The rain that prevented me from photographing Gudrid’s farm also delayed my arrival in Dalir. The wind picked up as we drove along the southern side of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula and around to the north. Even driving an SUV had become treacherous. My husband and I stopped for dinner and contemplated whether we should proceed to the Dales, where I was planning to photograph along the Laxá Valley.
A few days ago I had the intuition that I would be around here on this night but had failed to book accommodation. I had emailed a farm that advertised guest lodging but they had not responded. In the lovely restaurant by the brooding sea, I consulted the Internet on my iPhone, hoping to find a place to stay. It was then that I received a response from the guesthouse.
“We are waiting for you”.
When we pulled in the driveway an old gentleman came out to meet us. We couldn’t understand him over the wind, but he gestured us inside. The guest entrance was in the back of the farmhouse. The small foyer was cluttered with farm clothes and shoes, so I brought my luggage directly upstairs. The wooden stairs were as narrow as my suitcase and polished from years of traffic. The room was very basic: twin beds, white sheets, two nightstands, three bibles. As I came back down to talk with our host, I feared that I would fall down the crooked and slippery steps.
Kristinn was our host. I found him in the little kitchen boiling water for tea. He cut up a fruitcake and sat us down at the table. The silence was awkward as the wind and rain raged outside. Conversation started to build around the weather when Kristinn asked me what I had planned for the next day. When I told him we were headed to the Laxá Valley, he casually responded that we would be visiting his relatives.
He then pulled out a spiral bound book and opened to a page that listed his family tree on his father’s side. At the top of the record was one of the first settlers in Iceland, Höskuld. Below him were other familiar names, characters from the Laxdæla Saga, including Olaf Peacock and Kjartan. Any Icelander today would be familiar with these Saga heroes.
Kristinn, so it seems, descended from the most famous illegitimate relationship in Iceland, that between Höskuld and his concubine Melkorka. Despite Melkorka’s apparent muteness, Höskuldur purchased her as a slave on an island near Sweden and brought her home to Iceland. A few years after Melkorka gave birth to Olaf, Höskuldur’s son, it was discovered that she could indeed talk but preferred to keep the secret that she was in fact an Irish Princess.
The next day, I visited Höskuldsstadir in Laxá Valley, but not a single photograph I took matched this story.
This video was taken from a window at the farmhouse on the night of the storm.