The majority of Icelanders believe in, or at least refuse to the deny the existence of elves, trolls, and other hidden beings. Cut off from the rest of the world for centuries, Icelanders developed a rich storytelling tradition and stories about elves and hidden people are still part of their heritage today. We spent most of our time independently exploring Iceland, but when we did venture out with a guide, stories of Iceland elves and trolls were shared to explain many of Iceland’s otherworldly formations. Here are a few of the amusing tales of Iceland elves and trolls we’ve been told:
Huldufólk are elves or hidden people in Icelandic folklore and Icelanders believe they are everywhere. People often even build álfhól (tiny wooden elf houses) in their gardens for elves to live in. Iceland road builders take elves very seriously and since they live in rock outcroppings, consult with an elf expert before routing a new road or highway through rock piles that may be elf habitats. We spotted a field strewn with large rocks and at least ten colorful wooden álfhól
Just offshore from the black sand beach in Vík, the balsalt rock formations, Reynisdrangar, stick up out of the Atlantic like fingers. As the folklore goes, these spindly rock formations are actually trolls frozen in time. You see, trolls are night dwellers. They were trying to drag three ships ashore when they were caught in the sunlight and turned to stone.
Dimmuborgir, located in the north of Iceland, literally translates to “Dark Cities”. As we explored Dimmuborgir with our guide, Ólafur, he pointed at the rock formations and said “Do you see the troll faces?” A long time ago, a couple of trolls that were living in the area decided to have a big party during the dark period and invite trolls from all around. The trolls partied so much and for so long, that they forgot the sun would shine again. It is said that the unusual lava pillars are really trolls that turned to stone when the sun came up.
The Giantess, an ogress from the mountains, moved into the Black Cave at the marina in Gróf. She’s a friendly troll that we visited, though she’s sound asleep snoring in a rocking chair in her kitchen. As the tale goes, a little girl named Siggi was sent out to the mountains to play while her mother prepared a surprise sixth birthday for her. Siggi found a giant shoe, which of course belongs to a troll! Siggi wasn’t afraid of the troll, though, and they became fast friends. The Mayor was so impressed with the troll’s friendliness, he built a home for her in the cave in 2008.
Elf house or just a shed? Sauðhúsvöllur was built in 1948 by the farmer living on the farm tucked back from the road and the purpose was to shelter milk cans in. Since the road conditions can vary greatly, the milk truck couldn’t be counted on to deliver at a certain time. Instead, the milk truck would place the milk cans in the shed and the farmer could retrieve them later. But maybe elves took shelter here too?
So what do you think? Do you believe in the Iceland elves and trolls?