About Hallmundarkviða

One of the earliest (preserved) description of a volcanic event in Iceland comes from a poem
called Hallmundarkviða. The poem tells the tale of the eruption, what could be seen
and heard from the eruption itself and the impact it is having on the nearby region. In it
Hallmundur is in the form of the plume that is rising to the sky from the eruption and
occasionally tells the tale himself.

This poem Is believed to have been composed in the 10 th century, possibly between 934 and
1000 A.D, and therefore shortly after the eruption that created Hallmundarhraun. The
author is believed to have either been an eye-witness to the eruption, or that he or she had
spoken to a witness to the eruption. The poem has sadly not been translated to any other
language (and is very difficult to understand for any Icelander for that matter), but we
would like to share with you our favourite verses from the poem, but if you want to jump
straight into the deep end, there are two links below to the whole thing in Icelandic (we are
not sure how much help google translate might be for translating this one though).

5. Þýtr í þungu grjóti
"þrír eskinnar svíra";
undr láta þat ýtar
enn er jöklar brenna ;
þó mun stórum mun meira
morðlundr á Snjógrundu
undr, þats ór mun standa,
annat, fár, of kanna,
annat, fár, of kanna.
10. Sterkr, kveða ilt at einu
oss við þann at senna,
Þórr veldr flotna fári ;
feldr er sás jöklum eldir ;
þverðr er áttbogi urðar,
ek fer gneppr af nekkvi,
niðr í Surts ens svarta
sveit í eld enn heita,
sveit í eld enn heita.

Our two favourite verses are the 5 th and the 10 th and the 5 th verse goes on saying that there
are three plumes rising from the three craters spewing lava and ash, and that the glacier
(Langjökull glacier) is on fire. But men should not be surprise, since many wonders that will
stand forever have happened in Iceland. The 10 th verse tells us about the end of the
eruption, when Hallmundur loses the battle he has been waging against Thor, and
withdraws into the lava to Surtur, and quite possible takes up residency in either the caves
Víðgelmir or Surtshellir.

What we really like about the poem, apart from the obvious beauty of the poem itself and
the description of events, is the integration of Norse mythology and Icelandic nature, in this
case volcanic eruption. It is unlikely that the Vikings encountered volcanic eruptions before
they came to Iceland so the mythology to explain eruptions should not have been in place,
but they seem to have managed to integrate these two things very well in a very short time.

Further reading:
Hallmundarkviða
Hallmundarkviða – útskýringar
Surtur
Þór