The Dramatic Life Of Hrafn Haven-Key

A mysterious man known as Hrafn Haven-Key settled with his family in Iceland during the so-called Age of Settlement (c. 860-930). Much about his life was an enigma, with his Icelandic neighbors knowing little about his background other than that he had gained wealth and renown as a Viking raider. With these ill-gotten gains, Hrafn reached Iceland and began creating his home at a place that was then known as Dynwoods. It is unknown how long he stayed and built on that estate, but his time there was definitely not permanent. Unfortunately for Hrafn, the region he chose to settle upon was highly volcanic. Even worse, an eruption was due any minute as he tried to build up his homestead.

Dynwoods, to say the least, was a ticking timebomb, but Hrafn, fortunately, was a man of keen intuition, and he quickly recognized that something was amiss. Whatever the reason, be it earthquake, steam, or other common signs of an impending volcano, Hrafn Haven-Key decided to quickly dismantle his homestead and to pack up his belongings. He left the region just in time, because after he successfully reached safety with his belongings, the volcano reportedly did indeed erupt in the vicinity of Dynwoods. Starting anew, Hrafn moved to southern Iceland and began building in the Kúðafljót region of the island. Hrafn’s two homes were mentioned in the medieval Icelandic Book of Settlements (Landnámabók), which stated, “Hrafn Haven-Key was a great viking. He went to Iceland and took possession of land between [the] Holms and Eyjar Rivers making his home at Dynwoods. He was able to foresee a volcanic eruption and moved to Lag Isle” (Landnámabók, Stulubók manuscript, chapter 327). Events at Hrafn’s new home of Lag Isle proved to be much less eruptive than at his previous abode, and he was able to settle his family with stability there. Hrafn’s estate was eventually inherited by his son, Aslak, who became a religious leader.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Cropped section of An Eruption of Vesuvius, painted by Johan Christian Dahl (c. 1788–1857), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the MET).



  • The Book of Settlements (Sturlubók version) translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1972, 2006.

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