2012 SMUHA Guizer Jarl - Kevin Adamson
Bjorn 'Holdfast' Brynjolfson (Bjorn of Mousa)
Bjorn Brynjolfson was born about 890AD and
was raised by his Nobleman father Brynjolf
Bjornson in Aurland, Norway. His story is told
in the Icelandic Saga of Egil Skallagrimsson.
Bjorn was well travelled on Viking Expeditions
and built up a good reputation as a trader. On
his travels he earned himself the nickname of
'Holdfast' due to his stubborn nature and ability
to make profitable transactions.
It was a name he was to live up to one
summer, when in North-fjord attending a feast,
Bjorn's eye fell upon a fine maiden. When he
enquired as to who she was and of what
family, he was told that her name was Thora
Lace-hand and that she was the sister of
Thorir Hroaldsson, who King Harald Fairhair
had entrusted the early upbringing of his
favourite son Erik, later to become Erik
Bjorn courted Thora and asked for her hand in
marriage but Thorir refused Bjorn's request and
on this they parted company. However during
Thorir's absence in the autumn Bjorn
assembled men, prepared a ship and sailed to
North-fjord. He persuaded Thora to sail back
with him to Aurland where they stayed for the
winter and made plans to marry. Bjorn's father
was strongly against the union and wished
Thora to her brother with whom she had a long
friendship. Bjorn being stubborn would not let
her go and Thora remained in Aurland like a
daughter of Brynjolf's.
When spring came Bjorn discussed his
predicament with his father and requested he
make available to him a warship and crew.
Brynjolf was troubled by the prospect of
allowing his son to roam with a fully rigged
warship, for fear of Bjorn causing trouble for
his family. He instead provided a Merchant
ship and crew with cargoes to export to
Dublin, in the hope that while Bjorn was away
he could make amends with Thorir.
Bjorn and Thora bade his mother farewell and set sail
for Dublin. During the voyage they encountered poor
weather and were battered by stormy seas. A few
days into the voyage, sailing down the east side of
Shetland and still plagued by bad weather, the ship
became damaged and they were forced to make for
Upon reaching Mousa the crew transferred their cargo
to the only shelter available, the Pictish Broch there,
thought to have been constructed around 100BC. It is
probable Bjorn ordered the central space to be covered
from the elements using the ships tent's to make a
comfortable dwelling for his Bride to be. Bjorn and
Thora were married on Mousa and during their time at
the Broch it is rumoured that Bjorn carved a rune or
possibily a star symbol on one of the stones in the
If Bjorn did make such a carving however, it is yet be
found although Vikings have left tokens of their
presence in various other locations. Maes-Howe in
Orkney is an example where one such rune tells how
'Ingeborg the Fair' rested there after long wanderings,
another tells of someone 'in search of the fairest of
women', and one tells of a shipwreck, blaming the
captain for the negligent loss of their ship.
Thora made a home as best she could in the cold
stones of the Broch and felt safe within the thick walls.
They must have stayed on the island all summer as it
is written that shortly before winter a ship arrived from
Orkney with news that King Harald Fairhair had
instructed Jarl Sigurd Eysteinsson the Powerfull of
Orkney that Bjorn was to be killed whenever found. The
same orders were sent to the Western Isles of
Scotland and to Dublin, but Bjorn and Thora stayed all
winter in the Broch of Mousa.
When spring came again, and with repairs to his ship now complete, Bjorn set sail for Iceland and with a fair southerly wind
reached Borgarfjord. Upon landing they were introduced to a man named Skallagrim (Bald Grim) who had been brought up in
Norway with Thorir. He also knew Bjorn's father and extended his welcome and help to the son of and old friend and sister of
his foster brother. Bjorn of course did not tell Skallagrim how he and Thora had left Norway. During the summer there Thora
gave birth to a daughter who was named Asgerdr.
Bjorn had to face up to his situation however, when a ship
arrived from Norway in the autumn and the truth of how Bjorn
had run away with Thora without the consent of Thorir
became known. That Thorir was greatly enraged by their
exodus was made clear to Skallagrim, and he was invited to
make a ruling on Bjorn's fate.
Skallagrim's young son Thorolf, backed by many others,
argued to his father that he should not lay charge against
Bjorn as he had initially extended him his welcome.
Skallagrim agreed and allowed Bjorn, Thora and his ships
crew to stay under his protection during the winter. Thorolf
was given the task of caring for Bjorn and helping him to right
his wrong doings. During this time Bjorn and Thorolf became
good friends and the pair decided that Bjorn would sail back
to Norway the following year to make amends with Thorir.
Thorolf made his father aware of Bjorn's decision to return to
Norway and decided to assist him. Skallagrim gave him men
for the journey and when Bjorn was ready to depart,
Skallagrim's wife Bera requested that his daughter Asgerdr
be left behind as her foster child. Bjorn agreed and the girl
was left to be brought up with Skallagrim's family.
Upon Bjorn and Thora's return to Norway a meeting was held
at Sognefjord where Thorir gave his sister all the property to
which she was entitled, and extended her and Bjorn his full
friendship. Brynjolf was also present, they held a
reconciliation festival and Bjorn and Thora returned to
In later years their Iceland born daughter Asgerdr married
Thorold Skallagrimsson but he was killed in England at the
battle of Brunaburgh fighting on the side of King Athelstan.
She later married his younger brother Egil of whom the Saga
of Egil Skallagrimsson is written.
When preparations for the voyage were complete Bjorn took a boat with twelve men and rowed to where Thora was staying with
his mother and other women. Bjorn again persuaded her to come with with him, telling his mother of his plans. Not wishing any
further upset between Bjorn and his father, his mother forbade the women present to tell anyone of Thora's departure.