Monday, January 21, 2013

Olafur and Gellivor the Troll, an Icelandic Folktale

Old Female Troll, by Sofia Trollkind Sundin
This story of Gellivor the Troll happened on Blaskogar Mountain in the south of Iceland.  For two years she haunted the passes, becoming so mischievous that few people even attempted to cross the mountain.

This particular year, the inhabitants of Thingeyarsysla discovered that their calculation of dates was incorrect and they didn't know the exact day for Christmas.  In an attempt to fix the error, the villagers decided to send a message to the bishop in the village of Skalholt, asking him for help.  They agreed to send a bold and youthful man named Olafur across the mountain to deliver their request.

Olafur set off on his journey and late in the day was passing over Blaskogar Mountain.  Not wanting to face the troll, he hurried along as quickly as possible.  At twilight, Gellivor appeared in his path and said, "Are you going south, Olafur? I gladly warn you to go home. Return with shame to your own place".

Olafur replied, "Oh, troll on the mountain, greetings!  I hope you are well."  Surprised by his words, she said, "Over the years, few have greeted me so kindly.  You are a dear man, pass safely."  And she let him continue on his way without eating him.

Troll turned to stone
Olafur arrived in Skalholt and contacted the bishop.  He delivered his message and in return received the exact day for Christmas.  On his way home, he again passed over the mountain.  He encountered Gellivor, but this time she seemed far  less threatening.  When he approached her, she offered him a book.  It was a troll-almanac or calendar.

As she handed it to him, she said, "If the Christ, son of Mary, had done as much for trolls as he did for humans, we would never be so ungrateful as to forget the date of his birth."  Olafur, who was not a very gracious man, said to her, "Look!  To the east.  Who is it that rides on a white horse?"  The troll turned to look and at that moment, dawn broke over the mountain and she was turned to stone.

Based on Jon Arnason, from Hildur, Queen of the Elves, and  Other Icelandic Legends.


  1. Hi Lanny, I appreciate you as you picked-up one of pillar of literature. According to me one of the best things about folklore and fairy tales is that the best fantasy is what you find right around the corner, in this world. That's where the old stuff came from.
    Best wishes,
    complete icelandic