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Pre-Christian Religions of the North: Sources

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Describes Þórólfr’s belief that he and his family will dwell in the mountain Helgafell after they die. Þórólfr reveres the mountain so much that he designates it a sacred site, establishing rules to protect it. The account reflects the belief that the dead die into the hills.


[excerpt from] Eb ch. 4b

4b. Thorolf goes to Iceland

Þórólfr kallaði Þórsnes milli Vigrafjarðar og Hofsvogs. Í því nesi stendur eitt fjall. Á því fjalli hafði Þórólfr svo mikinn átrúnað að þangað skyldi engi maður óþveginn líta og engu skyldi tortíma í fjallinu, hvorki fé né mönnum, nema sjálft gengi í brott. Það fjall kallaði hann Helgafell og trúði að hann mundi þangað fara þá er hann dæi og allir á nesinu hans frændur.

Þar sem Þór hafði á land komið, á tanganum nessins, lét hann hafa dóma alla og setti þar héraðsþing. Þar var og svo mikill helgistaður að hann vildi með engu móti láta saurga völlinn, hvorki í heiftarblóði og eigi skyldi þar álfrek ganga og var haft til þess sker eitt er Dritsker var kallað.

Þórólfr gave the name Þórsnes (Thor's Ness) to the region between Vigrafjörðr (Vigra Fjord) and Hofsvogr. On this headland is a mountain held so sacred by Þórólfr that no one was allowed even to look at it without first having washed himself, and no living creature on this mountain, neither man nor beast, was to be harmed until it left of its own accord. Þórólfr called this mountain Helgafell (Holy Mountain) and believed that he and his kinsmen would go into it when they died.

Þórólfr used to hold all his courts on the point of the headland where Þórr (Thor) had come ashore, and that was where he started the district assembly. This place was so holy that he would let no one desecrate it, either with bloodshed or with excrement; and for a privy they used a special rock in the sea which they called Dritsker

[status: unverified copy]



This short episode occurs early on within the longer narrative Eyrbyggja saga, taking place during the period when Iceland is still being settled. Like other settlers, Þórólfr claims land and proceeds to name it, but he also attaches religious or supernatural significance to the landscape.


(Contributed by Anna Millward.)


Main text: Eyrbyggja saga

Attributes: settlement Ritual Assembly Afterlife Landscape Mountain dying into the hills naming the landscape Funeral customs Death Holy mountain/hill Island Ritual Space

Named things: Þórr

Text sections: Anon Eb 4bV


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