OUTSIDE LOOKING IN
There are a lot of things that various people in the United States believe in that have not become a proven fact such as UFO's, ghosts, certain superstitions, and the Minnesota Vikings winning a Super Bowl.
In Iceland, a country with breathtaking volcanic landscapes, picturesque scenery, and Viking relics, over half of the population believe elves do or could exist.
I was recently watching a compelling segment on YouTube about the World's Most Dangerous Lighthouse, which is located on the south coast of Iceland. Three large rock pillars jut up from the water and are exceptionally dangerous to climb. A lighthouse and helicopter pad were constructed atop the rocks. This piqued my interest because of the Icelandic history in Minneota and the many Icelanders I've met when they visit here.
During the YouTube segment, the three men who were helicoptered to the lighthouse to stay overnight, asked a local man who accompanied them about hearing the rumor that over 50 percent of the people in Iceland believe in elves. The man simply responded "We don't talk about that" in a stern voice.
In a National Geographic article, 54 percent of Icelanders either believe in elves or say it's possible they exist.
At first, I thought it was their way of making light of the small country, but research on the internet confirmed it. I don't know a lot of people in Iceland, but I sent an email to Minneota native Cathy Josephson, who lives in Iceland, and to Kristjan Schram and Elizabeth Nunberg, who also live in Iceland. Kristjan and Elizabeth were married in St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Minneota 29 years ago and returned here last year with their three children to visit the church again.
Cathy Josephson did not respond, but Schram confirmed the rumor.
"Yes, it is true," he said via a message on Facebook. "We sometimes joke that the question said 'Do you believe in Elvis?'. That is why we had such a high percentage saying yes."
Schram explained that the winding roads in Iceland are because of the belief in elves.
"When you travel around Iceland, you will see roads swerving around rocks here and there," he explained. "Not big boulders, just mid-size rocks. The road gives way because it is believed elves live in them and they shouldn't be disturbed. When machines have tried to move the rocks, the machines have broken or malfunctioned in some way."
In 2013, elf advocates joined forces with environmentalists to urge the Icelandic Road and Coastal Commission and local authorities to abandon a highway project building a direct route from the Alftanes peninsula to the Reykjavik suburb of Gardabaer. They feared it would disturb elf habitat and that the area also contained an elf church.
The project was halted while the Supreme Court of Iceland ruled on the case brought by a group known as Friends of Lava, who cited both the environmental and the cultural impact — including the impact on elves — of the road project. The group had regularly brought hundreds of people out to block the bulldozers.
Amid the protests, the government decided to build the road without disturbing the rocks in place.
According to the same National Geographic article, a former member of Parliament even swears his life was saved in a car accident by a family of elves.
The elves are allegedly only 36 inches or less in height. They have oversized ears and wear 1800s clothing, but do not wear pointy hats.
Schram was then asked if he is among the those in Iceland that believe in elves.
"Do I believe? Yes, why not," he replied. "Haven't seen any, but there is this other power that is around here that maybe comes from them. This is very much ingrained in our psyche."
Facts about elves existing in Iceland are discussed on a wintertime "elf walk" in Hafnarfjörður, Iceland, a harbor town just outside Reykjavik reputed to be the elves' capital. There, visitors learn about 13 Yule Lads, pranksters with such names as Hurðaskellir (Door Slammer), and Kertasnikír (Candle Stealer). Local children often leave out shoes for the 13 Yule Lads to fill with treats.
The elfin king and queen are thought to reside on a cliff called Hamarinn.
Individuals who want to learn more enroll in Reykjavik's Elf School, which is a four-hour course that uses textbooks and serves tea and cookies. Those completing the course receive an elf diploma.
There is no scientific evidence to support the existence of elves in Iceland, but the belief in their existence is still prevalent among a significant portion of the population.
Kids, seniors get in free to games
Minneota is offering free admission this year to all home high school athletic events to all seniors and kids in all grades at the Minneota Public School, St. Edward's Catholic School, and Ivanhoe Elementary.
St. Ed's Fall Festival
The annual St. Edward Catholic Church Fall Festival will be held on Sunday, Sept. 17. The meal, which will be served from 11 a.m.to 1:30 p.m. will consist of roasted pork loin, mashed potatoes and gravy, corn, fresh vegetable sides, homemade dessert and a beverage. Takeout will be available.
There will also be a children's carnival from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., as well as a silent auction, cake walk, country store and more.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $5 for children 4-12 years old, and free for those 3-and-under.