The twins Hreppur and Stjóri

Friendship between the twins

The incredible story of twins being born in a snowstorm on Iceland in 1805 and how one of the twins saves his brother’s life.

Two horses of my grandfather Vigfús Ormsson were called Hreppur and Stjóri. These unusual names have a special meaning:

The story of how the names came about took place in 1805, when my grandfather was serving as a pastor on Valþjófsstaður in East Iceland.

In spring that year, there was a huge snowstorm. When the storm had finally settled down, my grandfather noticed that a pregnant broodmare was missing from the herd. It was my grandfather’s favourite mare! Everyone thought that she had died in the storm. But by chance, the mayor (Icelandic hreppstjóri) of the region found her alive with two foals by foot. The mare must indeed have given birth to twins in the snowstorm!

My grandfather was very happy about it. Luckily, there was no lack of hay this year either, so he immediately stabled the mare and fed her well so that she had enough milk for the two foals.

In memory of this unusual event he named the foals after the mayor Hreppur (district) and Stjóri (official). The foals grew up together and were so attached to each other that neither stable nor rope could hold them back when they were tried to be separated.

When my mother was fifteen or sixteen years old, she was allowed to go into the mountains with the maids to help with the harvest of Iceland moss. A milker from my grandfather accompanied the women. His job was to help load the horses that had to transport the moss home. Mostly, they worked in the light nights or early morning hours. Since the harvest took place far away from the farms, people rested in tents.

One morning, after everyone had returned from work and fallen asleep, Hreppur came up to the tent and neighed loudly. The worker woke up and tried to drive the horse away, but it was no use. Hreppur was not frightened away. My mother slept soundly, as young people often do when they are very tired. But finally, she woke up and when she heard what was going on she knew that something was wrong. She ordered the man to follow the horse. But the guy was not at all enthusiastic and complained loudly because he was very tired and wanted to sleep.

Finally, he gave way and followed the horse. When Hreppur noticed that the man was moving, he ran ahead, but kept looking around and neighing as if to ask the man to walk a little faster. Finally, Hreppur ran off, stopping at a point in the plain and neighing friendly towards the ground. When the man arrived he saw that Stjóri was standing in a big hole. The ground must have given way because water had carried away the earth underground. The man fetched the women and also brought ropes. Then, they pulled Stjóri out of the hole together.

My mother told me that after the rescue the two of them greeted each other as joyfully as one greets one another when one has just cheated death.

Original title: “Hreppur og Stjóri” from the magazine Dýravinurinn, 3rd volume 1889, page 41.

The story has been translated from Icelandic as accurately as possible so as not to change its character.

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