“Practically every summer,” wrote Icelandic ethnologist Valdimar Hafstein in the Journal of Folktale Studies in 2000, “a new legend is disseminated through newspapers, television, and radio, as well as word of mouth, about yet another construction project gone awry due to elven interference.” Unlike most urban legends, these are based on “the experience of real people involved in the events.”
That the news reports “are often mildly tongue-in-cheek” does not, in his opinion, “detract from the widespread concern they represent.” In August 2016, for example, an Icelandic newspaper printed the story “Elf Rock Restored after Its Removal Wreaks Havoc on Icelandic Town.” The previous summer a mudslide fell on a road in the town of Siglufjordur. While clearing the blockage, the road crew dumped four hundred cubic feet of dirt on top of a large rock known as the Elf Lady’s Stone.
The Elf Lady (illustrated on the paper’s English-language website as Cate Blanchett in the role of the elf queen Galadriel from The Lord of the Rings) was not happy, and a series of mishaps ensued. A road worker was hurt. A TV newscaster “sank into a pit of mud, right up to his waist and had to be rescued.” The river flooded the road, and the constant rain caused further mudslides. A bulldozer operator reported: “I had just gotten into the vehicle when I see a mudslide coming toward me, like a gigantic ball. When it hit the river flood it exploded and water and rocks went everywhere. We fled.” Then the bulldozer broke down. The Siglufjordur town council officially asked the Icelandic Road Administration to unearth the Elf Lady’s Stone. They complied. They also power hosed it clean.
Icelandic elf stories light up the internet: I found this one in the New York Times, Travel and Leisure, the Daily Telegraph, the Minneapolis Star Tribune, the CBC, Yahoo.com, and as far afield as the Philippine Daily Inquirer, among others. Many media outlets justify their interest by citing a series of surveys proving that, in Valdimar’s words, “elves are alive and frisky in modern day Iceland.”
In 1974, Icelandic psychologist Erlendur Haraldsson conducted a fifty-four-question survey on spiritual matters. Of those who responded, 15 percent considered elves likely to exist, 7 percent were certain they existed, and 5 percent had seen an elf. “A third of the sample,” Valdimar points out, “entertained the possibility of their existence (33 percent), neither affirming nor denying it.” A church historian in 1995 sought out people “with an interest in mysticism”: 70 percent of this sample thought elves existed, while only 43 percent believed that space aliens visited Earth. An Icelandic newspaper polled its readers on politics and government in 1998, slipping in the sly yes-or-no question, “Do you believe in elves?” Nine out of ten respondents answered the question. Of them, 54.4 percent replied yes.
In 2006 and 2007 the University of Iceland’s Department of Folkloristics entered the debate, with technical help from the university’s Social Science Institute. Their fifty questions were based on those of Erlendur in 1974, adapted for “a modern society that had been in contact with New Age thought,” according to folklore professor Terry Gunnell.
Again, 5 percent of the one thousand respondents said they had seen an elf, while more than 50 percent “entertained the possibility of their existence.” …
For Gunnell, the most striking result of the Icelandic surveys is that “in spite of the radical changes in Icelandic society” between 1974 and 2006, the Icelanders’ traditional beliefs about elves had “remained near static.” They were, he concluded, “deeply rooted.”
This is the standard against which all national food is gauged. You better be nicer than this if you don’t want to be looked down on. It’s a lot of people’s first experience with eating out. And to be perfectly frank, they have a HIGH standard of quality control that is nearly unparalleled. A McDouble you buy in Tulsa, OK tastes exactly like the one you could eat in Chicago, IL and that one will be indistinguishable from the one you buy in Berlin, Germany. Maybe you can’t stunt on your friends by taking them here, but damnit it does it’s job well and it does it every time. And it does a wider range of things well than most restaurants could hope to balance. From pancakes, to hamburgers, to fried chicken, salads in a big cup, fish, sometimes they have a McRib, and it’s all pretty good. REALLY good for what you’re paying for it. They never really innovate, they wait and see what other chains are having success doing and then copy them (that Crispy Chicken Sandwich tastes a lot like Chick Fil A don’t it…) but when they add something to their menu it is good to go and it is guaranteed to be up to their standards. Maybe customer service could use some work.
HT: Karen L. Myers.
Juggling dangerous objects with Ronald & Nancy Reagan, Tip O’Neil, Barbara Bush, and Howard Baker in the audience front row.
Rock Island Auction Company shoots tvs with Elvis Presley’s own Smith & Wesson Model 36.
A Medieval Studies Professor forwarded the following:
A student describing the ethical system of Dante’s Inferno noted that the first ring of the 7th circle encased those who committed violence against otters.