By C. Michael Forsyth
REYKJAVIK, Iceland — Seven years after she vanished without a trace, a female anthropologist emerged from a mysterious cave where authorities believe she may have been held hostage by real-life elves!
Danish researcher Kalena Søndergaard was stark naked, covered by dust and babbling incoherently when rescuers found her outside a tiny opening in the famous Elf Rock, traditionally believed to house the underground dwelling place of mankind’s tiny cousins.
“She was crouching like an animal and spoke only in a language unrelated to any we know,” said Arnor Guðjohnsen of the National Rescue Service, which airlifted the 31-year-old survivor to a hospital by helicopter.
“The only word we could understand was ‘alfur,’ an old Icelandic word for elves. On her back were strange tattoos similar to those markings Viking explorers found on rock formations when they settled Iceland in 874, traditionally known as ‘elf writing.’ ”
Kalena, who was seeking proof of the existence of elves, was reported missing in January of 2006. At the time, police suspected she was the victim of foul play, but an intensive search failed to turn up any remains. On Feb. 4, 2013, hikers spotted the scientist crawling on all fours on a ledge high on the rocky hill, moving “more like an ape than a human being,” one of the hikers told a newspaper.
Belief in elves is widespread in the frigid island nation. One poll shows that 70 % of inhabitants believe they share the country with the pint-size underground race they call the Huldufolk or “hidden people.”
“The hidden people live in the underworld right beneath the ground in rocks and hills,” according to Haukur Ingi Jónasson, a leading Icelandic theologian and psychoanalyst.
The government takes age-old legends about elves so seriously that roads are built around rocks formations associated with the creatures. Factories cannot be constructed until government experts certify there are no underground elf dwellings at the site.
Dr. Niels Kristiansen was one of Kalena’s colleagues of at the University of Copenhagen in Denmark and says the anthropologist wrote her doctoral thesis on elf folklore.
“Until recently most experts assumed that stories about elves in Iceland were merely fairytales,” reveals Dr. Kristiansen. “But the discovery in 2003 of the so-called Hobbit in Liang Bua cave on the remote Indonesian island of Flores confirmed that a race of diminutive humanoids lived there as recently as 12,000 years ago.“Had it not been for a volcanic eruption those close relatives of homo sapiens might have survived up to the present day. Since no such catastrophe occurred in Iceland, it’s a reasonable hypothesis that this species of tiny humanoids existed on the island at the time of the Vikings. Certainly this aboriginal race would have had a good reason to take refuge underground to hide from the fierce warriors.
“Kalena was excited about the possibility that Elves exist. That’s why she went to Iceland in 2005 to pursue her investigation.”
A logical starting point was the enormous hill Alfarkirkjan, known as Elf Rock. Located in the Sælingsdalur Valley, it has remained unchanged since the Ice Age. The mysterious rock, sometimes called the Cathedral of the Elves, has been the site of elf sightings for centuries and many psychics claim to have communicated telepathically with the beings who live deep in its bowels.
According to one folktale, a pair of brothers had a close encounter with the hidden people. The younger brother Sveinn often disappeared for days without explanation and was rumored to have learned to talk with Elves. One night, his brother Arnór went to Elf Rock in search of him. To his amazement, a secret opening in the hill appeared and Arnór saw Sveinn surrounded by knee-high, pointy-eared men who were about to initiate the mesmerized youth in a bizarre ritual. Arnór convinced his brother to escape with him. Furious at having been denied their prize, the elves chased the brothers and almost killed them.
Generally, elves rarely attack humans unless provoked. However, there are many Icelandic folktales about the Huldufolk invading farmhouses for food during the rough winters. Why they would have taken the attractive young scientist prisoner remains a mystery.
“Kalena may have stumbled onto an entryway to their kingdom,” Dr. Kristiansen speculates. “That act of trespass may have angered the hidden people and perhaps they took her captive so she couldn’t reveal their secret doorway to other outsiders.”
Though found without a stitch of clothing, the bedraggled woman did not appear to have been sexually abused. But authorities have not ruled out the possibility that she had voluntary relations with her captors.
“Elves reputedly have an interest in human females and are known to use mind control to seduce them,” observes folklore expert Eva Bryndísarson.
Tradition holds that elves use magic for either good or ill. They can establish a psychic link with humans, although people who engage in such contact run the risk of becoming insane. That might explain why the brainy Ph.D’s mind is scrambled.
“Kalena’s brain is Swiss cheese now. She has been through a terrible ordeal,” says Dr. Kristiansen. “We are hopeful that she will someday be able to provide a lucid account of what happened.”
While scientists are eager to enter the crevice through which the anthropologist miraculously escaped, that may not happen for years — if ever.
“The government of Iceland is very protective of elf-related sites,” notes Dr. Kristiansen. “It’s doubtful they would allow an expedition into this secret underworld.”
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Copyright C. Michael Forsyth
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