From Iceland — Monster Of The Month: Útburður

Monster Of The Month: Útburður

Published April 10, 2016

Monster Of The Month: Útburður
Photo by
Arngrimur Sigurðsson

When mothers expose their newborn children, leaving them where they will not be found, they turn into a ghost known as útburður. When they are seen, their appearance resembles that of a bird, such as a raven. They raise themselves up on one knee and one hand and flutter about. Their colour depends on the colour of the rag in which they were wrapped. Those who see an útburður should not hesitate to follow it, as it will eventually flee to its mother. They howl intensely during bad weather, but rarely speak. An exception to this is the tale of an útburður visiting its mother in a sheepfold and reciting the following verse to her:

My mother in the fold of sheep,
Do not worry, do not weep,
I shall lend you my blood-red rag
For you to wear, for you to wear.

Source: Jón Árnason, Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintýri III, bls.290


Our Monster of the Month comes from the project Duldýrasafnið (“Hidden Beings Museum”) by Arngrimur Sigurðsson. He takes firsthand accounts of creature sightings, like the one above, from Icelandic historical texts, and creates a painting of each one. An Icelandic book is out now, and an English language book is coming soon. Read our interview with the artist here.

Read Also: More Monsters.

Support The Reykjavík Grapevine!
Buy subscriptions, t-shirts and more from our shop right here!

Show Me More!