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Iceland - The country of Monsters (and men)

October 30, 2014

So, as you probably know, today it is October 31, the day of Halloween. A popular tradition that is also celebrated in Iceland. However, what you may not know is that Iceland in fact always has been a country of mystery and tales of odd creatures.

Appearances of monsters have been mentioned in Iceland since the beginning of the country's history. According to the Icelandic sagas, ghosts can appear in all living shapes or forms and some of these are still around today.

Here's a top 3 of mystical Icelandic creatures that are still talked about today:

1. The Lagarfljotsormur

Lagarfljotsormur worm monster

The Lagarfljotsormur (worm monster) is the Icelandic version of the Loch Ness Monster – which is said to live in the Lagarfljot lake close to Egilsstadir in East Iceland. Sightings of this creature have been logged since 1345 and continue up untill as late as last year, where the national Icelandic broadcasting service RUV published a video, assumed to show the Lagarfljot worm swimming in icy water. But the creature continues to be a mystery. According to the folk tradition, the great serpent in Lagarfljot grew out of a small 'lingworm' or heath-dragon. A girl was given a gold ring by her mother, and asked how she might best derive profit from the gold, was told to place it under a lingworm. She did so, and put it in the top of her linen drawer for a few days, but then found that the little dragon had grown so large, it had broken open the drawer. Frightened, she threw both it and the gold into the lake, where the serpent continued to grow and terrorized the countryside, spitting poison and killing people and animals.

2. Huldufolk or hidden people

Hidden People

The Huldufolk or Hidden people are said to be Icelandic elves living in the mountains and in the underworld inside the lava rocks. According to Icelandic folklore they resemble humans in many ways, though they are more spirit-like and invisible, and to see the elves, you have to be given permission by them, or have a special ability. Traditional belief holds that there are both good elves and bad elves, or light elves and dark. Light elves live closer to the gods and are Christians. The dark elves live in the ground – closer to Satan. Hidden people can be very seductive, though if you don't do what they want they turn against you — and if you do accept what they offer you run the risk of becoming insane. That many Icelanders take these creatures seriously can be seen in that construction projects are sometimes altered to prevent damaging the rocks where they are believed to live. In the capital area of Reykjavik this can be seen in Alfholl, where the road narrows in order to spare the rocks. Also, in 1982, 150 Icelanders went to the NATO base in Keflavik to look for elves who they thought might be endangered by the American Phantom jets and AWACS reconnaissance planes.

3. Snaefellsjokull

Mystical Snaefellsjokull

The glacier Snaefellsjokull has always been linked with mystical powers and perhaps it was no coincidence, that it was chosen by Jules Verne as the starting point for his book Journey to the Center of the Earth. People who live around it say they can feel the power of the mountain. It has also been a center of attention for UFO seekers from around the world. Local inhabitants believe that aliens regularly visit the mountain. On November 5th, 1991 some 500 UFO enthusiasts gathered around the glacier as it was believed that aliens would land on it that day. No photographic evidence of aliens was obtained that day, the explanation being that the large attendance of media scared away the space beings.

Evil power of Eyjafjallajokull craters

Some people also believed the 2010 Eyjafjallajokull eruption had evil powers behind it. Take a look at this photo of the three craters, taken by the Icelandic coast guard. A little spooky don't you think?

The author is Thomas Albrechtsen, an intern at Extreme Iceland