"Hidden People" Lesson #2: Elves

Of all the species of Iceland's hidden people, elves are by far the most numerous and prominent. In fact, many 19th-century folk tales use "elves" and "hidden people" interchangeably. Elves also look the most human, and are frequently mistaken for humans, though some are too small to cause confusion. (A few are tiny enough to live in flower blossoms.) Generally elves are good-looking, and dress in rustic styles prevalent in the early-20th century, sometimes with pointy hats. Male elves are skilled craftsmen and often work as farmers and smiths.

Elves are fiercely protective of their homes, which are usually inside rocks, hills, and cliffs, or occasionally an underground well or spring. People have been lured into elf homes, never to return from the hidden world. Though elves are quite dangerous, especially if their homes are disturbed, they often propose exchanging favors and are true to their word. Elf women have suddenly materialized to help human women with a difficult childbirth. On the other hand, elves have also been known to steal human babies in the night, replacing them with one of their own. To prevent this, Icelandic mothers would make a sign of the cross both above and below their babies after laying them in the cradle.

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