About the name Mykines
There are many explanations of the origin of the name and spelling of Mykines.
The name of Mykines can be spelled in many different ways: Mykines, Mykiness, Mikines, Mikjinees,Mikjunes, Mygenes, Mygenćs and Myggenćs.
The oldest known way of spelling is Mykiness and is from around 1400 and the name is said to origin from the celtic word Muc-innis, which should mean "the island of pigs".
The name Mykines has also been said to origin from "dung", the "dung foreland", as explained by the story about floating islands and the man from Vágoy, who threw dung from bulls on the floating island.
But the first part of the word, "Myki" has also been explained as many forelands, originating from the faroese word mikið, meaning many, a lot of, enough of.
Lucas Debes uses in his book: "Fćrřernes beskrivelse" (A Description of the Faroes), from 1673 the word Myggenćs, which remind much of the Danish "myg", mosquito. But that name has probably nothing to do with "normal" mosquitoes, as no such live on Mykines. But one can be stuck by "mitter", a very tiny, 1-2 mm long species of mosquitoes, which can be found on Mykines. So one can be stuck on Mykines and one can also be bitten by "puffin louse", which is no specie of louse, but a sort of tick.
J. Chr. Svabo uses in his: "Indberetninger fra en rejse i Fćrře 1781 - 1782" (Report from a journey in the Faroes 1781 - 1782), the word Mygenes and also mention the following spellings: Mikjinees, Mykines and Myggenćs, but without trying to give any explanation of the origin of the words.
In beginning of the 19.th century, the word Mikines was often used and can still be seen on the nameplate of older boats as well on the paintings of Samuel Joensen, who added Mikines to his name as an artist.
Nowadays the word Mykines is the only one used.
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Floating islands
The name Mykines is not to be found in "Fćringe Saga" but several stories or legends are known.
According to one, Mykines should have been a floating islands, an islands which restless were floating around on the open ocean, as other Faroese islands also should have been doing.
A legend explains both how Mykines stopped being floating around and also how it got its name.
The fear of the great whales have been widespread among faroese fishing men and the legend tells:
A man from Vágoy always carried bulls dung with him, when fishing, to throw it on the water to frighten the big whales, in case they came close to his boat. Once fishing west of Vágoy, a big island suddenly appeared in the mist. He saved his fishing gears and rowed to the island, but before he went on the land he threw some dung on the island and in the same moment, the island stopped being floating around and from there after have been called "dung ness", muc ness, later transformed to Mikjunes and Mykines.
That there have been legends of floating islands is easy to understand, if one ever has been standing at a Faroese coast and seen how the tidal currents are passing by with great speed. What is moving, the water or the land? On Mykines this is very easy seen from Mykines Holm's south western corner. Here the tidal current "Strongurin", can be seen reaching out south from the stacks and the Stone, when the water is moving westward. Especially at spring tide, it can be impressive, with the water passing by at a speed of about 9 Knots. One can really get the impression of being on board a fast moving vessel.
Another legend tells this way:
A giant would like to live on the Faroes and especially he liked some of the islands, but he thought that the ones he liked the most were too small and he therefore tried to assemble then to form one greater island. Koltur was the first he took possession of and he thought it had a fine position, so he let it be where is was. Then he moved to Skuoy and intended to pull it close to Koltur, but the people living there asked him if it really could be his intention to live on Skuoy, as it was known that the island was born by a little calf. When the giant heard this, he wasn't interested any more to possess that island and thanked the people living there so much for the information and even gave them great gifts. Then he carried on. North of the greater islands he then found another little island and the qualities of the island pleased him and he then began towing it south towards Koltur, but when he came north of Vágoy he was exhausted and even though he tried for one whole week, he didn't manage to move the island any further. Annoyed he said. As I have succeed to get the island above the sea it will also be possible for me to get it under water again. Because he didn't grudge any other that triumph. It is still being told, that sometimes an island can be seen north of Vágoy, with mountains, valleys and waterfalls. Most often it is men from Sřrvagur, who have seen the island, when herding the sheep and having a free sight north. And no wonder it is, that the people of Mykines, worry about news of the sight of the island, because if the giant is still living, he could still have the intention to lower Mykines and in this way make the space for his intended moving of his islands to Koltur.
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The gannet is just fine
A third legend tells about the giant from Gásadal, Tórur Rami and the giant from Mykines, Óli Rami.
Tórur Rami intended to conquer Mykines and all of its wealth. He therefore went towards Mykines and went ashore at Borgaragjógv, eastwards of Mykines and walked westwards towards the village. Óli Rami then saw Tórur, heading towards him above the village and flew west towards what soon would be the Holm and which at that time was a part of Mykines. In an attempt to be safe, Óli asked for the Holm to be an island and so it became. But that fact was not enough to stop Tórur, who just jumped across Holm Gjogv. Now the to giants began to fight and the fight was very violent and took place at a place, which now is called "í Traðki". Óli got the upper hand and was close to kill Tórur. But Tórur now asked for mercy and promised Óli three gifts, which should come to Mykines every year, if Óli would spare his life.
The gifts were a whale, which every year should strand at Hválagjógv, a piece of timber, which should strand at Viðarhelli and a special bird, the gannet, which should settle down at the Holm. But there was one condition; none of these gifts should ever be sneered at. If the Mykines people did so, the gifts would disappear. Óli accepted the conditions and spared Tórur's life.
They so agreed and both settled down on Mykines and are said to both be buried on Mykines close to where the Memorial now is standing.
But the story continues. The people of Mykines criticized the gifts. They were unsatisfied with the whale, which had only one eye and which gave them a bad stomach. And also the timber wasn't good enough, it was awry. From then on neither a whale nor a piece of timber came ashore. But with this experience in mind, no citizen from Mykines dares criticize the gannet, as they say, "Súlan er goð", the gannet is just fine.
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The Stonewood
A fourth legend tells about the origin of the Stonewood.
While Olav den Hellige was king of Norge, representatives from the Faroes went to him to negotiate about different affairs. The King was unsatisfied with the amount of taxes he got from the Faroes as he thought it was too little. He therefore asked the faroese representatives if it wasn't possible to grow anything on the Faroes. The representatives told, that the climate was harsh and hardly anything grew there, it was almost only stone, gravel, bog and heather. They probably had told so not to pay even higher taxes. But as the king heard this, he became suspicious and angry he shouted: let it then be as is told, what is upwards turn it downward and what is downward, turn it upwards. As he so spoke, the trees disappeared in the underground and in stead the beautiful and fertile soil became just gravel, bog and stones. And so it then was on the islands. And the Stonewood on Mykines is in this way just enormous trees which have been turned upside down and into stone.
The land which now is the Faroes, have more than once in former times, for millions of years ago, been grown with trees and other plants, as can be seen by the layers of coal, which, among other places, can be seen on Mykines. With a little bit of luck, small imprints of plants can be seen in the layers of coal. So a little bit of substance there is in the legend, although the Stonewood not have formed in the way, the legend tells.
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The first settlers
Analyses of pollen from Lamba can be taken as proof of growning of grain as early as in the 7.th century. Most probably is has been Irish monks, who as the first human beings have settled down on Mykines. The first settlements of people from the northern countries is probably from around the 9.th century.
Quite resent analyses of DNA from the faroese house mouse, seem to support this order of events, as the Mykines mouse belongs to the western mouses, which could have arrived to the Faroes from Ireland together with the frirst settlers.
More placenames on Mykines are thought to have Irish or Celtic origin, and in this way are indicators of early Irish settlement.
In the infield, towards east, close to Hellisgjogv, a place called Klingregerd is found, and probably is the remnant's of the first settlement on Mykines. There are remnants of floors and walls of stone. In the early nineteen hundred and sixties excavations were performed there, but no definitive proof of the origin of the place was found. But there are placenames on Mykines, which could indicate early settlements at other places than the current settlement.
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Mykines today
Only 11 people live in Mykines all year around. The oldest inhabitant is 81 and the youngest is 12 years old.
Altogether there are 40 houses but only 6 are inhabited all the year round.
Former Mykines was one of the biggest villages in the Faroes. For instant there lived 170 people on Mykines in 1940.
The church was built in 1879 and the school in 1894.
Mykines was from 1911 to 2004 its own community but was in 2005 united with Sřrvagur kommune.
There are about 1200 mother-sheep on Mykines.
To the west of Mykines is the islet Mykines Holmur. A 40 meter long bridge connects Mykines to the Islet. A lighthouse is on the islet and it was build in 1909.
On the northern side of Mykines is the valley Korkadalur, where one can find the great columns of basalt, called the Stone-Wood.
Mykines is famous for its rich nature and birdlife.
The painter Samal Joensen-Mikines was born in Mykines in 1906 and died in 1979.
He is one of the most famous painters in the Faroe Islands.
The guesthouse Kristianshus was his atelier.
The painter Mikines grew up in a house called "Innistova", which today is 100 years old
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Origin of Mykines
The Faroe islands are the remnants of a huge area of basalt formed for 60 to 65 million of years ago by huge eruptions of thin flowing lava through long crevices forming great, quite flat volcanoes with, at some places, very thick layers of lava. The basalt of the Faroes can be divided into three series of eruptions, the first, lowest and eldest, the middle layer, and the uppermost and youngest. Mykines belongs to the first series and belongs because of that to the eldest part of the Faroes together with Suðeroy.
In between the volcanic eruptions, there have been longer and shorter periods without any volcanic activity, as can be seen by the fact, that thin layers of vegetation have managed to settle down and now can bee seen as thin layers of coal, at some places with the impression of plants. At some places on Mykines these layers can be seen as at Valgarsbrugv, under Ketilsheyggi around 370 meter above sea level and where the coal in small amounts have been mined by inhabitants of Mykines.
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Distances on Mykines
Mykines is the westernmost island of the Faroes and is placed west of 7 ° 30 ', the line of division between the time zones GMT and GMT - 1 hour and in this way have one half hour of summertime all the year round.
The area of Mykines is ca. 10 km2.
Mykines is ca 7,2 kilometer east west and 2,48 kilometer north south at its widest part. Mykines Holm is 1,2 kilometer east west and 0,64 kilometer north south and all together Mykines is about 8,34 kilometer east west.
The infield is 1,14 kilometer east west and 0,640 kilometer north south, while Borgardalur, the great valley East of Knukur is about one kilometer north south.
From the village of Mykines there is straight 2,2 kilometer to the lighthouse and from the village to Knukur, the highest point of Mykines, 560 meters above sea level, there is straight 3,24 kilometer.
These distances maybe don't give the impression of a big island, but one have to take into account, that one kilometer without any hight gain is nothing compared to a hight gain of several hundred meters. And that is the case for a walk to either Mykines Holm or to Knukur. And if one wants to go to Kalvardal or Borgardal one have to reach 400 and 500 meters hight, before one is able to descend into the valleys.
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