THE HULDUFOLK OF ICELAND
Scandinavian and Nordic folk tales have given us several iconic creatures of myth and legend, the most famous of these being the troll, a large, slow-witted, evil creature which lurks in remote places and turns to stone when exposed to sunlight. While these beings are generally found in fairy stories to entertain children, some countries take their beliefs seriously, so much so that their very infrastructure can be affected by the supernatural.
With its backdrop of volcanic fire and ice, Iceland is a prime setting for any kind of fantastic tale. Amongst its glaciers and weather-beaten crags, legends abound of a mysterious race that lives in a parallel world, only choosing to appear whenever it pleases them: the huldufólk, or Hidden People. Also referred to as elves or fairies, they live in harmony with the natural world, often making their homes inside mounds and hills, such as Álfaborg in Borgafjörđur Eystri, and seem to belong to a pure and magical time before the arrival of humans, similar to Ireland’s legends of the Tuatha Dé Danann, the People of the Goddess.
Although prevalent long before Christianity’s arrival in the 11th Century, stories of the huldufólk have lived on, resisting the influences of new religions and the consignment of their legends to children’s books. In the 19th Century, they were often a romantic representation of a purer Icelandic past which had been lost, along with its identity. Even nowadays, even though most Icelanders regard them only as a myth and as a quaint touristic attraction, some are wary of construction works, as they might disturb the mounds of the Hidden Folk, and reports have emerged of machines inexplicably breaking down and building sites being abandoned, so as not to disturb the mystical race living within the rocks.