Protecting Elves From Highway Construction Is A Thing In Iceland

10/31/2013 04:02 pm ET

A public highway construction project over an ancient Icelandic lava field is generating outrage among locals, in part because some think the highway endangers the town's elf population.

According to The Atlantic Wire, the controversial re-building of the Álftanesvegur highway over Gálgahraun lava field has both environmental conservationists and elf "seers" concerned.

On Tuesday, Ragnhildur Jónsdótt, a self-proclaimed "seer," joined other opponents of the project in asking the town council of Garðabær to postpone construction.

She penned a letter voicing her concerns about protecting local elves, according to the Iceland Review, and last week, she was among a group of protestors arrested by police officers, according to The Atlantic. They were physically blocking work on the Álftanesvegar road by standing in front of construction equipment, as described by The Reykjavik Grapevine.

Back in April, Erla Stéfansdóttir, another self-proclaimed "seer," argued that the road would harm an elf church. "People should take caution around these beings," she told the Reykavik Grapevine.

However, despite locals' concerns, the council declined to halt the project. Now, protestors must wait as the Supreme Court of Iceland decides whether or not to place on an injunction on the project.

Though stories about local elf communities may sound foreign to the non-Icelandic, the belief in elves is actually relatively common throughout the nation. A 2007 poll conducted by Terry Gunnell, an associate folklore professor at the University of Iceland, found that 37 percent said elves possibly exist, while 17 percent found their existence likely, and 8 percent found it definite, according to The Iceland Review.

These beliefs can cause real-world controversy when government construction projects interfere with supposed elf communities. However, the administration spearheading the Álftanesvegar highway construction project is thoroughly accustomed to dealing with these sorts of controversies.

The administration says it handles such concerns by delaying the project until elves have "supposedly moved on," continuing construction despite locals' objections, or, in some instances, altering work arrangements, though never at any considerable expense, according to the Atlantic.

One Icelandic city says it learned the hazards of offending neighborhood elves the hard way: Residents of the town of Bolungarvik claimed angry elves caused a bombardment of rocks on a town construction site in 2011, according to The Register. (The less mystically minded blamed the downpour on the construction site's routine dynamiting.) Local government officials refused to honor locals' requests to formally apologize to the elves.

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