central western peninsula, Snaefellsnes, is one of the most Saga
invested parts of the country, and this area is no exception.
The rugged Berserk Lava
Field covers most of the western part of the
Helgafell County, and stretches between the mountain slopes and the sea.
Its sources are four prominent, but differently sized scoria
craters forming an east-west row from the Ogress Pass
They probably erupted at short intervals approximately 3600-4000
years ago, the largest one first and the smallest last, almost damming
the Lava Bay in the east, where the old main road crosses it.
The lava flows created two lakes on their southern side and added
to the serenity and beauty of the landscapes, but also represented a
difficult obstacle as the area became inhabited during the Age of
In the beginning, people chose to walk or ride along the southern
edge of the lava or travel past it by boat until bridle paths were
Nowadays three roads cross it.
around the lava field are indentations with small oases and where it
enters the sea are coves.
The berserks probably built the sheep pen Krossrett, just below
the home fields of the farm Berserkjaeyri.
Where the brook Hraunslaekur runs along the lava edge, are ruins
of fish huts to remind us of the fishing outfits of the past.
A nearby depression in the lava field, fenced off with a wall of
lava stones, is believed to be the grain field of Styr the
Near Lake Selvallavatn are flat pumice grounds, where regional
sport festivities took place around 1940.
This beautiful area is ideal for recreation, hiking, angling and
White tailed eagles nest in the rugged lava field and one of the
protruding rocks in it to the northeast of the lake is called The
The whole lava field, the inner part of the Lava Bay and the
lakes Selvallavatn and Hraunsfjardarvatn have been declared inviolate.
story about the most renowned road building
accomplicement of the country is a part of the
Eyrbyggja Saga, probably the most complex of the Icelandic Saga
Four constructions connected to this part of the Saga have been
preserved, the bridle path, The Berserks’ Burial Mound, the boundary fence
and the sheep den.
The first two are national monuments.
The story tells us about two Swedish berserks, Halli and
Leiknir, who Vermundur the Slim,
farmer at Bjarnarhofn, brought to the country from Norway
Vermundur’s brother, Styr the Slayer, was a powerful wretch,
who he wanted to be able to stand up to.
The problem, however, was that Vermundur could not keep the
berserks busy enough to subdue their rage and he saw no
other solution than to ask his brother to take them off his
Styr the Slayer obliged reluctantly and soon found
himself in a dilemma in spite of continuous killings.
Halli, one of the berserks, fell in love with his daughter and
asked for her hand in marriage.
Slayer went to his friend, Snorri the chieftain, at
Helgafell to seek advice.
When he came back, he told the berserks that he would give
his blessing after they had finished the tasks of clearing a bridle path
through the rugged lava field, building a boundary fence across it, and
a sheep pen.
They went berserk and finished the tasks in a remarkably short
they did, Styr the Slayer prepared an underground
sauna for them and covered it with thick
boards with an opening to pour water down on a
heated boulder in the hole to create hot steam.
When they returned tired and sweaty, he invited them to relax in
the sauna and they accepted.
The hole was covered properly, big boulders put on the
excessive quantities of boiling hot water poured through the opening.
It soon became unbearably hot in the hole and the berserks
managed to break out, but much too weak to defend themselves against
Styr the slayer.
He had spread wet and slippery bull hides
on the ground around the hole and managed to kill them both.
Their bodies were taken into
a depression in the
lava field, where they were buried close to the bridle path as can be
seen up to this date.
West Iceland Saga