Whether you want to visit Iceland for its beautiful collage of spectacular landscapes or for the food or are simply looking to ingrain a part of your soul in the Icelandic tradition of revering nature and mankind’s unique connection to it. This connection has long been documented in words. First, passed down as bedtime stories from generation to generation and the preserved through the written word for generations to come. The tales are inspired by the beauty of Iceland’s picturesque national parks, mighty waterfalls, dazzling craters and the sparkling water of the Gullfoss waterfall and so much more the magical land has to offer.
These picturesque landscapes to beguile you with Iceland’s everlasting beauty. The tales will take you across the Golden Circle as well as the never-ending Landmannalaugar region. You will unearth references to the world’s oldest parliment at Þingvellir National Park. The place is of considerable historical importance as it proudly boasts being the birthplace of the oldest existing parliament in the world. The sparkling waters of Iceland’s largest lakes are home to legendary monsters. The legendary Geysir Hot Springs and the power plant that harnesses their energy will greet you. The skyrocketing water will immerse you in the fantastical place that is Iceland and with it, the folklore.
The technicolour mountains of Landmannalaugar will take your breath away. The high between the cascading glaciers of Þórsmörk, to the site of Eyjafjallajökull’s world-famous 2010 eruption. The tales will take you across a dazzling trail of towering waterfalls as the drop from the mighty mountains and mesh with the black coastlines of volcanic islands. With such fantastical imagery, how can the folklore of such a place be any less magical? Today, we would like to share with you one such tale beloved to the people of Iceland.
The Tale of Hildur, the Queen of the Elves
Once upon a time there lived a certain farmer, whose name and that of his farm have not been handed down to us; so we cannot tell them. He was unmarried, and had a housekeeper named Hildur, concerning whose family and descent he knew nothing whatsoever. All the people of the house, the farmer himself to boot, were fond of her, as she was kind and gentle in speech.
The hilly unknown wilderness of Iceland, was known for peculiar happenings that were both perplexing and terrifying: every year, on Christmas Day, when the winter sun finally appeared, the herdsman working for the farmer was discovered dead in his bed with no obvious signs of harm. The farmer was understandably quite concerned about these strange killings; on the one hand, he needed a herdsman to look after his flock, but on the other hand, as a devout Christian, his conscience wouldn’t let him to employ a fellow human being into an untimely death. What ought he to do?
At length he decided that he would hire no herdsman for fear of them dying, and would instead let luck take care of his sheep. One man offered to take him, but the farmer refused, saying: “Begone, if you are so wise, and get work elsewhere”. The herdsman, Hildur, who could not leave his sheep in time to go to church on Christmas-eve, was kept awake by a strange and deadly faintness, which only acted as one reason for his doing his best to keep awake. For the man, as he was honest and open, zealous in everything he laid his hands to, wanted to be alert in case the fate of his forefathers was to befall him.
Additionally, spending Christmas Eve at church was common. Everyone in the farmer’s family did this, with the exception of the herdsman and Hildur, who both had to stay behind because they finished their jobs later than expected. As unbelievable as it may sound, a man who appeared to be in desperate need of a job showed up and insisted on being hired despite the yearly fatality that was never addressed. He proved to be a competent farmhand, and everything was going smoothly up until Christmas Eve. The herdsman was ready to go to sleep when he suddenly recalled the horrible end of his forefathers and determined to stay awake no matter what. This turned out to be a wise decision since soon after, he felt someone sneak into the room and climb up to his bed. He could only just make out a person’s figure in the dark room, but he knew it was Hildur the housekeeper. Hildur put a magical bridle on him and rode him to a great cliff, thinking he was sound asleep. She threw herself into the opening after securing the reins to a rock. After a fight, the herdsman, who had “strong objections to being chained to this stone all night,” was able to free himself and follow Hildur to a lovely meadow.
With the help of a magical ring that just happened to be in the herdsman’s possession, he became invisible and followed Hildur unnoticed to a splendid palace – this was where the Elven king dwelled and Hildur was saluted and welcomed as his queen. A great feast was laid out in Hildur’s honour. The herdsman followed the party and set up camp where he would be least disruptive to the group while still being able to see all that transpired without losing anything. The hangings of the temple were so exquisite and brilliant that the golden and silver vessels on the table, which he believed he had never seen, never seen anything like it in his entire life, not to mention the excellent foods and Wines that appeared to be in abundance there and appeared to be stocked despite preferring to fill it with anything else, he instead filled his mouth with water.
The herdsman watched as various guests entertained themselves, some by dancing, others by singing, and still others by drinking and revelling; but the king and queen did not. They talked together and seemed very sad to the herdsman. While they were talking, three children, all younger than the man had previously seen, came in. They dashed in and clung to their mother’s neck. The children came out, calling Hildur mother. To appease the youngest child, Hildur gave him her golden ring to play with. The ring rolled to the herdsman; he took it and carefully hid it in his pocket. Hildur got ready to go as the evening came to an end. Everyone pleaded with her to stay when they saw this, with the exception of an ugly, elderly woman who sat glumly in a corner. The crone was the mother of the king; she had cursed Hildur and would not take it back. Hildur simply had to leave.
The herdsman returned to the rock in a hurry, re-tied his horse, and allowed himself to be ridden back to the farm. He slept till late in the morning, when the farmer went to his room to see how he was doing. They pressured him to explain what happened after they realised he wasn’t dead. The golden ring was presented as proof by the herdsman Hildur. Hildur then disclosed to everyone that she was, in fact, the Queen of the Elves. However, because she was only a commoner, the king’s mother cursed her exile from her home and family, limiting her ability to visit once a year at the expense of a man. However, the herdsman not only overcame the barrier separating the human and elvish worlds, but also ended the murderous cycle by surviving the trial. After being set free, Hildur told them her tale before departing for forever. The herdsman succeeded and established a farm for himself. He frequently expressed gratitude to Queen Hildur.