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'We smile about it, but we're serious,' say Icelanders who believe elves are among them

Headmaster Magnus Skarphéðinsson of  Reykjavik's The Elf School. (Karyn Miller-Medzon/Here & Now)
Headmaster Magnus Skarphéðinsson of Reykjavik's The Elf School. (Karyn Miller-Medzon/Here & Now)

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Before the pandemic, Here & Now spent a week in Iceland covering environmental issues — and everywhere we went, we heard about elves!

Not only does more than half the population believe in them, but in Iceland, elves are considered to be stewards of the environment; so much so that when projects disrupt a habitat, the elves are said to foil construction attempts.

We also learned that if you disturb them, they’re likely to play tricks on you (perhaps hiding your glasses or car keys). Even those who wouldn’t commit to believing in them (the country’s environment minister, for example), would also not commit to not believing in them. So this Christmas season, we bring back our visit to Iceland’s elf region, and of course, our visit to Elf School (and yes, we did leave with graduation certificates).

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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