REYKJAVIK, Iceland (AP) — In this land of fire and ice, where the fog-shrouded lava fields offer a spooky landscape in which anything might lurk, stories abound of the "hidden folk" — thousands of elves, making their homes in Iceland's wilderness.
So perhaps it was only a matter of time before 21st-century elves got political representation.
Elf advocates have joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from to the tip of the Alftanes peninsula, where the president has a home, to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer.
They fear disturbing elf habitat and claim the area is particularly important because it contains an elf church.
The project has been halted until the Supreme Court of Iceland rules on a case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava, who cite both the environmental and the cultural impact — including the impact on elves — of the road project. Scandinavian folklore is full of elves, trolls and other mythological characters. Most people in Norway, Denmark and Sweden haven't taken them seriously since the 19th century, but elves are no joke to many in Iceland, population 320,000.
"It will be a terrible loss and damaging both for the elf world and for us humans," said Jonsdottir of the road project.
Terry Gunnell, a folklore professor at the University of Iceland, said he was not surprised by the wide acceptance of the possibility of elves.
"This is a land where your house can be destroyed by something you can't see (earthquakes), where the wind can knock you off your feet, where the smell of sulfur from your taps tells you there is invisible fire not far below your feet, where the northern lights make the sky the biggest
television screen in the world, and where hot springs and glaciers 'talk,'" Gunnell said.
"In short, everyone is aware that the land is alive, and one can say that the stories of hidden people and the need to work carefully with them reflects an understanding that the land demands respect."
And at Christmas, Icelanders await not just one Santa Claus, but 13 trolls known as the "Yule Lads" who come to town during the 13 days before Christmas, each with his own task, putting rewards or punishments into the shoes of little children.
One of Iceland's most famous daughters, the singer Bjork, had no hesitation in responding when asked by U.S. comedian and TV host Stephen Colbert if people in her country believed in elves. "We do," she said. "It's sort of a relationship with nature, like with the rocks. (The elves) all live in the rocks, so you have to. It's all about respect, you know."
Posted by Ronnie Loaiza