People often associate the belief in elves with Icelanders and it is a well-known fact that we've had problems with some constructions when getting too close to rumored homes of the hidden people. But do they really exist and how aware do you need to be as a traveller in Iceland not to disturb them?
Let's look at some… well, “facts” about elves and hidden people in Iceland.
Where do they come from?
There are quite a few stories of the origin of elves and hidden people. In the 19th century a man named Jón Árnason collected and published various tales of elves, hidden people and other supernatural beings and events that have truly become historic treasures. In his books, you can find two explanations for the existence of these beings.
Explanation 1: God visited Adam and Eve after they had lived together for some years and they showed him everything they had, but only some of their children because Eve was ashamed of the children that she hadn’t bathed. God knew this and said that what he could not see, no one would see, and therefore, they became the hidden people living in hills and rocks all across Iceland.
Explanation 2: After God created Adam and before he made Eve, he made another woman from the ground, but this woman turned out to be incredibly peevish and neither God nor Adam could handle her. God then decided to make a man that fitted her moods and named him Álfur (Elf) and her Alvör (Protective) and from them, every elf and troll descended.
There is a third possibility but that one is even older and therefore probably lesser known than the first two. In Snorra-Edda there are tales of two different types of elves. One type is the light elves that are fair and kind and live in the world of Álfheimar, next to the world of the Aesir gods, Asgard. The others are the dark elves that live beneath the ground and are both evil and treacherous.
What’s the difference between an elf and a hidden person?
It truly depends on who you ask. Originally elves were thought to be a kind of glamorous version of humans, they’re often portrayed as tall, extremely beautiful humans with long hair, wearing the fanciest of clothing, while hidden people are just the same as us normally beautiful humans, only they can be invisible.
Nowadays people don’t seem to differentiate between elves and hidden people so I would say they have morphed into the same thing; an invisible person you wouldn’t want to mess with.
Where do they live?
Some people have seen them walk straight into cliffs or hills like there’s a secret door or an opening into a cosy little home inside what appears to be solid ground. Others say they have seen beautiful houses or castles in remote landscapes, but when you get closer they disappear!I think we can all agree that they definitely live very close to nature and sometimes take matters into their own hands when they feel us humans are getting too close to their homes. Or perhaps sometimes we are just more unfortunate those other times. I do find myself wondering how the housing market would work for our hidden friends, though.
I think we can all agree that they definitely live very close to nature and sometimes take matters into their own hands when they feel us humans are getting too close to their homes. Or perhaps sometimes we are just more unfortunate those other times. I do find myself wondering how the housing market would work for our hidden friends, though.
How can we travel without disturbing them?
The rule of thumb is based very much on common sense: Do not disturb or alter nature wherever you are for whatever reason. Be it fear of messing with the hidden people or just respect for the landscape, in general, you should respect your surroundings, especially when exploring foreign places.
Hidden people do seem to seek out larger rocks, cliffs or hills to live in so if you are a believer you might want to think twice before climbing an interesting rock or a remote hillside since there are stories of people who have fallen and broken limbs when trespassing over or close to their homes.
Better safe than sorry is my motto so I’ll teach you some words that should help you if you ever sense the presence of a hidden person:
Come those who want to,
stay those who want to,
leave those who want to,
without harming me or my family.
Just speak those words out loud and hope they understand English. That should do it!
Do Icelanders really believe in elves?
Through my very concise study on the matter (by asking around people recently from various parts of Iceland) I’ve concluded that it’s hard to answer this as a yes or no question. If I had to I’d say: No, Icelanders do not generally believe in elves…
...but they also don’t really deny their existence either. The point is, of all those people I asked no one confessed their belief but some were not ready to dismiss their existence either. Even if people say they don’t believe they’re not necessarily ready to disturb an elf stone in case they’re wrong.Of course there are also plenty of people who don’t
Of course, there are also plenty of people who don’t believe at all and have no room what so ever in their minds for an exciting and mysterious hidden world living in their back yard. There is an obvious difference between people from the Reykjavík area and those who are living in more rural areas, and thereby closer to nature.
Albeit I didn’t thoughtfully choose a group of people from all ages, counties, sex or by their shoe size, I just generally asked around and so this article is mostly written from my own experiences and point of view.