Elves in Iceland: Do Natives Really Believe in Them?
Iceland's version of elves are called 'Huldufólk' in Icelandic which translates as 'Hidden People' in English. They are invisible beings who live inside rocks and communicate occasionally with humans through their dreams. In appearance they look like humans except they dress mostly in old fashioned Icelandic clothing. They farm and fish like humans do and probably go about their daily lives in much the same way as humans. They are generally not considered hostile but have been known to occasionally steal human children and placing old, disgruntled elvish men in their stead. However, those who do good by the Hidden People are awarded generously. But these mysterious creatures must have come from somewhere.
The origins of the Hidden People are very unclear since there are so many different stories out there, most of them deeply rooted in Christianity. However, there is one story that seems to stand out as the most popular and it relates to Adam and Eve's children.
The Hidden People were believed to be the children of Adam and Eve who were hidden from their parents by God as Eve's punishment. In anticipation of God's visit, Eve decided to clean up her children. She didn't have enough time to clean all of them so she made the dirty children hide to ensure that God would only see the children who were clean. God of course knew what she had done and was quite infuriated. He punished Eve for her shame by making the hidden children unseen from everyday view. These children came to be the Hidden People's ancestors.
It is unknown whether or not the Icelandic people as a whole actually believe in the existence of these Hidden People but it is clear that most of them wouldn't actively deny their existence. There are several stories surrounding particular boulders and hills that serve as testament to the natives' partial belief and respect of these invisible neighbours.
In Kópavogur, Iceland's second largest town, there is a street called Álfhólsvegur (Elf Hill Road) that noticeably swerves around a small rock infested hill. It is common knowledge that this hill is inhabited by elves because of some mysterious occurrences during the construction of the road in the 1970s. The hill was supposed to be demolished to make way for the road but every time the machines got close to it they shut down for no reason. Other machines would simply malfunction. Eventually accidents started happening.
A person came forth who claimed to have been contacted by the hill's inhabitants in a dream. This individual pleaded with the local council to spare the hill since it was home to a family of Hidden People. The road was then carefully constructed around the hill and the houses that were built on either side of it received the numbers 100 and 104, which meant that the elf hill became Álfhólsvegur 102, indicating that the hill was a residence just like the houses around it.
All over Iceland there are similar stories and it's a pretty sure thing that wherever a pile of rocks or a hill can be found in odd places, such as between buildings, they are believed to be inhabited by Hidden People.
This article was written by Fanney Magna Karlsdóttir for Eurodesk Iceland