Monster Of The Month: Finngálkn - The Sphinx - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Monster Of The Month: Finngálkn – The Sphinx

Monster Of The Month: Finngálkn – The Sphinx

Published September 14, 2016

Finngálkn is a creature mentioned in numerous ancient tales and legends, including the Saga of Örvar-Oddr, the Saga of Hjalmther, Njal’s Saga and many more. The descriptions therein depict them as large animals that are extremely vicious and dangerous, sometimes carrying a sword in their claws. Occasionally they seem to be envisioned as coming from the sea. They are described as having the upper body of a human and the lower body of an animal. […] More recent tales tell of their origin and claim a considerably less formidable size for them. (A finngálkn is, on occasion, said to be a sphinx.) According to later tales, the creature has a fox for a mother and a cat for a father. Others say that roosters will sometimes lay eggs and that a finngálkn emerges when such an egg is hatched.

A finngálkn is wary of humans but dangerous to livestock. A finngálkn is faster than any other animal, and no firearms can do it harm unless the sign of the cross is first made over the barrel and a silver button used for a bullet. A finngálkn is worse than any other creature sent to haunt men. Icelandic annals tell of an incident in 1383 where a rooster laid an egg. In order to prevent the creature known as finngálkn from hatching from the egg, the rooster and its egg were burned. But when the egg burst open in the flames, observers noted that the hatchling seemed to be worm-shaped. A finngálkn has a deadly, fatal gaze.

Source: Sigfús Sigfússon, Íslenskar þjóðsögur og sagnir VI, p. 60-61.

Duldýrasafnið Arngrimur Sigurdsson

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.

See more monsters here.

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