Vikings Saga of Floki“ The lure of an imaginary land. Traveling somewhere that doesn’t exist. Of course, I’m coming.” – Floki
Only reliable information about Floki is to be found in "Landnámabók," medieval Icelandic manuscript, which can be literally translated as the Book of Settlements. Landnamabok contains anecdotes of people who discovered and populated Iceland, their history, and genealogy, as well as the stories of their first settlements. Therefore there is no wonder why sagas of Floki are parts of it of the utmost importance.
Sagas first mention Floki as the boat builder and explorer from Norway who was the first man ever to deliberately search for Iceland. Although not much is known of his looks, a necklace with a hammer of Thor was around his neck at all times, as a sign of both his heritage and his devotion to this mighty God.
When talking about this voyage, Floki’s name was rarely mentioned alone in the sagas. Farmers named Thorolf and Herjolf were his loyal companions and the first people next to Floki to discover Iceland.
Hrafna Flóki Vilgerðarson
“ I’ve been told your god is a carpenter. And guess what? So am I. “ – Floki
Most of you have been first introduced to Floki during the popular TV series called “Vikings.” Although it gave us plenty of information and a decent understanding of who Floki was, it is essential to remember to separate Gustaf Skarsgard’s character from the man who indeed walked and breathed almost 12 centuries ago, Hrafna Flóki Vilgerðarson.
According to Landnámabók, Floki was a Norwegian Viking who was born in the 8th century as a son of Glamur and Vilgerd Hörða-Káradóttir. As we can see, his last name, Vilgerðarson, is matronymic and means “son of Vilgerd.”
Viking War Ship
In hardships, he was a warrior, while in times of peace, he built his own ships. Floki’s name is often correlated with the best carpenters and boat builders of the Viking era. He specialized, of course, in building famous Viking war boats, commonly known as "Longships."
Floki married a woman named Groa Gro Bjornsdottir, and they had two daughters, about whom not much is known. The only thing we can say is that his firstborn probably carried the name Angrboda in honor of Loki’s wife, mother of Fenrir, and his siblings Jörmungandr and Hel. And the second was named Thjodgerd. Although he was both a devoted husband and a father, we can’t exactly call Floki a family man, for he was only truly faithful to the Gods and their often fickle will.
Discovery of Iceland
“ The space between life and death, that’s where we are most alive. “ - Floki
Despite popular belief, Floki was not the first man to ever reach coasts of Iceland. Tale of it is as old as ancient Greece, although no one was quite sure whether it actually existed, or it was only a myth from the past. No one until Floki.
Landnámabók tells us of the possible existence of Irish monks called Papars on the Icelandic territories before it was populated by the Norse men. One of its writers, Ari the Wise, says that the monks lived there almost a century before the Vikings, for the stories of Icelandic Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) were told across Ireland during the 8th century. Papars were either not very fond of Vikings or were chased away, for there is no proof of those two coexisting in Iceland. Today, there is a small island on the east coast of Iceland, Papey, named after those monks.
There was also a story of the wanderer from Adger called Naddodd, who came to the coasts of Iceland unintentionally. Namely, he sailed from Norway to the Faroe Islands, attempting to settle there. Little did he know that his journey back to Norway wouldn’t go according to his plan. Naddodd lost his way, and days after, he found himself on the coast of an unknown land. Land that showed no signs of human existence, land covered in snow. Naddodd named it 'Snaeland' (Snowland).
Now, we are aware we might disappoint some Norwegians out there, but you were not the only ones to thank for the discovery of Iceland. According to Landnámabók, there was once a Swedish Viking called Garðarr Svavarsson, who accidentally sailed into a storm. His ship drifted to the north, all the way to Iceland. Svavarsson was the first one to realize that the land he found was actually an island. Being proud of such discovery, he decided to call it Garðarshólmi, meaning "Garðarr’s island."
This all brings us to the man who was the first one to consciously and intentionally search for this place. The only man we can call a true discoverer of Iceland, a warrior, a boat builder, an explorer, a Viking - Hrafna Flóki Vilgerðarson.
Where did Floki Land?
“ Some men lust for women. Others lust for gold, but I only lust to please the Gods. “ – Floki
Floki was aware that the land he was searching for was neither rich in natural resources nor in wealth, no armies were fighting for it, and there were no solid promises that such land even existed. The only thing that guided him was faith, both in a new beginning for his people and in the will of the Gods. Days and months later, his faith, instincts, knowledge and perhaps a bird, landed him on Vatnsfjörður, a fjord near the southwestern coast of Iceland – Barðaströnd.
As we already know, Vikings believed that the Earth, as we know it, originates from two worlds: Muspelheim, the realm of fire, and Niflheim, the realm of ice. Therefore, it’s no wonder how astonished they were when they reached Iceland, land of both glaciers and volcanoes.
Iceland - the Land of Glaciers and Volcanoes
Spring and summer were kind to them, but Icelandic winter was something not even the strongest of Vikings were prepared to experience. It was ‘bread and circuses’ that brought to the downfall of Rome and zest of the warmth that brought to the downfall of Floki’s first settlements. Not aware of the climate, they spent the summer thinking of fishing and collecting eggs, not so much of collecting the supplies for the cattle. As a result, during the winter, the livestock collapsed. Disappointed, Floki returned to Norway and cursed that place, saying it was the land of lethal and everlasting ice.
That is how the Norse men got their challenge to tame and populate that place, and how Iceland got its name.
Floki Name Meaning“ Warriors don’t show their heart until the ax reveals it. “ – Floki
Some say Floki’s life was destined by his very own name. They also say it was an homage to God Loki, and means "Great Viking Warrior."
Yet, no matter how great a warrior is, he should never travel alone, so among the others, Floki decided to take his two daughters with him on this long journey. Little did he know that the Gods had other plans. The Norwegian Sea took both their lives. One died in Shetlands, the other in the Faroe Islands. After these terrible losses, Floki needed some guidance. He prayed to Gods for help, as he wanted to know what was it really that they wanted of him.
As we already know, Vikings were great sailors. They used positions of the stars and the Moon in order to navigate and always traveled during spring and autumn so the birds could help them determine directions of east and west. So after many prayers, it came to Floki that he should even take some birds with him. The Gods sent him three ravens and gave him blessings to set them free one by one, for they will take him to his final direction.
As the ravens are known to be the birds of Odin, far-seeing God, Floki was sure they would take them where he longed to be. The first one went back to the Faroe Islands, his last stop, the second one circled around the air, but eventually came back to the ship. Yet, the third one flew furthest to the northwest and never came back. That is how Floki got his sign, as well as the nickname Hrafna – The Raven.
ConclusionEvery Viking dreamt of combat, a time when they could show their willingness to either conquer or protect certain land. But Floki wanted more. He knew there must be a land far away across the sea that was never meant to be a battlefield, that just wanted to be found. And who could answer to task such as this if not the greatest of all boatbuilders?
And you fellow children of Odin, if you seem to find yourselves feeling trapped during this quarantine, please know that it doesn’t come from recklessness, but the ever-living spirit of a Viking wanderer, spirit of Floki.
So until the next meeting, keep your heads high and show your Viking bravery by staying inside because the mead tastes just as sweet at home. Skål!