Arquivo da tag: Islândia

‘No doubt’ Iceland’s elves exist: anthropologist certain the creatures live alongside regular folks (South China Morning Post)

Construction sites have been moved so as not to disturb the elves, and fishermen have refused to put out to sea because of their warnings: here in Iceland, these creatures are a part of everyday life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 May, 2016, 8:01am

UPDATED : Sunday, 15 May, 2016, 6:40pm

Since the beginning of time, elves have been the stuff of legend in Iceland, but locals here will earnestly tell you that elves appear regularly to those who know how to see them.

Construction sites have been moved so as not to disturb the elves, and fishermen have refused to put out to sea because of their warnings: here in Iceland, these creatures are a part of everyday life.

Watch: Iceland’s elves, a force to be reckoned with

But honestly, do they really exist?

Anthropologist Magnus Skarphedinsson has spent decades collecting witness accounts, and he’s convinced the answer is yes.

He now passes on his knowledge to curious crowds as the headmaster of Reykjavik’s Elf School.

“There is no doubt that they exist!” exclaims the stout 60-year-old as he addresses his “students”, for the most part tourists fascinated by Icelanders’ belief in elves.

What exactly is an elf? A well-intentioned being, smaller than a person, who lives outdoors and normally does not talk. They are not to be confused with Iceland’s “hidden people”, who resemble humans and almost all of whom speak Icelandic.

To convince sceptics that this is not just a myth, Skarphedinsson relays two “witness accounts”, spinning the tales as an accomplished storyteller.

The first tells of a woman who knew a fisherman who was able to see elves who would also go out to sea to fish.

One morning in February 1921, he noticed they were not heading out to sea and he tried to convince the other fishermen not to go out either. But the boss would not let them stay on shore.

That day, there was an unusually violent storm in the North Atlantic but the fishermen, who had heeded his warning and stayed closed to shore, all returned home safe and sound.

Seven years later, in June 1928, the elves again did not put out to sea which was confusing because there had never been a fierce storm at sea at that time of year. Forced to head out, they sailed waters that were calm but caught very few fish.

“The elves knew it,” the anthropologist claims.

The other “witness” is a woman in her eighties, who in 2002 ran into a young teen who claimed to know her. Asking him where they had met, he gave her an address where she had lived 53 years ago where her daughter claimed she had played with an invisible boy.

Most people tread lightly when entering into known elf territory

“But Mum, it’s Maggi!” exclaimed the daughter when her mother described the teen.

“He had aged fives times slower than a human being,” said Skarphedinsson.

Surveys suggest about half of Icelanders believe in elves.

“Most people say they heard [about them] from their grandparents when they were children,” said Michael Herdon, a 29-year-old American tourist attending Elf School.

Iceland Magazine says ethnologists have noted it is rare for an Icelander to really truly believe in elves. But getting them to admit it is tricky.

“Most people tread lightly when entering into known elf territory,” the English-language publication wrote in September.

That’s also the case with construction projects.

It may prompt sniggers, but respect for the elves’ habitat is a consideration every time a construction project is started in Iceland’s magnificent countryside, which is covered with lava fields and barren, windswept lowlands.

Back in 1971, Skarphedinsson recalls how elves disrupted construction of a national highway from Reykjavik to the northeast. The project, he says, suffered repeated unusual technical difficulties because they didn’t want a big boulder that served as their home to be moved to make way for the new road.

“They made an agreement in the end that the elves would leave the stone for a week, and they would move the stone 15 metres. This is probably the only country in the world whose government officially talked with elves,” Skarphedinsson says.

But Iceland is not the only country that is home to elves, he says. It’s just that Icelanders are more receptive to accounts of their existence.

“The real reason is that the Enlightenment came very late to Iceland.

“In other countries, with western scientific arrogance [and] the denial of everything that they have not discovered themselves, they say that witnesses are subject to hallucinations.”

Walking to a place where “the mountains are weeping” (Glacier Hub)

Posted by on Aug 4, 2014

The author by the edge of the melting glacier. (Gísli Pálsson)

Having rested during the night we embark on a walk to Drangajökull. Unlike other Icelandic glaciers, it does not reach up to the high mountainous interior of the island. It is, nevertheless, impressive and has a history of its own. Centuries ago, local peasants and fishers would travel across it along specific routes, transporting driftwood and other goods, telling news, and spreading gossip.

We spot the glacier from the main road by the coast. Part of it stretches like a “tongue” (jökultunga in Icelandic) down towards the valley below it, as if it is making fun of us. We are not expecting a long walk, and we only carry a bottle of water and some fruit in our rucksacks but are equipped with solid mountain shoes that are well broken in. Walking on them feels like driving a caterpillar, smoothly plying the rough landscape of gravel, rocks, creeks, and wetlands. I have had my shoes for years now and I keep saying that they will probably outlive their owner. Nonetheless, I know that this is risky walk. If anything happens we are in trouble, since we are in one of the most remote areas of the island, without cell phone service.

Approaching Drangjökull, across wetlands and rocky landscape. (Gísli Pálsson)

Our only ambition is only to get to the edge if glacier. Walking on it would be difficult, and we don’t have the necessary expertise on potential routes and dangers. At the beginning of the walk, at the wide opening of the valley, we sense a gentle summer breeze against our faces. The air seems trapped in the valley, warmed by occasional sunshine. The scene feels still, almost silent. Occasionally, we can hear the song of birds.

As we get closer to the glacier, the narrowing valley begins to feel different. We next encounter the chilly air descending from the glacier. It is pleasant, though, as it cools us on the strenuous walk. The soundscape is changing fast, as if heavy speakers were blasting from everywhere with multiple echoes from the mountains. There is water running from all sides, gushing through the snow cap and from under the glacier. The only way for us to communicate is by shouting. Every now and then we have to cross small creeks, walking on stones or jumping across. We manage to avoid the biggest streams that come from the glacier itself. When we turn to look behind us, we see that they seem to add a brownish color to the ocean, visible behind us on the coast.

Subterranean waterfalls gushing through the ice. (Gísli Pálsson)

Along the way to the glacier we meet a few people on journeys like our own. There is a young couple from Switzerland. This is their second visit to the glacier in two years. Another couple, from Germany, had been on this route three years ago. This sounds like a pilgrimage and I wonder what it is that repeatedly brings people all this way. Ironically, none of us, the four Icelanders, has been here before.

A little before we reach the glacier, the heel on one of my shoes gets loose. For a while it follows me like an Achilles heel, with repeated nods or reminders on my foot. The walk turns out to take much more time than we expected. We seem to be getting closer, but will we ever reach the glacier? Getting there is supposed to take about two hours and we are beginning to feel fatigued. I am bemused that, after all, I have outlived my shoes, but the damaged sole poses a serious problem in this terrain. Luckily, I manage to tie the loose heel to the rest of the shoe with its long lace.

One of my travel companions, Helgi Bernódusson, under glacier. Note the different layers of snow and soil in the background. (Gísli Pálsson)

When we reach the glacier, we sit under it for some minutes, close to a large gap, something like a cave carved into the glacier. It is time to rest. The roaring sound of flowing water and the feel of ice-cool air are everywhere. We wonder what glaciers might have meant to medieval Icelanders and what impact global warming is heaving in places like this one. Some of the cave walls show curious layers or strata. Are these a kind of human narrative, carved in rocks, gravel, and ice? How much of what we are experiencing is informed by the dramatic events of the Anthropocene, when human forces finally had an effect on nature? Perhaps these are the some of the concerns that increasingly take people on journeys to glaciers, whether they are people like ourselves who are traveling within our own country, or others who have undertaken the greater effort to cross an ocean to arrive at this spot. On top of the pleasures of challenging walks and of outliving one’s shoes.

A "weeping" mountain in mid-summer. (Gísli Pálsson)

This guest post was written by Gísli Pálsson of the University of Iceland.

Um país estranho (FSP)


São Paulo, terça-feira, 23 de outubro de 2012

A Islândia é uma ilha com pouco mais de 300 mil habitantes que parece decidida a inventar a democracia do futuro.

Por uma razão não totalmente clara, esse país que fora um dos primeiros a quebrar com a crise financeira de 2008 sumiu em larga medida das páginas da imprensa mundial. Coisas estranhas, no entanto, aconteceram por lá.

Primeiro, o presidente da República submeteu a plebiscito propostas de ajuda estatal a bancos falidos. O ex-primeiro-ministro grego George Papandreou foi posto para fora do governo quando aventou uma ideia semelhante. O povo islandês, todavia, não se fez de rogado e disse claramente que não pagaria nenhuma dívida de bancos.

Mais do que isso, os executivos dos bancos foram presos e o primeiro-ministro que governava o país à época da crise foi julgado e condenado.

Algo muito diferente do resto da Europa, onde os executivos que quebraram a economia mundial foram para casa levando no bolso “stock options” vindos diretamente das ajudas estatais.

Como se não bastasse, a Islândia resolveu escrever uma nova Constituição. Submetida a sufrágio universal, ela foi aprovada no último fim de semana. A Constituição não foi redigida por membros do Parlamento ou por juristas, mas por 25 “pessoas comuns” escolhidas de maneira direta.

Durante sua redação, qualquer um podia utilizar as redes sociais para enviar sugestões de leis e questionar o projeto. Todas as discussões entre os membros do Conselho Constitucional podiam ser acompanhadas do computador de qualquer cidadão.

O resultado é uma Constituição que estatiza todos os recursos naturais, impede o Estado de ter documentos secretos sobre seus cidadãos e cria as bases de uma democracia direta, onde basta o pedido de 10% da população para que uma lei aprovada pelo Parlamento seja objeto de plebiscito.

Seu preâmbulo não poderia ser mais claro a respeito do espírito de todo o documento: “Nós, o povo da Islândia, queremos criar uma sociedade justa que ofereça as mesmas oportunidades a todos. Nossas diferentes origens são uma riqueza comum e, juntos, somos responsáveis pela herança de gerações”.

Em uma época na qual a Europa afunda na xenofobia e esquece o igualitarismo como valor republicano fundamental, a Constituição islandesa soa estranha. Esse estranho país, contudo, já não está mais em crise econômica.

Cresceu 2,1% no ano passado e deve crescer 2,7% neste ano. Eles fizeram tudo o que Portugal, Espanha, Grécia, Itália e outros não fizeram. Ou seja, eles confiaram na força da soberania popular e resolveram guiar seu destino com as próprias mãos. Algo atualmente muito estranho.

VLADIMIR SAFATLE escreve às terças-feiras nesta coluna.