This is an old Icelandic folk story and probably the most well known ghost story in Iceland. The watercolour painting is by one of Iceland´s pioneers in art, Ásgrímur Jónsson (1876 - 1958) who was fascinated by the story. He interpreted the story in many drawings and paintings whom can be seen online at the
A deacon who lived on a farm called Myrká (Dark River) had a girlfriend named Guðrún. She lived on farm called Bægisá located on the other side of a big river called Hörgá. One day the deacon rode his horse Faxi to Bægisá to meet Guðrún so they could discuss their plans for Christmas. The deacon promised to ride to Bægisá on Christmas Eve and bring Guðrún to Myrká where they could celebrate the holiday together. But on his way back home that day, the deacon was unexpectedly caught in a heavy storm. He fell into the Hörgá river where he suffered a severe head injury and drowned.
The deacon's body was found the next day by a farmer and buried a week before Christmas. But the news of his death somehow had not reached Guðrún. On Christmas Eve, as per their arrangement, the deacon arrived at her farm. She had barely finished dressing, and only had time to put on one sleeve of her coat before they were off on their journey. As they rode, his face was hidden by a hat and scarf, but when they came to Hörgá river the horse tripped and the deacons hat fell forward. Guðrún saw his terrible head injury. As the moon shined upon them he said, “The moon fades, death rides. Don't you see a white spot on the back of my head, Garún , Garún?“ She replied, “I see, what is“. After that, they did not speak a word until they came to the deacon's farm Myrká. When they got off the horse, the deacon spoke again. “Wait here Garún, Garún. While I move Faxi, Faxi (the deacon's horse) over the fence, fence”. (In Icelandic folklore, ghosts often speak in verse, repeating the last word of each line.)
When Guðrún noticed an open grave in the graveyard, she felt the deacon trying to pull her into it. By luck, she was only wearing one sleeve of her coat, and when the deacon pulled on her empty sleeve, she was able to break free and run away. As the deacon disappeared into the grave and the grave filled up, she realized that the deacon was dead and she'd encountered his ghost. Guðrún was haunted by the deacon's ghost throughout the night, the disturbance causing others residing at the farm to lose sleep. An exorcist was summoned who finally put the deacon's ghost to rest