Iceland: Góðafoss, the waterfall of the gods

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Góđafoss or the waterfall of the Gods in the Skjálfandafljót river is another favourite of mine. You’ll find it on the way from beautiful Mývatn to Akureyri. Its name is derived from an important event in Icelandic history: the choosing of the nation’s religion in 1000 AD.

Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði, the nation’s law speaker or lögsögumađur, was forced to choose that religion. He thought long and hard for 24 hours and decided the nation should become a Christian nation, even though he arrived at the Athingi as a believer in the Norse gods. The assembly agreed to his proposal and it is believed Þorgeir was one of the first to receive baptism.

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Þorgeir Ljósvetningagoði was a man who acted rightaway. On the way home – he lived near the lake Ljósavatn where he was chieftain- he threw his pagan carvings of the Norse gods into the waterfalls near his farm Djúpa. And that’s why people call it the Waterfall of the gods.

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Eek, dangerous people!

We saw people climbing everywhere. Brrr, me and my vertigo (=we) didn’t like that much. I must admit: I am frightened of everything uneven because I have a rather bad balance. My friend G and Kristof didn’t mind and were climbing too. I had sweaty hands instead of them.

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My friend G made it!

Grettir’s saga

It is also thought that one of the stories from Grettir’s saga took place around the waterfalls, event though their name isn’t mentioned. In Ghosts in Bárðardalur, the outlaw Grettir Ásmundarsson, who killed several people, is hiding out in the Sandhaugur farm in Bárðardalur under a false name, Gest.

Grettir or Gest came there  in search of an adventure. The two past Christmases, first the farmer himself, Þorsteinn, and then a farmhand disappeared while Steinvor, the farm mistress went to the Christmas mass in Eyjardalsá. Grettir discovers a troll-wife took the famer and the farmhand away. They fight all night long and he can only set himself free by cutting off her right arm. She springs among the rocks and disappears into a waterfall.

Later Grettir wants to prove that the troll lives in the waterfall and goes there with a priest who lowers him into the water. The saga tells: it was very difficult swimming because of the currents, and he had to dive to the bottom to get behind the fall. There was a rock where he came up, and a great cave under the fall in front of which the water poured. He went into the cave, where there was a large fire burning and a horrible great giant most fearful to behold sitting before it.

On Grettir entering the giant sprang up, seized a pike and struck at him, for he could both strike and thrust with it. It had a wooden shaft and was of the kind called “heptisax.” Grettir struck back with his sword and cut through the shaft. Then the giant tried to reach up backwards to a sword which was hanging in the cave, and at that moment Grettir struck at him and cut open his lower breast and stomach so that all his entrails fell out into the river and floated down the stream.

The priest who was sitting by the rope saw some debris being carried down all covered with blood and lost his head, making sure that Grettir was killed. He left the rope and ran off home, where he arrived in the evening and told them for certain that Grettir was dead, and said it was a great misfortune to them to have lost such a man.

Grettir struck few more blows at the giant before he was dead. He then entered the cave, kindled a light and explored. It is not told how much treasure he found there, but there is supposed to have been some.

He stayed there till late into the night and found the bones of two men, which he carried away in a skin. Then he came out of the cave, swam to the rope and shook it, thinking the priest was there; finding him gone he had to swarm up the rope and so reached the top. He went home to Eyjardalsa and carried the skin with the bones in it into the vestibule of the church together with a rune-staff, upon which were most beautifully carved the following lines:

     "Into the fall of the torrent I went;
     dank its maw towards me gaped.
     The floods before the ogress' den
     Mighty against my shoulder played";

and then:

     "Hideous the friend of troll-wife came.
     Hard were the blows I dealt upon him.
     The shaft of Heptisax was severed.
     My sword has pierced the monster's breast."

You can read that part (and the rest) of Grettir’s saga on the Gutenberg website.

Do you need more inspiration for your trip to Iceland? Check all my posts!


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