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Folk tale: The hidden ones

Continuing from last week, here is another explanation of the origin of elves. The asterisks indicate notes that I have put below the story.

Once upon a time a man was travelling. The story does not state where or when or what his business was, but it was far away and long ago. He got so totally lost that he didn't know where we was or what direction he was heading in. Eventually he came to a farm and knocked on the door. A middle-aged woman came to the door and invited him in, in the true spirit of hospitality that was common back then. The inside of the house was clean and inviting and the woman led him to the baðstofa(*), where there were two beautiful young women. These three women appeared to be the only people living on the farm. They received him well, fed him handsomely and showed him to a bed for the night. He asked to share a bed with one of the girls, and was allowed to do so (**).

During the night the man turned to the girl and wanted to make love to her (or take advantage of her) but could not feel her body in the bed. He tried to grab her, but his hands touched nothing but air, but he could still see her right beside him. So he asks her why this is, and she answers:
"Do not be surprised, traveller, for I am a disembodied spirit. Long ago, when the Devil rebelled against God in Heaven, he and all his followers were banished to the outermost darkness. Those who watched longingly after him when he left were also banished from Heaven. But those who did not take sides in the war and joined neither group were banished to the Earth and ordered to take up residence in hillocks, mountains and rocks, and they are called elves or hidden people. They can not live among others than each other and they can do both good and evil and usually to the extreme. They have no bodies like you, human, but can appear to you when they want to. I am one of those spirits and so there is no hope that you can enjoy me in any way other than by looking at me."
The man had to be content with this, and in the morning they sent him on his right way, and he told this story when he arrived at his destination.

* Baðstofa literally means "bathing room", but it was actually the main living space on Icelandic farms, a kind of common room where people ate and slept and did some of their their indoor work, like spinning wool, knitting, minor wood-carving work and so on.
** Bed-sharing was a common practice where space was limited, but usually it was a child sharing a bed with an adult.

Copyright notice:
The wording used to tell this folk-tale is under copyright. The story itself is not copyrighted. If you want to re-tell it, for a collection of folk-tales, incorporate it into fiction, use it in a school essay or any kind of publication, please tell it in your own words or give the proper attribution if you choose to use the wording unchanged.


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