Huldufólk – The hidden people
In Icelandic folklore, the Huldufólk (meaning hidden people) are often compared to elves. These mystical beings are believed to closely resemble humans and dwell in little houses nestled within the rocks. Although typically concealed from human view, a select few individuals are considered privileged enough to witness the Huldufólk.
Faroese folk tales describe the hidden people as large in build, with grey clothing and black hair. They reside in mounds and are sometimes referred to as Elves. Icelandic folk tales also offer cautionary advice against throwing stones, as they might accidentally strike the hidden people.
The terms Huldufólk and álfar (elves) became synonymous in 19th-century Icelandic folklore. Scholar Jón Árnason observed that the terms were essentially interchangeable, with álfar carrying a more pejorative connotation. Konrad von Maurer proposed that Huldufólk originated as a euphemism to avoid directly naming the álfar.
However, some evidence suggests that contemporary Icelanders might view the two terms as referring to separate sets of supernatural beings. Researcher Katrin Sontag discovered that while some people do not differentiate between elves and hidden people, others do make a distinction. A 2006 survey found that “54% of respondents did not distinguish between elves and hidden people, 20% did, and 26% said they were not sure.”
Today, the enchanting stories of the Huldufólk continue to capture the imagination of both Icelanders and visitors alike, as they explore the breathtaking landscapes and stumble upon the tiny houses that serve as homes for these mysterious beings.