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Wednesday, July 22, 2015

The Huldu Folk of Iceland

The Little Book of the Hidden People: Stories of elves from Icelandic folkloreThe Little Book of the Hidden People: Stories of elves from Icelandic folklore by Alda Sigmundsdóttir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

According to legend, Eve , mother of mankind, was asked by god to display all her children. In a bout of laziness she selected he best ones and got them presentable. God counted them and made them royalty, the ones that were hidden were confined to a status of dwelling in boulder and mountains. These are the Huldu folk of Iceland which many refer to as elves.

Legend has it that if you are in the wilderness you may suddenly see one of them only to have them disappear into a rock or boulder. Much of the lore about these folk is reminiscent of faerie and elf folklore of old Europe.

It was on a whim that I decided to purchase this slender volume and believe me I am glad that I made this purchase. Too bad it was not longer as I consumed this volume in a matter of hours and it left me wanting more. Not only were the stories entertaining and the authoress's notes after each story informative but she also has a strong dose of common sense and strong Icelandic pride.

SHe starts off dispelling a rumor put forward in Vanity Fair that most Icelander believe in Elves and will not  begin a construction project unless an elf seer is brought in and determines whther or not it is ok to build there. The authoress states boldy that most people do not believe in elves and that before construction begins the place is checked out to see if there is any valuable archaeology or whether it is important in folklore. After all why destroy your own  history.

The stories of the Huldu folk arose from a harsh environment where only the strongest could survive. Believe me old Iceland was tough. Bitter cold, lack of food and primitive lodging made survival difficult. More over men could not marry until they accumulated enough wealth which was tough to do. Sexual relation were limited to reduce the number of births. If  the man of the house died the woman lost everything and was sent forward as a laborer .That meant kids were fostered out and the holding auctioned off. People could disappear in fog drifts or get lost along the way from one farmstead to another.

Where as the people were poor, the elves had plenty. Elves were known to seduce mortals, this could explain unwanted pregnancies . Humans were not allowed to dance together because it lead in their eyes to illicit unions. Elves often got people to dance. Being abducted by elves could be used to explain away how a child could get lost in a snow drift or step over a precipice. At least a parent could think the child had found a better life.

THe book itself is composed of 21 stories collected orally by the author. THey involve many motifs. One popular motif is a mortal woman called a away from church or home to help an elf woman give birth. Th woman is reward but gets an ointment on her eye that allows her to see elves. When the they find out they nullify the effect of the ointment or use some spittle to weaken the eye. Nicer then the European version where the woman in blinded. Several stories involve women meeting hidden folk in a dairy, being seduced and then made pregnant. Later the child is born and the woman gives it to the Huldu Folk. Later the lover comes back after she is married and the two die in each others arms. The child is sometimes raised by the remaining parent or goes off on it's own. There are also stories of those who disturbed eleves and ended up receiving a poor fortune for it. Others who helped the eleves received good fortune.

Enjoy these tales they are a quick and entertaining read and the author opens up a door into the mind and heart of Iceland.

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