Gunnar Gunnarsson, oldest child of Gunnar Helgi Gunnarsson and Katrín Þórarinsdóttir, was born May 18, 1889, at Valthjófsstadur, the next farm south of Skriduklaustur and location of the parish church in the valley community Fljótsdalur. In the spring of 1896, his family moved to Ljótsstadir in Vopnafjördur, where the mother died of pneumonia Sept. 18, 1897 – an event of enduring grief for the young Gunnarsson.Eager to learn
Gunnar Gunnarsson received little formal education: teachers stayed in the neighbourhood for a few weeks each winter and one winter he was able to attend primary school. On the other hand, he was assisted by the pastor at Hof and read intensely, drinking in not only the ancient Icelandic sagas and native poetry but also Scandinavian literature and every Nordic literary translation he could obtain, including of Milton’s Paradise Lost and Dante’s Divine Comedy. Gunnarsson started composing poetry, short stories and plays at a young age – he was only 17 when his first books, Poems of Spring and In Memory of Mother, were published. These two collections of lyrics marked the beginning of a long, successful career.