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Leirubakki in Historical Works

tales Of the leirubakki ghost



Leirubakki in Historical Works


Leirubakki in Landsveit is mentioned often in old written works, such as in the “Oddaverjaþáttr” of the Bishops’ Lives, when it is told how Jón Loftsson of Oddi tried to prevent Bishop Þorlákur from going to Leirubakki during their dispute over church property in Iceland, while Þorlákur was making official episcopal visits to parishes in the Rangárvellir District.  Here is part of the narrative, taken from Guðni Jónsson’s edition of the Bishops’ Lives:


“Jón Loftsson did not put aside the enmity that he had undertaken, but instead called his men and planned on that day, as the bishop was riding from Fellsmúli to Leirubakki, to lay in ambush for him at the place now called Vatnshlíð, and he positioned men on both sides of the waterway by the yard there.  The bishop had ridden from Vellir to Fellsmúli.  The bishop and his men learned of Jón’s plan, and his men asked that they ride another way, so that they would not encounter each other.  But Þorlákur was confident and made the others confident by his example, since he feared neither strength of numbers nor weapons, and he rode unshaken to the men lying in ambush for him.  But Almighty God spread a fog once more, just as before, over the road that he and his men took, although they were well able to find their way and see those lying in ambush for them, while Jón and his men saw neither the bishop nor his men, nor the road itself until the bishop and his men had passed out of their sight.  The bishop rode that day as he had intended and that night was welcomed to Leirubakki.


“The next morning Jón knew that the bishop would be riding to Ytri-Skarð.  He planned again to lie in ambush for him, not on the road, but rather at the farm at Skarð, and he arranged it so that from Baðsgarður up to Klófi a lane of men should guard the road all the way to the churchyard gate.  Jón would stand there, and the bishop would not be able to reach the farm unless he rode through this lane of men, nor reach the churchyard except at the spot where Jón stood.  And when morning came, this plan was carried out.  But before the bishop rode from Leirubakki, he became aware of Jón’s plan.  And when they reached Baðsgarður, the bishop’s men saw the two long lines of men between which they were to ride, and they halted.”


Leirubakki also plays a part in Sturlunga saga, for instance when the bishop’s son Loftur from Skarð disputes with Björn Þorvaldsson over the woods at Leirubakki, which was then owned by Kolskeggur the Rich.—Loftur thinks that Björn’s men cut timber from the woods without his permission and wants to be paid compensation for it, but Björn refuses and says that “Loftur lies about the boundary,” as it is worded in Sturlunga saga.  This occurred in 1220-1221.


Clothes from Sturlunga saga

Clothes from times of Sturlungar


Leirubakki also shows up in Sturlunga saga’s account of events in 1234, after it had come under the ownership of Snorri Sturluson.  At that time Kolbeinn Arnórsson and Kolbeinn Sighvatsson, Snorri’s nephew, were plotting against Snorri:  “It was decided that Kolbeinn Arnórsson and Kolbeinn Sighvatsson should ride south with between one- and two-hundred men and stay at Snorri Sturluson’s estates that he owned at Dalur under Eyjafjöll and at Leirubakki, and elsewhere.  They stayed for much of the summer at Leirubakki.  They caused great disturbances and pillaged widely.”


From the Íslendingasaga section of Sturlunga saga, published by Sturlunga Publishers in 1946.



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