Icelandic Road Project Delayed to Protect Elves

A story about elves? On Christmas Eve? We can't believe our luck! Scandinavian lore is rich with tales of elves, trolls and other legendary characters. It seems that the Huldufolk (Iceland's term for elves) are currently making the news in Iceland. Stories of the hidden folk are quite prominent in the country and are still taken seriously. They even have political representation in this country where the current population is 320,000.

According to the AP, "Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer. They fear disturbing elf habitat and claim the area is particularly important because it contains an elf church."

It actually seems to be working too, "The project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava, who cite both the environmental and the cultural impact — including the impact on elves — of the road project. The group has regularly brought hundreds of people out to block the bulldozers."

The AP reports that this is apparently not the first time elves are affecting planning decisions. There is actually a stock media response for elf inquiries that reads, "issues have been settled by delaying the construction project at a certain point while the elves living there have supposedly moved on."

A statement from Terry Gunnell, a folklore professor at the University of Iceland sums up the what many of the country's residents believe, "This is a land where your house can be destroyed by something you can't see (earthquakes), where the wind can knock you off your feet, where the smell of sulfur from your taps tells you there is invisible fire not far below your feet, where the northern lights make the sky the biggest television screen in the world, and where hot springs and glaciers 'talk.'"

So what is Christmas like in Iceland? In addition to the jolly Mr. Claus, Icelanders await 13 trolls known as the "Yule Lads" who arrive during the 13 days before Christmas. The article adds, "Each has his own task, putting rewards or punishments into the shoes of little children. They include Stufur, or Stubby, who is extremely short and eats crusts left in pans; Pottaskefill, or Pot-Scraper, who snatches leftovers; and Hurdaskellir or Door-Slammer, who likes to slam doors at night."

Even one of Iceland's most famous residents confirms the belief. Singer, Björk responded to Stephen Colbert when asked if Icelanders actual believe, "We do. It's sort of a relationship with nature, like with the rocks. (The elves) all live in the rocks, so you have to. It's all about respect, you know."

-Larissa Mrykalo