Brynjólfur Vídir Ólafsson of Hafnarfjördur, Iceland


Brynjólfur Vídir Ólafsson of Hafnarfjördur, Iceland

Even though he has a first name, a middle name, and a last name, everyone knows Brynjólfur best by just his nickname. “My full name is Brynjólfur Vídir Ólafsson, but my friends and family just call me Binni,” he says with a smile.

In Iceland, where Binni lives, people are commonly known by their first names. Icelanders still follow the old Scandinavian tradition of using their last names as a simple form of genealogy. Instead of everyone in a family having the same last name, each person’s name tells whose son or daughter of he or she is. For instance, Binni’s last name, Ólafsson, tells us that he is the son of Ólaf. But his father’s name is Ólafur Einarsson (he is the son of Einar), and his mother’s name is Björg Marteinsdóttir (she is the daughter of Martein). Binni’s brother’s name is Matthías Orri Ólafsson but his sister is Unnur Erna Ólafsdóttir (she is the daughter of Ólaf). This may sound confusing, but for Icelanders this is a very easy way to keep track of their family history.

Binni is nine years old, and like most boys his age he has many good friends. He has friends who live in his neighborhood and other friends whom he usually sees only at church. None of his LDS friends live near him, so Binni looks forward to Sundays when he and his family travel from their home in Hafnarfjördur to Reykjavik for church. He meets Jonathan and Einar there, and together they learn about the gospel, study the scriptures, and talk about going on a mission some day.

After school and on weekdays, Binni spends a lot of time with two other friends who live close to him. They do almost everything together—they play with miniature cars on the lava rocks in Binni’s yard, they play a form of hide and seek called “one krona,” and they like to play soccer. “But my favorite game of all,” Binni says, “is hafnarbolti (baseball)!” The summer days are very long in Iceland—in fact, in June and July the sky never becomes dark. During these months, children and adults spend as much time outdoors as possible, and Binni and his friends can play a lot of ball games!

But during the winter months, there is very little daylight—in December, the sun rises about 11:00 A.M. and sets in the early afternoon. During these long winter hours when he cannot be outside, Binni loves to draw and to read. He especially likes to draw birds and read about them. His favorite is a tern, a small bird related to seagulls. Because the tern is seen only during the summer in Iceland, Binni can only dream of the long summer evenings to come when he and his dad can go on hikes together and watch the birds. In fact, Binni’s home is very near the ocean and only a few blocks from a beautiful harbor. Binni and his family often go there together to watch the ships and enjoy the beautiful scenery.

Most of the people who live in Iceland belong to the state church, and Binni, Unnur, and Matthías are the only Latter-day Saints in their school. When the time came for his baptism, Binni decided to do some missionary work. He told his parents he would like to invite one special person—his schoolteacher! Binni’s mother and father encouraged him to ask her, but cautioned him that she might choose not to come. But on the day of his baptism, she was there at the church! “She even stayed afterwards, had some refreshments with us, and asked some things about the Church,” said Binni. He was excited that she had accepted his invitation and that his first efforts as a missionary had been successful.

A small, gray-brown butterfly is sometimes seen in Iceland. Butterflies are rare in Iceland, and only occasionally does one of the little insects flutter by. It is the custom there that if you can catch one of these butterflies, you may make a wish. When asked what he would wish for, Brynjólfur thought for a minute and answered, “I would wish that I would not have bad things happen to me and that I will succeed in life and be a good member of the Church.” It seems that he has made a good start on realizing that wish already!

[photos] Photography by Janet Thomas and DeAnne Walker

[illustration] Bird drawn by Binni.

[photo] Binni and his family visit the harbor.