- 2014

As we drove between the lava fields outside of Reykjavík, my friend and guide for the day, Sirry, pointed out one of the many stacks of large stones you will likely spot on the horizon travelling across Iceland - arranged in order of size, like snowmen, but molten black. I asked Sirry what they were.


There was a pause (I don’t understand Icelandic).

You know… elves. Hidden people”.

My curiosity was piqued.

Sirry, on the other hand, seemed hesitant to say much more on the subject, except to reassure me that the majority of Icelanders believe in elves. The closest figure I would later find (from a survey in 1998) showed that 54.4% of people living in Iceland at that time believed in their existence. As a testament to this belief, parents in Iceland will warn their children not to throw stones in case they hit an elf they cannot see, and often plans to lay new roads or build new houses are denied or re-routed because of an elf-sighting nearby. Mythology plays an important role here to the extent that, to this day, the landscape is shaped by it. I read one story of a research scientist who, while taking samples of rock on the ridge of a volcano, went missing and was later found the following year crawling on her hands and knees, covered in tattoos and speaking only in old Icelandic. Stories like this are not uncommon.

Much as I tried, however, I couldn’t find any hidden people – I was hoping that some evidence or sign of them would show up on my negatives. But then, in the most sparsely populated country in Europe, finding any people at all can be a challenge in itself.

© 2021 Jeremy Philip Knowles. All rights reserved.