Words Of Interest: Elf Watch - The Reykjavik Grapevine

Words Of Interest: Elf Watch

Words Of Interest: Elf Watch

Published January 6, 2017

Photos by
Eunsan Huh

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.

Next:
Previous:


Go travel with Grapevine tried and recommended tours by Grapevine. Fund Grapevine journalism by booking with us.


Magazine-articles
Magazine Articles
Well, You Asked: Your Problems, Our Solutions

Well, You Asked: Your Problems, Our Solutions

by

Magazine-articles
Magazine Articles
Well, You Asked: Only One Nine-Year-Old Child Welcome

Well, You Asked: Only One Nine-Year-Old Child Welcome

by

Magazine-articles
Magazine Articles
New In Town: CNTMP & Kaktus Espressobar

New In Town: CNTMP & Kaktus Espressobar

by

Magazine-articles
Magazine Articles
Well, You Asked: Sautéed Crotch Area

Well, You Asked: Sautéed Crotch Area

by

Magazine-articles
Magazine Articles
Well You Asked: Just Some Mayo In The Matrix

Well You Asked: Just Some Mayo In The Matrix

by

Magazine-articles
Magazine Articles
Ask a Historian: The Origins of Brennivín

Ask a Historian: The Origins of Brennivín

by

Show Me More!