A Dying Boy received medical aid through his dream

Source: Albedo20
The oldest part of Reykjavik lies east of Austurvöllur in an area called Grjótaþorp. Its outer edges are Aðalstræti, Vesturgata, Garðastræti and Túngata. One of the five first homes to be built there was on the corner of Garðastræti and Grjótagata (also Túngata and Garðastræti). The house was called Helgabær or Helgi's Home. It was named after Helgi Eyjólfsson, the man who built it around the year 1830 (according to Klemens Jónsson, it was built in 1847).  

Overview over Reykjavik's oldest area, Grjótaþorp in 1930. The nearest corner is the intersection  between Túngata and Garðastræti, which is where Helgabær is located. The photo on the right is zoomed in on Grjótagata 11, which used to be Helgabær. Source.

Some time later, Jón (Jónsson) Borgfirðingur moved into the house with his family. He was a scholar, an author and a police officer. He was hired by the the British Museum in London, England to write a list of all the books ever to be printed in Reykjavik and Akureyri. He quickly became the go-to guy for foreign scholars who were interested in Icelandic books. He later became the British Museum's ombudsman and acquired many Icelandic books for them. Jón had several children, among them was Finnur Jónsson, a philologist and Professor of Nordic Philology at the University of Copenhagen and made invaluable contributions to the study of Old Norse Literature. Another of his sons was Klemens Jónsson. He was an attorney, a sheriff, a politician, a man of the althing, a Minister and an author.
Around the turn of the century, Helgabær was torn down and the famous poet, Einar Benediktsson (mentioned in my blog here) purchased it and sold it to Dr. Þórður Thoroddsen, known for writing the fundamental assessments on influenza and the Spanish flu in 1919. He had a bigger house built for himself and his family. His wife, Anna Lovísa Pétursdóttir planted beautiful trees in their garden.

Photo taken from the Catholic Church. Helgabær is the white house to the left of center. The road going down the center of the photograph is Túngata. In the center of the photo is the corner where the Víkur church and cemetery used to be. This is also where Túngata merges with Aðalstræti. Ljósmyndasafn Reykjavíkur

After Helgabær was torn down,  Dr. Thoroddsen had a bigger house built. Here it is in 1951. Source

The doctor and his wife sold the house and at some point, the Polish Embassy moved in. Then in 1973 it was again torn down and a new house was built. There was only one problem. The doctor´s wife, Anna. She had planted trees in the garden when they first bought it at the turn of the century. They were now one of Reykjavík´s oldest trees. In front of the house was a huge Laburnum or golden rain tree and its flowers were considered some of the most beautiful flowers in the city. There was also a large Sorbus intermedia tree. 

The nature conservation committee was very concerned about preserving this garden and contacted the owner of the house. He wasn't concerned about the garden and told them as long as they were able to remove the trees, they could do so. On the other hand, if they couldn't the trees would be torn down with the house. 

Reykjavik's horticulture director, Hafliði Jónsson, was asked to come to take a look at the trees to see if they could be moved. Upon a closer look, he saw that it was impossible to move them without damaging them. Instead, he suggested they trim the trees and have them added to the nature protection laws. The trees needed to be protected, he felt they were some of the most beautiful and oldest trees in the city. Unfortunately, the trees were not preserved. 

Helgabær in center left. The large trees planted by Anna, the doctor's wife, as seen in this photo are no longer there. Source

After they tore down the doctor's house, they made the lot into a playground. A little later, they moved the house that was located on Tjarnargata 3c to the same spot the previous house had stood. This was originally the house of the devout spiritist, playwright and scholar, Indriði Einarsson. You can read about him in my blog here. He lived in the house when it was on Tjarnargata 3c with his family. This is also where Indriði Indriðason (who later became a medium) lived with them. You can read about him in my blogs here. Indriði Einarsson was also Eufemía's father from my previous blog.

Left: This is the corner where Kirkjustræti meets Aðalstræti and Túngata. To the left is where Víkur cemetery and the flower garden used to be. The photo was taken in 1920. If you look closely, to the center left, there is a small house with a slanted roof. That was Indriði Einarsson's house, the one that is now where Helgabær used to be. Source. Right: A screenshot of Google Maps. This is the exact same corner as the picture next to it. A tree is blocking the view, but if you could see through it, you would be able to see where Indriði's house used to be. Today it is  just an empty lot. Source.

A close up of the house on Tjarnargata 3c. Source.

The house on the lot today is the house that once stood on Tjarnargata 3c, the house that used to be the home of the spiritst, author and playwright, Indriði Einarsson. The house now has the address Grjótagata 11. Source.

Although many of the individuals already mentioned in this blog have plenty of mystical stories to tell, this particular story is not about any of them. It is about a young boy by the name of Guðmundur Jónsson (1871-1937). 

When Guðmundur was 12, he was staying at a very filthy farm with lots of dogs running around. During his time on the farm, he became severely ill and almost lost his life. He had contracted hydatid disease (ecchinococcosis) which is caused by being infected with tapeworm eggs. 

This is not a short term illness as the larva can live in your body for years. He most likely became infected from the dogs on the farm. The tapeworm eggs can be found in dog poop. This happens when the dogs eat parasite-infected organ meat. When the hygiene is poor, the eggs can transfer to humans and take hold inside the intestines. 

Unfortunately, the stomach acid does not kill the eggs, instead the eggs hatch in the stomach juices. Once hatched, the larva burrows its way out of the intestines and into the bloodstream. Once in the blood stream it has access to the rest of the organs and in most cases, and in Guðmundur's case, it found its way to the liver where it continued to develop. 

Once the worm has found an organ, it forms fluid filled cysts. When this happens, the patient most often needs surgery and medication to be treated. The medication given (albendazole) may be needed for years afterwards. Even today this disease can result in death.

Helgabær as it looked in 1869. Source.

Image of how Grjótaþorp looked in 1886. The large red house is Vinaminni on Mjóstræti 3. You may recognize it from one of my previous blogs here. Upper left shows Helgabær. Source.

Photo from 1885. Here is Helgabær zoomed in from the direction  of  Hólavalla cemetery. It is the farm in the center, slightly to the left.  Source

Helgabær has been torn down and a bigger house built. Photo from 1959. Source.

Whale tail sculpture. A gift from the Latvian people in appreciation for Iceland´s recognition of Latvian independenceSource .

Whale tail sculpture. A gift from the Latvian people in appreciation for Iceland´s recognition of Latvian independence Source .

The engravings on the statue written by the Latvian poet, Janis Rainis: "From the people of Latvia to the people of Iceland. For the recognition of indepencence." and "We are a small nation. We shall be as great as is our will." Rainis

When Guðmundur was 16 he had made his way to Reykjavik and was staying at Helgabær.  Still sick and only getting worse, Guðmundur was expected to die very soon. One day the Medical Director, Dr. Jónas Jónassen was called over to take a look at him. 

The doctor had written his doctoral thesis on hydatid disease and he had also written several articles in the newspaper about it. He was as knowledgeable as he possibly could be when it came to tapeworm. He could tell that Guðmundur's case had reached the point of death and saw no other option than to operate on him the following day.

Cysts from the liver of a 5-year-old girl

Liver from a rhesus monkey infected with alveolar echinococcosis 

That same night Guðmundur dreamt of a woman he had never seen before. She was beautiful, but manly. The woman came to him and told him that if they do the operation tomorrow, he would die. She explained that the current medical practice wasn't advanced enough to fix what was wrong with him. She seemed to already know the operation wasn't going to happen, because she told Guðmundur that his time wasn't up yet.

The woman told Guðmundur to come with her and look at her garden. She wanted to show him some of her herbs and led him to a garden filled with all sorts of plants and herbs. Guðmundur recognized some of them. The woman pointed at an herb and asked Guðmundur if he recognized it. He recognized the herb to be northern dock (heimulunjóli).

Northern dock

The woman told him to take its roots and boil them until he had enough broth for three full flasks. She explained that he was to drink the broth and after drinking two flasks the cysts would start to disappear. Since he already had so many cysts, he would have to finish drinking the third bottle within ten days in order for the cysts to be completely gone. Then she warned him that he would be suffering immense chest pains, but she had a remedy for that as well.  

The woman then asked  him if he recognized another herb and pointed at hops. Guðmundur did not recognize it. She explained to him it was from an herb called Humulus lupulus. Then she told him to boil it and drink the broth, because it had healing effects and would make him better. Then the woman disappeared and he never saw her again.

Hops are the flower parts of Humulus lupus, which is an hemp herb. Source

When Guðmundur woke up he told his mom about his dream. She was a big believer in dreams and was happy to hear that he had had such a revelatory dream. She urged him to do exactly what the dream told him to do, believing it would truly heal him. Guðmundur dug up some northern dock with the roots. Then they were boiled until the broth filled three flasks. He then drank the broth as directed by the woman in his dream. 

 After ten days he had drank all three flasks. Just like the woman had told him, he was experiencing severe chest pains. The pain was so bad his whole body was shaking. He continued following the woman's directions and boiled the hops. They then poured off the broth for him to drink. Just like the woman said in the dream, after he had drank the hop broth, the pain went away. A month later, Guðmundur was in full health.

In 1922, when Guðmundur lived in Árnastaðir in Seyðisfjörður with his family, he shared this story and added that he had not since been sick with this parasite. This had been very fortunate for him because due to life in poverty, he had been dependent on his good health. He had many children and a wife to proved for. This had forced him to work heavy and unhealthy jobs. He gives the woman in his dream credit for his unfailing health.

Cover photo
Jón Borgfirðingur
Finnur Jónsson
Guðmundur Jónsson
The dream
Photo of cysts


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