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Tales of Iceland Elves and Trolls

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:

Iceland Elf HouseHuldufólk

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

Vik, IcelandVík’s Trolls

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

Dimmuborgir

Dimmuborgir

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 ogress' giant bed

The ogress’ giant bed

Ogress at GrofSkessan

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.

SauðhúsvöllurSauðhúsvöllur

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?

Jennifer Dombrowski

Jennifer Dombrowski is a location independent globe trotter who is based in Prata di Pordenone, Italy. She works as a social media and communications strategist and is an award-winning travel writer. She is also a travel correspondent on Traveling on the American Forces Radio Network. Jdomb's Travels was named one of the top travel blogs to watch by the Huffington Post and has been featured by top publications such as CNN, Buzzfeed , and The Telegraph. Her iPhoneograpy has also been featured on publications such as USA Today and Travel + Leisure. Google+

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  1. Ali

    Very odd. Not sure I can really get on board with believing in elves, but it does make for entertaining stories!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    The tales of elves and trolls started thousands of years ago with the Vikings. It’s said they invented them to double the population! I wish I had a picture; there is even an elf crossing sign on one stretch of road where a large number of elves are believed to live.

    [Reply]

  2. jade

    When we were in Iceland, we heard many stories of elves and trolls. I actually hope they do exist- wouldn’t that be fun!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    It would be fun, Jade! I love looking for the elf houses when out and exploring.

    [Reply]

  3. Petite Adventures

    I love this!! I can’t wait to go to Iceland and hear all of these folkloric tales (and look for elves myself)!

    Kate xo petite-adventures.blogspot.ca

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    There is even an Elf Academy near Reykjavik. You can attend on Fridays and they’ll tell you all the best places to find elves in Iceland.

    [Reply]

  4. Andi of My Beautiful Adventures

    I swear I saw an elf when I was there!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    You just may have, Andi! Surely people didn’t make all those odd piles of rocks lying about.

    [Reply]

  5. Noel

    I love to wander around Iceland, experience the life there and hear these stories from the folks out there.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    We agree, Noel! Iceland is one of our favorite countries.

    [Reply]

  6. Amanda

    I LOVED this quirky side of Iceland. I never tired of hearing stories of elves and trolls all over the country!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    I agree, Amanda! I bet Icelanders would make great bloggers because they are such fantastic storytellers. ;-)

    [Reply]

  7. Andrea

    It’s hard not to believe when so many people do! They are popular here in Norway too

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    I had no idea about the trolls and elves in Norway! That makes sense though since many of Iceland’s early settlers came from what is now Norway.

    [Reply]

  8. City Gal on the go

    I loved Iceland, but didn't get to see any of this – so cool!

    [Reply]

    Jdomb's Travels Reply:

    It's such a unique part of the Icelandic culture! I love trying to spot the elf houses!

    [Reply]

  9. Sofie

    I love tales of elves and trolls, but I can’t say I’m a true believer…

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    To me, believing in elves and trolls feels childlike. But in a good way! Sometimes I just miss our childhood naivety of believing in Santa, flying reindeer, elves, trolls, witches…

    [Reply]

  10. Andrew

    That is pretty cool that they have kept their older beliefs in some form. In Ireland, there were a bunch of places that I could see easily why the idea of fairies came into being. In some places it really did feel otherworldly.

    Wonder if the trolls and the Irish fae are related somehow.

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    We haven’t been to Ireland yet, but it sounds like I’ll be equally as enchanted by the fairy stories there as I was by the elf and troll tales in Iceland!

    [Reply]

  11. LadyLittlefoot

    This is awesome and interesting and even more reason to visit Iceland!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    Definitely love this quirky side of Iceland! Had the timing worked out for us to be in Reykjavik on a Friday, I totally would have attended Elf School!

    [Reply]

  12. Cole @ FourJandals.com

    Haha cute. Hopefully we spot some trolls on our journey in April!

    [Reply]

    Jennifer Dombrowski Reply:

    You’ll have to let us know if you do spot some, Cole! Enjoy Iceland. It’s one of our very favorite countries.

    [Reply]

  13. Deb

    What a fun post. I love that there is the troll legend in Iceland and hey, you never know, they could exist and be hiding somewhere waiting to pounce. I’m game for anything and when we go to Iceland, I’m going to keep an eye out and try to spot me a troll ;-)

    [Reply]

  14. Sean McManus

    We’ve just returned to Guernsey from Iceland. We loved the elf stones and the troll stories. In Guernsey we have our own hidden people, Les Pouques. They must be closely related to their Icelandic cousins because they are deemed responsible for remarkably similar happenings. Check out Pouques Guensey.

    [Reply]

  15. The Bro

    That was the best story

    [Reply]

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