Eerie Icelandic Legends: The Hidden People of Borgarfjordur Eystri
Iceland Travel Specialist, Thora, heads to East Iceland to uncover the myth behind the Hidden People of Borgarfjordur Eystri…
Framed as it is on three sides by imposing mountains, accessible only by sea or by a winding mountain pass, the isolated village of Bakkagerdi in Borgarfjordur Eystri feels like a haven at the end of the world… and there is more to this place than meets the eye. There is a large rock just behind the village, overshadowing the church and the campsite, and dominating any inland view from Bakkagerdi. The locals will be happy to tell you that this is home to a large population of the Icelandic ‘hidden people’, or elves. Some even say this rock (named Alfaborg, or ‘elf fortress’) is the dwelling place of the queen of the Icelandic elves. Numerous other cliffs and notable rock formations in the nearby area are also said to be homes and even churches belonging to the hidden people.
Part of Iceland’s folklore tradition, the hidden people are said to be a race of otherworldly people with magical powers, living in the country’s cliffs and rocks. They are always described as being very beautiful, dressed in lovely, bright clothing, and their homes are as beautiful and bright as they are! They are, however, permanently invisible to most; their houses looking like plain rocks, except when they choose to make themselves and their homes visible. This is usually only when they need help – quite a few stories revolve around an elven man fetching a human midwife to help his wife who is having trouble with childbirth – or, in a few stories, when they want to lure unwitting people into their homes and trap them there. The hidden people are said to always reward those who help them, often making them rich or giving them special talents or good fortune, and equally they always take revenge on those who try to cross them!
“The hidden people are said to always reward those who help them, often making them rich or giving them special talents or good fortune, and equally they always take revenge on those who try to cross them!”
As well as the hidden people, the local folklore also includes many tales of other mythical creatures – trolls, ghosts, and others even stranger – associated with various local landmarks, and it should not be hard to find a local eager to tell you all about them. It is also possible to get a CD with a selection of these stories being read in English, so you can enjoy them as you drive through the very areas in which they are said to have happened.
While I must admit we did not see any hidden people for ourselves on our visit to Bakkagerdi, despite walking to the top of Alfaborg, the area’s rich folklore tradition is very much a living one, and the latest elf sighting was reported only a couple of years ago.
Who knows when the hidden people of Alfaborg will next make an appearance …
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