that the farmer might have lost his wife to the workman entirely. Thus, the farmer went out to do some unimportant work during bad weather when Þorgarður stayed home.

§19.  It was the farmer's habit to look after his livestock himself in the winter, even when the weather was bad. One winter night in a snowstorm the farmer didn't come home, neither that night nor the night after. He had gone to check on the sheep the previous morning and had intended to look after them for the day only. The following morning people went looking for him, and he was found by the Hellir river with what appeared to be a fatal, man-made wound. Þorgarður was suspected because of the rumors of him and the farmer's wife, and the case was to be tried against him. It was in all likelihood Þorgarður who carried out the crime, even though he vigorously denied it. Regardless, he was convicted of it, and it was decided that he would either be put to death (some say by hanging) or that he would have to pay a substantial compensation, so he would only be able to save his life with a considerable fee, which he didn't have. For the most part people wanted to see him dead, so Þorgarður looked for other ways he could save his life.

§20.  At that time a famous diplomat named Jón lived at Selur in Seltjarnarnes. Þorgarður went to Jón and begged him help save his life. Jón was at first reluctant to do so, but Þorgarður was so persistent until finally Jón acquiesced and decided to pay Þorgarður's compensation. Þorgarður had even promised to serve Jón and his descendants faithfully and virtuously, working with all his might and for as long as it took. Jón went to the table and began counting out the coins for the compensation, with Þorgarður right next to him the whole time. When Jón had been counting for a while, Guðrún, Jón's wife, came into the living room and, seeing money that Jón had set out on the table, asked what he wanted with all the money. Jón told her what it was for, but she told him not to go through with such foolishness for a worthless man like Þorgarður, whom she thought should not be spared from hanging. At that moment the housewife took up the corner of her apron in one hand, walked to the table and swept with her other hand all of the money into her apron. Jón conceded both to her argument and to her swiping away the money, and she said she was taking the money with her, and then she looked at Þorgarðar and said, "Depart from us for what you've done." Þorgarður replied, "I will not divide us—Instead I will keep my promise, and I will attend (fylgi) you and your family for nine generations." Then Þorgarður was taken off for his crimes. There are doubts as to whether it had been done here in the land or farther out, but it is thought true that he was hanged in Kópavogur, so immediately after his death he was thus able to go right to Selshjónunum and begin haunting the couple, particularly Guðrún, Jón's wife, just as he had promised. Both husband and wife then realized Guðrún's poor advice.

§21.  Because this ghost was staying around for a long time at Selur, he was called Sels-Móri, but he was also called "Þorgarður" now and then, and he kept that name as well, since the man was so called. The couple at Selur had one daughter who was named Þorgerður. Halldór Bjarnason, the noteworthy farmer in Skildinganes, married her, and together they inherited both the wealth from Jón and Guðrun as well as the family-ghost (ættarfylgjuna), called Þorgarður or Sels-Móri. Still a few short tales circulate of him, both in Halldór's and Þorgerður's time and one tale while Bjarni, their son, was living in Sviðholt. This Bjarni was a very respectable man. He was probably one of the members of the legal court whom the law-speaker, Magnús Ólafsson appointed later to the Alþingi of ÷xará, 1798, and Bjarni lived then at Hlið at Álftanes. After that Bjarni became the school manager when the school was moved to Bessastaður, but he still lived for a long time in Sviðholt, and was nominated district leader at Álftanes. Even though Móri did little for himself at that time, neither in Skildinganes by Halldór nor in Sviðholt while Bjarni lived there, he was likely still there for a long time and afterward while Bjarni's descendants lived there. He was thus regularly called Sviholt's ghost, but still very often he was associated with the name Þorgarður.

§22.  Bjarni of Sviðholt had several promising children, who were well-known and thought rather bright, and these children Móri harassed and equally so their descendants who are living now. Another daughter of Bjarni, who was named Þuríður, married Benedikt Björnsson, a student from Hítardal, who has been for a long time the priest in Fagranes. She was an intelligent woman, but through misfortune she became half-demented and sometimes completely crazy. Because of this she split with her husband, and Ragnheiður, her sister, took her in. She was the wife of Jón Jónssonar, the school-teacher at Bessastaður, and after that (she stayed with) the wife of Bjarni Gunnlaugsson, the headmaster at Reykjavík.25 It seems that Þuríður died while she was there. After Þuríður had experienced a "fit," she would say, "Dear Sister, it is a viper that stings me," but others testify that she would say, "It is always Ingibjörg that stings me in the heart with a cobbler's needle." People suspected that she had contended with Ingibjörg Jónsdóttur of Álftanes, who lived near Benedikt and Þuríður before they separated, but who later became the wife of Reverend Benedikt, so that Þuríður would have perhaps had bouts of insanity. The family ghost (ættarfylgju), who has still not given up his attendance of the family, was blamed for her weakness. Some people, however, think the ghost magnanimous and not entirely unpopular. I have not heard any stories in which Þorgarður harassed the housewife, Ragnheiður Bjarnadóttir, who was mentioned earlier, but there are rumors in Suðurland that he was the demise of a mail-boat that was lost in 1817 because her first husband sailed with it. He was also the cause of the late Þórðar Bjarnason's death, in Sviðholt; it is still said that he had haunted the children of Ragnheiður, especially Bjarni the headmaster, and some have thought him still to be present thereabouts.

§23.  It should be mentioned here that Bjarni Halldórsson in Sviðholt had a sister then who was named Jórunn, she was a very haughty and ornate woman. It is said that a certain man at Álftanes proposed to her, but she thought the situation beneath her and refused him. Then he vowed, that because she rejected his proposal, he would stick close to her family for a long time even though he had been forbidden it. After that, Jórunn married Eyjólfur Jónsson, the student, who was then in Sviðholt but who moved later to Skógtjörn at Álftanes and was thought to be a distinguished man in the region. They had one baby girl; she was named Þorgerður after her grandmother. Eyjólfur and Jórunn had not been together very long when some kind of nervous mood came over her. Things got worse for her until finally she went completely insane. It was suspected that her suitor's curse had caused the sickness.

§24.  When Þorgerður Eyjólfsdóttir had grown to a marriageable age, Eggert Bjarnason, who was at that time the priest at Snæfoksstaður (Klaustuhólum) in Grímsnes, proposed to her and married her. She thus went east with him and they had several children together. Time passed until Jórunn, Þorgerður's mother died. She had never been free from her madness, but there were no signs of the sickness in Þorgerður while her mother lived, since she had never returned south after going east. Reverend Eggert had even been warned about letting her go south, and people said that if she never came out from Sog or Álftavatn, then she would probably not be taken ill. When Jórunn died, however, Þorgerður begged her husband to permit her to go south with him. He resisted at first but finally gave in when she pressed him further. Nothing is said of the couple's trip until they arrived at Hellisheiður, south in Fóelluvötn above Helliskot. When they arrived there, a drunkenness came over her and she was never the same again. Men suspect that her mother's ghost (fylgidraugur), that is, Þorgarður, had met her there and followed her from then on as long as she lived, which was not for very long. The children of Eggert and Þorgerður have, some thought, ill fate, and two of their daughters went mad as well.


§25.  Móhús is a small farm in Stokkseyri district at Eyrarbakka, called West Móhús. Jón Þórðarson lived there and did most of the farming; he was famous in Suðurland for his wealth, just as Böggustaða-Jón in Norðurland. Jón was very poor at first, but throve remarkably from little means and did so well that he bought the farm within a year of moving there. Jón lived first at Refstokka, by Ferjunes (Óseyrarnes), a farm which is now deserted. There, a little girl came to him and requested from him a night's lodging, but she was refused. She was so exposed through the night that she died and walked as a ghost after her death, attending (fylgdi) Jón for a long time thereafter, playing various dirty tricks on him. She was called Skotta, and after that, Jón moved to Móhús in the west; she spoiled everything that she could for him and killed both his livestock and others' with evil attacks right in front of Jón. She would stay so closely behind him that she nibbled down each sock, one after the other, and the laces of his shoes, and even though he got new socks that morning they were shredded up by night. Jón usually had a long piece of string from his short shirt collar, and he had it there because Skotta would grab after string instead of choking him.

§26.  Skotta was blamed for driving a man crazy on mid-summer's day in Ranakot in Stokkseyri district. He was found strangled in a well. Even after that, Skotta was tolerable until she started teaming up with Sels-Móri.27 Then there was a particular winter when Móri and Skotti were together that a man called Tómás from Norðurkot at Eyrarbakka, went east for Christmas into the Stokkseyri district. There he bought there for himself smoked meat for the feast, and at nightfall he headed towards home, stopping somewhere along the way. In the morning he was found in Arnhólm, dead, ripped all to pieces, blue and bloodied just a short distance from Stokkseyri district, which is where Móri had originally died of exposure. Afterwards, people saw three ghosts moving about, where before there were observed only two freely moving, the married couple Móri and Skotta. Men said that this Tómás had probably become their companion. Then such bitter hauntings ensued that none were able to go out after twilight from Stokkseyri out to Bakka or from Bakka to the river. No one was willing to become a disciple of these three ghosts.

§27.  Móhúsa-Jón found himself obliged to intervene because Skotta was the worst of the three. That winter, therefore, he wrote to Jón Magnússon, a farmer at Þykkvabæ's Cloister, who was very knowledgeable of such things, and offered him thirty dollars to come from the haunted people in Eyrarbakka, because he (Móhúsa-Jón) was beginning to be frightened by them. Finally, when Jón came to the east, it is said that Móhúsa-Jón had paid him half the reward up front. It was assumed that Cloister-Jón had destroyed them both, Skotta and Tómás, since they were never present in Eyrarbakka after that. Some, however, say that he had met his match with Skotta and that she had all but drowned him and all the crew of a ship crossing over Þjórs river on the Sandhóla ferry. But Jón said Skotta died in the east. Because Cloister-Jón did not destroy Sels-Móri, Móhúsa-Jón did not want to pay him the full reward. Cloister-Jón said he hadn't seen Sels-Móri, and that his good name should be enough to validate his word. Móhúsa-Jón let him have the whole sum, holding not one coin back, and two men died no more reconciled.


1.   Jón Árnason and Magnús Grímsson were the first Icelanders to see the value in Icelandic folktales with regard to the nineteenth century European and Scandinavian folklore movements. Inspired by the Grimms' Kinder- und Hausmärchen (1963), Árnason and Grímson set out to collect Icelandic tales in the same format. In 1852 they published Íslenzk æfintýri, "Icelandic Wonder Tales." Maurer, a prevalent German scholar of folklore, was interested enough in the work to travel to Iceland in 1858 and assisted Árnason and Grímsson in their efforts. For more on Konrad Maurer see Sveinsson's The Folk-Stories of Iceland (2003, 136–41).  [Back]

2.   See Rask's essay A grammar of the Icelandic or Old Norse tongue, first published in 1811 but which now can be found in English translation (Rask 1843).  [Back]

3.   The second volume went to press in 1866 but is exceptionally difficult to find today. Of particular interest in second volume is an extensive introductory essay, much of the information for which was taken from Árnason's editorial notes, but additional comments on the possible connection between the British Isles and Icelandic folktales are certainly worth exploration, perhaps not as much for their folkloristic value as for their interest to the history of folklore studies.  [Back]

4.   Nearly all "ghosts" in Icelandic lore appear in physical substance rather than as an apparition.  [Back]

5.   See Sveinsson's The Folk-Stories of Iceland for a discussion of this and other source from around the same time that suggest such spirits (2003, 187).  [Back]

6.   I skip over the notion of a dís as a "sister." Cleasby and Vigfússon discuss the etymology of the word in their entry. Especially of interest is Grimm's suggestion that Tacitus may have corrupted Idisaviso from Idisiaviso, "the virgin-mean." (See Cleasby-Vigfússon 1957, "Dís").  [Back]

7.   Interestingly, the word has come to be a blessing in Christian times: ". . . leggja sína hamingju með e-m."  [Back]

8.   The notion is not a surprising one, given the remarkable mythological significance attributed to the placenta throughout various cultures.  [Back]

9.   As Margaret Clunies Ross points out in Prolonged Echoes, several scholars have debated the meanings of these words: Ström 1954; Turville-Petre 1964; Hallberg 1973; Mundal 1974; Strömbäck 1975; Lönroth 1976; and Hastrup 1990b (1994, 245).  [Back]

10.   Davidson remarks in a footnote that this concept of a guardian attendant might be accounted for by Christian teaching, particularly in light of Njáls saga, in which Hallr agrees to the conversion to Christianity only if St. Michael will become his fylgjuengill, his fylgja-angel (1968, 130). However, as DuBois and Ross argue (see above), while the notion of attendant spirits would have found a correspondent in Christianity, the notion has a prevalent place in Norse paganism as well. The important question to ask here, then, is how the belief actually metamorphosed, what with the likely correspondence between the two belief systems. The current essay suggests that the attendant figures fragmented throughout metamorphosis, rather than preserving an in tact development.  [Back]

11.   For instance, Vatnsdæla saga, chapter 34; Völsunga saga, chapter 4; Helgavkiða Hjörvarðssonar, II; Göngu-Hrólfs saga, chapter 32; and Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar, chapter 1, although in some of these the attendant spirit is referred to as the hamingja. Davidson (1968, 130–38) discusses many additional examples of similar ilk.  [Back]

12.   Ross also remarks that unlike Old Icelandic prose, the terms fylgja and hamingja are rarely used in the mythological poetry and Snorri's Edda, the term norn being found more frequently to articulate guardian figures (1994, 246).  [Back]

13.   See Dag Strömbäck (1975, 5–7), for additional commentary and examples of this type of agency.  [Back]

14.   The word aðsóknir obviously bears strong connection to the verb að sókna or sókna, which Strömbäck refers to as an act of aggression; see above.  [Back]

15.   The words Mórar (sg. Móri) and Skottur (sg. Skotta) are commonly viewed as proper nouns, though Einar Ólafur Sveinsson translates them as "Rufuses" and "Long Caps." I will use the Icelandic forms here.  [Back]

16.   Simpson echoes this sentiment in her note to "Irafells-Móri," one of the few fylgjur tales to have been translated into English (2004, 161–62), although her translation cuts out portions of the original.  [Back]

17.   Hereafter, JÁ.  [Back]

18.   "Dalakúturinn" is also translated by Jacqueline Simpson (2004, 201–30). Simpson categorizes the tale under tales about buried treasure, suggesting that "in the narrator's mind the chief interest lay in its ending" (2004, 202). The categorization thus makes sense enough, except that she diminishes the importance of the fylgja.  [Back]

19.   The tale type (ML 4000: Soul of a Sleeping Person Wanders on its Own) is prevalent across Scandinavia. Remarkably, the Albigensians circulated a strikingly similar variant of this tale in France throughout the twelfth, thirteenth, and fourteenth centuries. The connection between the two tales is inescapable, but equally striking is the disparate conclusions of each tale. In the Albigensian version, the events proceed much the same way: One individual goes to sleep and another sees a lizard come from the sleeper, cross a river in the same manner as in "Dalakúturinn," and attempt to return to his body. Perhaps not surprisingly, however, the Albigensian tale foregrounds and exemplifies the transmigration of an individual's spirit. At the conclusion of the tale the two characters are baffled by the events and go to a parfait (Albigensian "priest," as it were) for aid. The parfait interprets the event, saying, "the soul . . . remains in a man's body all the time; but a man's spirit or mind goes in and out, just like the lizard which went from the sleeper's mouth to the ass's head and vice versa" (Le Roy Ladurie 1978, 352). The function of the spirit here compared with the function of the fylgja in Icelandic is nearly identical, yet the purpose of the Icelandic tale differs greatly. Whereas the Albigensian tale means to promulgate doctrine, the Icelandic tale means only to share an anecdote about treasure hunting, in which transmigration merely played a certain role. The difference indicates that fylgja of this sort had strong roots in the Norse tradition, for in the tale there was no need for the characters to question or inquire of a wise man, nor were they baffled by the fylgja. It was simply something that happened. In contrast the Albigensian transmigration sparks inquiry and wonderment, indicating that the culture was not as comfortable with the concept. The Albigensian account is recorded in Le Roy Ladurie's Montaillou: The Promised Land of Error (1978, 351–52).  [Back]

20.   In the late medieval period a new type of ghost appears in the literature and folklore. Magicians animate these ghosts, called Sendingar, sg. Sending, or those ghosts who are "sent," in order to do harm to others. These ghosts are prevalent in the later folk belief, but however connected the Sendingar may be to a corpse, it is difficult to call them "ghosts" in the traditional sense of the word. They do not walk on their own accord; they do not have their own will; they often embody only a small part of the original corpse (a bone or a heart); and in some cases the Sendingar roam as a vapor or a fly, not apparently contingent upon a corpse at all. They furthermore do not have their own identity, a point driven home by Þorleifs þáttr jarlsskálds, in which the Sending is actually given a new name. Nor do they have their own strength, for the magician must strengthen (að magna) the Sending in order to animate it.  [Back]

21.   Conceivably, the service is a kind of mockery, but even so, the distortion service remains in tact.  [Back]

22.   A like motif appears in tales about "útburði," or exposed children. In "Móðir mín í kví, kví" (Árnason 1954, I: 217–18) a mother exposes her newborn baby girl, but later on, when the mother wants to go to a party but has no dress, the ghost of the girl appears to offer her mother her baby dress.  [Back]

23.   Árnason 1954, 346.  [Back]

24.   Árnason 1954, 373–76.  [Back]

25.   These details highlight the proximity of the tales to the storyteller and the audience.  [Back]

26.   Árnason 1954, 347–48.  [Back]

27.   Another draugur.  [Back]

Works Cited

Árnason, Jón, Árni Böðvarsson, Bjarni Vilhjálmsson, and M. Grímsson. 1954. Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintýri. Reykjavík: Þjóðsaga.  [Back]

Árnason, Jón, Eiríkr Magnússon, and George E. J. Powell. 1864. Icelandic legends: (collected by Jón Árnason). London: Richard Bentley.  [Back]

———. 1866. Icelandic legends (collected by Jón Arnason). London: Longmans, Green, and Co.  [Back]

Aðalbjarnarson, Bjarni, ed. 1968. Ólafs saga Tryggvasonar. Heimskringla 1. Íslenzk Fornrit. Reykjavík: Hið Íslenzk Fornritafélag.  [Back]

Boucher, Alan, trans. 1975. Mead Moondaughter and other Icelandic tales. Philadelphia: Chilton Book Company.  [Back]

———. 1977. Elves, trolls, & elemental beings. Iceland Review.  [Back]

———. 1977. Icelandic folktales. Iceland Review.  [Back]

———. 1978. Ghosts, witchcraft and the other world. Iceland Review.  [Back]

———. 1978. Adventures, outlaws, and past events. Iceland Review.  [Back]

Cleasby, Richard, Guðbrandur Vigfússon, and William A. Craigie. 1957. An Icelandic-English dictionary. Oxford: Clarendon Press.  [Back]

Davidson, Hilda Roderick Ellis. 1968. The road to Hel: a study of the conception of the dead in Old Norse literature. New York: Greenwood Press.  [Back]

DuBois, Thomas Andrew. 1999. Nordic religions in the Viking Age. The Middle Ages series. Philadelphia, Pa: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.  [Back]

Grimm, Jacob. 1963. Kinder-und Hausmärchen. München: Winkler.  [Back]

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