The 500 Krónur from Iceland, year of issue 1974, commemorates the 1100th anniversary of the founding of the first Scandinavian settlement on Iceland.

Ingólfur Arnarson lands on Iceland 874 A.D., * Source ;

According to the Icelandic Book of Settlements, knowledge about Iceland was already known as early as the 8th century, when the most venerable priest Bede the Anchorite, where Anchorite means hermit, spoke about an island named “Tili”.

This island where the day wouldn’t come in the winter, nor night would come in the summer, when the days were at their longest, was thought to be approximately 6 days sailing to the North of Great Britain.

“The Anchorite” (1881), by Teodor Axentowicz, * Source ;

Bede the Priest about Iceland

Abraham Ortelius – Iceland / Islandia, 1590

Bede the Priest was born around 673 A.D. and died the 26th of May 735 A.D.

His mentioning of Iceland is one of the earliest references in regards to Iceland, before it was colonized by men of the North, and from that point on found its way into the annals of history.

St. Paul – The first Hermit / San Pablo Ermitaño, * Source ;

The Icelandic manuscript “Landnámabók”, or the foundation thereof, was started by Ari the learned who was born in 1067, and was the descendant of noble lineage. It’s stated that he was the great grandson of Gudrun who features in the Icelandic Edda Saga as part of the tragic love story with Sigurd.

Sigurd examines his sword, * Source ;

Long love story short :

  • Sigurd is a hero who defeats a dragon called “Fafnir”, he bathes in his blood and his skin becomes impenetrable except for one spot on his back, sort of like the famed heel of Achilles ;

Thetis Immerses Son Achilles in Water of River Styx. * Source ;

  • Sigurd wakes up the Shieldmaiden Brunhild from her sleep, who was stung with the sleeping-thorn by Odin and frees her from chainmail ;
  • Brunhild is a beautiful Valkyrie who has vowed to only marry a man with outstanding moral qualities, of descent lineage, and who is worthy enough to overcome her challenges, one of which is a barrier of flames surrounding her court ;

Sigurd awakens Brunhilde ;

  • Sigurd is exactly that man that she’s looking for and who can overcome her challenges, it’s destiny calling for the two of them ;
  • There is a romantic connection between the two and depending on which source the story varies a bit at this point ;
  • We’re taking the path where they promise to marry each other as soon as he returns from going to the King, and as a sign of this he gives her a ring that is cursed, only they don’t know it ;

Royal Romance

  • When at the Royal court, Gudrun, who is the daughter of the king comes to like Sigurd ;
  • Gudrun also has three brothers, one of which called “Gunnar”, who wants to marry Brunhild, but she is already in love and betrothed to Sigurd ;
  • So Queen Grimhild, who is the mother of Gudrun, gives a potion to Sigurd making him forget about Brunhild and the promise that he had made to her ;

Grimhild giver Sigurd the forget potion. * Source ;

  • Gudrun and Sigurd marry, become blood-brothers, and he promises to help Gunnar marry Brunhild who is still protected by her barrier that only Sigurd can cross ;
  • Sigurd and Gunnar exchange appearances, so that the barrier is crossed by what Brunhild believes to be Gunnar, but is actually Sigurd ;
  • Sigurd in the form of Gunnar sleeps with Brunhild, he takes the ring from Brunhild that he had given to her when they first met, and exchanged their vows to each other ;

Sigurd and Gunnar at the Fire by J. C. Dollman (1909). * Source ;

  • Because of “Gunnar”, but actually Sigurd, overcoming the challenges and the flame shield wall of Brunhild, and the fact that Gudrun and Sigurd had married, she decided to marry Gunnar as deeming him worthy ;
  • The ring is given to Gudrun by Sigurd ;
  • Gudrun and Brunhild later meet near a stream when they want to wash their hairs and a quarrel ensues about status ;

Siegfried fights the dragon to rescue Kriemhild. Early modern woodcut of Hürnen Seyfrid. * Source ;

The death of Sigurd

  • Brunhild mocks Gudrun for the fact that her husband Gunnar is more of a hero then Sigurd, who all though having killed a dragon wasn’t brave enough to overcome the wall of fire ;
  • Gudrun then shows the ring that Sigurd took from Brunhild after having passed the barrier of flames, and Brunhild then thinks that Sigurd betrayed her, all though Sigurd is innocent because of third parties that in essence tricked him ;

Death of Siegfriend. * Source ;

  • Brunhild encourages Gunnar to kill Sigurd but he doesn’t want to do it, so another brother kills Sigurd stabbing him in the back at the weak spot ;
  • Sigurd dies but manages to take his attacker with him to the afterlife ;
  • Brunhild commits suicide and Gudrun mourns the death of Sigurd for years ;

Brunhild throws herself upon the funeral pyre of Sigurd.

Blood Revenge

  • Gudrun receives a “forget potion” from her Queen Mother and marries the brother of Brunhild : Atli ;
  • Atli murders the remaining brothers of Gudrun as vengeance for his sister Brunhild ;
  • Gudrun in turn kills Atli and when she tries to commit by drowning in a river, she ends up in in a kingdom that is ruled by Jonak, whom she marries ;
  • Svanhild, who is a daughter of Gudrun and Sigurd is put to death by the Goth King “Jörmunrek the Great” on charges of adultery ;
  • Gudrun, together with her sons Hamdir and Sörli in the end take vengeance for Svanhild but end up losing their lives themselves ;

Gudrun agitating Hamdir and Sörli. * Source ;

Ari the Learned

This “rumored” great grandson of Gudrun, Ari the Learned, was responsible for three noticeable Icelandic manuscripts :

  • The Konung Bók, or “The Book of Kings” ;
  • The Landnámabók, or “The Book of Settlements” ;
  • The Islendigabók, or “The Book of Icelanders” ;

All though “Landnámabók” is generally translated as “Book of Settlements” to make it more define-able in modern English, the literal English translation would be “Land(in)TakeBook”. 

It describes the period from the moment of discovery, how the land looked like, subsequent colonization by Northmen and their servs or slaves, historical events, how the legislative system was organized and the branches of some family lines.

Viking discovery of Iceland

The first Northmen to have been credited with discovering Iceland was “Naddodd the Viking” while underway to the Faroe Islands, but having drifted off course stumbled instead unto Iceland. He and his men went ashore, climbed a top of a high mountain and scouted the land for any signs of human habitation like smoke rising from chimneys, but couldn’t find any other persons for miles around.

While they were leaving Iceland and sailing towards the Faroe Islands, large portions of snow fell upon the land covering the mountains, and Naddodd and his men decided to name this newly found land : Snaeland, or “Snow Land”.

Map of Iceland by Johannes Janssonius (published 1652-1653).

The second Scandinavian to visit Iceland in 870 A.D. was Gardar Svavarsson. Whilst travelling to the Hebrides he hit a storm and was blown far North to find the coast of Iceland. His mother who was a seer, already prepared him for such a possible event, and thus he began to explore it.

He discovered that the newly found land was actually an island by circumnavigating it. A dwelling was built in Skjálfandi bay, which is in the North of Iceland and spent the winter there. When spring came and Gardar wanted to sail back a boat drifted off / escaped with three persons in it :

Húsavík in the North of Iceland.

  • Náttfari, a member of the crew ;
  • An unnamed thraell, or “slave”, usually of Gaelic / Celtic origin ;
  • An unnamed ambátt, or “bonds woman” ;

They made their abode called “Náttfavarík” in a cove in Skjálfandi bay where the town of Húsavík would later develop. In this manner they can be regarded as the first permanent Scandinavian residents of Iceland.

Húsavík. * Source ;

The third Scandinavian explorer, Floki Vilgerdson, took three ravens with him aboard and the third raven he set loose went straight to Iceland. The character of Floki is portrayed in the History Channel “Vikings” series and the event of his exploration was introduced in season 5.

In the series a scene is shown where Floki finds a Christian cross, and the written medieval records indeed state that items such as books, bells, crosses were found by the early Scandinavian explorers, that were left by “Papar” (Christian monks) who had come from the West, believed to be Ireland or Scotland.

Records of archeological surveys show that the earliest found forms of habitation go back as far as the late 8th century.

Floki in Vikings (History Channel).

Further Viking Exploration

After Floki’s venture another exploration was made by Bjornolf who spent a winter in Iceland before returning to Norway.

In 874 A.D. two expeditions set out from Norway, one under the leadership of Ingólfr Arnarson, and the other under the leadership of his foster brother “Hjorleif with the Sword”, who had acquired great wealth and slaves by raiding Ireland.

Monument at Ingólfshöfði, the site where Ingólfur is said to have passed his first winter in Iceland. * Source ;

Chart of Viking exploration. * Source ;

The latter only didn’t make sacrifices to the Gods as thanks and praise, while Ingólfr Arnarson instead did thank the Gods and consulted them by making offerings.

Ingólfr Arnarson landed on Iceland at what’s known as “Ingolf’s Head”, and his foster brother Leif was carried further West because of the weather and the ocean where he eventually also made landfall on Iceland.

Offering for Thor by J. Lund. * Source ;

During the early days of their stay the slaves organized a coupe to kill their Norse overlords by killing an ox, saying that a bear was responsible, and while on the hunt for this bear, the slaves who were more numerous then the Norwegians, would kill them individually .

The slaves managed to kill Hjorleif and all other Norwegian males in this manner, took their wives, cattle, supplies and boats, and sailed to islands to the South West leaving the party of Ingólf Arnarson left to settle Iceland.

It’s important to note that this period of settlement of Iceland aligned with the so called “Medieval Warm Period” that started around 950 A.D. and lasted for almost 300 years. In such a way Iceland would have been more attractive to settle as there was more arable land, forests and a milder climate.

Norsemen landing in Iceland in 872. * Source ;

Viking Colonization

Other Scandinavians followed soon in the footsteps of Ingólfr Arnarson, emigrating and settling in the new land of Iceland. It’s been said that this emigration wave was the result of the actions of King Harald who had unified Norway under one crown, and that a fair number of people were trying to flee Norway or other parts of Scandinavia, as result of him ruling as the one king over the whole of Norway. But there’s still some controversy about that theory.

The composition of the 500 Krónur is Sterling Silver, so that’s .925 Fine Silver. This means that the 500 Kronur with a weight of 20 gram holds 18.5 gram / 0.5948 ozt actual silver. With todays spot price the melt value would be $16.25 (September 2020).

In this 1974 series a 1.000 and 10.000 Krónur denomination coin were also made, the 1.000 Krónur is also silver and the 10.000 Krónur is made grom 90% gold. The 500 Krónur in this presentation concerns the regular variant which is minted in a quantity of 70.000 pieces.

On both coins we see on the obverse the four “Spirits of the Lands”, which are :

  • Griaungur the Bull ;
  • Gammur the Eagle ;
  • Dreki the Dragon ;
  • Bergrise the Giant ;

In that sense the same religious meaning follows other patterns around the world.

On the reverse of the 500 Krónur we can see a woman plowing the fields in the new colony.

The numismatic value of the 500 Krónur starts at around $20. So that’s just a bit over the melt value.