Urban legends

Folk Tales from South Iceland

The Tale about Katla and Kotlugja

"When there was a monastry in Thykkvabaejarklaustur it occurred that an abbot there had a housemaid named Katla. She was skilled in magic and owned a pair of trousers that had such a spell that whoever wore them never became tired of running. Katla herself used those trousers in emergencies. Most people feared her skills and her bad temper, even the abbot himself. One of the workers in the monastry was a shepherd named Bardi. He often got told off by Katla if any of the sheep was missing after he gathered them. One autumn, the abbot and his housemaid were away at a social gathering and Bardi was supposed to gather the sheep in the meantime. When he couldn't find all the sheep he resolved in taking Katla's trousers and ran around the highlands to find the remaining sheep. When Katla returned, she soon found out that Bardi had stolen her trousers. She secretly drowned him in a barrel of whey that stood in the farmhouse and left his body there. Nobody knew what had happened to Bardi but as the winter passed, the whey in the barrel reduced steadily and people started hearing Katla repeating these words: "Soon Bardi will emerge". Katla knew that her evil doing would then be revealed and she would be punished. She took the trousers, ran out of the monastry and towards the glacier in Northwest. She was never to bee seen again so people assumed she had dived into the centre of the glacier. Shortly after, a flood came from the glacier and towards the monastry and Alftaver region. It was believed that Katla's magic skills caused the flood and so the caldera was named Katla and the area which the flood destroyed, Kotlusandur."
The Tale about Katla and Kotlugja

The Church Builder at Reynir

Once there was a farmer living at Reynir who was going to build a church on the farm. It was difficult to get wood for the project so it was delayed until the haymaking period. The farmer worried about this but there was little he could do. One day he met a man in the field who offered to build the church for him. The farmer asked how he should pay. The man said that if the farmer could guess his name there would be no payment otherwise the farmer must deliver his six year old son. The man went ahead and the building was near completion. The farmer was very worried now but one day when he was walking by the cliffs above the farm he heard singing in the hill. It was a lady singing: – “Soon your father Finnur will bring your new playmate.” The farmer went to the church where the man was nailing the last board to the altar and he said. “You are certainly doing a fine job Finnur.” The man dropped the wood and disappeared never to be seen again.
The Church Builder at Reynir

The Woman and the Sealskin

This is a story about a man in Vik who was walking on the beach and heard someone singing in a cave. He saw many types of sealskin outside the cave. He took one home and locked it down in a chest. Later that day he walked again by the cave and saw a naked woman crying. She was the owner of the skin he had taken. The man gave the girl some clothes and took her home. Later they married and had children. The sealskin was always locked down in the chest. One day when he went out to sea he forgot to take the key under his pillow. The woman discovered the key, opened the chest and found her sealskin. She put it on and disappeared into the ocean. Every time the man went out fishing there was a seal near his boat and he always had good catches. When their children were playing on the beach a seal was always nearby just off shore.
The Woman and the Sealskin