I’ve always loved stories and am an avid reader of fantasy novels. So of course the Icelandic Mythical Walk with its focus on Icelandic folk tales, piqued my interest – particularly after hearing about Icelandic trolls during the In the Shadow of Vatnajökull trek, and the Hidden Folk (aka Elves) on the Laugavegur & Fimmvörðuháls trek with Icelandic Mountain Guides.
I met the rest of the group at the basalt pillars in Ingolfstorg square in the centre of Reykjavik where Stefan, our guide from Your Friend in Reykjavik, kicked off our adventure into storyland by explaining just how and why folk tales are so important in Icelandic culture. You have to do something to keep yourself entertained during the long, cold winter nights right?!
From the site of the first church and oldest tree (150 years) in Iceland
to the beautiful park surrounding Landakotskirkja (the Catholic cathedral in Reykjavik)
to the statue of Úr Álögum (The Breaking of the Spell) by Einar Jónsson on the shore of Tjörnin Lake
Stefan kept us enthralled and laughing our heads off with tales of how to raise the dead (it is apparently a long process involving a rolling pin!), to how to acquire a pair of necro-pants (because this is something we all should know), to the 13 Santa Clauses of Iceland (no, they are not as jolly as the one most of us have in our own countries), to how the “hidden people”, or Elves, became invisible to humans.
For example, our tour led us past this rock in one of the oldest suburbs of Reykjavik near the centre of downtown. It is actually an Elf home!
Stefan explained that as Reykjavik expanded, the city tried everything to move this rock but nothing worked (the marks are scars from the different techniques they tried to move it). So they brought in an expert – an Elf negotiator – who had a chat with the Elves asking whether their rock could be relocated. The Elves agreed but asked for a week to prepare. When the construction workers returned a week later – the rock was easily moved to its current location!
Apparently most Icelanders don’t deny the existence of Elves and it is quite a common occurrence that if someone wants to move a large rock like this, people will get sick, machinery will break down, etc., to the point where Icelanders just know not to mess with it! If you don’t believe me – do a quick Google search and see how many articles you find about road construction (in particular) being thwarted by these “hidden people”.
Of course, no folklore tour would be complete without a stop in a cemetery, and this was no exception. We spent quite a bit of time walking the narrow paths guarded by massive trees in the beautiful Hólavallagarður cemetery just outside of downtown Reykjavik listening to Stefan’s spooky stories!
Obviously you need to do the tour to hear the stories and dip your toe into the rich folklore of Iceland that has inspired storytelling around the world (most notably, Tolkien). I’m certainly not going to spoil all the fun here!
Million thanks to Stefan my fellow folklore aficionados for a really great evening!
The Icelandic Mythical Walk with Your Friend in Reykjavik is a really fun way to spend an evening in Reykjavik and immerse yourself in one of the key aspects of Icelandic culture. Stefan is a great storyteller and we had loads of laughs!
Cost: 3,900ISK (~USD$33)
Time: ~3 hours