Djákninn á Myrká

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An engraving depicting "The Deacon of Dark River" from an 1864 publication.

Djákninn á Myrká (The Deacon of Dark River) is an Icelandic folk tale.


A deacon who lived on a farm called Myrká (Dark River) had a girlfriend named Guðrún. She lived on farm called Bægisá located on the other side of a big river called Hörgá. One day the deacon rode his horse Faxi to Bægisá to meet Guðrún so they could discuss their plans for Christmas. The deacon promised to ride to Bægisá on Christmas Eve and bring Guðrún to Myrká where they could celebrate the holiday together. But on his way back home that day, the deacon was unexpectedly caught in a heavy storm. He fell into the Hörgá river where he suffered a severe head injury and drowned.

The deacon's body was found the next day by a farmer and buried a week before Christmas. But the news of his death somehow had not reached Guðrún. On Christmas Eve, as per their arrangement, the deacon arrived at her farm. She had barely finished dressing, and only had time to put on one sleeve of her coat before they were off on their journey. As they rode, his face was hidden by a hat and scarf, but when they came to Hörgá river the horse tripped and the deacons hat fell forward. Guðrún saw his terrible head injury. As the moon shined upon them he said, “The moon fades, death rides. Don't you see a white spot on the back of my head, Garún , Garún?“ She replied, “I see, what is“. After that, they did not speak a word until they came to the deacon's farm Myrká. When they got off the horse, the deacon spoke again. “Wait here Garún, Garún. While I move Faxi, Faxi (the deacon's horse) over the fence, fence”. (In Icelandic folklore, ghosts often speak in verse, repeating the last word of each line.)

When Guðrún noticed an open grave in the graveyard, she felt the deacon trying to pull her into it. By luck, she was only wearing one sleeve of her coat, and when the deacon pulled on her empty sleeve, she was able to break free and run away. As the deacon disappeared into the grave and the grave filled up, she realized that the deacon was dead and she'd encountered his ghost. Guðrún was haunted by the deacon's ghost throughout the night, the disturbance causing others residing at the farm to lose sleep. An exorcist was summoned who finally put the deacon's ghost to rest.[1][2][3][4]


  • The Deacon of Dark River – The main character dating Guðrún in the story
  • Guðrún – The co-star of the story
  • Guðrúns mom – Opens the door when the deacon knocks on the door for Guðrún
  • The farmer in Dark River – Is the man who finds the deacon's body
  • Faxi – The deacon's horse

About the story[edit]

The folk tale about The Deacon of Dark River is very well known and popular in Iceland, possibly because ghost tales and ghost stories in general are very popular in the Icelandic community. The story takes place in the north of Iceland, and like most folktales, its origins and author are unknown.

It is notable that when the deceased deacon picks up Guðrún for Christmas Eve, he keeps calling her Garún. This is because the first part of the name Guðrún — “ Guð “ — is the Icelandic word for God, and in Icelandic legend, ghosts can't say the words God or angel.[1][4]


"Djákninn á myrká" first appeared in print in Konrad Maurer's collection of Icelandic folk tales Isländische Volkssagen der Gegenwart in 1860.[5] Its first publication in Icelandic was in Jón Árnason's and Magnús Grímsson's Íslenzkar þjóðsögur og æfintýri in 1862.

In popular culture[edit]

This tale has inspired paintings and poems, including poems by Hannes Pétursson.[1]

The film director Egill Eðvarsson adapted the story to a modern setting, envisioning the deacon as a "bad ass" motorcycle rider.[1]


  1. ^ a b c d Aðalsteinsdóttir, Silja (2003). Bók af bók Bókmenntasaga og sýnisbók frá 1550-1918. Reykjavík: Mál og menning. ISBN 9789979305613.
  2. ^ Magnússon, Haukur S. (2008-07-29). "Introducing: Hugleikur and the Monsters Vol. 1: 'The Deacon of Dark River'". The Reykjavík Grapevine. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  3. ^ "The Deacon of Dark River". 02.05.2008. Iceland Review. Retrieved 9 May 2013.
  4. ^ a b Insight Guide Iceland. Langenscheidt Publishing Group. 1 June 1999. pp. 266–. ISBN 978-0-88729-176-0. Retrieved 8 May 2013.
  5. ^ Maurer, Konrad: Isländische Volkssagen der Gegenwart, J. C. Hinrichs, Leipzig, 1860, p. 73.

External links[edit]