Bike path won’t disturb elf home in Iceland. Whew! What a relief.

Oh, you Icelanders and your elves again.

Bike Path to Avoid Elf Home.

Construction of the new walking and cycling path along Vesturlandsvegur, part of the Ring Road leading through Reykjavík to West Iceland, will be made to avoid a large boulder believed to be home to elves. Known as Grásteinn, the cleft boulder is located in the suburb Grafarholt.

Traffic manager at the City of Reykjavík Ólafur Bjarnason pointed out that it had proven costly when the boulder was moved to its current location during the construction of Vesturlandsvegur in 1970-1971—many accidents are said to have resulted from the move.

Given that Grásteinn is now under preservation, when the Icelandic Road Administration applied for permission to widen Vesturlandsvegur in 1998, the permission was granted on the condition that the boulder be left untouched.

“This was the agreement made with the elves,” Ólafur told Fréttablaðið.

The City of Reykjavík and the Icelandic Road Administration signed an agreement in August on the making of new cycle and walking paths in the metropolitan area.

When I read this story I thought it was a replay of an earlier similar story. Turns out it’s ANOTHER case of an elf-inhabited boulder.

Rumor has it that the Icelandic Road Administration will ask trolls and elves for permission and perform some kind of ceremony whenever they build roads that go through areas the local folklore claims belongs to such creatures.

Check out this story from NY Times, 2005: Building in Iceland? Better Clear It With the Elves First

“If there was a large stone in the garden, and somebody said to an Icelander, ‘That’s an elf stone,’ would they blow it up? They wouldn’t,” said Terry Gunnell, head of the folkloristic department at the University of Iceland in Reykjavik.

“It’s not like they think there are little people living in there who come and dance outside,” he added. “It’s more a sense that there are other powers, other forces around them.”

Icelandic elf cave (Not the site in the above-mentioned story)

  8 comments for “Bike path won’t disturb elf home in Iceland. Whew! What a relief.

  1. Xenolan
    October 30, 2012 at 10:24 AM

    I’d like to point out that even without the elves, that’s a pretty cool-looking rock and it would be a shame to destroy it just to make a bike path. I don’t know how common such rocks are in Iceland, though. The whole thing about keeping the elves and trolls happy is ridiculous; however, preserving fascinating bits of the landscape is worthwhile.

  2. October 30, 2012 at 10:31 AM

    Whoops. Let me clarify. The cave pictured isn’t the actual rock, as far as I know. But it was identified as an elf abode and why not, it’s incredible.

  3. Xenolan
    October 30, 2012 at 12:13 PM

    Ah, thanks for the clarification. I found a website with pictures of what would seem to be the actual rock in question (I’m not 100% sure because I understand not a word of Icelandic). And, it seems to be just a rock with a crack in it.

  4. Ryuthrowsstuff
    October 30, 2012 at 1:45 PM

    I still think there’s value in protecting places that have been long associated with local folklore. Performing ceremonies and acting as if its actually inhabited is taking it a bit far, and a cracked rock might not be the best thing to preserve; but local culture and traditions are important in their own right.

    These stories always remind me of what I’ve run into visiting Ireland. As an example on my family’s farm there’s a “fairy ring”. Not the mushroom sort of a fairy ring, but a sizable and stable clearing in the woods at the crest of a hill. The ring itself has always been considered where the fairies live, and the general area is associated with Banshee sightings, and many local folktales take place there. And it remains a sort of legend trip site for the locals, particularly kids from my family.

    Now I’ve certainly seen this with my family members, and Irish folks in regards to similar places. But everyone treats this place with crazy respect. You generally avoid it, when you go there you try not to enter the ring, take nothing, leave nothing, don’t step on the plants, don’t break any branches, and for gods sake don’t swear or say anything christian in there. People talk about it as if the fairies and banshee are real, but if you ask noone actually believes that. Its more built around respect for the cultural importance of the place. For as long as anyone can remember of prove, people have done and said the same things about this place, so its important and respectful to keep going.

    The Irish government put a highway overpass on the farm about a decade ago and they took huge pains to keep the thing away from the fairy ring, and then sent out for an archaeological assessment. Apparently it MIGHT have been an old ring fort or Celtic religious site, but not much worth digging for. I often wonder if there isn’t something similar going on in Iceland, but with politicians and journalists taking it a bit further for PR reasons.

  5. October 30, 2012 at 3:05 PM

    A little “local flair” seems fine. Put a few nice benches up, plant some flowers and put up a plaque explaining the folk lore. Seems like an expensive, fun way to have a nice outdoor space 🙂

  6. October 30, 2012 at 8:46 PM

    Cheez, you’d think elves would support green energy.

  7. Eve
    October 30, 2012 at 11:16 PM

    For a picture of the rock: The Icelandic Review article links to a PDF about the stone’s worthiness to be on National Museum of Iceland’s register of ancient remains. The pamphlet has a picture of Gray-Stone on the cover.

    Based on the Icelandic Review article, it sounds as if the stone only gained a reputation as an elf-rock after it split during its initial move in the 70s. Curious.

    I don’t know if Icelanders try to appease trolls, by the way. Trolls don’t live in rocks; they ARE rocks. Iceland is littered with the corpses of trolls who stayed out too long and turned to stone in the sun. Or, as you spoilsport geologists call them, blobs of volcanic rock (technical term).

    Sharon, one of your links (“was a replay of an earlier similar story”) leads to an article on homeopathy.

  8. October 31, 2012 at 7:13 AM

    D’OH!!! Fixed. Thanks.

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