Fantastic nature, almost untouched by human hand, and the standard of living is one of the highest in the world. How does Iceland do it? They say it's about the elves, who know the secret of the harmony of life
Around the world correspondent went in search of fabulous creatures and … found them!
Looming to the right and left of the car driven by my guide, Neil, are the Tolkien Mountains and undulating lava fields covered in olive moss. Here and there, powerful clouds of steam rise from hot springs. Sometimes lonely houses flash by: compact, with red roofs, they resemble the dwellings of fairy-tale characters.
– A variety of mythical creatures live in Iceland: fairies, ghosts, trolls, – as if reading my mind, says Neil. – If any rock reminds you of a troll, most likely, this is it – forever frozen in stone.
— What about the elves? Do you have them? – I ask, catching the irony in the voice of the guide.
– This is a delicate question. Better not joke. We must respect what we really do not know.
According to a 2007 survey conducted by scientists at the University of Iceland, 81% of Icelanders do not deny the existence of elves, and 5% of respondents “came into contact with them themselves.” The statistics have changed little since the first survey conducted in 1974 by psychology professor Erlendur Haraldsson: then 83% of Icelanders admitted the existence of elves.
Some officials are also among the “believers”. Here is how the mayor Gunnar Einarsson described the population of the city of Gardabair: “15,000 people, as well as huldufólk [‘hidden people’ -a kind of elves].”
For the first time alfar, that is, elves, were mentioned in the 13th century in the collection of Old Norse songs “Younger Edda”. Professor of folklore Terry Gunnell, under whose leadership the 2007 survey was conducted, believes that stories about elves, the desire to coexist harmoniously with them, is, in fact, the realization that the earth, with all its “talking” glaciers, geysers and northern lights, is alive and that it must be respected.
Neil and I drive up to a small farm near the Eyjafjallajökull glacier. In 2010, a volcanic eruption, submerged under a glacier, paralyzed air traffic in Europe for several days. Since there are practically no trees in Iceland, the surreal horizon seems endless: all around us are mountains and fields. Due to the peculiarities of the landscape, almost 80% of the country's territory is uninhabited, and the population density is one of the lowest in the world. Living among this somewhat frightening splendor, you willy-nilly believe in the existence of fabulous neighbors.
The reverent attitude of Icelanders to nature is manifested in everything. Neil, for example, immediately asked me not to leave the paths, not to stomp on the moss, because “then it takes a whole year for it to grow at least one centimeter.” You hear similar parting words in Iceland at every turn.
Tales about elves teach Icelanders to protect nature from childhood. In hundreds of eco-schools, along with the regular curriculum, children receive information about the wise use of water and electricity, waste recycling, global warming and its consequences. It cannot do without elves.
On the initiative of Professor Gunnell, an electronic mythological map of Iceland was compiled, according to which there are hundreds of elf settlements in the country. These creatures live in lava fields, rocks, cities, near farms. That is, you can meet them almost everywhere.
Everything is like people
— To see an elf, you need to be a medium, that is, to have a developed sixth sense. Without this, nothing will work out,” Magnus Skarphedinsson, founder and head of the School of Elves in Reykjavik, saddens me.
In an institution that has graduated about 10 thousand students in 32 years of its existence, you can take a one-day course in elf studies. In a small room filled with books and figurines of elves, students learn about their way of life, get acquainted with the origins of the tradition and stories of how modern Icelanders encountered various magical creatures. At the end of the school day, Magnus leads the students on an excursion to one of the “elven” places.
— 18 species of elves live in Iceland – in particular, domestic, tree, flower, – as well as “hidden people”, that is, absolutely humanoid creatures, – says Magnus. – Like any Icelander in the past, they are engaged in farming and fishing. Historically, the principle of harmony has always acted between man and elf: they shared provisions, tools, and medicines with each other. Elves have saved a man's life thousands of times! In the settlements of these creatures there are churches, shops, doctors work.
My grandmother's sister told me how she went to visit them -right into the deaf rocks, into a parallel dimension. Many Icelanders have heard similar stories from relatives and friends. In total, I spoke with 900 local residents who “contacted” with the elves. “I’m not a drunkard, I’m not crazy and I’m not a liar, this actually happened to me,” they assured me, looking into my eyes. I myself have never seen an elf, but I have never been to Canada – this does not make it any less real. Respect for elves in Iceland is an unwritten law.
The interests of invisible creatures are taken into account when building residential complexes, parking stations, factories , dear. Thus, the Icelandic road and coastal administration repeatedly reviewed construction projects so that they would not have to blow up lava formations that interfered, in which, according to local residents, elves lived. In 2004, the aluminum company Alcoawas forced to hire an expert to testify that these creatures do not live at the site of the planned construction of the plant.
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Guardian of nature
Ragnhildur Jónsdouttir, or simply Ragga, is the most famous expert medium. I meet the tiny Hellisgerdi Park in the town of Hafnarfjörður near Reykjavik: lava hills covered with moss carpets, winding paths, well-groomed trees. Hellisgerdi is called the elven garden, because here is one of the largest elf settlements in all of Iceland.
In the past, Rugga led tours of the garden, telling visitors about the local invisible inhabitants, and also ran the park's gift shop. In 2011, together with her husband, she founded the Garden of the Elves company, which publishes “elven” books and holds thematic meetings.
– We did this at the request of the creatures themselves, – explains the medium. — They convinced me to become their ambassador, wanting to reconnect with the people, lost at some point.
Ragga feels and sees elves since childhood. According to her mother, she was not even two years old when she was already friends with little Pulda – one of the “hidden people”. A couple of years ago, together with her husband, Rugga moved to the countryside, and after her, Pulda and her family moved there, as well as many other creatures with whom Rugga has telepathic communication.
— I could just talk to them in Icelandic, but some people already think I'm strange, – smiles Ragga. – It was not enough for them to see how I say “to myself.”
Often, through the mediation of Ruggi, organizations and individuals try to obtain permission from the elves for a particular construction project. The medium claims that often invisible creatures themselves turn for help …
– In the autumn of 2012, a whole delegation came to me, consisting of elves, “hidden people” and dwarfs. They were terribly upset about something and took me to the Gaulgahrein lava field. There stood the most beautiful elven church, that is, a large lava boulder, untouched by man. There was an incredible energy coming from the church and the whole area. Several hundred creatures chanted, “This area must not be destroyed!”
The creatures were terrified by the administration's plans to cut a road through the Gaulgahröin, whose lava formations are 8,000 years old. People also opposed the construction of the road – environmentalists and defenders of elves, which in Iceland, in fact, are one and the same. Dozens of protesters came to Gaulgahröin, blocking the way for bulldozers. As a result, 25 people, including Ragga, were arrested. The road was laid, but the activity of the medium did not remain in vain:
— I wrote a letter to local officials, and they responded to it. We negotiated with the elves, as a result of which they decided to narrow the road, and move the elven church, which weighed 80 tons, to another place – initially they wanted to demolish it. Now this place is declared protected… You see what happens: in the old days, people, elves and all other creatures constantly communicated. But then a person stopped hearing the world around him, because of which nature was in danger.