Fjalla-Eyvindur – Hero of the wilderness

Hveravellir Fjalla-Eyvindur (Eyvindur of the mountains) was on the run and secretly moving about in the wilderness as well as inhabited areas for almost four decades, from 1745 until 1785. An exception from this was in the year 1760 when Eyvindur was registered as a tax-payer in Hrafnfjarðareyri. During all these years, he and Halla, his fiancé, were captivated twice, at Drangar in Strandasýsla in April 1763 and at Innra hreysi by Kvíslaveitur on Sprengisandur on the 7th of August 1772. Halla had though been caught at Hveravellir a bit earlier. They always managed to escape before they were sentenced. In the wilderness they had many a dwelling which Eyvindur had built or dug out, and resided as well in lava-shelters and at abandoned farms. These dwelling-places were throughout the northern highland of Iceland, from Strandasýsla in the west to the East fjords.

His ability to cope with the forces of nature was remarkable, as well as his sense of direction. He was tremendously clever and greatly talented, his main specialty being the acquisition and preservation of food. His skills were numerous. From wickers of willow he made baskets, small and big and even waterproof, in which he preserved food. There still exist a few baskets he gave to friends and these are now highly valued museum objects.

He was held in great reverence and even popular during his time. Many a man helped him out secretly and assisted him beyond measure, both farmers in remote areas as well as sheriffs and the secretary of the government. Initially he was suspected of larceny, but the reason he was on the run may also have been his sneaking away from the mother of his child.

Stealing sheep called for severe punishment in earlier ages and if this crime was committed repeatedly it could call for a sentence to death. Therefore it often happened that those who stole sheep became outlaws if the theft was recognized. In these cases the theft was the prerequisite and the exile was the consequence.

In Eyvindur’s case the exile was the prerequisite and the theft was the consequence, a crime committed only to survive.

Still today it awakes adoration, especially among travelers, how he managed to survive along with his fiancé in the wilderness during those years when hardship and misery plagued the inhabited areas of the country and hundreds of people went begging and died of hunger.

It could be interesting for the athletic travelers of our times to step into Eyvindur’s shoes and compete with him in mountaineering on an equal basis with regard to clothes and other equipment.

Hjörtur Þórarinsson Hveravellir

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