Thurid the Sound-Filler was a prominent woman who lived around the time of the Icelandic Age of Settlement (c. 860-930). Before her eventual move to Iceland, Thurid made a name for herself in the region of Halogaland, the northernmost section of medieval Norway. While there, she astounded her neighbors by showing an uncanny ability to locate and cultivate schools of fish. In one particularly lauded incident, Thurid relieved Halogaland from the ravages of a famine by guiding fishermen from the various towns and cities in the region to great fishing spots in the local waterways and inlets. With Thurid’s knowledge and guidance, fishing in Halogaland became so easy that the fjords and sounds seemed to be filled with fish—hence her epithet, the Sound-Filler.
For whatever reason—be it the rise of King Harald Finehair (r. 860-940), the lure of free land, or some other unknown cause—Thurid the Sound-Filler decided to leave Norway and begin a new life in Iceland. She claimed land in the northwest region of the island and settled down to raise a family. She was evidently the undisputed matriarch of her household, as she specifically was reported to have held dominion over her land, and the name of her husband has been lost to history, as he was apparently the least interesting of the pair.
While Thurid the Sound-Filler lived in Iceland, she continued her fish-finding ways, much to the joy of her fisherman neighbors. She was particularly helpful to the Ísafjörður Bay region, where plentiful fishing grounds were discovered with her help. According to the Book of Settlements, the people of the Ísafjörður area were so thankful for Thurid’s help that each household in the region gave her a hornless ewe as a show of gratitude.
As Thurid’s list of successes and accomplishments grew, her neighbors began to suspect that there was something more to her talents than raw instinct and knowledge. Rumors circulated that she had supernatural gifts, such as the ability of prophecy and an education in magic. Such gossip, however, did little to harm Thurid’s reputation. Since she lived in a pre-Christianized Iceland, such rumors likely boosted her renown.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Tristan and Isolde painted by Herbert James Draper (1863–1920), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).
- The Book of Settlements (Sturlubók version) translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1972, 2006.