The scene is Strandasýsla, the region of cramped inlets and narrow valleys along the rugged east coast of the Westfjord peninsula in the north-west of Iceland. The time is the last decades of the nineteenth century. At the farm of Tindur in the parish and commune of Kirkjuból live a tenant farmer Jón Jónsson and his wife Halldóra Halldórsdóttir, parents to nine sons. Five of these boys die young. Four – Níels, Halldór, Ísleifur and Magnús – survive to adulthood.1