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Updated: Jul 26, 2021

On the last day in East Iceland, I visited two preserved turf farms Bustarfell and Sænautasel. This post will focus on Bustarfell. It is an amazing ancient estate in Vopnafjörður under a mountain called Bustarfell.



I planned to stay 30-45 minutes but 3 hours later, I finally returned to the car and headed out of the beautiful Hofsárdalur, a valley crossing endless hills, lowlands, rivers, and mountain ranges.

Fanney was the guide on this overcast but calm and peaceful day. She shared stories about the many artifacts in the museum, the houses, the landscape, farming practices, lifestyles, and the people who lived in the house.

The houses were rebuilt in 1770 after the original home burned.

Near the museum is the Croft Café where you can have coffee and sweet treats. I was here with a Jónas Þór Heritage Tour in 2009 and our group had lunch. Groups can call ahead to organize a special meal. Icelandic Farm Holidays has special tours each year for heritage groups.

A bit past the museum is an easy hiking path to a big stone. It is called "The Fairy Stone." Ask one of the guides to go along and tell you the stories about the area and take in the beautiful view of the surrounding area.

Here is one story:

Once upon a time, a rich and noble sheriff and his wife lived happily at the important farm called Bustarfell. During the darkest days of winter, the sheriff´s wife had a strange dream. She dreamed that a man came to her and asked her to get up and go with him. She did so, and went with him a little way up the hill from the farmhouse to a huge boulder which she recognized on the Bustarfell property. The man went three times clockwise around the stone and the stone turned into a small house. He then took her inside where everything was neat and beautiful.

On the floor was a woman in labor and laying on the floor in great pain. The man asked her to help his wife. The sheriff´s wife went up to the woman and said, 'May the Lord Jesus help you.'

Shortly, the woman gave birth and everyone was filled with joy. The sheriff´s wife helped to bath the newborn baby. The elf woman gave her some salve that was to be applied to the babies eyes. The sheriff´s wife was worried if it was okay and put a little bit of it in her right eye to make sure it was okay for the baby.

Shortly, the sheriff´s wife was ready to leave and the elf woman gave her a beautiful shawl. made of the finest silk and embroidered with gold thread. The man went outside with the woman, walked three times counter-clockwise around the house and it turned back into a stone, and he brought the woman back to Bustarfell. No one in Iceland had ever seen such a beautiful shawl or anything like the gold thread used for the embroidery.

After this, the sheriff´s wife could see out of her right eye the houses, farms, and elf people that lived around Bustarfell. She noticed that they were more skillful in their work and could tell what the weather would be in the area. She started to copy their ways in haymaking and her farm became more and more prosperous.

Years went by and then the sheriff´s wife went to the village of Vopnafjörður to buy supplies. In the store, she saw the elf woman helping herself to some of the rarest and finest goods in the store. The sheriff´s wife said to the elf woman in a friendly voice, 'So, here we meet again.' The elf woman turned around and without a word of reply, spit into her eye. Afterwards, the sheriff´s wife could never see the elf people or their buildings again.

Bustarfell Elf Rock

This story is from the folk-tale collection by Jón Árnason. The shawl was used for a long time as an altar cloth in the Bustarfell church at Hof and is now preserved in the National Museum of Iceland.

I had historical reasons to visit the farm. A young lady from the farm who emigrated from Iceland and to Canada returned and lived the rest of her days in Iceland. There were also personal reasons to ask questions about the 1860s on this farm. On the 28th day of April in the year 1862, a 72 year old man by the name of Mikael Illugason died at this farm. I am particularly interested in his story because he is my 4th great grandfather and the ancestor to many people who now live in North America and in Iceland.

There is more information about him and the young woman at and I will continue to learn more about the people and places in our shared Icelandic story.

Hope you enjoyed the old folktale!

Until next time, Sunna

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