Do Icelanders Believe in Elves? Everything you need to know about Iceland’s Elf Culture

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Do Icelanders believe in elves? Many do. Here's everything you need to know about Iceland's Elf Culture.

Legend has it that deep within the Land of Fire of Ice (Iceland), Huldufólk, or The Hidden People (elves), carry on with daily life, going through the motions, leading similar lives to the ones led by our own species: humans. The elves look like people, act like people, sleep like people, and behave like people, with a few slight variations regarding their appearance. The Hidden People have a more elongated frame, gaining their name from one main factor. They make themselves visible only when they want others to see them. They make themselves appear to the human eye at will.

While legend and lore praise these Icelandic creatures' existence, where did they come from? Does everyone residing in Iceland's corridors trust in the fae, or are they yet another local legend driving tourists and locals to buy into the hype? While we can't answer the whole truth, we can offer some facts and stories surrounding these Icelandic Elvin people. Next time you’re in Iceland, keep an eye out for The Hidden People.  

Do Icelanders Believe in Elves? Everything you need to know about Iceland's Elf Culture

Iceland Northern Lights Elves in Iceland.
Photo: Deposit Photos.

If you're planning a trip to Iceland, jumping on to the elf culture bandwagon might be a fun way to add some whimsy and culture to your trip. 

Origin Story 

The Hidden People foster a few origin stories, the most popular spawning from the Bible. According to the holy book, Adam and Eve boasted their children to God, but when asked if they had any other offspring to Him, Eve replied with a fabrication because her other children remained dirty from the absence of a bath. 

God disliked her dishonesty, so he rebuked her, stating, “What you hide from my sight, I will hide from yours.” Thus, the children moved out to the wilderness, finding homes within trees and the remote woods, making themselves seen on their own time. 

A different tale accounts for a wary traveler pausing in the first cabin he found for some shut-eye. When he arrived at the cabin, the all-female occupants invited him in for a warm meal and a cozy bed. Following the meal, he slept with one of the girls in the cabin, but when he rolled toward her, her physical body had vanished. Though he could not touch her, he saw her silhouette and asked what happened to her flesh. The woman replied that she exists as a disembodied spirit. Icelandic mythology equates the disembodied spirit elves to individuals who struck an unbiased position toward the beast. Since they refused to pick a side, they suffered (or thrived) as bodiless wisps of people in the forest. 

Where to Find The Hidden People

The Elf capital (unofficial, of course), Hafnarfjordour, borders on mythic with its large population of The Hidden People. Public parks invite guests to stroll through the natural habitat filled with openings and holes in the lava fields where The Hidden People reside. Green moss covers minute cave openings where The Hidden People dip in and out, and rolling streams pat near these openings. Along with elves, locals state trolls also ramble through the parks and lava fields, calling Hellisgerdi Park their home. 

According to High on Adventure, elf expert Ragnhildur Jonsdottir communicates with the Huddofolk and snapshots their aura–a beaming purple light radiating from the cave creases and the forest territories. 

Elf walking tours help guests learn more about the exciting folklore interspersed throughout the city. Tour guides explain the phenomenon of The Hidden People and walk patrons through prominent Huldufólk sights and an elf stone, a landing place for these creatures. 

How to Interact With the Hidden People

Rule number one is to always respect the elves. Much of the Icelandic population believes that The Hidden People exist with a high intention of preserving the environment. Numerous accounts report construction projects taking place on a known Huldufólk residence that did not progress due to the Huldufólk interfering with the plans. From this behavior, Icelandic workers have moved around the fae opting for alternate routes so as not to disturb their lives. People also think that if you disrespect one of The Hidden People, they retaliate with chicanery. 

One way Icelanders show gratitude and warmth toward The Hidden People is around Christmas. Before the holiday, they clean their homes and leave out food–much like other countries do for Santa Claus–as lore states they like a good holiday party and feast. After the festivities, they move on to other locations. So, on New Year's, Icelanders place candles out for the elves to see pathways to their new whereabouts. 

The Elf School

If you're in Iceland and want to elevate your knowledge about The Hidden People, and the museums and walking tours aren't filling the void, enroll in The Elf School. Students coalesce for a 3.5-hour seminar on the Hidden People. The in-depth lecture, taught by a respected elf expert, Mr. Magnus Skarphedinsson, fleshes out the history of the Elvin folk, along with the various species that pop up throughout Iceland. The school bases the class on first-hand experiences of humans interacting with elves and decades of folklore research for a rounded lesson. Enroll knowing nothing about The Hidden People, and leave an expert with a degree in the Huldufólk!

About Gabrielle Reeder

Gabrielle Reeder is a travel enthusiast from St. Petersburg Florida. She boarded her first plane at six months old and blamed her love for jet-setting on her mom’s background as a travel agent. She’s been to 41 states and six countries, hoping to up that number to 50 states and 10 countries by her 26th birthday. She loves to find the best vegetarian food, desserts, and music venues during her trips. 

Follow her on Twitter and Instagram

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