“Elves, Trolls and Elemental Beings” Review

4 star rating

This is book two of the Icelandic Folktales series.

The island of Iceland sits at the north end of the Atlantic Ocean, just south of the Arctic Circle. While the Gulf Stream, which passes by on the south side moderates temperatures some, Icelandic weather is highly changeable, and winter nights are very long. No surprise, then, that long, dark, nights, howling winds, blizzards, and oh by the way, volcanoes, can take the imaginations of isolated farmers and travelers in dark directions.

In these stories, trolls and especially trollwives are the bane of the traveler and the shepherd watching over his flock in isolated summer pastures, often luring them to their death, slavery, or even transformation into trolls themselves.

Icelandic elves bear no resemblance to, say, J.R.R. Tolkien’s. They can be every bit as devious and evil as the trolls, just smaller. They stick closer to settlements, too. They look like humans (no pointy ears here) but control whether humans can see them. And elves and humans can sometimes have not-so-dangerous relations, but the humans are always one misstep away from trouble. And that trouble can be serious indeed.

There are stories of mermaids, seals who take human form, and even a whale, not surprising for the residents of an island for whom ocean fishing was an important task.

While dark, the stories often feature humans overcoming the dangers they face, although sometimes at a high price.

As with book 1, this volume is recommended for the reader looking for new and different folk tales.

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