Mythical Beings of Iceland
They may be real, they may not be. Some people claim to have seen them, some people claim to have never. The mythical beings of Iceland emerge as legends from a landscape that has historically been very unforgiving, where nothing less than constant work was necessary in order to survive. The tales of trolls, elves, ghosts and other monsters exist most likely as a way to explain the harsh elements, and give them some meaning.
This post offers a roundup of some of the most common mythical beings of Iceland, especially the ones that we encounter in the landscape every day.
Hidden People/ Huldufólk/ Elves
The Huldufólk take the crown as the most well known mythical being of Iceland, partly because of the controversy relating to exactly how many Icelanders actually believe in elves. The internet is awash with reports that the majority of Icelanders believe in Elves, as this article and this article note.
In an effort to quantify this, a 2007 study form the University of Iceland shows that eight percent of Icelandic people believe that elves definitely exist, but 54 percent would not deny that elves exist. This is something like being elf-agnostic. Iceland is elf-agnostic.
What do they look like?
Elves don’t look any different to humans; they have a seventeenth century dress style, tend to sheep and farm like regular people do. They are, in the words of Terry Gunnell, a anthropology researcher:
N]ear mirror-images of those humans who told stories about them—except they were beautiful, powerful, alluring, and free from care, while the Icelanders were often starving and struggling for existence. The huldufólk seem in many ways to represent the Icelander's dreams of a more perfect and happy existence.
Where do they live?
It is said that the lives in rocks, and there have been many cases of residential property developments being halted, and roads being diverted, in order to not upset particular sites that have a history of an elven presence.
In the East of iceland, int he small town of Borgarfjordur Eystri there is the famous Elf Church which you can climb on top of! This is also an excellent hiking area, it feels a lot like the end of the world!
Trolls are important mythical beings in Icleand. Trolls are everywhere and you don't have to look too far and wide to see them; you can actually see them in some of Iceland’s most well-known natural highlights! Check out the pictures below and see what you can see!
Sometimes, the faces are really obvious, sometimes they are not. The famous sea stacks a of Reynisdrangar are said to be trolls, frozen forever by the sun when they tried to dragged a three-masted ship to land. This is what happens to trolls in sunlight. They petrify. What about the trolls that behave themselves? They are out there, somewhere.
It looks like the beautiful grey horse that you'll ever see. The situation changes quite rapidly once you sit on it, because as soon as you do, it will run into the nearest body of water and drown you! It hooves are backwards, so watch those hooves carefully!
Last but not least, we have Iceland’s very own version of Nessie, that is to say, the Loch Ness Monster. The Lagarfljót Worm is said to be a serpentine-like creature that lives in Lagarfljót, a freshwater, below-sea-level, glacial-fed lake which has very poor visibility as a result of siltation located int he East of Iceland.
What is remarkable about the Worm is that there have been alleged sighting ever since the settlement period of Iceland, in the 14th century, all the way through to the the present day, and apparently even a video. We dug it up so you could see it for yourself. There is definitely something long in the water.
They are many, many more mythical beings in Iceland, this little list was meant to whet your appetite, but you’ll have to come over here and visit this amazing land yourself your self to really understand where these legends come from! You might even catch the worm!
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