oil on canvas, 60cm x 60cm, Iain White, 2014, £250
This extensive lava plain derives its name from part of the Eyrbyggja Saga, probably the most complex of the Icelandic Sagas. The story tells us about two Swedish berserks*, Halli and Leiknir, who a farmer, Vermundur the Slim, brought to the country from Norway in AD 982. However, he could not keep the berserks busy enough to subdue their rage. In desperation he asked his brother, Styr the Slayer, to take them off his hands.
To simplify the tale one of the berserks, Halli asked for Styr’s daughter’s hand in marriage. To avoid this Styr promised to give his blessing if Halli and Leiknir would clear a bridle path through the lava field. They went berserk and finished the tasks in a remarkably short time. However, Styr the Slayer had prepared an underground sauna for them when they returned , trapped them in it adding copious hot water so that although they broke free they were sufficiently weakened for Styr to be able to kill them. Hence the name ‘the berserk’s lava field’.
*(berserkers or berserks were Norse warriors who are primarily reported in the Old Norse literature to have fought in a nearly uncontrollable, trance-like fury, a characteristic which later gave rise to the English word berserk),