A farmer named Halldór and his wife Helga had two sons: Sigurd who was 7, and þordúrr who was 6. Just south of their farm there was a gravel hillock that fell into the Héraðsvötn river. At one point along the hillock there was a sheer drop. The two boys liked rolling rocks down this drop. The Héraðsvötn had a pool below it, and the rocks made a splash.
Helga liked to lay down to rest after finishing morning chores, and one day she did just that. After she fell asleep she thought a woman came to her wearing a black cloak. The woman was average height, angry, and rather corpulent. The woman said: “I would ask you good woman to take better care of your sons, and not to let them roll rocks around my home, and drive my children mad with fright.” The woman left, and Helga woke up.
Helga went outside and saw her two boys rolling rocks off the hillock into the Héraðsvötn. She said: “Stop doing that because you could fall into the Héraðsvötn after your rocks.”
A few days later, Helga laid down to rest as usual, and dreamed that the same woman came to her again, but even more angry. The woman said: “your boys are still troubling me and my children, and you’ll be sorry if you do not make them stop.”
Helga woke up, went outside, and saw her two boys rolling rocks into the Héraðsvötn. She called to them and promised a thrashing if she caught them doing it again. She ordered them back into the house.
Three days later Helga once again laid down to fall asleep after the morning chores. Just as she was about to fall asleep she heard someone enter the baðstofa who said: “Helga go outside and find your boys.”
Helga got up and went outside. þordúrr was standing on the hillock, and Sigurd was on the ground next to him. Helga picked up Sigurd, telling him: “get up.” His body was limp though, and he was unable to speak.
Helga carried Sigurd home while giving þordúrr a scolding. Sigurd lived for four more days, and on the fifth day he died. þordúrr grew into a strong and prosperous man; he had three children, one of whom is still alive.
Ed note: This story was adapted from:
Sigmundsdóttir, Alda. The Little Book of the Hidden People. Reykjavík: Enska Textasmiðjan, 2015.
Pictured is the east couloir of Hólkotshyma (AKA “Hotel Hill”), a few kilometers south of Ólafsfjörður, Iceland.
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