In the small fishing village of Skyr in the great country of Iceland, the people were happy and content. Their houses were nestled on a beautiful little harbor in which they docked their fishing boats. Each morning, the fisherpeople of the village got up early, ate breakfast, and went down to the harbor to prepare their boats for the day’s fishing. They would check their nets to ensure there were no large holes in them. These were used to catch small and medium fish. They would check the winches that helped pull in the nets when they were full of fish. They checked their harpoons which they used for spearing large fish. Most importantly, they would check the sky to see if a storm was coming. They did not want to be out at sea in a storm for they could drown. They had a saying, “Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in the morning, sailor’s warning.” If the sky was red, they would tie their boats securely to the docks and go home for the day.
The large fish the fisherpeople caught were called minke whales. These were up to 27 feet long. They tasted a lot like beef when they were cooked. But the homepeople had to soak them in milk for 24 hours to get the oily taste and fishy smell out of them. They also caught salmon which they ate raw or smoked.
While the fisherpeople were out fishing, the homepeople were cooking and sewing and cleaning. And they were taking care of the children of the village. Some of the homepeople wished they could be out at sea. But each job was important and neither was easy so it all worked out in the end.
Surrounding the village, there were great fields of volcanic rock. The terrain was very hilly because the lava had flowed out of the volcanic craters and cooled off and hardened wherever it landed. Much of the very old lava was covered with green moss and, in the summer, beautiful purple lupins grew in the soil within the moss.
There was not much good land around the village for farming because you cannot grow crops on lava fields. They could not raise cattle or sheep because there was no grass or hay for them to eat. So, they had to import vegetables and grain from other countries. They were able to trade some of their fish for these other foods.
Now living next to a lava field can be quite fun for a young boy. There was a particular boy in the village named Henry who loved to run through the fields even though it was very hard to do because of all the bumps and holes. Henry had a special goal when he went out to the fields. He was looking for a lava tube. Lava tubes were formed when the surface lava from a volcano hardens into a crust and hot lava continues to flow underneath it, creating tunnels and caves.
If you could find a lava tube, you could climb into it and explore the underground caves within. These caves had long needle-like columns hanging from the ceilings and standing up out of the floors. The needles hanging from the ceiling were called stalactites or lavacicles. The needles coming from the floor were called stalagmites and sometimes grew into large pillars. Both the lavacicles and the stalagmites made the caves a bit difficult to walk through. Henry had never seen a lava tube in person but he was determined to find one and make it his own secret place.
Henry knew a great deal about volcanos because he studied them in school and read about them in library books. There had not been a volcanic eruption in Skyr for many years. The last one had destroyed the old village so the older people were afraid of the mountain. But secretly, Henry wished there would be another eruption. He thought this would be an awesome sight
The big mountain, called Hadgr, loomed over the village and, to Henry, looked like it might spew hot lava any day. He could see small puffs of smoke every so often.
Many years ago, before Henry was born, Skyr was not located on the harbor. The old town was situated in the shadow of the mountain. As the population grew, the old town spread closer and closer to Hadgr. Pretty soon, it extended right
up to the foot of the mountain. How would you like it if someone built houses on your foot? Not much, I bet. Well, Hadgr didn’t like it either.
Before the mountain erupted, hot smoke poured out of the volcano for days. The villagers knew Hadgr was angry at them but they didn’t know why. They left offerings of fish and bread but Hadgr’s sore foot made him too crabby to eat. When the mountain refused to take their offerings, the villagers wisely chose to flee before Hadgr blew its top. The hot lava burned up the houses in the village but the villagers made it to safety. They built the new town where Henry now lived. These people were very old now but told the story of Hadgr’s eruption as if it were yesterday. Henry never tired of hearing the story. Secretly, although Henry was sorry all the houses had burned up, he could not have imagined a more majestic sight than fire rising from the mountain.
Henry was out searching for a lava tube, as he did almost every day, when he suddenly slipped and fell. He tumbled down and down through a dark tunnel until he finally stopped rolling. When his eyes adjusted to the dark, Henry realized where he was. He had found his very own lava tube! This cave would be his new playhouse and he would invite his best friend Cairo to visit. There were lavacicles and stalagmites galore! What a wonderful place!
Henry sat very still and leaned his back against the wall of the cave. He closed his eyes. He thought he could hear a voice. He couldn’t tell what it was saying but it sounded very sad. It was moaning as if it were in pain. Henry wished he knew where the voice was coming from so he could help the person.
He opened his eyes and felt the walls again. He was not at the end of the tunnel yet. He decided to explore more although the darkness made him a little scared. He began to crawl downward, further into the tunnel. He stopped again and closed his eyes. The voice was louder now. But all Henry could tell was that it was sad and moaning. He decided to turn back before he got lost in the cave.
Henry and Cairo went out to the lava tube every day after school. They loved to explore the cave. They brought paint to decorate the walls and stalactites. Henry’s favorite color was green so he brought broccoli, lime, seaweed and asparagus paint. Cairo’s favorite color was red so he brought raspberry, apple, strawberry and cranberry paint. The cave looked more magnificent every day.
The sad moaning sound seemed to grow louder each day. Cairo was just as concerned about the sad person as Henry.
“I think it’s coming from far down in the cave,” said Cairo. “Maybe we should try to find the person and help him.”
“OK,” said Henry, “But let’s come back on Saturday because it may take some time. We should bring sandwiches, water and flashlights. We should also bring chalk so we can mark our path and find our way back.”
“Good idea,” said Cairo, “See you on Saturday.”
The boys were very excited when Saturday arrived. They were both dressed in boots and raincoats in case they found pools or waterfalls in the cave. They each carried a backpack with a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, a bottle of water, some cookies and a flashlight. They also carried large pieces of chalk in their pockets to mark on the walls as they went.
They passed the decorated rooms of the cave quickly and entered the dark tunnels. There were tunnels going left, right and straight ahead.
“Let’s always stay to the right,” said Henry. “On the way back, we stay to the left. That way, we will get back where we started even if the chalk marks come off.”
So, the two boys set off, each with their right hands up against the wall of the cave. As they went forward, the moaning voice grew louder. It made the boys a bit scared but they were very brave boys so they kept on. They were determined to help the poor person who was in pain.
Finally, they reached a place where they could go no further. They seemed to be in a large room with only one entrance – the one through which they had entered.
“Let’s have some lunch and decide what to do next,” said Cairo.
They sat down on the cold lava floor and began to eat their sandwiches. Suddenly, a spark of light appeared near the ceiling and lit up the room.
“Wow,” said Henry. “It looks like a lightbulb but where did it come from?”
Then a voice said, “Welcome to my home, boys. My name is Hadgr.”
“Bu bu bu but, Hadgr is the name of the mountain,” said Cairo.
“One and the same,” said the voice, “pleased to meet you.”
“We heard someone moaning,” said Henry, “was that you?”
“Sorry about that,” said Hadgr, “Sometimes, I just can’t help myself. I am so lonely since the village moved away.”
“But they moved away because you were angry with them and burned up their houses with your hot lava,” said Henry.
“I wasn’t angry. I was sore. My foot hurt. I didn’t mean to lose my temper but sometimes, it gets away from me,” said Hadgr.
“Oh,” said Henry. “That’s too bad. You mean to say you just couldn’t stop it?”
“That’s about the size of it. Do you ever get so mad that you cry and act up even though you shouldn’t?”
Henry and Cairo looked at each other. Maybe Hadgr wasn’t much different than a young boy.
“What if your temper gets away from you again?” asked Henry. “If you blow your top, the lava will run right down into our harbor and we won’t be able to fish. We will starve without fish.”
“I am sorry,” said Hadgr, “I hope that doesn’t happen. But, like I said, I have been sad for so long and sometimes it just gets away from me.”
Henry and Cairo said goodbye to Hadgr and followed the path back with their left hands up against the wall of the cave. As they were walking toward the village, Henry told Cairo he had an idea.
“That’s good,” said Cairo, “I can help.”
The next day more smoke and sparks blew out of the mountain. The people of the village began to become scared. They were afraid if Hadgr blew up again, their harbor would be lost.
But Henry and Cairo worked on their plan. Every day after school, they visited the mayor of Skyr and each nearby town and told the mayor what they needed. The mayors smiled and agreed with the two smart boys.
After two weeks, Hadgr blew his top. His temper just got away from him. The lava ran down the side of the mountain right toward the harbor. As Henry had imagined, it was a magnificent sight.
All the nearby towns could see the eruption and they did as Henry and Cairo asked. The mayor of the village of Skyr was the first to arrive at the harbor. Behind him was the firehouse pump truck. Soon the pump trucks from each nearby town arrived. They put their hoses in the cold water of the harbor and waited until the lava got closer.
When the lava was close enough for the pumps to reach, they sprayed it with cold water. More than twenty pump trucks sprayed the lava. This cold water made the lava stop in its tracks. The cooled lava hardened into a big wall right in front of the harbor. The rest flowed away from the village and the harbor.
When the eruption stopped, everyone cheered. Not a house was burned. Not a bit of the harbor was destroyed. As a matter of fact, the harbor was now protected by a tall wall of hard lava so it could not be destroyed in the future.
The people of the village had a big celebration. They made fish soup and fed the fireman from the nearby towns who had come to help. They gave Henry and Cairo medals for their bravery and smart thinking.
After that, people of the village took turns visiting the mountain so it never became lonely again. But they were very careful never to stop on his foot.