According to a 2007 study by the University of Iceland, an estimated 62% of the nation believe that the existence of elves is more than a fairy tale.
When she was nine years old, Jófríður Ákadóttir was punished for disturbing an elf. Or at least, she believes she was. “We would play in this field between apartment buildings in Reykjavík,” the Icelandic singer/songwriter told me. “There was one rock bigger than all the other ones that towered over the field. We were certain it’s an elf rock, and you shouldn’t disturb the elves. It was twice my size, and with some struggle I managed to get up there. My friends warned me it was a bad idea. And then as I had my moment on top of it, I jumped down and as I landed I bit the inside of my mouth so blood was pouring out of it. I ran home crying, and never touched that rock again.”
Ákadóttir’s story is hardly unique. Iceland is a country riddled with stories of elves (smaller, human-like creatures with pointy ears), ‘hidden people’ (interdimensional human-like beings, called huldufólk in Icelandic) and fairies (if you’re thinking Tinkerbell, you’re not far off). They’re believed to be peaceful creatures, co-existing alongside humans and indulging in the same day-to-day activities, including fishing, farming, raising families and – if the legends are any indication – occasionally lending a helping hand to humans who otherwise would die without intervention.