Far Out Friday: the magical world of Elf School

by Brett Henebery06 Mar 2015

Where else would you take children to learn about elves than Elf School?

Located in Reykjavík, Iceland’s largest city, Elf School – or the Álfaskólinn – opened in 1991 and brings over 4,000 people per year (most of them foreigners) who come to learn about the 13 "hidden people" types.

The school, which is open all year round, costs €39 ($55) per student. While classes are only 3-4 hours long, they ensure that students walk away with a much more magical perspective of the world than when they walked in.  

Like other schools, the Álfaskólinn operates a full curriculum and even a certificate program for its students. As well as teaching about elves, the classes also teach students about mountain spirits, gnomes, dwarfs, fairies, trolls, as well as other nature spirits and mythical creatures in Iceland and in other countries.

School principal, Magnús Skarphéðinsson organises five hour-long educational excursions for visitors. During the excursions, the visitors learn about the elves’ history, where they live and the numerous other creatures they coexist with.

The tours conclude with pancakes and coffee back at the school where some of them may be convinced to join over a quarter of their Icelandic counterparts who are convinced that elves exist. 

Four surveys conducted since 1975 have shown that up to 26% of Icelanders believe that elves exist.

Skarphéðinsson, who studied history and Anthropology at the Icelandic University, has conducted a myriad of research both in and outside of Iceland on the “hidden people” for more than 30 years.

Professor of Folklore at the University of Iceland, Adalheidur Gudmundsdottir, told the BBC last year that the landscape of her country has the power to inspire belief in the elusive creatures.

"You can't live in this landscape and not believe in a force greater than you," Gudmundsdottir said.

"Please don't portray Icelanders as uneducated peasants who believe in fairies, but look around you and you'll understand why the power of folklore here is so strong." 
 

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