Siglunes Sheep’s Solo Journey Ends with Surprise Lamb


A sheep from Siglunes in North Iceland evaded herders and later navigated a perilous ten-kilometre journey home. Initially presumed sterile, she surprised her owners by returning with a lamb, RÚV reports.

A pleasant surprise

Snjólaug, a sheep from Siglunes in North Iceland, found herself amidst a flock when herders approached in October. Disinterested in accompanying them home, she fled – which was what she had also done during an earlier roundup in September.

When Snjólaug decided the time was right, she embarked on her solitary journey home. The path, highlighted in a below graphic from RÚV, spans approximately ten kilometres and is known for its steep and often treacherous terrain.

Map of Siglunes
Screenshot from RÚV

Despite the risks, Snjólaug safely reached the sheepfold.

Adding to the astonishment was Snjólaug’s unexpected companion; previously thought to be sterile, her owners were pleasantly surprised to discover that she had returned with a lamb. Although exhausted from the trek, the lamb, named Hrafnheiður, has since thrived. When inquired about the fate of Snjólaug and Hrafnheiður, the owners affirmed that both would continue to live, stating that there had never been any other consideration.

Valdimar Jóhannsson’s Lamb Sweeps Edda Awards

Lilja Jóns. Lamb

Valdimar Jóhansson’s 2021 film, Lamb, swept the Edda awards, which took place this Sunday September 18.

Nominated in 13 categories, the folk horror film took home a total a 12 awards, including film of the year, director of the year (Valdimar Jóhannsson) and screenplay of the year (Valdimar Jóhannsson and Sjón).

The Edda Prize is awarded annually by the Icelandic Film and Television Academy since 1999. Under consideration this year were 154 television works, 10 films, 13 documentaries, and 15 entries for youth media.

Icelandic filmmaker Þráinn Bertelsson was also recognized for his work in cinema. Þráinn is best known for his films Jón Oddur & Jón Bjarni (1981), Dalalíf (1984), Skammdegi (1985), and Magnús (1989). He has since been active in journalism and politics.

At the award ceremony, Þráinn stated: “I am extremely grateful that I somehow managed to work only on things that I was interested in. Everything I do, I do for fun and hopefully for someone else too.”

Iceland’s contribution to the 2022 Oscars was also selected at the award ceremony, Berdreymi (Beautiful Beings), by director Guðmundur Arnar Guðmundsson. The film concerns a troubled teenage boy with a difficult home who befriends a bullied child at school. According to the jury, the film “is a haunting story that is presented with calmness and consideration […] The tone, spirit, and feel of the narrative exploits the potential of the form in a remarkable way, resulting in a raw and powerful cinematic experience.” Guðmundur is also known for his 2016 film, Hjartasteinn (Heartstone).

Read more: Of Lamb and Legends (for subscribers)


Rising Production Costs Lead to Historically Low Mutton Stocks

icelandic sheep

Agricultural newspaper Bændablaðið reports that Iceland’s stocks of mutton have reached a historic low.

According to recently published statistics, the slaughter season has never before begun with as little stored mutton as this year.

Stocks at the end of July were recorded at 767 tonnes, with monthly sales of around 500 tonnes. Decreased production of mutton is attributed to several factors this year, including rising costs and fewer animals slaughtered this year.

These forces have combined to lead to an all-time low in stocks of mutton, although officials will not have a complete picture until mid-September, when slaughterhouses have submitted their status reports on stock levels.

Ágúst Torfi Hauksson, CEO of Kjarnafæði Norðlenska, has cautioned that the numbers ought to be seen in context. He stated to Bændablaðið: “Mutton has been very cheap on the market and perhaps much cheaper than it should be based on production costs. Icelanders are used to the price of this product, and therefore a considerable increase could lead to less demand. But consumers should still bear in mind that it is in their interest that sheep farmers are paid. If farmers are paid so little that they are forced to stop farming, then this could also lead to a shortage of lamb meat.”

According to Ágúst, the market is actually in good condition at the moment, with the price of mutton reflecting a balance of the supply and demand.

Like many other industries, production costs have risen sharply in the last year. Combined with inflation, it is natural for prices to rise significantly. The question seems to be whether consumers will accept this, and whether demand will adjust itself accordingly.


Home Slaughter More Humane and Profitable

Sheep in Iceland

Home slaughter can be more humane for lambs and more profitable for farmers than sending livestock to slaughterhouses, says Þröstur Heiðar Erlingsson, one of Iceland’s first farmers to implement the practice since it was legalised last spring. According to Þröstur, there is growing interest among both consumers and shops for buying directly from farmers. Þröstur and his wife Ragnheiður Erla Brynjólfsdóttir will provide free instruction on home slaughter to other sheep farmers across the country.

Home slaughter of lambs and goats was legalised in Iceland last spring, as part of a 12-point action plan to support farmers in meeting the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic. Previously, sheep and goat farmers in Iceland were required to send livestock to licenced slaughterhouses. A pilot project and virtual inspections in 2020 and 2021 were part of ensuring that home slaughter would conform to health and safety standards.

Farmers who slaughter at home receive all the offal, the head of the lamb, and the sheepskin, by-products that are most often discarded when livestock are sent to a slaughterhouse, Þröstur says. Farmers can then package and sell products directly to consumers or shops. Þröstur points out that when lambs are slaughtered at the farm, they also do not have to be transported long distances and put in unfamiliar surroundings, which makes the process more humane.

Þröstur and Ragnheiður received a grant to share their experience with other farmers, and will soon provide free instruction on home slaughter in the form of virtual meetings. “We got into this to help farmers, so they don’t have to reinvent the wheel. Now we’ve gained experience, slaughtered at home, and gone through it. We just want to share that knowledge and information with other farmers,” Þröstur stated.

Of Lamb and Legends

Valdimar Jóhannsson

Valdimar Jóhannsson is not a man of many words, preferring a visual medium to express himself. That’s what shaped his whole approach to his first feature film, Lamb. Years in the making, the film premiered last year at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section, winning the Originality Prize, going on to garner accolades and become a sleeper hit all over the world. At the time of writing, the film is longlisted for a BAFTA nomination, shortlisted for an Oscar nomination, and has become the highest-grossing Icelandic film ever screened in the US. But it all started with a simple sketch outlining a fantastical figure – a new addition to Iceland’s folklore.

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Lamb to Be Iceland’s 2022 Oscar Submission

lamb dýrið noomi rapace

The Icelandic Film and TV Academy has chosen Lamb to be Iceland’s submission to the 2022 Academy Awards, or Oscars, RÚV reports. Lamb (titled Dýrið in Icelandic) has already snagged two nominations and one award at Cannes and is already the highest-grossing Icelandic film to be screened in the United States.

The film is directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson, who wrote the script alongside Icelandic author Sjón. Lamb stars Noomi Rapace and Hilmir Snær Guðnason, who play María and Ingvar, a childless couple in the Icelandic countryside who discover a mysterious newborn on their farm. While at first, “the unexpected prospect of family life brings them much joy,” it ultimately destroys them.

The jury of the Icelandic Film and TV Academy praised the film’s strong imagery and originality. “From the first moment, the viewer is captured and hypnotizes through a mysterious and exciting adventure,” the jury wrote. Their statement called the film a “careful study of human nature, sorrow, and loss.”

Lamb is currently showing in Icelandic theatres.

Lamb Has Become Highest-Grossing Icelandic Film in US

lamb dýrið noomi rapace 2

Icelandic film Lamb (Dýrið) earned over $1 million [€ 864,000; ISK 130 million] in ticket sales in the United States last weekend, according to Box Office Mojo and has grossed $1.13 million worldwide. It was the seventh most popular film in US theatres last weekend. These figures make the film the highest-grossing of any Icelandic film screened in the US.

Directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson, Lamb is a supernatural drama that follows a childless couple, María and Ingvar, as they “discover a mysterious newborn on their farm in Iceland. The unexpected prospect of family life brings them much joy, before ultimately destroying them,” a plot summary of the film explains. Valdimar wrote the script alongside Icelandic author Sjón.

The film stars Hilmir Snær Guðnason alongside Swedish actress Noomi Rapace, who learned to deliver a lamb for the role. Lamb had its world premiere at the Cannes film festival earlier this year, where it won the Un Certain Regard prize, granted for originality. It is currently showing in Icelandic theatres.

Split Down the Middle: Peculiar Sheep Puzzles Experts

A peculiar lamb was born in Borgarfjörður eystri, East Iceland, last spring that has only grown more peculiar over the summer. Named Helmingur (e. Half), the ram’s coat is split neatly down the middle into two colours: while one side is white, the other is black. Several of its other features also differ from one side to the other. While one side of its head boasts a horn, the other does not. Experts have yet to confirm the reason for Helmingur’s peculiar characteristics, but one theory is that he was conceived from two fertilized eggs that combined to form one fetus.

“The most probably theory is that two fertilized eggs started developing and then merged in the womb to form a single fetus. This is called a chimera in the field of genetics and is very rare, though it is known in the animal kingdom,” Guðfinna Harpa Árnadóttir, a consultant at the Icelandic Agricultural Advisory Centre told RÚV. In short, chimeras have two sets of DNA, or the code required to make two distinct organisms.

A screenshot from RÚV. Helmingur has a horn on one side of his head but not the other.

Guðfinna says Helmingur will not be sent to slaughter this fall, but will become a subject of study instead. Experts are interested to find out whether he is fertile: his testicles, like the rest of his body, differ from one side to the other. “There is a possibility that sperm will come from two different testicles with different genetic characteristics,” Guðfinna Harpa stated.

A screenshot from RÚV.

Icelandic Film “Lamb” Double-Nominated in Cannes

lamb dýrið noomi rapace

An Icelandic supernatural drama directed by Valdimar Jóhannsson, Lamb (Dýrið), received its world premiere yesterday at the Cannes Film Festival in France. The film has been nominated for the festival’s Golden Camera Award as well as the Un Certain Regard Award. It is Valdimar’s first feature film as a director and he told RÚV it is a dream and an honour that the film was chosen for the festival.

Lamb follows a childless couple, María and Ingvar, as they “discover a mysterious newborn on their farm in Iceland. The unexpected prospect of family life brings them much joy, before ultimately destroying them,” according to the film’s plot summary on IMDb. Along with directing, Valdimar wrote the script for the film in collaboration with Icelandic author Sjón.

Learned to deliver a lamb for the role

The film stars Swede Noomi Rapace and Icelander Hilmir Snær Guðnason in the leading roles. Noomi lived in Iceland as a child but this is her first role in Icelandic. The actress revealed that she learned to deliver a lamb for the role. “I was taught by an Icelandic farmer but he went quite fast,” Noomi stated in an interview with France24. “I got a knock, he was like, ‘There’s a lamb coming!’ And I had to run down to the farmhouse and basically put my hands inside of the sheep and pull out a baby lamb.” She called the experience “amazing. I saw life begin and how this amazing, beautiful creature stood up for the first time and started drinking after two or three minutes.”

“We’re just finding our footing after this wonderful reception that the film received,” stated Sara Nassim, one of the film’s producers, after the premiere. “There was a full house and a standing ovation at the end of the screening. We hope people liked the film. All of the responses so far have been very good, there’s been a lot of talk about the film.”

Lamb’s Icelandic premiere is expected this fall.

Home Slaughter of Lambs Legalised

sheep lambing Iceland

Minister of Agriculture Kristján Þór Júlíusson has signed a regulation permitting farmers to slaughter their own lambs and goats on their farms and to distribute the meat themselves. Farmers were previously required to send livestock to slaughter at licensed slaughterhouses. The regulation has been in discussion for years and is one part of a 12-point action plan in support of farmers to meet the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“It’s long been called for that farmers be allowed to slaughter sheep and goats on the farms themselves and distribute them on the market,” stated Kristján Þór. “Over the past two years, extensive work has been carried out in consultation with farmers and the Icelandic Food and Veterinary Authority (MAST) to find ways to authorise this production so that it meets food safety requirements and animal welfare and animal health are safeguarded. This change that we’re making today marks a turning point, as this change involves an important opportunity to strengthen value creation and farmers’ profits in the future.”

Last summer, the Minister signed a contract with the chairman of the National Association of Sheep Farmers to conduct a pilot project on home slaughter in the fall. The project went well overall and samples showed good results, though remote monitoring proved a challenge. The regulations, therefore, stipulate that publicly-employed veterinarians carry out health inspections both before and after slaughter, paid for by the state treasury.

MAST has prepared an explanatory booklet for farmers on the new regulation.

The measure should help farmers create more value, which has proven a struggle in recent years. Indeed, there have not been fewer sheep in Iceland since 1861. The relatively low price of lamb and changing consumer tastes are two of the factors that have led to farmers reducing numbers in their flocks or leaving the industry.