In exploring how Icelanders interact with nature—and their idea that elves live among us—Nancy Marie Brown shows us how altering our perceptions of the environment can be a crucial first step toward saving it.
Even confirmed skeptics are likely to come away from this deeply mined literary, sociological and philosophical excavation of Iceland’s heritage with a new appreciation of the place the huldufólk occupy in the country’s identity, and of the role that similar spirits once served for ordinary people across the globe ... Brown overlays a glowing web of connections on Iceland’s folkloric — and literal — landscape of ice and fire, illuminating the answers to the many questions she poses. Her passionate defense of the huldufólk would gratify the most sensitive elf. Following the successful opposition to the Galgahraun road, Jonsdottir dubbed herself the elves’ 'speaker in the human world.' In Brown, they have found another.
... a fascinating inquiry into the Icelandic belief in elves ... However, rather than defending elves’ existence, this compelling and highly readable book offers a thought-provoking examination of the nature of belief itself, drawing compelling connections among humans, storytelling and the environment ... If all this sounds a little high-concept, do not fear; much of the book is grounded in captivating stories from Icelandic sagas, particularly those that detail the relationships among the people, flora, fauna and geology of Iceland. In the end, Brown may believe more in elf stories than in elves, but that is precisely the point. Storytelling is the real, otherworldly magic of Iceland, a place where elves, humans, volcanoes and rocks are intertwined.
... a mischievous guide to reclaiming sacred connections to places as a way of sparking environmentalist commitments ... n impish literary handbook, Looking for the Hidden Folk takes Iceland as a model of how to treat the whole world as a precious, awe-inspiring home.