The Lost Saga of Gaukar Trandilsson

As I mentioned in a previous post, there are about 40 Icelandic sagas. But curiously, there seems to be one that will forever remain lost.

Icelandic professor Jón Helgason, during his research of the original saga documents, managed to decipher an intriguing sentence, which read: “let Trandilsson’s story be written here, I am told that Mr Grim knows it.”

Sadly, this saga was never put to paper, but ‘Mr Grim’ is believed to have been Grimur Porsteinsson who was a knight and governor in the year 1350.

Despite this story not being recorded, experts are fairly certain as to whom it refers, thanks to the amazing oral storytelling traditions of the Icelandic people who have passed these wonderful tales down through the generations.

Gaukar is reported to have been a very brave and gentle man. He was also the foster brother of Ásgrimir, whom it is said murdered Gaukar after they had a falling out of some sort.

Although Gaukar’s individual saga was never recorded, he is mentioned in two existing sagas – Njáls Saga, and the Íslendigadrápa (a poem about the heroes of Iceland). Therefore, Gaukar must have been a fairly well known figure in Icelandic folklore.

As well as these two literary examples, Gaukar is mentioned in a runic inscription on a tomb found in Orkney. The inscription translates to: “these runes were carved by the man who was the most knowledgeable of runes in the west of the sea, using the axe that belonged to Gaukar Trandilsson in the south of the land.” (The south of the land is a term which refers to Iceland).

During the course of my own research, I have discovered that Gaukar Trandilsson was also known as ‘Gaukar á Stöng’ (Gaukar of Stöng). Stöng was a farm situated in the Pjórsárdalur valley, Iceland. The original viking age farm was destroyed after a volcanic eruption nearby. The volcano in question, Mount Heckla, was very close to the site of the farm; perhaps Gaukar did not know that the snow capped mountain was actually volcanic! The site was excavated in recent decades, and the remaining foundations of Stöng were preserved beneath a shelter. I have included photos of the shelter, the ruins that lay beneath, and the replica of the original farm which was built nearby. You can actually still visit them today, for the cost of a few coins. 

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