A Grapevine service announcement LOOK BUSY! Bárðarbunga Volcano Watch: The Afternoon Edition
Mag
Articles
Monsters And Mythical Beings X: The Hidden People

Monsters And Mythical Beings X: The Hidden People

Photos by
Hugleikur Dagsson

Published January 12, 2009

This tenth instalment in our illustrated series of Iceland’s monsters and mythical beings revolves around huldufólk, the Hidden People. Actually, the majority of Icelanders will refute claims that huldufólk are a mythical construct, calmly proclaiming belief in the species. Icelandic construction projects and roadwork are often altered to prevent damaging areas where they are thought to reside. If they do indeed exist and you’ve met them, or if you’re an actual huldufólk person who happens to be reading this, please contact us at grapevine@grapevine.is – we would love interviewing you.

Huldufólk often get lumped in with – what most sources claim to be – an altogether different species; the álfar (or “Elves”). Those in the know say that huldufólk share most of their traits with us humans; looks, language and culinary tradition, while álfar are an altogether different bunch; smaller and quirkier, humanoid but not properly human.

Huldufólk set themselves apart from Homo sapiens by being invisible (unless they want you to notice them) and by inhabiting cliffs and rocks rather than apartments or condos. The origins of huldufólk are hitherto undetermined, although there are claims that their existence can be traced back to Adam and Eve, that they are in fact the offspring of Eve’s unwashed children. The story goes that God wanted to pay the lovely couple a visit and Eve, worried that He might judge her, ordered some of the messier ones out of sight. God gave the first crop of new humans He met a vigorous thumbs-up, but when he asked Eve if she had any more laying around she lied she didn’t. The all-knowing deity was angered by her deceit, so He declared “What man hides from God, God will hide from man.”

Huldufólk are said to have co-existed with human Icelanders for as long as they’ve populated the rocky island. Icelandic folklore is ripe with tales of humans interacting with huldufólk. They are as varied as they are many, with most of them depicting huldufólk as kind and helpful folk that are often curious about humans and are even prone to seek out their companionship. There are anecdotes from this very century of huldufólk assisting people in danger, there are tales of huldufólk men seeking help from humans when their wives have trouble giving birth. Hell, there are even graphic descriptions of inter-species huldufólk-on-humanoid intercourse out there (those fortunate-slash-crazy enough to have participated in such shenanigans describe them as “mind blowing”).


Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

It Was My Way, And The Highway

by

On the Álftanes peninsula, a good ten kilometres from downtown Reykjavík, lies a unique lava field called Gálgahraun. The towns of Hafnarfjörður, Álftanes and Garðabær were all built around the 8,000-year-old lava, which is on the Nature Conservation Register and was immortalised on canvas by celebrated Icelandic artist Jóhannes S. Kjarval. Gálgahraun was widely considered to be one of the few spots of unspoilt nature left in the greater metropolitan area, but it isn’t any more, as a big highway that cuts the field in two is currently under construction. The road is being built to accommodate the people of

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

News In Brief Early August

by

A whole new angle on the ever-brewing Ministry of the Interior scandal came to light when it was reported that Interior Minister Hanna Birna had contacted then-Commissioner of the Capital Area Police Stefán Eiríksson, in person and by phone, in part to ask if police could be trusted with ministry files, and when their investigations would end. Cue media maelstrom, replete with Parliamentary Ombudsman Tryggvi Gunnarsson formally requesting the minister explain herself. At the time of writing, the Ombudsman is still waiting for a final answer from Hanna Birna, who had until August 15 to respond. Former Prime Minister Geir

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Hidden People: They’re Just Like Us (Kind Of)

by

When foreign media outlets report on Iceland and need to add a little local colour, they will invariably throw in a quick, ironical side note about the country’s pervasive belief in elves, or Hidden People. The tone is generally one of indulgence with just a dash of condescension, the written equivalent of patting a small child on the head when she introduces her invisible friend Mister Bob Big Jeans. Although many academic studies and informal surveys alike have concluded that a not insignificant portion of the Icelandic population “will not deny the existence of elves,” as Terry Gunnell, a leading

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

Hidden People Folktales

by

It is due to the efforts of two men, Jón Árnason (1819-1888) and Magnús Grímsson (1825-1860), that such a large body of 18th and 19th century Icelandic folktales exist today. Jón was a writer and also the first librarian of the National Library of Iceland, and Magnús was a student-turned-priest. Following the popularity of the Grimms Brothers’ fairytales, which were collected and first published in the early 1800s, similar folktale compendiums were collected throughout the Nordic countries. However, it was not until an English scholar named George Stephens issued a special request to Icelanders for a similar collection to be

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

“An Absurd Film Set In Reykjavík”

by

In September 1942 the inhabitants of Reykjavík had breakfast in a state of shock. They were reading an article in Morgunblaðið newspaper about a new Hollywood film set in their city, starring the world famous Norwegian figure skater and movie star Sonja Henie. The headline read “An absurd film set in Reykjavík” and the news lead to a public outcry. Subsequently the US government received a complaint from the Icelandic government. Today Iceland is a natural movie set frequented by famous directors. The makers of big projects like ‘Prometheus,’ ‘Noah’ and ‘Game of Thrones’ have all used it to film

Mag
Articles
<?php the_title(); ?>

The Book Cellar’s Book Seller

by

Narratives of Reykjavík’s used book culture often take the form of jeremiads—languorous laments for a bygone heyday, a paradise lost through, by and with the fall of print media. By some estimations, there used to be as many as forty secondhand book shops in town, peddling old, worn and loved books to an eager customer base. But by the end of the aughts, there was only one brick-and-mortar store: Bókin on the corner of Klapparstígur and Hverfisgata. Founded in 1964, Bókin remains an institution, a hallowed hall incensed with must and dust, where the 1993 collaboration between early music group

Show Me More!