Steinn Steinarr

14. Snæfjöll

The settler Thórólfur the firm, who claimed the area from the Sandeyrará river into Hrafnfjördur fjord in the Jökulfirdir area, lived at Snæfjöll, according to the Book of Settlements.

In the biography of Jón Ólafsson, traveller to India from Álftafjördur fjord off of Ísafjardardjúp bay, is the story of a ghost at Snæfjöll during the winter of 1611-12. The son of Pastor Jón Bjarnason, the cleric at Stadur, and a farmhand at Snæfjöll were both attracted to a woman working at the farm. The pastor ordered his son to herd some sheep in a difficult area that the farmhand had refused to seek. The pastor's son fell to his death, and his spirit returned to harass the farmhand and the woman, also bothering travellers by throwing rocks, killing the pastor's animals, eating fish from the drying rack and breaking windows. He left alone those who would give him some of their food. It is uncertain, though, whether the farmhand and woman actually existed. In Jón Árnason's folk tale collections they are not mentioned, while the son of the pastor is said to have been named Bjarni Jónsson, who fell to his death at Drangsvík, outside the farm. At the end of the 19th century a rumour circulated about a ghost at Snæfjöll. In the second volume of Ólafur Davídsson's folk tale collection, it was said that the ghost would break up and turn into a strange light if one approached it, but it would always come back together. The pastor sent the ghost to another very learned pastor in the east, who sent it right back; the ghost was finally put down with the assistance of Galdra-Leifur and Jón Gudmundsson the learned, who wrote the verses Fjandafæla and Snjáfjallavísur hinar sídari(Snæfjöll verses the latter) to fight the ghost.

Jón Gudmundsson the learned (1574-1658) was a folk scholar who people thought knew a few things; he learned to read old Catholic books and worked copying manuscripts in his younger years. He had an artistic side, and painted and made teeth out of whalebone. He also worked as a healer and collected herbs, and was a renowned magician. The Snjáfjallavísur are now only found in a single manuscript in the Icelandic collection in Stockholm, number 17 octavo, written around 1660. It begins like this:

Go down, spirit,
troll and limb of the devil
the earth shall cover you
mud cover your sendings
you'll cry in misery
look up unhappily
cry pitifully
an unholy stink will confuse you

Snjáfjallavísur hinar sídari have been considered the strongest exorcism verse ever composed in Icelandic.

At Snæfjöll there lived 17 people in 1703, with 14 living there at two farms in 1801. There was a church there for a long time, the so-called Stadarkirkja á Snæfjöll church, which stood just ouside the farm. It was closed at Stadur and moved to Unadsdalur in 1867; the shape of the cemetery can still be made out. The last cleric at Stadur was Pastor Hjalti Thorláksson, who died in 1876. On the shore benearht Snæfjallabær farm was a stone called Bæjarhaus. In the collection of local tales Vestfirskar sagnir the story is told of the marksman Otúel Vagnsson who knocked off a seagull sitting on this rock from 100 fathoms away at the farm. This took place around 1870. Rósinkar Kolbeinsson and Jakobína Rósinkara Gísladóttir lived at Snæfjöll around 1930. The farmhouse there was a wooden house with a metal roof and two eaves. It was a dignified structure, but had become fairly old by 1930. There was a turf wall just above the farm, as was commonly done to provide protection against the north wind.

In Jardabók there is mentioned the deserted farm Snæfjallaeyri in the land of Snæfjallastadur, about 2 or 3 kilometres away from Snæfjallastadur, which had been used as a fishing outpost around 1700. Helgi Jónsson built a wooden house by the shore around the turn of the 20th century. He only lived there around ten years, after which the house was used as a school. It stood until the 1970s. Children were taught there until around 1932. At that time teaching also took place at Strönd part of the winter, and at Unadsdalur for several winters before classes started at Lyngholt in 1936.

Kristjana Helgadóttir from Skard in Skötufjördur fjord was the last teacher at Snæfjöll. The final years that Rósinkar lived at Snæjöll he resided in this house. He left for Hnífsdalur in 1948 and Snæfjöll became deserted.


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