I used to holiday on the Isle of Man regularly as a child, a quirky island with its own laws, culture, cats (tail-less) and mythology. It’s an island where the belief in fairies and elves, although not so prevalent these days, is still a superstition on show for the tourists. Something seriously bad is bound to happen to you if you fail to greet the “little folk” driving over the Fairy Bridge. Here’s one of them on that very bridge:
In Iceland, the belief in elves is still alive and well, though whether it’s as widespread as is popularly believed is another question entirely. The last survey carried out on the subject in 2006 produced a figure of 26% of locals stating that they either probably or certainly believe in them. The rest were slightly less sure but only 13% said they definitely didn’t believe in “folk”. This is according to research carried out by Terry Gunnell at the University of Iceland. I do wonder if some of the replies were down the Icelanders’ excellent sense of humour, though.
This quote from Helgi Hallgrímsson, head of the Icelandic Road Administration gives a clue as to how the belief still presents itself today:
“Sometimes, mediums contact the office nearest to a work site to warn us that elves are living there. They usually offer to act as go-betweens to help things go smoothly. We try to keep everyone happy like when we have to cross a farmer’s field. Sometimes we wait until the elves move on. Such courtesy doesn’t cost the road office much.” (From the Reykjavík Grapevine).
Mini houses, homes for the little people, can still be seen on the island, and it’s said that some married couples employ mediums to check the land round new homes for evidence of elven habitation (mediums obviously earn a nice living on the island – there’s yet another below) .
An educational institute on Iceland with a special interest in huldufólk (literally, secret people) is the Icelandic Elf School. It’s run by one Magnús Skarphéðinsson who has met over 700 people who claim to have had encounters with these shy folk.
The school awards Diplomas in Elves and Hidden people Research Study (there’s a photograph of one on their Facebook page). It’s a half day course if you’re interested in taking it: you’ll find the contact details below.
10 km south of Reykjavik, in Hafnarfjordur, a tour of local elf sites, run by a local clairvoyant, can be booked: it includes a stop at the base of a cliff, Hamarinn, where the Royal Family of the Hidden Folk live. Locals have sighted an elven lady in white wearing a silver belt in the vicinity. I wonder if this tends to happen after late night viewings of Lord of the Rings?
The Information Centre in the same town provides maps of elven homes and the Reykjavik Tourist Office also keeps maps.
Other locations on Iceland have been identified as homes for huldufólk (did you know, there are 13 distinct types and some are gay and lesbian?) In the east of the island is Alfaborg – another residence for the queen of the elves and there are stories of humans ‘communing’ with the elven folk in that area. Apparently human women have actually become pregnant by them …
There’s even a church of elves and a Dwarf’s Rock: see this Elves and Trolls article for more details on those locations.
Obviously, if you fancy a holiday elf-spotting (not forgetting trolls and dwarfs), there’s no better place than Iceland.
Elf School Contact Details
Sidumuli 31, 108 Reykjavik, Iceland