Updated: Dec 29, 2022
The huge statue of Bárður Snæfellsás that is so noticeable when you drive into the small village or hamlet Arnarstapi was made by Ragnar Kjartansson, one of Iceland's most renowned sculptures. The statue is his interpretation of the giant character that dominates the area around Snæfellsjökull glacier.
Bárður, the half man half troll
Bárður is an extraordinary being from the time of settlement in Iceland. His story was written in Medieval times in the fifteenth century and is part of the Icelandic Sagas. His mother was one of the tallest and most beautiful women in her days, but his father, Dumbur, was a half-giant or a half-troll. Bárður was also considered extremely handsome with a large presence. In his youth, he was fostered by Dofri, the mountain-dweller of Dovrefjell in Norway, and received an excellent education and training. Bárður married Dorfi's daughter Flaumgerður and had three tall and beautiful daughters by her. Like he, she also had a human mother. After she had passed away, he married Herþrúður, his second wife who was human; he had six more daughters by her.
Settled in Iceland after fleeing the tyranny of Harald king in Norway
Along with his wife and daughters and some friends, Bárður emigrated to Iceland and settled at Djúpalón on the south coast of the Snæfellsnes Peninsula. Bárður's half-brother Þorkell also emigrated with his family and settled at Arnarstapi. They were fleeing the tyranny of Harald, the king of Norway. His brother Þorkell had two sons, Sölvi and Rauðfeldur.
Driven to madness because of a prank
Following an altercation after a rather dangerous prank played on Bárður's daughters by the half-brother's sons, Bárður was provoked to the point of uncontrollable anger. An event that made him extremely depressed, and he totally lost his mind in the end. Finally, he gave away all his land and all his earthly belongings and vanished into the Snæfellsnes Glacier. In the glacier, rumor has it, that he built an ice cave more in line with his troll or giant side. There, he became known as the Guardian Spirit of Snæfell as the locals worshiped him and looked at him as their savior. For centuries, they would call upon him in times of hardship and trouble. Bárður wandered the region wrapped in a gray cowl held together by a walrus-hide rope. In his hand was a cleft staff with a long and thick gaff for mounting the glacier.
A true story, although sounds like a fantasy
Bárður's cave is still in situ, and his story is a timeless, fantastic read. It is, of course, a true story written about events that occurred in Iceland more than eleven hundred years ago, written about six hundred years ago. Many names of many places in the area around Snæfellsjökull glacier are related to Bárður Snæfellsás and his story.