Monster of the Month February: Lyngbakur (2020)- by Arngrímur Sigurðsson

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Monster of the Month: Lyngbakur (2020).

Print of a painting by Arngrímur Sigurðsson. Quality poster delivered in a hard-shelled poster tube to prevent damage during shipping.

About the monster:


The image of the floating island-creature that deliberately tricks mariners to land on its lush and scenic back, typically to be drowned and eaten, is a tale that spans all epochs and geographies. In Iceland the creature is known as the Lyngbakur or Heatherback.

The Lyngbakur likely came to Iceland by way of the British Isles, where his exploits were noted in Bestiaries under the name of Fastitocalon, the treacherous “floater” on ocean streams. The Inuktitut of Greenland know the infamous con-whale as the Imap Umassoursua but insist the creature is not a whale, but an island sized flounder. The Imap also digresses from the Lyngbakur in that it has an enormous cavern-like mouth that functions like a powerful vacuum capable of drawing in ships from miles away. The Lyngbakur is also mentioned in Ancient Greek and Persian texts, and was remarkably even included in Carl Von Linné´s 1735 edition of the Systema Naturae as Sepia Microcosmos. Linné took some jabs from colleagues for having been seduced by the “mere fabrications of a distorted mind” and did not include the creature in later editions.

The Icelandic ethnologist Sigfús Sigfússon had this to say about the Lyngbakur: 

Ancient tales tell of a whale monster, known as lyngbakur, that has the appearance of an island covered with a growth of heather. Lyngbakur is the second largest of all sea creatures, its size only exceeded by the hafgúfa. Örvar-Oddr and Vignir encountered a lyngbakur during their search for Ögmundr, killer of Eyþjófr. Their men believed it to be an island covered with heather, and several of them attempted to explore its surface, despite the warnings of Örvar-Oddr and Vignir. The creature then disappeared into the sea, taking all the men with it.

Few tales of the lyngbakur have been told in Iceland in recent times. An exception is the tale of brother and sister Magnús and Brandþrúður, children of “Cleft Palate” Benóný of Glettinganes in the county of Múlasýsla, both of whom were considered upright and honest. One spring as they were out fishing, they let their boat drift south along the peninsula, her holding the fishing line. As they came closer to the tidal race, they saw a large creature protruding from the water surface. It was shaped like a jellyfish and the size of a small islet or island. Its upper half resembled earth covered with heather. They had ventured close to it when they realised that the creature extended further below the surface, so they hurried back and away from it. Some believe that what they encountered was a lyngbakur.

The Lyngbakur Limited Edition Art Print, signed and numbered by the artist Arngrímur Sigursson, read interview with Arngrímur on as one of most interesting artists 2021. From interview with him:

“Just before COVID, I was reading a lot by William Blake and I was getting interested in the idea of a sort of final struggle between the industrial world and the environment. I had a go at writing a few poems with these apocalyptic themes, a kind of war between the environment and industry, and all these monsters were coming out. So it was something in the air,” Arngrímur Sigurðsson explains. “I’ve always been working with the idea that people are subject to natural forces rather than the other way around.”


Also we have available the book Museum Of Hidden Beings that was released few years ago with Monsters from Arngrímur. Same shipping cost if you order both.