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Factoids about the Icelanders 4

10 beggars and vagabonds4 flatEven though it was the law to have a place at a farm, sometimes people were not able to secure a place for themselves because no farm wanted to take them in. [This was especially true when times were hard and farms just couldn’t take on more mouths to feed, like after a volcanic eruption.] Often these people had something “wrong” with them, i.e. they were mentally disabled, or were somehow considered “difficult”. Sometimes they were ill. And because there was no hospital in Iceland and no institution to which they could turn, there was nothing to do for such unfortunates to become vagabonds. They then had a legal paper from the king stating that they were allowed to roam the country. In effect, they were legally homeless. They were called “kóngsins flækingar” – the king’s vagabonds. Often these poor people tried to do something interesting or entertaining in order to encourage people to take them in and feed them.

Illustration by Megan Herbert, taken from The Little Book of the Icelanders in the Old Days

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