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Lögurinn and the lands to the west form the stage for Hrafnkel’s Saga, a short but striking story set before the country converted to Christianity in 1000. It tells of the landowner Hrafnkel, a hard-working but headstrong devotee of the pagan fertility god Freyr, who settled Hrafnkelsdalur, a highland valley 35km west of Lögurinn. Here he built the farm Aðalból, and dedicated a shrine and half his livestock to the Viking fertility deity Freyr – including his favourite stallion, the dark-maned Freyfaxi, which he forbade anyone but himself to ride on pain of death.

Inevitably, somebody did. Hrafnkel’s shepherd, Einar, borrowed Freyfaxi to track down some errant ewes and, caught in the act, was duly felled by Hrafnkel’s axe. Looking for legal help, Einar’s father enlisted his sharp-witted nephew Sámur, who took the case to court at the next Alþing at Þingvellir. But nobody wanted to support a dispute against such a dangerous character as Hrafnkel, until a large party of men from the suitably distant West Fjords offered their services. As Sámur presented his case, his allies crowded around the gathering and Hrafnkel, unable to get close enough to mount a defence, was outlawed.

Disgusted, Hrafnkel returned home where he ignored his sentence, but Sámur and the West Fjorders descended on his homestead early one morning, dragged him out of bed, and told him to choose between death or giving his property to Sámur. He took the latter option, leaving Aðalból and moving east over the Lagarfljót to Hrafnkelsstaðir, a dilapidated farm that he was forced to buy on credit.

Over the next six years Hrafnkel built up his new property and, his former arrogance deflated, became a respected figure. Meanwhile, Sámur’s brother Eyvind returned from a long overseas trip and decided to visit Sámur at Aðalból. Stupidly riding past Hrafnkelsstaðir, Eyvind was cut down by Hrafnkel and his men, who then launched a raid on Aðalból, capturing Sámur and giving him the same choices that Sámur had given him: to die or hand over the farm. Like Hrafnkel, Sámur chose to live and retired unhappily to his former estate. For his part, Hrafnkel regained his power and influence and stayed at Aðalból until his death.

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