Legendary being of the Week – Huldufólk

This week I got a being from a part of the world that is a little closer to my own home, Scandinavia.

The Huldufólk are a type of elves that inhabit the vast, mountainy lands of Iceland. Their name quite literally mean hidden people, or people of secrecy. They live among the rocks and hills of Iceland, commonly in houses within the stones themselves. They are one of two well-known types of elves in Iceland, the other one being the álfar, which basically are the “normal” kind of elves you probably already know a thing or two about. There are a number of origination stories behind the huldufólk that are quite different from each other.

In one legend God comes to visit Eve and her children. Eve, however, is currently in the act of cleaning them, not expecting her father so soon, ashamed of her unclean children she hides them from his sight. God is not easily fooled though, as you might know, and sees all. He curses the hidden children, stating that if they shall not be seen by him, they shall not be seen by man, and thus will remain hidden forever.
One legend speaks of the huldufólk as the angels whom did not pick a side during Lucifer’s revolt in Heaven. Because of their neutrality, they were banished to live out their lives hidden.
In yet another legend they originated from the Icelandic’s feelings and their campaign against the prohibition of dancing sometime during the 12th century. Where the huldufólk assisted the Icelandic people in taking revenge upon the monk who issued the ban on dancing.
Then there are some who simply believes the huldufólk originated from an desire of not feeling alone in some of the more empty, dark and barren landscapes that you’ll find in Iceland at times. The thought of a hidden people, inhabiting the land, was comforting, presumably. The thought of a hidden people living among you could also be quite frightening, if I may say so, however, the huldufólk are supposedly friendly and mean no harm to anyone, so perhaps it isn’t that scary of a thought.

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It is said that if you stand at a crossroad at night (in some legends you need to block the road in some way) the huldufólk might bump into you and choose to show themselves, offering you gifts and treasures as long as you let them through. If you should accept their gifts, they will dissapear, as will the treasures. But if you stand your ground, and refuse to let them pass, something similar will happen, but this time you’ll get to keep the valuables. The lesson to learn from this being; act as obnoxious as you possibly can on Iceland, and you will find gifts of gold thrown at your feet.

Jokes aside, the Huldufólk are still highly regarded among the Icelandic, and I mean highly, the elves are no joke over there. A couple of years ago there was a protest against the government’s plan to build an highway right through an elven habitat, with hundreds of people standing on the elves’ side. And that wasn’t the first time either. There is even a school where you can learn about the álfr and the huldufólk, should you visit Iceland — yes, that’s right folks, an Elf School.
Many traditions takes place every year, to honor the hidden ones. One being the act of leaving out food to the elves during christmas — similar to the Swedish Tomtenisse, or the Norwegian Fjösnisse
It’s quite fascinating, how the Icelandic haven’t let go of their old beliefs. Just like in Japan, they keep to old traditions and hold their kami, and their yokai, in very high regard. I find it charming, how some cultures never really forget their traditions like so many others do.

See you next week for another exciting being, I’m sensing something from medieval European folklore!

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