Mag
Editorial
Do Icelanders Believe in Elves? Really?

Do Icelanders Believe in Elves? Really?

Words by

Published July 26, 2010

“Grönlænderstiv” is a Danish phrase which means essentially “drunk as a Greenlander.” However, recent research suggests that the Danes drink at least as much as the Greenlanders, and teenagers in Denmark drink even more than their counterparts in Greenland do. When it comes to drunken 15 year olds, Danes hold the world record, while Greenland is somewhere way down the list.
One of the reasons for this may be that after attaining nationhood, the local government in Greenland has introduced severe alcohol taxes. This has actually worked in Iceland too. Post-collapse, the price of beer at the state liquor outlet has risen by almost 50 percent. The cash-strapped government introduced yet higher booze taxes to help cover the budget short fall. But rather than do their patriotic bit for their country and drink their way out of depression, Icelanders have largely elected to stay sober. You wouldn’t think it from walking down Laugavegur on a Saturday night, but Icelanders are actually drinking less now than they used to.
From wealth to health
What about home grown drinking products, always a favourite in times of crisis? While we may safely assume that this industry is doing quite well, and with less employment people need a hobby, it nevertheless seems to be the case that Icelanders are actually more health conscious now than they used to be. The boom was one perennial bender, but while sales of alcohol and junk food went up in those days, so did sales of health foods. One might have been excused for thinking that once that was all over, and since health foods tend to be more expensive than the other kind, people would be even more interested in a quick fix.
Quite the contrary, after the focus on wealth came focus on health. An example of this is that Svarti Svanurinn by Hlemmur, once a local favourite for nutritionless and tastefree late night burgers, is now a health store. Perhaps it’s a knee jerk reaction. At least we’ve still got our health. So let’s take care of it.
Elves and Icelanders
So what’s all this got to do with elves, I hear you say? Well, not only Danes but Icelanders too have often used the Greenlanders as an excuse for their drinking. “If you think we’re bad, just see what they do.” Drinking too much is something someone over there does, not us. The same seems to apply to elves.
If you go through the sagas, you find all sorts of fantastical creatures. There are trolls, giants, wolfsheads, unipeds, elves, dwarfs, ghosts, flying dragons and even the occasional blámaður (a person bearing dark skin). However, these beings are rarely seen in Iceland. And if they are, they’re something very much out of the ordinary and only seen rarely in special places.
Swedes and flying dragons
However, if you go to more exotic locales (from the Icelandic point of view), such as Northern Norway and Sweden, beings such as elves and even flying dragons are a much more common occurrence and if you go as far as Finland, you will be hard pressed to find a person who is not at least a half-troll.
From the Icelandic point of view, then, elves and other such beings are something that exist somewhere else. From the point of view of most of the world, however, Iceland is precisely somewhere else. That’s what you get from living on the periphery of pretty much everything. This is why we got stuck with them. But if you really want to see an elf, you probably have to go to Greenland. Just be careful of all the drunken teenagers.     
 



Mag
Editorial
<?php the_title(); ?>

Welcome To Our Sixth Annual Best Of Issue

by

As we were accenting the í’s and crossing the ð’s of our annual ‘Best of Reykjavík’ issue, a Facebook friend of Reykjavík Grapevine’s threw a bit of criticism our way that absolutely bears mention and further discussion. In response to one of the many “what’s the best X” in Reykjavík inquiries we posted last week, specifically one regarding sushi (“Have you been to Sushisamba? Is it the best sushi in Reykjavík? Why/why not?”), one of our FB friends wrote the following: “This is getting quite boring. I remember the days when RG was full of interesting articles on social issues

Mag
Editorial
<?php the_title(); ?>

Something To Write Home About

by

Every once in a while I come across a story in the local media that strikes me as being wonderfully Icelandic and worth sharing in this space. In December of 2012, for instance, there was the story of the twenty-four-year-old who escaped from Iceland’s maximum-security prison and evaded every single police officer in the country for an entire week. Long story short, the hunt came to an end on Christmas Eve when the fugitive knocked on a farmer’s door in Ásólfsstaðir and asked to be turned in to the authorities. Despite the fact that he had been booked for the

Mag
Editorial
<?php the_title(); ?>

Here For A Dirty Weekend?

by

You’ve probably heard Iceland referred to as a hot destination for so-called “dirty weekends.” Icelandair certainly did its part in spreading that message in the early noughties, luring visitors with slogans like “Fancy a dirty Weekend in Iceland?” “One Night Stand in Reykjavík” and “Miss Iceland Awaits.” The airline even featured games on the Scandinavian version of its website called “Halldor gets lucky in the Blue Lagoon” and “Hildur gets lucky in the Blue Lagoon,” in which characters chased their opposite sexes around the lagoon, collecting points by respectively stripping them of their bikini tops and swim trunks. Even if

Mag
Editorial
<?php the_title(); ?>

Cheers! Skál! Bottoms up!

by

So far, there really hasn’t been much to celebrate this year. We didn’t win the Eurovision Song Contest. Only a third of us are happy with the government. Thousands have protested in front of parliament. Our teachers went on strike. Our airport employees went on strike. Our pilots went on strike. And none of them were entirely successful. Yet, according to a report by Arion bank called ‘Er kominn tími til að taka fram kampavínið?’ (“Is It Time To Bring Out The Champagne?”), the bubbly stuff has made a comeback. Of course, as the report suggests, the rise in champagne

Mag
Editorial
<?php the_title(); ?>

Casting For A New Mayor

by

Four years ago, a comedian decided to run for mayor of Reykjavík. He created a not-so-political party, audaciously named The Best Party, and began campaigning on a bunch of empty promises to do things like bring a polar bear to the zoo and offer free towels at the swimming pool. Oh, and then he won. But of course you’ve heard this story. By now, it’s probably safe to say that  were it not for Toronto’s Rob Ford and his crack-fueled antics, Jón Gnarr would be the world’s most notorious mayor.But apparently being mayor is not all kicks and giggles, as

Mag
Editorial
<?php the_title(); ?>

Iceland’s Search And Rescue Team Is Coming For Your DNA!

by

I was flipping through Fréttablaðið on Wednesday morning when a particular article plus two full-page ads caught my eye. ‘This is crazy!’ I thought, as I read the headline, “Collecting DNA Samples From 100,000 Participants In deCODE Research.”  Like Jehovah’s Witnesses, Iceland’s search and rescue team Landsbjörg will soon begin walking door-to-door to win you over to their cause. Only they won’t be doing God’s bidding or even preaching their own gospel. They will be working for deCODE Genetics, a subsidiary of the biotechnology giant Amgen, and their evangelical mission is to collect DNA samples from roughly one-third of the

Show Me More!