Friday, 20 June 2014

Elves in Iceland

The news has reached the BBC that in Iceland a road project is affected because of elves.  The story is here.  The story has been rumbling around for a while now, but it's still interesting.

I quite envy the Icelandic.  I don't believe in elves, but I do wish I did.  On the other hand, the elfen I write about in The Forgotten Village and Digging up the Past are not the sort you would want to bump into in a dark alley.

The article made a very good point about the nature of Iceland - it is tough, rocky and unforgiving.  There is a sense of the vast power of nature and that makes anyone with a flicker of imagination believe that there must be something out there.  I think there is a deep set need in the human soul to believe in that something.

Sailors were notoriously superstitious, but that is very reasonable when you are working with an unpredictable, difficult and dangerous force of nature.  There are lots of superstitions around the dairy, where the valuable milk from the farm could so easily sour or the butter not come.  There are so many superstitions around childbirth, or used to be, because it was a time when a lot was at risk and before modern medicine it was unpredictable and dangerous.

 I think superstition is a fun thing if you don't believe in it, but some people are truly traumatised if they break a mirror or walk unwittingly under a ladder.  I suspect that the superstitions are something good to cling on to when the world seems to big and too complicated.  A lot of the old ones are dying out, but I think the total remains constant.  Minecraft, a computer game, is supposed to have a ghost, the dead brother of its creator who turns up and destroys carefully built worlds.

The sad thing is that superstitions are not really that harmless.  The created superstition of the Slenderman is a good example.  A group of writers came together to create a superstition for the internet - and now some kids are trying to stab another kid to placate a fictional superstition.

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