Sheep Bones and Seashells were Toys in Iceland


Children in Iceland used to keep a little treasure chest called a völuskrín filled with leggur og skel, leg bones and seashells. The leg bones were usually from sheep. They were used to represent farm animals. Different bones stood for different animals. Calf bones represented horses, jaw bones were cows, horns represented sheep and seashells were dogs.

The ankle bone was also used for fortune-telling. The person would shake around the ankle bone in the palm like a die and put up to the cheek while reciting the following:

Spávala mín, ég spyr þig að,
ég skal þig með gullinu gleðja
og silfrinu seðja
ef þú segir mér satt.
En í eldinum brenna
ef þú skrökvar að mér.

English Translation:

My bone of fortune, I ask you,
I’ll make you happy with gold
And will gratify you with silver
If you tell me the truth,
But in the fire you’ll burn
If you tell me lies.

Then they’d ask a yes/no question and throw the bone onto a flat surface. If the hump of the bone was up, the answer was yes. If the hollow part was up, the answer was no. If it landed on its side then the answer was unknown.

Below you can see an image of völuskrín and leggur og skel from this site.


Sheep and goat bones have been used as toys around the world since antiquity. You can read about it on Mama Lisa’s Blog here:

The Game of Five Stones or Knucklebones around the World.

There’s also an Icelandic lullaby that mentions these toys called Sofðu unga ástin mín.


Mama Lisa

This article was posted on Sunday, March 25th, 2018 at 3:57 pm and is filed under Arts and Crafts, Countries & Cultures, Five Stones, Games Around the World, Games for Predicting the Future, Iceland, Icelandic, Languages, Mama Lisa, Toys, Toys. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can skip to the end and leave a response. Pinging is currently not allowed.

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