L ooking out to sea while driving the rather lovely Skagafjordur valley in Iceland one would have to be blind not to notice a tiny island smack in the middle of the sea to the North. Quite picturesque and lonely it seems but it also hides a secret. This island was the epicenter of one of Iceland Sagas. The story of what could be the most horrible person ever born. A person called Grettir Asmundarson.
This is the island of Drangey where Grettir the Strong, or Grettir the horrible as we prefer, lived his last days centuries ago. His story is sure to awaken an interest in all thinking people as is the fact with most of the Iceland Sagas.
The swim takes an average swimmer roughly five hours one way
Not to repeat the whole story here but let suffice to say that Grettir was as evil or unlucky as they come. He got along with no one except his mother and even hated his father enough to scrape all the skin off his back in pure rage. Grettir killed his first man at the tender age of 14 and for years afterwards did shorten the lives of dozens of people both in Iceland and in Norway. Sometimes by design but sometimes by bad luck.
But Grettir´s real rise to fame came after wrestling down a terrible ghost praying on the poor folks of the area. The ghost, Glámr, was a formidable enemy and none had beaten him before. The ghost in his final moments uttered a curse on Grettir which would haunt him to the end of days.
After being hunted down as an outlaw both in Norway and Iceland Grettir decided to make Drangey island his refuge and for a while made a living there with his youngest brother and a certain slave. Even here his fame would spread when it became known he swam to and from the island for supplies. The swim takes an average swimmer roughly five hours one way in ice-cold waters of the North Atlantic.
True or false, the story is quite fun and engaging and team Total Iceland implores you to take a peek at the Sagas before traveling around the island. Lots of places keep lots of stories. Stories that would make fine Hollywood movies if better known.
A few offer boat trips to Drangey island and even up close the island is very forbidding and almost fortress-like. Nowadays it is fairly easy to climb to the top thanks to a man-made path but in Grettir´s day a dangerous climb was the only option.