Why is our whale so grumpy?

Our grumpy whale is inspired by the mischievous whale Rauðhöfði or Redhead. Rauðhöföi’s story according to Icelandic folklore, is given also credit for the origin of the name Hvalfjordur or Whale fjord in English. Hvalfjordur is a beautiful serene fjord north of Reykjavík. We love exploring Hvalfjordur and have spent a lot of time there hiking, diving and kayaking accompanied of course by hot chocolate.

A Whale in Faxaflói Bay

The Folk Story of the Redheaded Whale

Like most Icelandic folklore when you look a little deeper this story is a little darker than our modern romantic tales of old. Rauðhöfði the whale begins this story as a man with red hair. The man was ship wrecked and washed up on an Island of elves, or hidden people. He returned back to the mainland. His Elvin lover followed him with their child, but when he refused to claim his child and baptise them the elf became so angry she cursed him to become an evil whale. The man became mad and jumped into the sea and became the redheaded grumpy whale Rauðhöfði. Rauðhöfði began to reign terror wrecking fishing ships in Faxaflói Bay on the west coast of Iceland and eventually found a home in what we know today as Hvalfjordur.

In the fjord lived a priest whose sons had been killed by Rauðhöfðis’ antics. The priest got his revenge by using the power of god to drag him to the end of the Fjord and up a river into the mountains to a lake, known as Hvalvatn or Whale Lake. Rauðhöfði was never seen again and was assumed to have died from exhaustion. The waterfall on this river got the name Glymur or Roaring in English and the hills around Skjálfandahæðir or Shaking Hills in English from the sound the whale made while travelling. Whale bones have even been found in this lake at the bottom of Hvalfell or whale hill have given a long legitimacy to this tale (though this might also be explained more logically due to sea level change!).

Glymur Waterfall in Hvalfjoður

The Grumpy Whale Childrens Book

The legend of Rauðhofði has not only inspired the name of our company, but also inspired us to write a children’s book. The Grumpy Whale (or Fúli Hvalverinn in Icelandic) starts much like the original folk tale as a man us cursed by Hidden People to become a whale. However, our man is cursed because he litters and follows him into the ocean. You can get your copy here to find out what he learns along the way.

Our Research

We researched in depth the story of Rauðhofði primarily by speaking to many Icelanders who all told us their favourite version of the tale. Icelandic folklore has been kept alive for generations by being passed down orally. Secondarily we looked for written versions of Rauðhofði’s tale. We have listed our online sources below:


Icelandic Times

The Golden Thread Project

Reykjavík Grapevine

Your Friend in Reykjavík

Iceland Travel

A Book of Creatures

All Things Iceland

Sysla (My Country)


Ferðafélag Íslands







If you have any questions or want Iceland travel advice please get in touch.