A man named Ævar Ketilsson sailed with his sizable family to Iceland during the Age of Settlement (approximately c. 860-930), claiming a large portion of land on the north side of the island for his clan. Ævar and all of his sons had reportedly had careers as Viking raiders before they journeyed to Iceland, but one of Ævar’s sons, in particular, enjoyed the life of raiding and adventuring better than the rest of his kin. This son’s name was Vefrod, and he reportedly let his family sail ahead to Iceland without him—he, instead, wanted to continue his raiding and trading abroad. Nevertheless, Vefrod promised that when he had gained the riches he wanted, or otherwise tired of the Viking lifestyle, he would find his way to Iceland to live alongside his family. Ævar and the rest of the family accepted Vefrod’s decision and they settled in Iceland without him. Ævar built an estate for himself called Ævarsskard, and further homes were built for the sons present with him (Karli, Thorbjorn Bile, and Thord the Tall), as well as for other kinsmen (Gunnstein, Audolf, and Gaut). No home was built for Vefrod, but Ævar staked out a piece of land for his absent son, marked by a tall pole driven into the ground, at a place called Mobergsbrekkur, or simply Moberg.
It is unknown how long Vefrod stayed away from Iceland, but it was long enough that either Vefrod’s features had drastically changed or Ævar had lost memory of his son’s face. This came as quite a surprise to Vefrod who, after finally abandoning the Viking life, journeyed to see his parents at Ævarsskard, only to be unrecognized by his father. Ævar did not respond well to the strange traveler’s appearance at his house, and newly arrived Vefrod, too, did not appreciate the suspicion and hostility that was directed at him by his father. As the story goes, Vefrod was able to talk his way into the hall of Ævarsskard, but before long, the two aggravated men began to fight.
This was not a harmless exchange of shouted words—instead, father and son supposedly erupted into a chaotic brawl that was so violent as to dislodge beams in the house. Unfortunately for Vefrod, although his father’s memory was faltering, Ævar’s arms and fists had not lost strength. Although no clear winner of the fight was declared, the former-Viking Ævar seemed to put up a good fight against his son. On this brawl, the Icelandic Book of Settlements (Landnámabók) stated, “Vefrod came to Iceland and landed at Gonguskards River Estuary. He traveled south to his father, who didn’t recognize him. They set on each other so fiercely, every beam in the house was torn away, before Vefrod revealed who he was” (Landnámabók, Stulubók manuscript, chapter 184). After this rough reunion, and his father’s eventual acceptance, Vefrod finally traveled to his reserved land at Moberg and began the long-delayed construction on his home.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Hjalmar Parting from Orvar Odd after the Fight on Samsö, by Mårten Winge (1825-1896), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the National Museum of Sweden).
- The Book of Settlements (Sturlubók version) translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1972, 2006.