By Kristin Axelsdottir
The man who is usually called the first settler in Iceland was a Norwegian Viking, Ingolfur Arnarson. He and his fosterbrother Hjoerleifur quarrelled with the sons of a powerful earl in Norway and killed two of them. The earl was furious and they had to give up to him all their land. After that they decided to sail to Iceland with their families, slaves and everything they could take with them. This was around the year A.D. 870.
Ingolfur wanted the gods to tell him where he should settle in the new country. Near the coast of Iceland he threw overboard the high-seat pillars he had taken with him from his old home in Norway. He wanted to settle down where they drifted ashore. The first winter he settled at ‘Ingolfshøfdi’ on the south-east coast and for three years he searched the south coast moving westwards each year. At last Ingolfur’s slaves found his high-seat pillars in a little bay on the southwest coast.
Ingolfur was, of course, very happy that the gods had shown him their will. Here there were many hot springs which the Norsemen were not used to at home. Ingolfur named his new home after the white “smoke” rising from the hot springs and called it ‘Reykjavik’ (Smoky Bay). Ingolfur took a very big area as his possession, the whole south-west part of the country from ‘Hvalfjørdur’ (Whale Bay) in the west to ‘Ølfusa’ in the east. He could never use all this land and sold or gave away parts of it to his friends and relatives who came with him or later to settle down in Iceland.
In Reykjavik today we have a great many things that remind us of Ingolfur Arnarson. In the middle of the town there is a small hill called ‘Arnarholl’ and on top of it there is a statue of Ingolfur made by an Icelandic artist. Only a short time ago a new square was opened in the centre of the oldest part of Reykjavik and there were erected two huge stone pillars (high-seat) with the name of the first settler on them. And on cold days the “smoke” from the hot springs can still be seen but now it comes from our many hot outdoor swimming pools.