Editors Note: The most iconic creatures from Icelandic and Faroese folklore are probably Huldufólk, or “hidden people.” The term Huldufólk is a synonym of the word Álfar, which means “elf.” Some Icelanders say that elves and hidden people are actually two separate beings, while most think that they’re the same. Alda Sigmundsdóttir writes in The Little Book of the Hidden People: “They inhabit the natural world, living in rocks and appearing to humans when they themselves wish to.”
What follows is a family story shared with Doreen “Kristy” Kristjanson Marston regarding her great-grandfather, Kristjan Gunnlauger Kristjánsson (IR# I29729). Valdimar Gunnarsson, a great-nephew of Kristján, found the story and shared it with Kristy, who shares it here.
Story by Doreen “Kristy” Kristjanson Marston.
(Image © Mats Wibe Lund) See the website: https://mats.photoshelter.com/index to order Icelandic farm and landscape photos.
Author's Note: Úlfsstaðaklöppin (The Rock, "Klöppin," of Úlfsstaðir) is a big rock mass, filled by a glacier, more than 100 meters long and 40-60 meters wide, with some soil and vegetation. It lies northwest of the farm.
People believed that elves lived in this place. Kristín Geirsdóttir, who was born in 1834 told of an event that happened at Úlfsstaðir when she was there as a working maid. Valdimar Gunnarsson has not been able to find this woman, and maybe the name is not right. But that does not affect the story.
(Image © Mats Wibe Lund)
“It was in September 1858 when all the people at Úlfsstaðir were at the sheep-sorting above the farm. Two boys were to drive the horses from the field by the “Klöppin” and then come home as night was falling. The older brother went back to the sorting place but he thought that the younger one had gone directly to the house. When the people came home they found out that the boy, Kristján Kristjánsson, was not there. He was lost. Kristján was eight years old and a very ordinary boy.
All the adults began searching for the boy and people from adjacent farms came to help. They searched until midnight without success but decided to keep on next morning. Everyone went back home but the people at Úlfsstaðir were still awake and going with their faint lights to every room even though all the houses had been ransacked thoroughly.
Just by the front door of the house there was a loft and under a staircase which led up to the loft was a small corner. Suddenly, someone passing saw Kristján, lying in the corner, curled up, asleep and had obviously been crying for quite a time. He was immediately brought to the living room, washed and put to bed.
Although his parents tried to get out of Kristján what had happened to him, he would not say a word about it. Only later he told his friend – about his age – from the next farm of his experience this evening:
He had been a little later than his older brother to the house and when he approached he saw a woman – his mother he assumed – go from the house towards a sheep shelter just beneath Klöppin. There were some stacks of sheep manure there (used as firewood) and his mother would often go there to fetch some of it for the fire in the kitchen. He called to her but she did not answer. When she had just reached the stacks she turned around and he realized that this was not his mother. Then he wanted to run back to the house but she grabbed him and put her hand over his mouth. Then she went with him up to Klöppin which then looked like a house with several gables. She brought him inside and closed the door, called a girl and ordered him to play with her. Kristján cried and shouted and did not want anything but to get away. The woman got angry and hit him, but in between she was also kind to him. At last she became very angry and violent, hit him, and threw him at last into the corner where he was found later that night.“
More on Icelandic Elves and Trolls:
Ólina Thorvarðardóttir writes in Spirits of the Land: A Tool of Social Education: "Oral tales concerning Icelandic elves and trolls no doubt served as warning fables. They prevented many children from wandering away from human habitations, taught Iceland's topographical history, and instilled fear and respect for the harsh powers of nature.”
In Wikipedia: "Huldufólk or hidden people, are elves in Icelandic and Faroese folklore. They are supernatural beings that live in nature. They look and behave similarly to humans but live in a parallel world."
A final author's note from Kristy Marston: No explanation should be made for the ransacked houses (in the story). It is up to the reader to surmise. This story comes from the account of a maid working on the farm at that time. Huldufólk leave a lot of questions (unanswered).