4 Times Iceland Made Major Decisions Based On Elves

Published April 26, 2016
Updated February 5, 2018
Published April 26, 2016
Updated February 5, 2018

Major Roadway Delayed For Decades

Elves In Iceland

Reykjavík, left, and Keflavik, right. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

A rock known as Álfhóll, literally “Elfhill,” caused one of the longest continuous streaks of trouble for road construction crews and the Icelandic government.

Álfhóll is located just south of the capital city in Kópavogur. With around 33,000 people, Kópavogur has the second highest population in the country. Back in the 1930s, long before the location had a relatively sizable population, the government was trying to connect Kópavogur with Reykjavik.

But Álfhóll made sure that didn’t happen.

A road between the two towns was drawn up. The plans took the road straight through the giant rock, and, naturally, it was up to the construction company to break and remove it. Unfortunately for the construction company, that rock was Álfhóll, and it proved too difficult to deal with. Construction funds dried up and the plan was abandoned.

A second attempt began again a decade later. Again, equipment continuously broke and tools were lost. And again, construction was abandoned.

Huldufolk House

An example of a Huldufólk, or elf, habitation in Iceland. Image Source: Wikimedia Commons

The road was still incomplete by the time the 1980s rolled around. Renewed plans popped back up, and this time the layout called for a complete leveling of Álfhóll.

Yet when the construction company arrived, things once again started to act up. Workers, whether they believed in elves or not, refused to go near the rock. Local TV media tried to report on the story, but they claimed that the cameras stopped working any time they were directed toward the rock.

Media attention grew, as did support for the rock. These days, media requests to Iceland’s road development division, the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration, result in a stock reply:

“It will not answer the question of whether the (Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration) employees do or do not believe in elves and ‘hidden people’ because opinion differs greatly on this and it tends to be a rather personal matter.”

It also states that “issues have been settled by delaying construction projects so that the elves can, at a certain point, move on.”

When a road between Kópavogur and Reykjavik was finally built, it swerved around Álfhóll, leaving it untouched.

Nickolaus Hines
Nickolaus Hines is a freelance writer in New York City. He graduated from Auburn University, and his recent bylines can be found at Men's Journal, Inverse, and Grape Collective.