While I was up north on bovine business over the Easter period, free time between milking sessions were spent pondering and perambulating Ljósvetninga saga, 'The saga of the people of Ljósavatn'. The title of the saga would lead one to expect the action to be located around Ljósavatn which is east of Eyjafjörður, in Þingeyjarsveit, but in fact the central character, the chieftain Guðmundr ríki ('the powerful'), lived at Möðruvellir, which is some 25 kms south of Akureyri, in the Eyjafjörður valley on the eastern side of the Eyjafjarðará river. Ljósvetninga saga has a very different flavour to the sagas I've written about more recently (Egils saga, Laxdæla saga, Harðar saga) and those which are to come in the next few weeks (Eyrbyggja saga, Gísla saga, Fóstbræðra saga...) being much more political in its focus -- and Guðmundr is not a saga 'hero' in the mould of Egill, Kjartan, or Hörðr. In fact, he is not painted in a positive light at all -- the saga narrates his social/political/legal wheeling and dealing with other local or northern chieftains, farmers, and slaves and while he often achieves the ends he wants from conflicts, he does not necessarily come out of these episodes with his honour and local standing enhanced.
|Möðruvellir, with dog|
Reading Ljósvetninga saga 'in the landscape' proved to be an experience akin to that of Flóamanna saga (see post from February) in some ways. Other than brief notes detailing where characters live and the occasional outline of a journey from one place to another, there is very little in the saga that links the action to the physical landscape, or sets it tangibly in it. As far as I could establish by talking to a number of local people, the majority of those who live in Eyjafjarðarsveit are not particularly familiar with the saga or with the details of Guðmundr ríki's life and career; nor are the farmsteads/sites in the saga marked with information boards or monuments in the way that those in Mýrar and Dalir are.
|The turf-roofed church at Saurbær today|
(Möðruvallafjall behind, the other side of the valley)