Hidden away in a private backyard in Akureyri town, the capital city of North-Iceland, I found extraordinary colourful sculptures of fairytale figures. I got permission from the folk artist Hreinn Halldórsson to show them to you here in my travel-blog.
I didn't know about this wonderful fairytale garden, but while we were staying at Mývatn for a couple of days my husband had listened to the news, where the garden was featured. So while returning home the next day he wanted to surprise me and drove into a residential area in Akureyri and told me to look into all the gardens...
I didn't know what I was looking for but was in awe when I spotted all the colourful statues in the garden, where the folk artist Hreinn has created a private gallery haven in his backyard at Oddeyrargata 17 street.
We had shown up unannounced, but Hreinn was in his garden working and invited us in and showed us around, and took the time to tell us about each and every statue.
The artist Hreinn with Gulli gosi
Here you will find statues from several fairy tales, f.ex. the Grimms' fairy tales and I saw Snow White and the 7 dwarves, Sleeping Beauty, Little Red Ridinghood and several others. The Swedish Astrid Lindgren's Pippi Longstocking sat up in a tree with her monkey. And the mischievous Emil by the same author sat on the roof.
Then we saw figures from Icelandic fairytales, and the Icelandic Dimmalimm by Muggur sat by the pond. And Sigríður and Indriði from the Icelandic book Piltur og stúlka.
Sleeping Beauty and the prince are a new addition to the gallery
Hreinn "lets the statues out of his basement", as it were, in the Spring and bolts them down so they don't budge, and it can be quite a task to move them. But Hreinn, who has lived in Akureyri for 13 years now, has had these delightful statues on display both at the annual Hrafnagilshátíð festival and at Amtsbókasafnið - the Municipal Library close to his home, and more places.
Hreinn works at the reception of Hotel Kea in Akureyri, but creates his statues in his spare time, always adding more and more wooden statues to his private collection.
Little Red Riding Hood and the wolf
There are more than 30 colourful statues now in his backyard counting the 5 new additions this year. They are the colourful Pippi and her monkey, Emil, the elf-lady Álfrún and Sleeping Beauty and the prince, and they for sure are a wonderful addition to the gallery.
Kids love visiting this colourful garden and Hreinn has invited around 250 kids from kindergartens for a visit. And more are asking to come for a visit. And as this is not an official gallery he allows them to touch the statues and sit on them. Once he was a bit uneasy though when 3 boys sat on the back of the big bad wolf in the Grimms' fairytale Little Red Riding Hood ;)
Álfrún the elf-lady and the wishing stone
Hreinn told me that he welcomes visitors, who want to have a look at his work. Be on the lookout for the elf-lady Álfrún with her old doll carriage. In the carriage, you will find a wishing stone. You can touch the wishing stone with your closed eyes and make a wish. Álfrún the elf-lady is a new addition to the collection.
I was so lucky that the sun was shining making the colours of these lovely statues even more vivid. If you look closely at the statues you will see all kinds of recycled material; candlesticks, kitchen utensils, rope, etc. Visitors have also come bearing gifts for Hreinn to use for his statues.
Dimmalimm and Þórunn hyrna
Hreinn uses old Christmas ornaments, buttons, old toys and gets left-over wood from workshops to build his wonderful statues. And he is a regular customer at the handicraft shop in Akureyri.
In my first photo, you will see a Viking in the background. This is Helgi magri, the Settler of Eyjafjörður fjord, about whom you can read about in my travel-blog about Akureyri.
On the other side of the shed in my photo above, you will see his wife Þórunn hyrna, the settler-woman. They used to stand side by side but had an argument, so she walked away and was found by the house. She is now by the shed and Hreinn is hoping that they will reconcile soon ;)
With Snow White and the 7 dwarfs
By the beautiful corrugated iron clad house you will find Snow White, the wicked stepmother, the prince and the 7 dwarfs, each with a special name, which Hreinn has given to them, all wonderfully colourful and cheerful.
I asked Hreinn if he sold any of his fairytale figures and he said no; he puts his heart and soul into his work and wants to keep them. I can relate to what he was saying.
I have also put my heart and soul into the 280 travel-blogs about Iceland, which I have written over the past 7 years and regard them as a part of myself. And I hope that my passion for Iceland shines through :)
Hreinn told us the name of this statue below, but I cannot recall it; this boy holds a lantern to show Hreinn the way to his house when he returns back home.
What a lovely visit this was, thank you Hreinn, for creating such a wonderful garden, it sure brightens up the world :) You can visit Hreinn's page on Facebook for more photos.
And if you want to see the work of Hreinn's role model, the folk-artist Samúel Jónsson, then I have written about Arnarfjörður and the folk-artist in another travel-blog.
I have written another travel-blog about Akureyri if you want to find out more about the lovely capital of the north: Eyjafjörður Fjord - Akureyri, the Capital City of North-Iceland. There are so many things to see and do in this lovely town.
Akureyri is located up north, some 388 km from Reykjavík the capital city of Iceland. To reach this area you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive to Akureyri in one day.
Eyjafjörður, where Akureyri is located, is one of Iceland's longest fjord, with many attractions, so I have written some 7 travel-blogs on what there is to see and do here. Here is the first part with links to the other travel-blogs if you want to know more about this beautiful fjord.
Have a lovely time in Akureyri :)