Found. They were hidden. I stroll across the old mossy clad harbour, her chasms and clefts filled with Huldufólk. I hear thud of horse hoof, a carriage carcass. Cries of un-fathered babies spilt on the rocks. Starvation and struggle, fierce. I sit looking at the dividing line where said whales come to feast. A scent of snagged blubber bulging in net of cod to be shipped to the glutton’s table.
Iceland is the place to believe in magic, ritual and tradition. Her shores ooze with a spirit of vibrant innocence and love of a good tale. Embedded, I write. I am an English story, I have an Australian one and Iceland is the chariot. I feel the overlap. Years of reading to children, sleeved. Fairies and elves, rampant. Hardship fostered it. Human beans anchor it.
Huldufólk are beautiful, powerful, alluring and carefree. Elves, trolls, love-lings, mountain spirits, all luminaries. A preserved elemental world of wind, volcano and snowstorm. Surviving the elements is a matter of luck in a land where mythology resonates because lava speaks. She has clues for earthlings. Human beans and hidden people cooperate in the belief that it is work in progress. God was remotely apparent, supernatural beings were at hand. One belief did not negate another, they worked alongside.
There are two stories about why the Huldufólk people came into being. I shall tell just one. Allow hands to rest a little distance from the body and the feet to be warm. Let eyeballs be clothed in eye socks and the body sink into something cellular. I begin.
Once upon a time there was a wandering traveller who got lost in the mist. Stumbling upon a farm, he knocked on the door for a night’s rest. An old woman let him in. He was given food and drink and introduced to the woman’s two sons. He asked the old woman if one of her sons might keep him company for the evening, to which the old woman agreed. He made his selection and they lay down together in a haystack. On approaching intimacy, the man’s hand passed right through his companion. She asked him why this was so (he had changed his mind).
‘I am a spirit without a body’ she replied. ‘Long ago, the devil and his army revolted in heaven. He and his supporters were driven out of heaven into the darkness. But those of us who neither fought with him nor opposed him were driven to earth and forced to live in the rocks and the hills. We are called the Hidden People’
You see she explained, ‘Hidden people can only live with those of their kind. We can do both good and evil and excel at whichever we choose. We have no physical bodies, but take human form when we want to be seen. I am one of those spirits.’
So they lay together into the night exchanging stories.
Iceland is on bucket lists. She is for those who still believe. She is for those who have not forgotten. I speak with the hidden people. Hidden people have no septum and just one nostril. It is all in the nose, easier to breathe, they say. I talk to them about yogic breath and alternate nostril breathing. They roll about the mossy carpet laughing, noses dripping gallantly. I imagined a world full of hidden people as I handed them well sourced, unbleached paper tissues dipped in eucalyptus globulus.
‘You may say I’m a dreamer, but I am not the only one’
THE LATE GREAT JL