Elves in Iceland
As we all know, this is the busiest time of year for Santa’s elves. After spending a year crafting everything people on the nice list want (I’m imaging iPhone 5s, Porsches, and maybe a teddy bear or two), the elves are probably loading the last of their goods into Santa’s sleigh right now. It’s a monumental task and really makes me appreciate their work ethic and determination.
That’s why I was so upset to hear that their brethren in Iceland were being threatened.
For a couple of days, media has been reporting that an “elf lobby” has halted development of a proposed highway between the Álftanes peninsula and Gardabaer until Iceland’s Supreme Court considers the plight of the elves who may live there. This isn’t the first time, Huldufolk (Icelandic for “hidden folk”) have affected planning decisions. The road and coastal administration has actually come up with a stock media response for elf inquiries, which states in part that “issues have been settled by delaying the construction project at a certain point while the elves living there have supposedly moved on.”
It is certainly upsetting to think of such industrious and elusive people being threatened by a highway. In the United States, low-income communities are adversely affected every day by new development projects that pollute their air, destroy their water, and divide their communities. Iceland is so much better! Thank goodness for this powerful Icelandic elf lobby!
However, as it turns out, elf impacts weren’t really the reason why development was halted. Development was actually stopped because the highway project would impact the environment — not just elves. The lava fields at Gálgahraun in the Álftanes peninsula were officially protected in 2009. The highway would go right through this protected land.
Iceland captures the imagination of many outsiders. Visions of hot springs, geysers, giant volcanoes, and majestic glaciers come to mind. Picturesque waterfalls plummet and paths seem to wind towards the end of the world.
“This is a land where your house can be destroyed by something you can’t see,” said Terry Gunnell, a folklore professor at the University of Iceland. “Where the wind can knock you off your feet, where the smell of sulphur from your taps tells you there is invisible fire not far below your feet, where the northern lights make the sky the biggest television screen in the world, and where hot springs and glaciers talk.”
It is precisely this unspoiled beauty and the power of nature that encourages our imagination to roam wild. Protecting the lava fields at Gálgahraun is certainly important for the environment. But protecting a place where we can still imagine elves… that’s what I want for Christmas.
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