The Discovery and Settlement of Iceland in the Landnámabók Part 1, Chapters I-II and IV

Iceland before the Settlement --- Testimony of Bede --- Anchorites from Britain.

This is the Prologue to this Book. In that Book on the reckoning of time, which the Venerable Bede drew up, there is mention made of the Island called Tili, which in books is said to be six days' sailing north from Britain. There he said day came not in winter, nor night in summer, when day is at its longest. By wise men the reason why Iceland is called Tili is held to be this, that, wide about the land the sun shines all night when the day is at its longest, and that wide about it the sun is not seen in the day time when night is at its longest.

But Bede, the Priest, died 735 years after the Incarnation of our Lord, according to what is written, and more than one hundred years before Iceland was peopled by the Northmen. But before Iceland was peopled from Norway there were in it the men whom the Northmen called Papar; they were Christian men, and it is held that they must have come over sea from the west, for there were found left by them Irish books, bells, and croziers, and more things besides, from which it could be understood that they were Western (Irishmen); these things were found east in Pap-isle and Papyle, and it is stated in English books that in those times voyages were made between these countries.

[…] When Iceland was discovered and peopled from Norway, […] Louis, son of Louis, was Kaisar north of the Alps, and Leo and his son Alexander over Constantinople. Then was Harold Fairhair King over Norway […]and Gorm the Ancient in Denmark, and Alfred the Great in England, and afterwards Edward his son […]

So it has been said that once men set out from Norway bound for the Faroe Islands; and some say that it was Naddod the Viking; but they drifted west into the main and found there a great land. They went up a land, in the East Firths, to the top of a high mountain, and looked round about, far and wide, to see if they could observe smokes, or any inkling of the land being settled, but they could not observe anything of the kind. They went afterwards, about autumn, to the Faroe Islands, and as they sailed from the land, much snow fell upon the mountains, and therefore they called the land Snaeland = Snowland. They praised the land much. […]

There was a man named Gardar, the son of Svavar, a Swede by kin, he went to seek Iceland under the direction of his mother, who was a seer. He came to land east of the Eastern Horn; there was a haven then. Gardar sailed round the land and so came to know that it was an island.

He was through the winter in the north in Husavik in Skjalfand and there he built a house. […] Gardar went from thence to Norway, and he praised the land much. […]

Floki, the son of Vilgerd, was the name of a man, a great Viking. He went to search for Gardar's Home[…] There was also a man named Faxi, from Sodor, who was in the ship.

Floki took three ravens with him to sea. When he set free the first, it flew aft over the stem; the second flew up into the air and back to the ship again; but the third flew forth straightway over the stem, in the direction in which they found the land. They hove in from the east at the Horn, and then they coasted the land by the south. But as they sailed west round Reykjanes, and the firth opened out to them, so that they saw Snćfellness, Faxi observed "This must be a great land which we have discovered, and here are mighty rivers." […] The bay so abounded in fish, that by reason of the catch thereof they gave no heed to the gathering in of hay, so that all the live-stock perished in the winter. The following spring was rather cold; then Floki went up to the top of a high mountain and discovered north, beyond the mountain, a firth full of drift ice; therefore they called the land 'Iceland,' and so it has been called since then. […] They sailed to Norway the summer after, and when men enquired of them about the land, Floki spoke ill of it, but Herjolf told both the good and the bad of the land, and Thorolf said that butter dropped from every blade of grass in the land which they had discovered, therefore he was called Thorolf 'Smjör' = Thorolf butter.

[…] After that the foster-brothers fitted out a great vessel which they possessed, that they might go and seek that land which 'Hrafnafloki' = (Floki of the ravens) had discovered, which was then called Iceland. They found the land, and made a stay in the east country in the southernmost Alptafirth (or Swans' Firth the southernmost). The land seemed to them to be better southward than northward. They spent one winter in the land and then they returned to Norway.

Source: Ari the Learned, "The Discovery and Settlement of Iceland in the Landnámabók Part 1, Chapters I-II and IV," The Northvegr Foundation,, (2005).

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