Icelanders still construct small houses for
elves to welcome them (and to avoid bad luck.)
After generations of living surrounded by the spectacular landscape and oceans, the people of Iceland have developed a unique catalog of tales, myths and fables.
Ghosts, elves and otherhuldufolk still dwell in the "hidden land" of Icelandic folklore. Guardian spirits in the form of birds and bulls protect the land from foreign invaders. Mermen and mermaids are often seen in the waters.
Today, farmers who move stones in their rocky fields are still careful not to disturb stones that are home to trolls. Even construction crews have been known to change the course of a road that they think will disturb the peace of the fairy folk!
And, everywhere there are the elf houses -- affectionately set out by homeowners and gardeners to provide shelter for the wee creatures (and to prevent these characters from turning mischevious.)
Some of the creatures of myth bring good fortune while others bring sorrow, but all of the strange tales instill a deep respect for nature and the creatures that call Iceland home.
Elves are celebrated in commemorative
stamps issued by Iceland's post office.
They also provide amusing stories to pass on to children to teach them to be careful and kind.
Today, perhaps the most beloved stories centers around Christmas in Iceland when children delight in not one, but 13 "Santas" (the mischievous jólasveinn, or "Yule Lads") who visit each day of the holiday season to deliver candy and gifts.
While these mysterious folk have become an ingrained part of Icelandic culture, visitors may also learn more about Iceland's unseen inhabitants at various locations around the country.