Save The Elves! Iceland Residents Worry About Elf Habitats

In Iceland, elves aren’t just part of fairy tales and Christmas lore — and a new movement of environmental protection activity seems to hinge largely on elf habitats as they relate to development, and fear of upsetting the elf populations.

No, we’re not kidding, but linguistic differences make the Iceland elves thing a bit trickier to understand in context. The Atlantic takes an in-depth look at Iceland’s belief in elves, and taken on its face, it seems not so implausible that the place that spawned Bjork is not impeded in the acceptance of strange and unusual things.

The site points to a slightly dated survey indicating that just over 54 percent of adults in Iceland believe in elves — but not the tiny, elfin sort with which we are familiar. That would be weird.

We’re hesitant to pin a unique belief based on old research on such a broad swath of a country’s populace — but The Atlantic‘s piece makes a strong case for elf rights advocates in Iceland. There is just a lack of cultural context to discern how widespread such a belief is in 2013.

According to the site, Bjork herself has in the past addressed the claim Iceland denizens are prone to a belief in elves, cautioning:

“You have to watch out for the Nordic cliche… A friend of mine says that when record-company executives come to Iceland, they ask the bands if they believe in elves, and whoever says yes gets signed up.”

For the current piece, the site spoke with Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir, who spoke of the consequences of elf threats — and it reports:

“One of the many oddly shaped rocks at the lava field houses ‘a very important elf church,’ which lies directly in the path of one of the roads, according to. Both she and another seer visited the field separately and came to the same conclusion about the spot. ‘I mean, there are thousands or millions of rocks in this lava field,’ she said, ‘but we both went to the same rock or cliff and talked about an elf church.’ ”

She adds ominously:

“This elf church is connected by light energy to other churches, other places… So, if one of them is destroyed, it’s, uh, well, it’s not a good thing.”

Expert in folkloristics Valdimar Hafstein explains Iceland’s elves, saying that they’re much like humans — just living separately. Hafstein elucidates:

“[T]heir economy is of the same sort: like humans, the hidden people have livestock, cut hay, row boats, flense whales and pick berries… Like humans, they too have priests and sheriffs and go to church on Sundays.”

It’s not clear how much of modern technology Iceland’s elf population has absorbed, nor whether “elfies” are a thing on Elf Facebook. But elf experts also warn that when threatened, elves get fiercely “territorial.”

Jónsdóttir was jailed in Iceland for her advocacy with elves, but released — and urges humans to work with the elf population when planning construction.

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