Olaf Brook (or Bekk) and Thormod the Strong were both killers from Norway who settled in Iceland during a period of time called the Age of Settlement (approximately c. 860-930). Olaf, for his part, had to flee his Norwegian homeland after being outlawed for murder. He first reportedly joined a convoy of Vikings, but he eventually sailed to northern Iceland, where he settled in the Ólafsfjörður region and made a home at a place called Kviabekk. As for Thormod the Strong, he also killed a man in Norway and decided to flee to Iceland to escape outlawry or a blood feud. He settled beside Olaf Brook, claiming land between the Siglufjörður and Héðinsfjörður regions of Iceland’s coastline, and he made a home at a place called Sigluness. Although the two men, Olaf and Thormod, had similar rough and rowdy backgrounds, their shared aggressive natures unfortunately did not lead to friendship. Instead, their violent personalities led to mutual hostility and bloodshed.
As the story goes, the murderous neighbors became embroiled in a land dispute over the dales between their homes. Details on the war between Olaf, Thormod, and their respective bands of followers are vague, but it was apparently quite a bloody conflict. The Icelandic Landnámabók (Book of Settlements) described Thormod the Strong’s actions during the feud, stating, “He quarrelled with Olaf Brook over Hvanndales and killed sixteen men before they were reconciled on the terms that each was to have the dales every other summer” (Landnámabók, Stulubók manuscript, chapter 215). As for how many men Olaf’s side killed, the text remains silent. Yet, for the conflict to end in a neutral sharing arrangement between the two violent men, it may be likely that Olaf Brook and Thormod the Strong had remained evenly matched during their war.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Illustration for Njal’s Saga, painted by August Malmström, (c. 1829-1901), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the National Museum in Stockholm, Sweden).
- The Book of Settlements (Sturlubók version) translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1972, 2006.