Random Icelandic Leftovers

You may remember we went to Iceland last spring. Since then, I keep running across some random articles about the county and it’s people that I find interesting. Ready?

Huldufólk
Though we never saw them, we are still fascinated by the Huldufólk — the Icelandic Hidden People (aka: elves).

The term huldufólk was taken as a synonym of álfar (elves) in 19th century Icelandic folklore…huldufólk originates as a euphemism to avoid calling the álfar by their real name. There is, however, some evidence, that the two terms have come to be taken as referring to two distinct sets of supernatural beings in contemporary Iceland…”different beliefs could have lived side by side in multicultural settlement Iceland before they gradually blended into the latter-day Icelandic álfar and huldufólk…The Norse settlers had the álfar, the Irish slaves had the hill fairies or the Good People. Over time, they became two different beings, but really they are two different sets of folklore that mean the same thing.”

Many (most?) Icelanders not only believe in these elves, but they won’t make any big construction decisions without considering the ramifications on the homes of the huldufólk.

In 1982, 150 Icelanders went to the NATO base in Keflavík to look for “elves who might be endangered by American Phantom jets and AWACS reconnaissance planes.” In 2004, Alcoa had to have a government expert certify that their chosen building site was free of archaeological sites, including ones related to huldufólk folklore, before they could build an aluminum smelter in Iceland. In 2011, elves/huldufólk were believed by some to be responsible for an incident in Bolungarvík where rocks rained down on residential streets.

Just a few months ago, this happened

[Member of Parliament] Árni Johnsen arranged for the relocation of a 30-ton boulder, which he believes is home to three generations of elves…Árni first encountered the elves’ dwelling when he was in a serious car accident in January 2010. His car overturned and landed beside the boulder 40 meters away from the highway…His SUV was damaged beyond repair but Árni escaped the accident unharmed. He considered whether the boulder might be a dwelling for hidden people…a specialist in the affairs of elves [investigated the boulder and] concluded that the boulder’s inhabitants were content with the move. “But they asked whether the boulder could stand on grass. I said that was no problem but asked why they wanted grass. ‘It’s because they want to have sheep’”…The specialist also said that the elves wish for the boulder’s “window side” to face the view…The boulder will be moved on the ferry Herjólfur and the elves will travel in a basket lined with sheep skin so that they can be comfortable on the journey.

Peace On Earth
Ever wondered what the most peaceful country in the world is? Given the context of this post it probably isn’t a shock that it’s Iceland! The Institute for Economics and Peace have ranked all the countries (PDF) by the most peaceful and Iceland came out on top.

Born in Iceland
Iceland’s relatively isolated population is around 300,000 people. That can cause trouble when dating as there’s a good chance your date is a cousin. So to help keep this in check, Icelanders can now check an online database to help.

A search engine called Íslendingabók (the Book of Icelanders) allows users to plug in their own name alongside that of a prospective mate, determining any familial overlap. The site claims to track 1,200 years of genealogical information about the island’s inhabitants. Anyone with an Icelandic ID number — that is, citizens and legal residents — is accounted for.

So what happens when the local population has a child? Well, the first name must be approved by a committee. Luckily there is already a list of approved names (compiled list with name meanings). As for the last name, well, that’s another story.

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