First the beam, then the body, then the man. First the birch, and then the bone.
Like these birches in Hvalfjörður, we are not metaphors. We are all the original Huldufolk, the people of the earth. The lovely stories of elves are memories startling us awake out of sleep.
Here’s one of the Trolls of Harnarfjall, on its annual pilgrimage to feed on the sea.
Slathering at the mouth in a field of old bones, as trolls will. There’s a whole herd of then where the foot of this fell turns into the flat of the sea. You can find them on cold days this time of year. In the summer they’ve gone to ground in the hills.
Hey, welcome to Alfaborg, the mystical city of the elves in Borgarfjörðar Estri. The Borg in the west, was the city of men. Here, completely across the country, live the elves, in their own Borg.
Except, until the twelfth century, there were no álfar, or elves. That was an idea imported from France, which was laid on folk experience of all the varied people who came to Iceland and made up its founding lines. This would have been home to the bergbúar, the rock dwellers. East
Not dwarves, exactly. That is a different folk lineage, into which several lines were folded over time, under the effects of European modernization and a half millenium of the consolidation of folk tale into unified stories onto which national narratives could be written. What became known as elves, in a process of consolidation, also originally held the landvættir, or nature spirits. They lived on the land itself. So, this is likely a home of rock dwellers.
Why, landvættir. And here. West
Luckily, there is more to history than the history of nationalism, and more to living on earth than the consolidation of diverse encounters and traditions with abstraction and consolidation.
We are still the earth dreaming.
Iceland is a “settlement” culture, not a “colonial” culture. This orientation continues today. There are times the Earth reminds the human body of its own birth.
At those moments, the human mind and body unite to give birth to a new self at one with the earth. That is settlement. It’s like taming a horse.