Monster Of The Month: Sækýr - Sea Cow - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Monster Of The Month: Sækýr – Sea Cow

Monster Of The Month: Sækýr – Sea Cow

Published June 26, 2017

Photos by
Arngrímur Sigurðsson

There once was a man named Bjarni, known as Bjarni the Strong, who lived in Breiðavík by Borgarfjörður in the county of Múlasýsla. One summer day, Bjarni was out in the field in overcast and foggy weather when he heard the sound of cattle from the shore below the farm. He gazed into the fog and saw a herd of no fewer than eighteen cattle. A small boy ran behind the herd, followed by a calf. Bjarni took off and ran in front of the herd, as he suspected that these were sea cattle.

When the boy saw this, he began egging the cattle on. Bjarni saw that first among the cattle was an ox with rings on its horns, which rattled as it ran. Bjarni and the boy raced until they came to the shore, by which time Bjarni had overtaken the calf. As the herd and the boy disappeared into the sea, Bjarni turned to the calf and burst the bladder between its nostrils, said to be present on all sea cattle, thus preventing it from returning to the sea. Bjarni then took it home. The calf, which was a heifer, became a fine cow from which a great breed descended in Breiðavík.

Jón Árnason, Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og ævintýri I, p. 129.

Our Monster of the Month comes from the project Duldýrasafnið (“The Museum of Hidden Beings”) 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 English language translation of the book is available in our webstore, and you can read our interview with the artist here.

See more monsters here.

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