:: The Vikings of Bjornstad ::
Hurstwic
New England, USA

 
Hurstwic is a New England-based organization that researches, practices, and teaches how Vikings fought and used their weapons, but our interest extends to all things Viking. Here's our website.

In addition to combat, we do research and training in other Viking-related fields. We teach classes in Old Norse, the language of the Viking-age people, so we can read the sagas and eddas in the original. We've recently conducted research on how to best row a Viking ship, using a replica ship and modern instrumentation. We've done hands-on study of Viking-age skeletal remains to learn about their battle injuries and their general health. We regularly do hands-on investigations of historic Viking weapons, so we know how the weapons were made and how they handle. We regularly play Viking sports, such as knattleikur, and Viking competitions, such as stone lifting.

These photos are from our most recent film, The Final Battle of Grettir the Strong, a documentary released in 2017. Grettir is a Viking-age hero whose story is told in Grettis Saga. In this climactic moment of the story, Grettir's brother Illugi is protecting his injured brother while holding off Þorbjörn öngull and his men from inside the ruins of the house. Despite his heroic efforts, Illugi is overwhelmed, disarmed, and captured.

For our film, we built (and then destroyed) a replica of a Viking-age turf house on the actual location of the historical battle, a short distance from the ruins of Grettir's house on the island of Drangey in north Iceland. All the fight moves used in our battle scenes are moves taken from Grettis saga and other sagas. We even went to the extreme of using historical artifacts in our film. Two such artifacts that may be seen in these photos are the 1000 year old jewelry on Illugi's tunic, and the 1000 year old axe being used by Þórir to pin Illugi's right hand.
   

A group photo at Borg, the Viking-age farm of Egill Skallagrimssspn. Our friends in Bogarfjörður were lobbying to have our next film project be based on Egil's saga. Most of the group is in the photo, but several others were nearby at Húsasmiðjan, buying building materials we needed for building our Viking house on Drangey for the film shoot.

We stopped at Eiriksstaðir í Haukadaul, the reconstructed Viking-age house of Eirik the Red, to shoot a few interiors. As it turned out, it was unnecessary - our turf house on Drangey turned out so nicely, we could have shot all of our interiors there!
   

Grettir (played by Matt) takes a nap in the bed of Eirik the Red during a break in the shooting.

Illugi (played by Mike) used an historical, 1,000 year-old Viking-age pin on his tunic.
   

On the boat to the island of Drangey. For most of the group, this was their first visit to the island. We are grateful to Drangey tours for their kind assistance and support of our project.

Vikings approach Drangey.
   

The start of the trail up to the top of Drangey.

A detour off the trail to use the ladder (in the distant background) as a stand in for the ladder that Þorbjörn öngull and his men used to reach to top of Drangey to attack Grettir.
   

Shooting video for a special chapter on the spring and the other resources that Grettir and Illugi had on the island while they lived there.

Helgi stands in the ruins of Grettir's house and tells us about the hut. We studied the house ruins carefully...
   

...and another team built the wood frame...

And when we were done, we had a turf house perhaps not so different from the one that Grettir and Illugi lived in during their stay on Drangey. I think we were all surprised by the amount of room inside the house, and everyone wanted to check out the interior.
   

And now the story begins. Grettir and Illugi send their slave Glaumur (played by Reynir) out of the hut to pull up the ladder that will keep them safe from attack.

As the camera rolls, the cowardly and disloyal Glaumur reveals everything that Þorbjörn and his men need to know to make their attack on Grettir. They beat him until he is crippled for his disloyalty.
   

Þorbjörn orders his men to tear the hut apart to get at Grettir and Illugi inside.

Even with the turf pulled off and the roof beams broken, Þorbjörn and his men have a hard time dealing with Grettir and Illugi. Here, setting up a shot where Illugi (Mike) throws a spear at one of Þorbjörn's men (played by Þorsteinn).
   

Þorbjörn orders his men to enclose Illugi with their weapons and with bits of wood to pen him in and to get him out of the fight.

With Illugi out of the fight, Grettir (who is weakened by wounds and illness) is no match for Þorbjörn's men. They pincushion him with their spears. Þorbjörn takes Grettir's prized sax by cutting off his hand, then ends his life by cutting off his head.
   

Illugi, unwilling to offer any truce to Þorbjörn, is taken to the east side of the island and beheaded. And here ends our telling of the final battle of Grettir the Strong.

Sad to leave Drangey on our last day of shooting...
   

We stopped at the farm at Bjarg to pay our respects to Grettir. His head is purported to be buried beneath this stone in the home field at Bjarg.

…and we shot a final group shot before continuing on to Reykjavík.
   
  ©   For information contact Jack Garrett at info@vikingsofbjornstad.com