top of page
  • Writer's pictureCamper Rental Iceland

A Complete Guide to Trolls and Elves in Iceland: Folktales and Superstition

Updated: Aug 9, 2023

Every country in the world has its own legends and folktales that are passed on from generation to generation. Legends usually tell of sages, saints, politicians and warriors or other popular heroes. They are often composed of improbable or unreal motives. Some of them talk about the existence of supernatural creatures and about beliefs of people of a given country. Those are more like folktales which were created for children to warn them about the danger. Knowing them, you can get more idea about how the country and its people are, what they used to believe in and learn more about their history and culture. Let’s find out more about the Iceland’s folktales and superstition.

Elf houses in Iceland; Icelandic folktales are full of trolls and elves

Icelandic folktales and legends

While the Grimm’s Brothers fairy tales are well known by everyone around the Europe, in Iceland we have Jon Arnason and Magnus Grimsson. The two men were the folk tale collectors. Together they started collecting the tales which resulted in their first publication „Icelandic Folktales” in 1852.

In Icelandic folklore, the main roles play trolls, elves, ghosts and fairies. Their history, is connected with the nature and Icelandic landscapes. All around the island you will find some natural formations, which contains a history and some fairy tales inside. There are many tales and myths told throughout the history of Iceland, which would impossible to mention them all in this article. The most interesting ones are connected with the very famous attractions around the island.

The Reynisfjara black sand beach near Vik, holds one of them. Not far from the shoreline, straight from the ocean, there is a rock formation called Reynisdrangar. It is so enormous that it makes it visible from a distance. These are basalt boulders on 60 meters high. The legend says that one night, a long time ago, a group of trolls were trying to transport the ship to the land. It wasn’t possible and the task turned out to be too difficult. The sun came out and the sun rays caught them at work. They turned trolls into rocks and here there are until nowadays to amuse the tourists.

The similar fate happened to Oddny, the troll who was living with her family near the Brimketill on Reykjanes peninsula. One day she decided to have a dip in a pool formed by rocks. When she decided to come back home, it was already too late and the sun rays changed here into a high lava column. She stayed there until the waves washed her away. Until now, Brimketill is called the Oddynyjarlaug - Oddyny pool.

Brimketill  in Icelandic folktales is called the Oddyny's pool

Dimmuborgir, located near the Myvatn Lake is an incredible place. The lava formations of Dimmuborgir found their place in Icelandic storytelling too. Dimmuborgir is said to be the home of Grylla, half troll and half ogre and her 13 sons- the well known Yule Lads who come down to Icelanders houses when Christmas approach. There is nothing to be worry about though, unless you were naughty. Grylla has a cat, who only ate once a year. The cat was waiting until all the presents are unwrapped and the kids who did not receive a pair of clothing- were eaten by. Pretty terrifying.

Icelandic elves

Icelandic folklore is full of elves, trolls and fairies. They could help people or make their lives difficult. Their warnings had to be taken seriously, otherwise it could have been dangerous. Many people mistake trolls and elves and those two deserve to be differentiate. It is said that those creatures are barely visible and are usually hiding between lava and rocks. Be careful where you put your steps as there might be a troll house on your way. This is alwo why you should never take any stones and rocks with you back home and rather get some traditional souvenirs in Iceland. Not many Icelanders admit that they believe in elves and trolls, but not many want to admit they do not. In case they really do exist, no one wants to have any troubles. This is why Icelanders respect them and take care of them. No wonder why even the construction of the road once was stopped not to disturb their peace.

I am talking about the road rebuilding between Hveragerdi and Selfoss. Suddenly all the machines started to break down and the work had to be stopped. Eventually they brought a person who was able to contact with supernatural beings and it turned out that the hill that was supposed to be crossed by the road, was already someone’s home. The hidden people lived there. Respecting them and taking care of them is very important so they can live with Icelanders in peace and balance. While camping in Iceland, be careful where you set up your tent!

On New Years Eve, elves use to move to another place. Icelanders then light up some candles, to help them find their way back home. This is just one of the way to show the respect.

There are many tales about so called hidden people. You never know if the person you met in Iceland is a real Icelander of one of the hidden people. They decide themselves whether they want to be visible or not. They inhabit hills and boulders. The legend says that the hidden people are those descendants of Adam that Eve did not manage to wash and hide away from God. God decided that everything and everyone that is invisible to him will be as well invisible to people.

Those who would like to meet Icelandic elves and learn something more about them, can join the elf school Alfaskolinn. You will be able to learn more about the Icelandic folklore and how to respect and live in balance with elves.

Reynisdrangar is said to be a troll changed in stone in Icelandic folktales

Icelandic mythology

The Nordic country like Iceland would be nothing without its own mythology. There are few characters that we should definitely know. One of them, the most well known in the Nordic mythology is Odin, the most powerful Viking god. He rules over everything and everyone. He is immortal and was responsible for creating the universe and everything it contains of. He is also the god of poetry after he got inspired by a stolen drink of his uncle Mimir. His eight-legged horse Sleipnir is responsible for creating the Asbyrgi canyon.

Thor was Odin’s son, the second most loved in the pantheon. While Odin is an a fan of rape and war, Thor represents law and order. Thor keeps fighting with giants and undertake long expeditions to find them.

Freyja is the goddess of love, daughter of Njord, the god of the sea. Freyja supports lovers and her admirers. Loki is another god who needs to be mentioned while talking about the Icelandic mythology. He is the son of Farbauti and Laufey.

329 views0 comments


bottom of page