Or the Hidden people like we Icelanders call them
It is common knowledge that Icelandic people are superstitious by nature. I was raised in a family where the Elves were like part of the landscape and life in general. My mother used to tell me stories about the elves she played with when she was growing up, and there is even one elf story related to when I was born, but I’m going to save that for our Reykjavik Folklore Walking Tour together ;).
The most common Elves in Iceland are called the Hidden People. They are very similar to us but just a little bit taller, thinner, and more beautiful. The Elves straight from the Lord of The Rings by Tolkien. It is not common knowledge, but he was influenced by the Icelandic Sagas and Folklore when he wrote his stories, but that is another story. According to the Icelandic Elf School, there are over 50 types of Elves in Iceland, and yes in case you were wondering I have a graduate degree from the school, so I’m qualified to talk and write about the Icelandic Elves.
How did the Elves come to be?
The Genesis or the creation story of the elves is according to the story that God was coming to visit Adam and Eve. Eve was washing their children before the visit to make them presentable, and she did not finish before God knocked on the door, so she hid the rest of the children. When God found out what Eve had done he made the declaration “What man hides from God, God will hide from man” and so the Hidden people came to be.
There was a survey done in 1998 that showed 54.4% of Icelanders believe in Elves and then 10 years later or 2008 another survey showed that the percentage was up to 62%. so the belief in Elves in Iceland doesn’t seem to be diminishing. To be totally honest today most Icelanders actually don’t believe in Elves so to speak but it’s more that they don’t dismiss the possibility.
Don’t disturb the Elves of Iceland
There are still roads that are being built that go around elf houses and elf churches instead of just bulldozing the road straight through because people here are more like, it’s better to be safe than sorry. Just two months ago I saw a piece on the national tv station RÚV regarding a condominium that was going to be built on top of an elf stone. When the constructors discovered this they made the house a little smaller so the stone would be outside the building and not be “harmed”. There are many many stories like this. We actually visit an elf house or stone and pay our respects to the elves on both our Reykjavik Walking Tour – Walk With a Viking and Reykjavik Folklore Walking Tour
When are you most likely to see an elf in Iceland?
There are four Icelandic days said to have a special connection with Elves and the hidden people:
January 6th (The Thirteenth), Midsummer night, Christmas night, and finally New Year’s Eve.
On January 6th the mythical creatures of Iceland show themselves and there are Elf bonfires to celebrate them in many places.
On Midsummer Night, folklore states that if you sit at a crossroads, traveling elves will attempt to seduce you with food and gifts and you will turn mad if you are seduced by their offers, but you get great rewards from the Elves for resisting.
Before Christmas, it is customary in Iceland to clean the house and to leave food for the Hidden People and during the holidays, there are many Icelandic folktales about elves and hidden people invading Icelandic farmhouses and holding parties.
Regarding New Year’s Eve, it is believed that the elves move to new locations, and Icelanders leave candles to help them find their way.