“We’ve got this database of monsters and creatures in our past. A lot of their stories are fascinating, it’s a shame that they’re not used more in modern culture,” remarked comic artist Hugleikur Dagsson in an interview this summer. This prompted the Grapevine to draft Dagsson to illustrate a series of articles on these monsters of yore. For the sixth instalment in the series, Dagsson chose to illustrate “Iceland’s most vicious ghost”, the über-scary ghost-bull ÞORGEIRSBOLI.
Þorgeirsboli is an unholy construct, an abomination in the face of God and nature. Bred of hate and jealousy, Þorgeirsboli did its maker’s evil biddings for as long as he lived, remaining loyal to his clan long after he passed. Or that’s how the story goes.
Most sources say the ghost-bull was created in the mid-1800s by a fellow named Þorgeir Stefánsson (others cite him as “Jónsson”), who found himself in a state of satanic frustration when a would-be flame rejected his advances. Not one to easily accept defeat (nor very tactful, apparently), Þorgeir decided the best way of dealing with rejection was to manifest an evil spirit to haunt the object of his affection.
Some sources claim Þorgeir created his beast by flaying a calf so that it dragged its hide by its tail before adding to the mix elements of dog, man, cat, mouse, bird, air and two sea creatures – thus allowing the evil entity to reach wide and far, taking the form of all these beings. Others say he made the beast by placing a dog’s leg inside a flayed calf’s head and reciting evil poetry over them. Either way, once Þorgeirsboli was manifest it immediately started haunting the unfortunate woman who’d turned down its creator, eventually driving her to an early grave.
After that accomplishment, Þorgeirsboli reportedly followed his maker, ensuring that no one who pissed him off got a good night’s sleep. He soon grew infamous; tales of frightful Þorgeirsboli encounters are legion in Icelandic folklore. Some say the bull followed its makers’ family for generations, causing an unholy chaos when it saw fit, whether it was looking after his keepers’ best interests or not.
The bull’s presence was often sensed late at night in the countryside, when his dark, devastating moos would rumble the earth. Those who’ve seen him and lived to describe it have reported him appearing as a dog, a cat, and a string of fog, although most see a skeleton-bull dragging his bloody loose skin behind him on its tail. Some say Þorgeirsboli is still grazing somewhere in the Icelandic countryside, so steer clear of any stray cattle you may encounter on hikes and camping trips, especially if they give out a demonic, dark, earth-rumbling moo sound.
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