21 October 2011

Icelandic folk-tale: Borgarvirki

Borgarvirki (literally "the fort on the rocky hill") is situated in Vatnsnes in northern Iceland, about 40 km off the Ring Road. It is an old fort built on the top of a steep, rocky hill, from where there is a good view in all directions. The hill is the remnant of a volcano, and the fort is inside the crater. It has natural rocky walls on two sides, with walls built of rock extending across two gaps in the crater wall, to the south and east.According to legend, there was a freshwater spring inside the fort in the days when it was in use.

It was misty when I took this, but visit it on a clear day and you can see for miles.

According to legend, back in the Saga age there was a chieftain named Víga-Barði (Bardi the killer), who had made a lot of enemies. He and his men were besieged inside the nearly impregnable fort for a long while and their food supplies started running low. 

One day Barði asked how much food was left and was told that the only food left was one sausage (this was a kind of sausage either similar to haggis or blood sausage - the story doesn't say). Being a cunning man, he took the sausage and cut it in two and flung the two halves down into the throng of besiegers, who were just then discussing amongst themselves that Barði would soon be out of food. 

They were startled to see the sausage come flying out of the fort, for they had expected the men inside to be driven to surrender soon out of hunger. The sausage, they thought, was a clear sign that there was plenty of food inside the fort, and as they had farms to attend to and families waiting for them at home, they struck camp and left.

These days the hill is easily accessible by road and a hiking path will take you up into the fort. It is well worth visiting, both for those interested in geology (the cliffs are composed of basalt columns) and for the view.





The road up to the fort. To imagine the size, the two tiny dots you see side by side on top of the hill are people.

2 comments:

Dorte H said...

What a great legend, and gorgeous pictures.

Bibliophile said...

Thank you, Dorte.

I seem to remember vaguely a similar tale from abroad, but where from I can't for the life of me remember.