While fewer and fewer Americans believe in science, Icelanders believe in elves.
Or, at least, they they won't say they don't believe in elves. And fairies. And trolls. And some people aren't afraid to talk about them with a straight face. Others are sick of talking about them to outsiders.
This week's issue of the tourist newspaper, The Grapevine, has an article by Kim Tulinus begging for a hiatus on the constant questions Icelanders recieve about "the hidden people," as they're referred to.
According to legend, they live in the crevices of rocks or under mounds of earth.
And understandably, the hidden people don't like their homes bulldozed, built on top of, or molested in any way. They will do whatever it takes to stop construction of roads through their territory. Even if it means disabling machinery or causing accidents...until the road crew quits and plans an alternate route around the fairy mound in question. This is documented.
OK, I admit it. I have long believed in elves and fairies and I have two friends who have seen them. My friend Kabba in England saw an elf peeking out from behind the cornice of an ancient building. And my friend Ellen had a fairy fly into her open window in upstate New York, fly around the room, stop inches from her face, then fly back outside. Neither was high at the time.
An Icelandic horse farmer I spoke to, ran into trouble trying to place a building on top of an elf domicile. His horses started hurting themselves in strange ways, and one had to be put down from his injuries. The farmer took a food offering out to the mound, sat down on the ground and had a heart-to-heart with the small folks. He said he'd put the building somewhere else if they would stop hurting his horses, and the deal was sealed. No more hurt horses.
I have mixed feelings about seeing hidden people, because there are tales of them pulling you into their world and not letting you back for many long years, if ever. But I would like a peek…just a glimpse, or a tiny wave of the hand or a tip of the cap. So one day we were out what appeared to be elf territory...in the Pingvellir region of southwestern Iceland, site of a rift valley that marks the continental divide between North America and Europe. The land was lush green grass covering craggy volcanic rock.
If I were an elf I would definately live here, where a clear stream bubbled out of a small craggy cave. A small buzzing bird or a large insect flew straight at me, then swerved at the last second. Was that a fairy? It was here and gone faster than my eyes could focus.
I stood on the banks of the stream and spoke to the hidden people, urging them to trust me, to reveal themselves. I assured them that I meant no harm, and continued my one-sided chat for awhile... but finally I had to say good bye. Before I left I asked them to show me a sign…nothing. Then, I turned away, and two steps from where I was standing in this photo, my right leg suddenly sank into a hidden hole in the ground up to my knee. My boyfriend helped me out of the hole, but my sneaker was left behind. As I knelt to reach in for my sneaker I wondered if I'd be pulled into the crevice and live forever in the land of fairytales. But the hidden people were kind and let me have my sneaker and my life. And for that, I am grateful.