Lost in the bewildering Snæfellsnes peninsula, West of Iceland, a natural landmark speaks volumes of a grief still bare. In an eery ravine carved in the wayside mountain, the walls echo the pain of loss, the water trickles with restless doubts, and birds above swirl like unwanted memories of wrath-filled deeds.
It is in the Rauðfeldsgjá gorge, in the IXth Century, that the revered and powerful half-giant Bárður, blind with fury, committed the murderous irreparable:
Two of his young nephews had been playing with Bárður's beautiful daughters. The eldest daughter, after a tussle, landed on an iceberg by accident and drifted away to the North. The half-giant, fuming with anger, took his nephews high up into the mountains. One of the them, Sölvt, was pushed off a nearby cliff, and the other one, Rauðfeldur was thrown to his death in this very ravine, which now bears his name (Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge means the Gorge of Rauðfeldur in Half-Giant).
It is believed that Bárður to this day, comes by this open tomb still. And as you sit by it, and wings flutter above the gorge, you may hear wandering thoughts, the pain of the one who did wrong, and unbearable answers, though never question asked.
After breaking the skull of one boy from a cliff and throwing the other in the ravine, Bárður was confronted by their devastated father, his half-brother Þorkell. They fought and Bárður broke his borther's leg, leaving him to crawl home.
"When I do wander, aimlessly far,
When the whirlwind brings thoughts from a distance,
And in the walls of my dungeon, the ceaseless blame of the water
Cousins do lay in the canyon, echoes of a grief I did father"
After this event Bárður became unstable and recluse, the tormenting grief getting the better of him.
"And I've had many a sleepless night, beneath this roof, and beneath these stars
Where I lay my weary head, and doubt builds a stronghold,
For to see the guilty let free and roam,
or to bear the pain of the one who did wrong, I hear their distant call, piercing from beyond"
Bárður is an essential charachter of Iceland's history and this tragic event changed him forever. Son of a titan and of Mjöll, a beautiful human woman, he led the very first expedition to establish a settlement in Iceland when refusing to pay tax to the Norwegian King. He brought many men as well as his 9 daughters with him.
Waging war, fighting, killing Titans and traitors were no strangers to Bárður's life. But after the events at the gorge, he left his farm Laugarbrekka with all his belongings and retired secretly to caves inside the mountain. After this disappearance, the repentant warrior came to be known as Bárður Snæfellsás, ever watching over the Snæfellsnes peninsula.
If you like happy endings of sorts, or irony, you'll be glad to know that Bárður's daughter Helga was actually fine. She drifted for a few days, landing in Greenland. She stayed there for a while with one of her dad's friends who happened to have settled there a year before. She then made her way back to Iceland a couple of years later via Norway.
But the peninsula will have been marked forever by these dramatic events.