In Iceland, it’s good politics to be nice to the elves

Apparently, they can save lives–and political careers

Help your elf

Bob Strong/Reuters

Two years ago, Árni Johnsen, a member of Iceland’s Parliament, flipped his car on the highway. The accident sent the vehicle tumbling 40 m down a cliff. Johnsen, remarkably, was largely unharmed. He attributed his survival to three things: angels, luck and—this being Iceland—elves. Johnsen’s car landed next to a large boulder, which an expert later told him was home to three generations of a single elf family. To thank them for sparing him, Johnsen had the 30-tonne rock moved to the front lawn of his home last week. (The expert told him the elves wanted an ocean view and, possibly, some grass to raise sheep on.)

In Iceland, road construction is often rerouted to avoid what is believed to be elf habitat, and polls consistently show a majority of Icelanders either believe in elves or are unwilling to rule out their existence. But Páll Stefánsson, editor of the Iceland Review, says Johnsen has another reason for his recent boulder relocation: image repair. In 2002, the MP was convicted in a massive corruption scheme and served jail time. Being nice to elves can only help his rehabilitation.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.