by Elín de Ruyter
It always pays to be cautious where you tread in Iceland. You wouldn’t want to upset the Hidden People. Their home in the rocks and lava fields of Iceland’s majestic nature are believed by many Icelanders to be a parallel world hidden from human eyes. Be careful not to anger them. Tread carefully and never throw stones or mishap may befall you. There are well known stories of roads in Iceland being diverted around rocks because the Hidden People were thought to dwell in them.
There are many stories of the Hidden People of Iceland and their interactions with humans. In Iceland they are known as Huldufólk. This story comes from the remote Westfjörds of Iceland and is told in the biography of Jón Magnússon Póst (mailman) from the book Söguþættir Landpóstanna by Helgi Valtýsson. It is a true story.
Jón Magnússon was born in Hrófa in Steingrímsfirði on the 21st of July 1829. He was a twin, but his brother Sigurður died three days after their birth. He was the son of Magnús Sigurðsson and his wife Ingibjörg Jónsdóttir but was raised by his grandparents in Snartartunga in Bitrufirði.
When Jón was a young boy he was often climbing through caves and canyons around his home though he was often warned against the dangers of doing so. One day he was herding some horses to pasture and had ridden through a canyon. When he had taken the bridle off the last horse, he noticed a woman coming out of the canyon on the other side of the river that flowed nearby. He watched her walk a path towards him. The path she took was no human made path. Jón, scared out of his wits took off for home as fast as he could. The woman chased him from the other side of the river and somehow crossed it. She was almost at his heels, but he finally made it home to Snartartunga farm and into the safety of the house. The woman stopped and stood by the entrance, addressing him in words that he couldn't understand.
That night Jón dreamt of the woman who had chased him. She had him by his hair and cursed him. When he awoke, he knew that this woman was a huldukona, a woman of the hidden people and she was very angry with him for travelling through her canyon.
Jón was said to have been haunted by this woman for most of his life and so too were his children. It was said that many a mishap that fell on Jón both at sea and on land was because of the curse of the huldukona.
Jón Magnússon was a well known and respected postman for the Western Route from 1861 to 1874 taking mail from Ísafjörður to and from Reykjavík, Iceland. He can be found in the Icelandic Roots database under I212969.
In 1887 he emigrated to North Dakota, North America where he lived out the rest of his life. He was known there as Jón Póst. He died on the 7th of February 1901 at Upham, McHenry, North Dakota. One man who knew him well described him as "mesti víkingur bæði á sjó og landi"– "viking on both land and sea" and there have been many stories told of his life.