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Bárður Snæfellsás

The Story Behind the Statue

|May 18, 2023
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Located on the rugged and raw Snæfellsnes Peninsula is a statue that represents an intriguing character in alleged Icelandic history: Bárður Saga Snæfellsás. The structure, which is made out of stone sourced locally, was designed and created by a sculptor called Ragnar Kjartansson to represent the story that has captured the minds of locals and tourists alike for hundreds of years.

Bárður Saga Snæfellsás’ history, which is said to originate between the 13th and 14th centuries, is heavily present in the Snæfellsnes Peninsula, with local areas and towns named after several parts of the story. If you are exploring this incredible area on one of Snæfellsnes Peninsula tours or on a self-guided exploration, then it is well-worth diving into the Bárður Saga before you go.

The Bárður Snæfellsás Statue with a snowy mountain the in background

Bárður’s Early Life

Bárður, who was said to be half-giant and half-human, lived on the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. However, he was not originally from Iceland. Like many other Icelandic sagas, his story begins in Norway. 

Bárður was the son of King Dumbur, a giant who ruled much of the North Atlantic, and a human mother. Bárður was fostered by another giant named Dofri, then married one of his daughters and together had three daughters of their own. After his first wife died, he had another six daughters with another wife.

When a new king in Norway embossed harsh laws and taxes, Bárður's power was threatened. This caused him to set off to Iceland in search of independence and freedom. Icelanders, at the time of the Saga writing, celebrated this independence. He traveled to Iceland with his nine daughters, his wife and his half-brother.

Misty Djúpalón beach in Iceland with gray and angry skies

Bárður and his group landed on the famous black sand beach, Djúpalón. Upon arrival, Bárður found a cave and performed a ritual to express gratitude for the successful voyage across the sea. They then traveled east and found a home near a lake called Bárðarlaug.

Becoming Bárður Snæfellsás

After settling in Iceland, Bárður's nine daughters and his half-brother's two sons loved to play games together. One winter's day, while playing rough games on the coast, Bardur's nephew Rauðfeldr pushed his eldest daughter, Helga, hard. She fell onto an iceberg that floated away into the fog.

Bárður was outraged when he heard the news and immediately stormed to the coast, where he used his incredible strength to lift both nephews, one under each arm. He carried them north into the mountains and dropped Rauðfeldr down a ravine, killing him. Today, the ravine is called Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge and is a popular sight to visit.

Steep and raw Rauðfeldsgjá Gorge in Iceland

Next, Bárður took Solvi, the other nephew, south towards the sea and threw him off a cliff, now known as Sölvahamar. He then went to Arnarstapi to announce the murders, which was vital under Icelandic law. Bárður returned home, but his half-brother was away and hadn’t yet learned of the news.

Upon his return, the half-brother learned of the murders and sought revenge. He immediately went to Bárður's home, and the two half-giants began to wrestle fiercely, tearing up the landscape. Bárður eventually ended the fight by breaking his brother's leg, leaving him feeling sullen and sorrowful.

In his grief, the half-brother decided that he could no longer live with humans and chose to go up into the mountain to live in the Snæfellsjökull glacier. From then on, people in the area called upon him when in need, and he became known as Bárður Snæfellsás, the god of Snæfell.

Bárður Snæfellsás Statue

Bárður Snæfellsás Statue on a blue and sunny day

Icelandic sculptor Ragnar Kjartansson created and unveiled the statue, which was based on the Bárðar Saga Snæfellsás, in 1978. It stands 6 meters tall and depicts Bárður holding a large rock, which symbolizes his connection to the earth and his strength. The statue has become a popular tourist attraction and is often visited by those who are interested in Icelandic folklore and mythology.

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