It was night?drawing on to midnight?in summer, that I who write this book arrived at the little lonely farm of Biarg, on the Middle River, in the north of Iceland. It was night, near on midnight, and yet I could hardly call it night, for the sky overhead was full of light of the clearest amethyst, and every stock and stone was distinctly visible. Across the valley rose a rugged moor, and above its shoulder a snow-clad mountain, turned to rosy gold by the night sun. As I stood there watching the mist form on the cold river in the vale below, all at once I heard a strange sound like horns blowing far away in the sky, and looking up, I saw a train of swans flying from west to east, bathed in sunlight, their wings of silver, and their feathers as gold. I had come all the way from England to see Biarg, for there was born, about the year A.D. 997, a man called Grettir, whose history I had read, and which interested me so much that I was resolved to see his native home, and the principal scenes where his stormy life was passed. The landscape was the same as that on which Grettir's childish eyes had looked more than eight hundred and fifty years ago. The same outline of dreary moor, the same snowy ridge of mountain standing above it, catching the midnight summer sun, the same mist forming over the river; but the house was altogether different. Now there stood only a poor heap of farm-buildings, erected of turf and wood, where had once been a noble hall of wood, with carved gable-ends, surrounded by many out-houses. Before we begin on the story of Grettir, it will be well to say a few words about its claim to be history. Iceland never was, and it is not now, a much-peopled island. The farmhouses are for the most part far apart, and the farms are of very considerable extent, because, owing to the severity of the climate, very little pasturage is obtained over a wide extent of country for the sheep and cattle. The population lives round the coast, on the fiords or creeks of the sea, or on the rivers that flow into these fiords. The centre of the island is occupied by a vast waste of ice-covered mountain, and desert black as ink strewn with volcanic ash and sand, or else with a region of erupted lava that is impassable, because in cooling it has exploded, and forms a country of bristling spikes and gulfs and sharp edges, very much like the wreck of a huge ginger-beer bottle factory. What are now farmhouses were the halls and mansions of families of noble descent. Indeed, the original settlers in Iceland were the nobles of Norway who left their native land to avoid the tyranny of Harold Fairhair, who tried to crush their power so as to make himself a despotic king in the land.