Iceland’s otherworldly landscape makes a natural habitat for elves – or at least people who believe in them.
Elves in Iceland are called the Huldufólk, which means Hidden People. Belief in elves is still going strong in the country today, certainly more so than in most other parts of the world.
It is thought that the mysterious landscape and the island’s isolation have both made stories of elves to flourish over the years.
In Iceland, Old Norse religion lingered longer than in most other parts of Northern Europe. Even after the country’s conversion to Christianity, Icelandic society remained much more accommodating to old beliefs than other parts of Europe.
A 1998 survey by the Dagblaðið Vísir newspaper found that 54.4% of Icelanders interviewed claimed to believe in elves.
Hence, elves are a ‘living’ part of Icelandic culture. They are especially believed to live in rocks. Major motorways have been diverted to avoid disturbing elves residing in mountainsides. People will go out of their way to avoid stepping on rocks or hills in which elves are thought to reside.
And there is even an elf school in the country (besides the many elf chapels and churches)!
When trekking in the Icelandic countryside, you’ll see tiny elf houses (‘álfhól’ in Icelandic) springing up all around. In some cases this is to alert passersby that elves are present so as not to disturb them. They may also be simple a way to acknowledge their otherworldly presence.
In any case, they add yet another – tiny but beautiful – dimension to Iceland’s otherworldy look.