The Treasure-Rooted Marriage Of Ketil Thorirsson And Arneid

A man named Ketil Thorirsson was an early settler of Iceland, who moved to the island in the 9th century. Ketil and his brother, Atli, claimed land and began building homes around the Lagarfljót area of eastern Iceland. Yet, Ketil Thorirsson also made sure to allow himself time off from the monotony of building and developing his Icelandic estate. As told in the medieval Landnámabók (Book of Settlements) and the Droplaugarsona saga (The Saga of Droplaug’s Sons), Ketil Thorirsson sailed away for one particularly consequential adventure, which eventually brought him to the household of a powerful figure named Vethorm Vermundarson. This Vethorm and his clan had reportedly warred against a certain Jarl Asbjorn Skerry-Blaze of the Hebrides, and in that violent struggle, Vethorm’s family was triumphant, ultimately killing Jarl Asbjorn, looting his estate, and hauling off captives as slaves. One such prisoner brought back to Vethorm’s homeland was Asbjorn’s daughter, Arneid, who was still present around Vethorm Vermundarson’s property when Ketil Thorirsson arrived.

Arneid viewed the arrival of Ketil as an opportunity to escape from her life of servitude on the estates of her father’s killers. Ketil Thorirsson was unmarried at the time, and she used all of her powers to catch his attention. Nevertheless, romance was not the only route of persuasion she took. She also let Ketil know that he would receive great financial gain if he took her from Vethorm’s clutches. Arneid’s proposed monetary incentive, so the story goes, was her knowledge of a great hoard of buried treasure, which she would reveal to Ketil after he delivered her from her father’s killers. Ketil Thorirsson believed her promises, and was quite smitten with her, so he began pressuring Vethorm to sell Arneid. Vethorm ultimately caved, and, for a hefty sum, handed Arneid over to Ketil, who then freed and married her. On this tale, the Book of Settlements stated, “For Arneid Asbjorn’s-daughter Ketil paid double Vethorm’s original price, and after the bargain was struck Ketil made Arneid his wife. Afterwards she found a hoard of silver buried under the roots of a tree. Then Ketil offered to take her back to her family, but she chose to go with him” (LandnámabókSturlubók manuscript, chapter 278). With their silvery treasure in hand, the newlyweds sailed back to Iceland and construction was resumed on their estate in the Lagarfljót region of the island. Their family home, curiously named after Arneid, was called Arneidarstead.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (cropped and modified Frithiofs lycka (ur Frithiofs saga), painted by August Malmström (c. 1829-1901), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the National Museum of Stockholm Sweden).



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