If you want to lay a road, build a house, or construct a dam in Iceland, there’s one influential group you have to clear it with first – Elves, the ‘hidden people’, the Huldufolk.

Legend has it that they are similar to humans, and wear 17th century clothing, tend to livestock, pick berries, and even go to church on Sundays.

Oh and the legends abound – stories of machines breaking down and workers becoming ill when they interfere with elf rocks.

There are houses that step back respectfully from knobbly stones, driveways narrowed by great boulders past which cars must deferentially squeeze, and roads that split in two to honour sacred outcrops.

(One homeowner on Iceland’s Hrísey island left a boulder standing on his property – after attempts to move it broke heavy machinery. Photograph: Svala Ragnars)

Companies planning large scale projects now try to pre-empt problems with the supernatural world. For the huge Kárahnjúkastífla dam project in the east, consultants with clairvoyant skills were hired to check out the slandscape first to ensure it was empty of elvish rocks.

The belief though, is that the elves are friendly, beautiful creatures – but you have to respect them, or they will take their revenge. A bit like the fairies or sages of legend – friendly and benevolent, with the power to grant you wishes, but lie to them or make them angry and they could curse you.

 

Level 4 – longer blog on website

10 things you didn’t know about Iceland/ Beyonder facts about Iceland/ Don’t trip on the usual in Iceland