From Iceland — Saga Stories #9: Berserks and Zombies in Eyrbyggja Saga

Photo by
Art Bicnick

Join Dr Matthew Roby on another trip to the majestic Snæfellsnes peninsula for the second of two videos about Eyrbyggja saga. This saga depicts more supernatural phenomena than most others of the same genre, and this video looks at two such episodes: the first about two berserks (berserkir) and the second about a zombie (draugr).

First, we take you to the spectacular lava field of Berserkjahraun (64°57’45.2″N 22°58’24.2″W), which lies about halfway between Ólafsvík and Stykkishólmur on the northern shore of the peninsula. This area gets its name from two rowdy berserkir who were brought to Iceland to serve as the henchmen of a local chieftain but end up proving too troublesome to handle. A devious scheme is thus concocted to betray and execute these men, whose bodies are said to lie somewhere in the lava.

We then travel southeast of Stykkishólmur to the area around Úlfarsfell and Álftafjörður (64°59’16.7″N 22°37’04.7″W), where we tell the tale of one of the most menacing (and persistent) zombies in all saga literature. Þórólfr bægifótr is an evil, stubborn man in life and proves even more so in death. He returns to attack the living as a human zombie in two separate spates of haunting, and even the burning of his corpse can’t stop him: following his cremation, his ashes manage to impregnate a local cow, after which he returns again in the form of a trollish bull.

To watch, hear, and read more about the sagas, you can find Dr Matthew Roby at:

Special thanks to Hotel Buðir for the hospitality.

If you are struggling to understand the Icelandic names of people or places in this video, don’t forget to turn on closed captioning.

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