Words Of Interest: Elf Watch

Words Of Interest: Elf Watch

Words by
Photos by
Eunsan Huh

Published January 6, 2017

In Icelandic Christmas tradition, there’s not one Santa Claus but thirteen mischievous, not always generous Jólasveinar, or Yule Lads. And Christmas in Iceland doesn’t just end with a food coma on December 25th, it goes on for thirteen more days. During this time, these Yule Lads return home to the mountains one by one.

The last to leave is Kertasníkir (literally “candle stealer”) on January 6th, and his departure marks the end of Christmas. This day is known as “Þrettándinn.” Though the literal translation is “the thirteenth,” it’s commonly called Twelfth Night. Like on Christmas, there are many festivities on Þrettándinn, from bonfires to fireworks—one last yuletide hurrah.

Þrettándinn is also a curious and mystical time. Iceland is rich with folklore featuring elves, literally called “hidden people” (huldufólk). According to the Elfschool of Reykjavík, these hidden people are descendants of Adam and Eve. Eve was ashamed of her unwashed children and hid them from God. Seeing through her lies, God made them invisible to men.

Humans can only see these hidden people with the elf’s permission, so huldufólk spottings are usually quite rare. However, on Þrettándinn, they are rumoured to come out of hiding and frolick in the open, dancing by the bonfires and celebrating the season. Folklore also tells of seals that turn into humans and cows that speak. So if you are in Iceland this time of year, keep a vigilant watch!

twelfth-night2


Every Single Word in Icelandic is a pictographic exploration of the Icelandic language. I find an interesting compound word, then deconstruct and illustrate it as icons. The goal is to express how Icelandic can be deadpan literal and unexpectedly poetic at the same time.



Mag
The Reykjavík Grapevine  Person Of The Year Award

The Reykjavík Grapevine Person Of The Year Award

by

Sigmundur Davíð Gunnlaugsson, Former Prime Minister The Grapevine has always been the sole media outlet in Iceland that stands against

Mag
Grapevine’s 2017 Prophecies

Grapevine’s 2017 Prophecies

by

What wonders will the new year have in store for us? We consulted some of Iceland’s best psychics (in our

Mag
Words of Interest: The Plight of the Icelandic Goat

Words of Interest: The Plight of the Icelandic Goat

by

“Fara í geitarhús að leita ullar” literally means to go to the goat house to gather wool. It’s used in

Mag
The Short Friendship Of An Icelandic Artist With The Woman Stealing Her Art

The Short Friendship Of An Icelandic Artist With The Woman Stealing Her Art

by

[update: the last name of Caroline has been omitted] It could have been awkward, but instead, Inga Maria’s stay at

Mag
RECAP: Saga of Ragnar Shaggy-Britches

RECAP: Saga of Ragnar Shaggy-Britches

by

Listen up because I am about to recap the Saga on which your favorite, wildly inaccurate History Channel drama series,

Mag
Words of Interest: Light It Up

Words of Interest: Light It Up

by

“See the Northern Lights” is an item that commonly appears on bucket lists. Lucky for Icelanders, the country is in

Show Me More!