Icelandic Legends and Folklore - Hotel Rangá - Luxury Resort


White puffy clouds drift over snow-covered mountains in south Iceland.

Icelandic Legends and Folklore

The population of Iceland is currently 334,252 according to government figures. However, if folklore is to be believed and you count trolls, elves, and hidden people, then the actual number of Icelandic beings living on this volcanic land may be significantly higher. Of course, the chance of catching sight of one of these magical creatures is pretty low but this doesn’t mean they do not exist, just that they are rather hard to track down.

Icelandic legends and folklore are filled with stories about hidden creatures like huldufólk and skrimsli. Keep reading to learn more about these fantastical creatures.

The Króssa River winds between mountains in the Þórsmörk Valley.
The hidden people or huldufólk are said to live in Iceland.

Icelandic legends and folklore: Huldufólk

Many Icelandic legends and folklore say that the huldufólk – hidden people or elves – live in the wild terrain of this ancient land. In fact, the huldufólk will make a nuisance if disturbed in any way. Icelanders say that elves and trolls are the cause of many strange happenings over the years. Folklore dictates that they can be quite troublesome if annoyed.

As you travel around the countryside, keep your eyes peeled for “álfhól.” These are the tiny, colorful wooden houses which locals have built respectfully for the elves and hidden people. What’s more, if you look carefully, you may also spot the occasional elf church.

Two girls dressed as elves stand in front of a bonfire to celebrate the end of Christmas.
Bonfires burn bright. Photo by Eyrún Aníta Gylfadóttir.

During the winter season, when the nights close in, the activities of the huldufólk seem to increase. In fact, sightings are more frequent around Christmas and New Year. What’s more, some people report that they see tiny bonfires in the countryside during seasonal celebrations. Icelanders always show great respect for the hidden people. In fact, they often leave a gift of food for them at Christmas time.

Christmas at Hotel Rangá

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The secret to spotting elves, trolls and monsters in Iceland lies in respecting mother nature.

Vík village in South of Iceland
Vík village in South of Iceland

Icelandic folklore and legends: the trolls of Reynisdrangar

If you venture to the beautiful black beaches of the South Coast, a visit to the historic town of Vik is essential. Icelandic legends and folklore suggest that the magnificent Reynisdrangar rock formations are actually the silhouettes of ancient trolls caught by an early sunrise as they tried to haul ships ashore.

Iceland’s enchanting folklore tales don’t stop at elves and trolls. Generations of fishermen and their families have maintained a healthy respect for the great Atlantic Ocean. For hundreds of years, Icelanders have been recording sightings of sea monsters and terrifying creatures known as “skrimsli.” What’s more, many visitors to Iceland report a sighting of some unidentifiable sea creature.

Of course, the secret to spotting elves, trolls and monsters in Iceland lies in respecting mother nature. Take time to enjoy the tranquillity of the countryside, soak up the atmosphere of this unspoiled natural environment and allow the sights and sounds of Iceland’s wild terrain to quiet your mind. The ancient lava fields, powerful waterfalls, craggy mountains, and volcanic beaches are all alive with their unique inherent natural wonders. Some are clearly visible to the naked eye, but others are the stuff of Icelandic legends and folklore.

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