Elf School Searches for Hidden People

Atlas Obscura
Your Guide to the World's Hidden Wonders
July 2 2013 10:45 AM

Study Iceland's "Hidden People" at Elf School

Atlas Obscura on Slate is a new travel blog. Like us on FacebookTumblr, or follow us on Twitter @atlasobscura.

Some Icelanders take their belief in elves very seriously.

For example, road crews in Iceland occasionally hire folklore experts to determine if certain boulders are home to elves. If little people are thought to live in the rocks, crews divert the road around the rock.

Advertisement

This belief in elves doesn't stop with road workers and superstitious locals. The majority of Icelanders believe in the existence of elves. When a member of the Icelandic Parliament escaped a car accident unscathed, he had a 30-ton boulder from the crash site moved to his home—because he believed that elves inside the boulder used their magic to save him.

Iceland is the only country in the world with a school dedicated to learning about these hidden people. Located in the thoroughly modern city of Reykjavik, Álfaskólinn—aka Elf School—has a full curriculum of study about the 13 types of elves in the country. Classes delve briefly into fairies, trolls, dwarves and gnomes, but the main focus is on elves—the most popular of Iceland's supernatural fauna.

The school also offers five-hour classes for curious travelers, which include a tour of hidden folk habitats and end with coffee and pancakes with the school's headmaster. Students receive a diploma at the end of the class certifying their newfound expertise in the realm of elves.

Unusual schools:

5663161564_f16d764d16_b
Example of an Elf House

Photo bybyemilybean


View Elf School in a larger map

  Slate Plus
Slate Picks
Dec. 19 2014 4:15 PM What Happened at Slate This Week? Staff writer Lily Hay Newman shares what stories intrigued her at the magazine this week.