Guest contributor post by Julie Pasila
One of the most striking things about Iceland (besides the scenery) is the way in which myth and folklore are built into the culture of the country and the psyche of its people. One of my favourite examples of this is the idea of huldufólk, or hidden people.
From what I’ve been able to piece together so far, huldufólk are elf-like creatures who inhabit a parallel world. They live within the landscape, beneath the rocks and hills, remaining invisible to most.
There is a small percentage of the Icelandic population who believe that the huldufólk truly exist (somewhere around the eight percent mark), but up to half the population, when surveyed, would not deny their existence. Interestingly, this possibility of their presence seems to guide the nation, at least occasionally. For example, new building projects will often take into consideration potential huldufólk habitats using the guidance of a medium or mystic. If a particular place is determined to be the habitat of the hidden people, roads may be diverted or new construction relocated.
Icelandic belief in the huldufólk may be over exaggerated by visitors (like myself) who find the notion mysterious and whimsical. What’s not exaggerated, however, is the Icelandic connection to nature, which seems to manifest itself in the beautiful idea that something (or someone) important inhabits the rocks and hills and mountains, and that this presence should not be disturbed without some thought and consultation.
The story of the huldufólk provides a wonderful example of the inclusion of myth in a thoroughly modern nation and it also provides a fine introduction to a beautiful line of products that draw upon some of the myths and stories of Iceland.
Vík Prjónsdóttir is a brand that produces incredible products from Icelandic sheep’s wool (a highly sustainable material here). The line is a collaboration between designers Brynhildur Pálsdóttir, Gudfinna Mjöll Magnúsdóttir, Thuríður Sigurþórsdóttir and Iceland’s oldest knitting factory, Víkurprjón. Below are a few examples of the magnificent pieces and a brief description of their origin stories. More extensive descriptions, and more products, can be found on Vík’s website (all product images are courtesy of Vík Prjónsdóttir).
Hidden World (shown with the Healing Hands scarf) is a visual representation of the hidden world, just discussed above, and a dedication to the magical people who can communicate with these mysterious spaces and their inhabitants.
The Sealpelt Blanket is inspired by an ancient Icelandic myth from the south shore of the country, which describes a seal who sheds her skin on land, lives as a human (becoming both a wife and mother), and later returns to the sea. It’s a lovely (slightly heartbreaking) story.
The Seablanket is one of my personal favourites. It’s dedicated to “the currents of the ocean,” and to the fisherman of Iceland who risk their lives to “bring home the catch.”
You can buy Vík’s work directly from SPARK Design Space if you happen to be in Reykjavik or – wait for it – you can order directly from Vík's website. They ship internationally and, better yet, they offer FREE shipping to Europe, the Unites States and Canada!
I visited the village of Vík (the location of Iceland’s oldest knitting factory, where these beautiful products are produced) and I wanted to leave you all with some images of the incredible landscape around this tiny town.
Julie Pasila is a Canadian multidisciplinary artist & writer. She holds a Master of Fine Arts in Documentary Media from Ryerson University, and a Bachelor of Arts in Studio Art & English Literature from the University of Guelph. She is currently available for freelance assignments and exhibitions in Canada and abroad.