Ingólfur Þorsteinsson

born: at Hof in Vatnsdalur in Iceland
died: 972 at Hof in Vatnsdalur in Iceland
married: Halldís Óláfsdóttir

Fighting men used whatever was available to help them succeed in their fight. Ingólfur created some clever improvised armor to protect him as he entered a house to attack some thieves.

The thieves had stolen valuable food and goods from a farm in Vatnsdalur, and as the chieftain for the valley, Ingólfur chased after them with a party of men, following their tracks. The tracks split, and Ingólfur sent half the men one way, while he and the others went the other way. Ingólfur saw the horses belonging to the thieves outside a shieling, a temporary dwelling used in high summer pastures, and Ingólfur wanted to attack right away. The odds were against him because the thieves greatly outnumbered his party, and Ingólfur's men wanted to wait until the other half of the search party returned. Ingólfur didn't want to wait.


Ingolf jumped down off his horse and ran down into a nearby ravine, picked up two flat stones, and fixed one to his chest and the other between his shoulders, and so protected his exterior. In his hand he had the sword Aettartangi, and then went into the shieling.

Ingolf wanted to attack straightaway and told his companion to follow him staunchly. The thieves laid into him as soon as he entered, but the stones which he was wearing protected him, and the blows glanced off of him.

Vatnsdæla saga, ch. 41
translation: Andrew Wawn, The Complete Sagas of Icelanders, Leifur Eiriksson Publishing (1997).

Ingólfur was attacked on all sides by the thieves and ultimately, was wounded. Yet he was able to kill five of the thieves before they fled, leaving behind their booty. Ingólfur was carried home, and although he seemed to recover during the winter, he died from his wounds in the spring.

His clever improvised armor protected him well enough to allow him to enter the house and drive off the thieves. The move is another example of the improvisational skills routinely used by Viking-age warriors.


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