Steinrod the Strong was an Icelander whose father, Thorir, traveled from Norway to settle in Iceland during the time period known as the Age of Settlement (c. 860-930). His family claimed the Oxnadale region near the Eyjafjörður area of northern Iceland. It is unclear if Steinrod the Strong was born in, or brought to, Iceland, but he thrived in his family’s new homeland. When he reached maturity, he gained a reputation for being a problem-solver and a man who would help people in need. Much of Steinrod’s contribution to society came through his chosen occupation—blacksmithing—but he also was said to have found another niche where he could help his fellow Icelanders. This side job, so the story goes, involved Steinrod seeing to his neighbors’ supernatural needs. These paranormal quests did not allegedly involve just mere charms, runes, and occult consultation. Instead, according to Icelandic folklore, Steinrod the Strong offered his services as a monster-slayer. It might have been a family business, because his father, Thorir, was nicknamed “the Troll-Burster.”
Although Steinrod the Strong was attributed with several feats of monster hunting, few tales about these alleged heroics were preserved in writing. Fortunately, the medieval Icelandic text, Landnámabók (Book of Settlements), did record a few fine details about one of the monster-hunter’s supposed supernatural battles. According to that book, Steinrod the Strong clashed with a sorceress named Geirhild, who was said to have been particularly skilled at shapeshifting. On Steinrod’s career and his fight with Geirhild, the Landnámabók stated: “[Thorir the Troll-Burster’s] son was Steinrod the Strong, who saved a great many people when they were attacked by monsters. There was a vile sorceress called Geirhild, and people with second sight saw Steinrod going for her, taking her by surprise; but she changed herself into a bull’s hide bag filled with water. Steinrod was a blacksmith and went after her with a huge iron pike in his hand” (Landnámabók, Stulubók manuscript, chapter 225). Besides divulging that the setting of the fight was reportedly at a place called Hjaltaeyr and that Geirhild likely got away, the Landnámabók gave no further details about the bizarre encounter and left many questions unanswered. Did Steinrod continue hunting the sorceress? Did Geirhild ever reappear? Why, of all things, did she transform into a bag of water? It all remains a strange and humorous mystery.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Image titled Ilustration til Fabricius’ Danmarks historie, by H. C. Henneberg (1826 – 1893) and G. T. Wegner (d. 1799), [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the Statens Museum for Kunst).
- The Book of Settlements (Sturlubók version) translated by Hermann Pálsson and Paul Edwards. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press, 1972, 2006.