Thorstein Leg—A Medieval House Flipper

Thorstein Bjarnarson—nicknamed Thorstein Leg—was a man from the Hebrides who sailed to Iceland while it was first being settled in the late 9th and early 10th centuries. Sailing northwest from the Hebrides, Throstein Leg reached southeast Iceland and claimed land near the Skarðsfjörður region. He built a farm there at a place reportedly called Bodvarsholt and set up the basic infrastructure for a homestead. Yet, these improvements to the land might not have been for himself. Whereas other early Icelandic settlers were willing to fight and feud to protect or expand their claimed stretches of land, Thorstein Leg, contrastingly, was evidently looking to make a profit by selling the land that he had obtained and developed. As the medieval Icelandic Book of Settlements (Landnámabók) concisely recorded, “He farmed at Bodvarsholt for three years, then sold his land and went back to the Hebrides” (Landnámabók, Sturlubók manuscript, chapter 308). The text, unfortunately, did not mention who bought the property, or what the price tag was for Thorstein’s land and farm.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Vignette drawing by Gerhard Munthe, created between 1895-1899, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the National Museum of Norway).



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

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