Saga Stories with the Reykjavík Grapevine: Harðar saga
Join me and the Reykjavík Grapevine on a trip around southwest Iceland and I’ll tell you all about Harðar saga, the tale of an unlucky hero, some tough outlaws, and two even tougher women.
Pt. 1: Hörðr’s First Steps
To begin our retelling of Harðar saga, we travel to the southwestern shore of Þingvallavatn, about 15 km south of Þingvellir, to the ruins of an old farmstead at Ölfus. These ruins are relatively recent, but it’s thought that they lie on the same site of the medieval farmstead of the same name, and it’s possible that this was the very same farm where Hörðr is said to be born in the saga. Here, we learn of Hörðr’s catastrophic first steps at the age of three, for which he is cursed by his mother.
Pt. 2: The Tough Outlaws of Harðar saga
Our retelling of Harðar saga continues at Dögurðarnes, a peninsula at the head of Hvalfjörður, about 40 km northeast of Reykjavík. Here, we learn about Hörðr’s years as an outlaw on the tiny island of Geirshólmr, which can be seen from the shore. We also learn about how Hörðr and his outlaw band are eventually lured from their island fortress to Dögurðarnes, where they are betrayed and executed.
Pt. 3: Even Tougher Women
To close our retelling of Harðar saga, we travel just a few kilometres further north along the head of Hvalfjörður to the mouth of the Bláskeggsá river. Here, we learn about how Hörðr’s courageous wife Helga escapes from the island in the middle of the night. She manages to swim to shore, carrying her four-year-old child and helping her eight-year-old child as she does so, before making the exhausting trek through the mountains to the home of her sister-in-law, Þorbjörg. We also learn about how these two women, Helga and Þorbjörg, ensure that Hörðr is properly avenged by organising twenty-four vengeance killings.