The Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission recently hit a speedbump thanks to elf advocates. The Friends of Lava have consistently stymied public works projects that may impact the health and well-being of those pointy-eared nuisances. At stake in this case is a road connecting Iceland’s presidential mansion to a suburb of Reykjavik. On the surface the Friends of Lava insist their concern for huldufólk is to draw attention to environmental issues, rather than real concern for ogres, trolls, and elves.
Proximity to the north pole aside, their rich cultural heritage is the reason behind Santa having his little helpers. Iceland has thirteen ‘Santas’ who begin their rounds on December 12th, each with their own curious antics, known as the jólasveinarnir or Yule Lads. If you’re good, you’ll get a gift in your shoe. Bad kids get a rotten potato. Door-Slammer, Sausage-Swiper, Window-Peeper, Meathook(!), and the rest of the gang are relatively benign, but their mother is a force unto herself.
Grýla, the Christmas ogress, makes Krampus look like a scrawny goth with a big mouth. Throughout the year, she keeps tabs on which kids are good and those that are really bad. Come Christmastime, she comes down the mountains to butcher the bad kids for her favorite recipe. Described as having three
heads, a beard, and eyes like glowing embers1, Grýla was the cause of much grief for kids routinely terrorized with stories of her victims.
In 1746 a decree was passed to stop frightening kids with these grim tales, which says a lot for elf lore in Iceland. Back in 2007, a study revealed 8% of the population stridently believe in elves. A surprising 54% won’t deny their existence2, making Iceland a paragon of the fortean paradigm.
The roadblock remains between Alftanes peninsula and Gardabaer, which isn’t a bad thing. It’s Christmastime and who wants to work during the holidays. Also past confrontations between the IRCC and the Friends of Lava have ended amicably where the latter claim their delaying tactics gave the hidden people enough time to pack up and move to greener pastures.
Well, as green as they get in Iceland.