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Trolls in Iceland and Other Tall Tales

The presence of trolls in Iceland is very much woven into the fabric of life on this far-flung Island. Tales of trolls, elves and giants are tied to the land. Rock formations, rivers, mud pots and hills throughout the country all have a story to tell. And nearly all of them are connected to Iceland’s ‘hidden people’. Stories of the hidden people in Icelandic culture are similar to those told in other Scandinavian countries. But Iceland has its very own population of magical creatures. In this article we will take a look at some of these stories. From the disruptive antics of elves to some of the more well known trolls residing in Iceland.


Elves and Trolls in Iceland

Icelandic folklore has been handed down over the centuries. But these tales are much more than simple stories. The presence of the hidden people in Iceland is acknowledged and accepted as something quite real and tangible. Icelandic people will build elf houses in areas where they are known to live. Cute little wooden houses especially tailored to suite the elven folk. And Iceland road building and town planning are often obliged to check with an expert before building somewhere new. They don’t want to disrupt any elf neighbourhoods after all.


In fact there have been numerous incidents over the years of road building projects hampered by elves. The elves in Iceland are known to be very territorial. They will fiercely protect the enchanted places they call home. Road and construction projects have been known to encounter all sorts of trouble if they stray into elf settlements. Machinery will break down repeatedly and workers will encounter freak accidents. A recent case of elven intervention happened in 2015 in the Gálgahraun lava field. In the end an elf expert was consulted and the project was altered to avoid the elf enclave. After that everything went according to plan.


Beyond this though these stories of trolls and elven folk connect the Icelandic people to their land. It might seem quite eccentric to an outsider but these stories give the land an intangible quality of magic. Icelandic children develop a sense of wonder and awe from an early age. This is said to make Islanders much more in tune with the natural world that sustains them. It inspires respect for nature and a deep sense of connection and responsibility. The hidden people stand with the Icelandic people as both the children and guardians of this wild and beautiful land.


All about Iceland trolls and where to find them

Trolls are generally thought of as slightly bumbling and stupid. But they can also be quite dangerous. They have quick tempers and can put curses on the people who cross them. This quality is quite useful when it comes to warning tales for wayward children. They must behave or a certain troll might get angry and put a curse on them! Despite this fearsome quality a troll’s curse isn’t such a strong spell so humans are generally able to overturn it. And in turn people can be very well rewarded for helping a troubled troll out in some way.


Iceland’s trolls are said to live in caves and rocky mountain areas in the wilder parts of the country. They are creatures of the night and have to remain in the shadows. If they are caught out and about in the daylight the sun will turn them to stone. And it is in this state that you are most likely to encounter trolls in Iceland.


Iceland’s waterways and coastline are dotted with tall pillar like rock formations. And the majority of these stone pillars are said to be wandering trolls that have been turned to stone. One of the most famous sites where you can see this is on the black sand beach of Reynisfjara. This beautiful beach is on Iceland’s south coast not far from the town of Vík í Mýrdal. Battered by the wild North Atlantic Ocean the beach is a dramatic place already. But rising up out of the ocean the dark pinnacles of these rock formations/trolls make it even more so. They are said to be three trolls that got caught by the morning light while trying to help a ship to shore.


There are instances of trolls getting caught out and turned to stone all over the island. Another interesting story is linked to Dimmuborgir in North Iceland. This rocky lava field lies near Lake Myvatn on Iceland’s Diamond Circle sightseeing route. The name Dimmuborgir translates as Dark Cities. Folklore tells that the trolls in the area decided to host a big party during the dark winter season. Trolls came from all over to celebrate. They ended up partying with such abandon that they forgot that the sun would come up. So they were caught mid celebration by the light of the sun and turned to stone on the spot.


Icelandic Christmas trolls - AKA The Yule Lads

Iceland’s Yule Lads are another prominent crew of trolls that turn up every year. Their arrival brings with it the start of the Christmas season in Iceland. In fact they are thirteen brothers who are descended from trolls. They are mischievous pranksters or at least they were in the past. They used to live up to names such as Door-Slammer and scare people by slamming doors in the middle of the night. Nowadays though they are a little friendlier. Instead they behave more like Santa Claus and reward good children with treats in the run up to Christmas Eve.


Are you sitting comfortably?

For those intrigued by stories of elves, ghouls, ogres and trolls there are innumerable tales to enjoy. If you are exploring Iceland independently you might like to join a few guided tours along the way. Even if you are hiring a camper for a road trip and prefer self guided holidays. Guided Tours can be a really fun way to meet people and learn more about the country. Your Icelandic guide will likely have all sorts of local knowledge. They will be able to share folklore stories about the area you are exploring. And you can ask them questions too.


Another good source of troll information is the Iceland mobile travel app called Wapp. It is actually a hiking companion app that uses offline maps to guide you along hiking trails. It also has lots of information about the area you are walking through including the trolls and elves that dwell there. Finally if you would like more stories of elves in particular then you could attend Elf School. Based in Reykjavik the Elf School offers a crash course of three hours or so in elf folklore.

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