In Iceland, conservation groups are trying to stop a highway from being built but the reason why could surprise many people. According to the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission, the highway would destroy sacred Elf habitats and endanger thousands of "hidden folk."
In Iceland, many individuals believe there is a possibility that elves exist and their safety has led to several stalled construction projects. The Associated Press cites a 2007 University of Iceland survey, 62 percent of the 1,000 polled said it was possible that elves were real. In the AP report, the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and the Hraunavinir, or Friends of Lava, have banded together to stop the construction of a highway connecting Alftanes peninsula to Gardabaer, a suburb of Reykjavik. The groups claim the project would destroy an elf church and put thousands of elves, or Huldufólk, in danger.
In the Atlantic's report of the protests, the groups note that the project would also destroy sites of cultural and environmental significance but the argument about the preservation of elf habitat has grabbed the most attention. The Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration even has an official statement ready for any and all elf inquiries.
According to the statement, "We value the heritage of our ancestors and if oral tradition passed on from one generation to the other tells us that a certain location is cursed, or that supernatural beings inhabit a certain rock, then this must be considered a cultural treasure." The Atlantic goes on to discuss some historical anecdotes regarding elves and Icelandic beliefs as well as recent incidences where the Icelandic Road and Coastal Administration have worked to save elf habitats.
The discussion over the belief in elves in a complicated one, as many in the country do not believe in the creatures. In many ways, media attention on isolated incidences could lead to a false representation of the popularity of such a belief. Árni Björnsson, the former director of the ethnological department of the National Museum of Iceland, said that there are some myths and folklore surrounding elves but the notion that a majority of Icelanders believe in hidden folk is a modern creation, reports the Atlantic. The New York Times previously wrote about Iceland and elves in 2005 while a 2009 Vanity Fair article, which cites an Alcoa rep saying they make sure the building was clear of elves, was refuted by New York Magazine.
While the jury may be out on the notion of elves, and the belief in them by Icelanders, the debate on the Alftanes highway is real. The project could affect important natural sites, including lava formation areas and bird habitats, and many areas that have been declared a natural monument may be distrupted by the construction.