With this stream of Norsemen the colonisation of Iceland also is closely connected.
That island had already been discovered by a Viking named Naddodd, who called it
Snowland (Snœland]; it was next seen by Gardar, a Swede, after whom it was named
Gardarsholm ; and lastly, the Viking Fldki gave it the name of Iceland, from seeing the
Isafjörd covered with polar ice. But the first settlers were Ingolf, son of Orn, and his
foster-brother Leif, who set sail about A.D. 870, and reached Iceland; they soon however
passed on to Ireland, whence after a few years they returned to Iceland, taking with
them some Irish slaves. The year 874 is fixed by the chroniclers as the date of this
final settlement. Leif was soon after murdered by his unwilling Irish colonists; Ingolf
remained alone and is regarded as the first settler in the island. About the same
time Harold Fair-hair had seized the throne of Norway, and, by the establishment of
despotic power, had become unbearable to the high-spirited and independent chiefs;
and therefore the newly-discovered island, bleak and desolate as it was, offered a wel-
come home to men who had hitherto lived in the possession of equal and undisputed
rights. Again, the Norsemen in the British Isles became unsettled after the death of
King Thorstein, Olave the White's son (the Oistin Mac Amlabh of the Irish Annals),
in the year 874 A.D. ; and they seem from that time to have begun to migrate to Iceland.
Conspicuous among these emigrants was Queen Au$r Djrípau&ga, King Olave's widow,
who set forth with almost all her kinsfolk and followers. It is probable that the number
of Norsemen who sailed from Ireland to Iceland was about equal to that of those who
had gone thither from Norway. They carried with them their families and such cultiva-
tion as they possessed. They spoke that form of the Scandinavian tongue which prevailed
on the western coast of Norway; and as time went on, while new dialects formed themselves
throughout Scandinavia, in Iceland the old tongue rose to the dignity of a literary language,
and thereby retained its original form. It has thus been preserved to our days *.
The first settlers formed an independent aristocracy, or republic, which continued
for nearly four hundred years. Up to the end of the loth century they held the heathen
faith and practised the rites of heathen worship : Christianity was accepted as the faith
of the island in the year 1000 A.D. Two centuries and a half after this change of faith
(A.D. 1262) the Icelanders made willing submission to the king of Norway, that is, as
has been said, about four hundred years after the first discovery of the island.
It was during this period that the Laws and Sagas of Iceland were written. Some
idea of the extent and variety of this literature may be formed from the compendious
account which is subjoined to this Preface. Tales of an historical and mythological
character were committed to writing, being for the most part narratives of the feats of
heroes abroad and at home, and belonging to the times before the year 1030 A.D., which
may fairly be called the patriarchal age of Icelandic history; and in these tales, with
poems, laws, and documents of various kinds, the old Scandinavian tongue, as spoken and
written by the Icelanders in the period ranging from goo to 1262 A.D., has been handed
* See the Landnáma, the Laxdaela Saga, and the Irish Annals; and, for details, Mr. Dasent's Paper in the
Oxford Essays for 1858, pp. 176 sqq., and his Introduction to 'The Story of Burnt Njal/ Edinburgh 1861.