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?

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Tales of Iceland Elves and Trolls

Comments

    • says

      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.

  1. says

    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.

  2. says

    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 ;-)

  3. Sean McManus says

    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.

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