Eggert Ólafsson

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The death of Eggert Ólafsson , copperplate engraving by I. Haas , published in 1769 in Ólafur Ólafsson's Drauma diktur um søknud og sorglegan missir þess Havitra, Gøfuga og Goda Manns Herra Eggerts Olafssonar, Vice-Løgmanns sunnyan og austan adar Islande a samt Hansdum Konu Frur Ingibjargar Gudmunds Dottur

Eggert Ólafsson (also Eggert Olafsen , born December 1, 1726 on the Snæfellsnes peninsula , Iceland ; † May 30, 1768 ) was an Icelandic poet, naturalist , philologist , archaeologist , economist and historian . He was one of the first Icelandic representatives of the European Enlightenment .


Eggert Ólafsson, who came from an old farming family, went to Denmark in 1746 and studied natural sciences and philosophy at the University of Copenhagen . In 1750 he returned to Iceland with his fellow student Bjarni Pálsson , where both of them collected Icelandic books and natural objects. Both were the first to climb the almost 1,500 m high volcano Hekla , which was considered the gateway to hell , and undertook extensive journeys through Iceland between 1752 and 1757, during which they did research on behalf of the Royal Danish Academy of Sciences , financially supported by the Danish Krone on the physical geography and mineral deposits of Iceland. She described her impressions and experiences in the influential work Reise igiennem Iceland (“Journey through Iceland”), a comprehensive presentation of the country and its people, in which Eggert Ólafsson played a particularly important role. The book, completed in 1766, was only published at public expense after Eggert Ólafsson's death in 1772. It initially appeared in Danish, but was soon translated into German, French and English. It didn't appear in Icelandic until 1943.

From 1760 Eggert Ólafsson lived with his brother-in-law, the farmer Björn Halldórsson at Sauðlauksdalur near Patreksfjörður ; Eggert Ólafsson's most important poetic work, Búnaðarbálkur (“Cycle of Country Life”), in which he creates an idealized portrait of a peasant in 160 stanzas, is inspired by his admiration for the modern farm economy of his brother-in-law.

In the summer of 1767 the French navigator Kerguelen was a guest in Patreksfjörður for a long time. In long conversations with Eggert Ólafsson he gained insights into Icelandic nature and culture, which he later published in his travelogue. In the autumn of 1767 Eggert Ólafsson married his cousin Ingibjörg Guðmundsdóttir in an elaborate ceremony based on old Icelandic traditions, with whom he moved into his own farm at Hofsstaðir in the spring of 1768 .

On May 30, 1768 both sailed from Skor, a landing stage in the north of Breiðafjörður , in two overloaded boats and drowned, presumably after getting into bad weather.

Meaning and appreciation

Eggert Ólafsson's work had a strong emotional impact on his compatriots; his death aroused great sympathy among the Icelandic population, numerous lamentations and works were written that recalled his fate. Among the most important is Jónas Hallgrímsson's song Hulduljóð ("The Song of Hulda ") , published in 1847 . Jónas describes Eggert Ólafsson as the most important man that Iceland has produced in the last few centuries and idealizes him as a father figure in Hulduljóð , which subsequently found favor with young Icelandic patriots.

The poet and creator of the Icelandic national anthem , Matthías Jochumsson , wrote a poem called Eggert Ólafsson .

In honor of Eggert Ólafsson and his wife Ingibjörg Guðmundsdóttir , a monument to the artist Páll Guðmundsson was erected in 1998 near Ingjaldshóll , in the north of the Snæfellsnes peninsula .

Works (selection)

  • Reise igiennem Iceland ("Reise durch Iceland", 1772, digitized )
  • Búnaðarbálkur ("Cycle of Country Life")
  • Ofsjónir (poem, 1752; this is the first time a miner is described)


  • Hermannsson, Halldór: Eggert Ólafsson: A Biographical Sketch. Islandica XVI. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Library, 1925.
  • Schaer, Karin: ... dette hidindtil saa suffers, dog mangesteds earthy preached country. The reinterpretation of the image of Iceland in Eggert Ólafssons Reise igiennem Iceland and its influence on the construction of an Icelandic identity in the 18th century. Frankfurt am Main, Berlin, Bern, Bruxelles, New York, Oxford, Vienna: Peter Lang 2007 (= Imaginatio borealis. Pictures of the North 13), ISBN 978-3-631-56899-6

Individual evidence

  1. Kerguelen in Iceland 1767 and 1768 . Exhibition from 2014 on Kerguelen's two trips to Iceland on the website of the National and University Library of Iceland (English)
  2. Jónas Hallgrímsson: Hulduljóð
  3. Matthías Jochumsson: Eggert Ólafsson .
  4. About the monument to Páll Guðmundsson