The Sheriff's Wife at Burstarfell and the Elf-Rock in East Iceland - Icelandic Folklore

The Sheriff's Wife at Burstarfell and the Elf-Rock in East Iceland - Icelandic Folklore

Bustarfell museum in East-Iceland

Close to the beautiful Bustarfell turf house in East Iceland, you will find an elf-rock called Álfkonusteinn or the Elf-rock. Interesting folklore is related to that rock. 

As you might already know then Iceland is not only populated by approx. 376,000 Icelanders, but it has also got a large elf population. We have got many elf rocks and stories related to them.  

Top photo: Bustarfell museum

Þuríðarfoss waterfall, Bustarfell East-Iceland

Þuríðarfoss waterfall

To reach the Elf-rock at Bustarfell drive past Bustarfell turf house and through the land of the farmer. This is the farmer's property so let's show utter respect here so as to not disturb him and his family. You might have to open a couple of gates, remember to close them behind you. They were open when I drove through the land.

Drive on a dirt track for some 5 minutes until you reach a river and see a waterfall, Þuríðarfoss waterfall, up in the mountain. Park the car by the river Þuríðará and hike up the river to the waterfall.

The rock is a bit further, on the right-hand side. There is a 30-minute hike up the mountain until you reach the elf-rock. I took a different path from my husband and ended up having to jump between large tussocks for the main part of the hike, which was taxing. Met some sheep along the way.

Sheep on the hike to the elf-stone

We met some sheep on the way

The folklore, written in Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Collection of Folklore of Jón Árnason, is called Sýslumannskonan á Burstarfelli or the Sheriff's Wife at Burstarfell Manor. Note that in the folklore the name of the farm is written with an additional -r-.

 It goes like this, roughly translated by me into English:

"At Burstarfell in Vopnafjörður, there once lived a sheriff, who was wealthy and came from an influential family. He was married and owned a big, opulent manor.

It was customary for the people at Burstarfell to go to sleep during wintertime before the light was turned on in the bedroom (baðstofa) and the sheriff's wife was in charge of how long the people slept. She turned on the light herself and woke up the people.
Hiking to the elf-rock

Hiking to the elf-rock

Once the wife didn't wake up as usual and the domestics got up and turned on the light. The sheriff didn't want anybody to wake up his wife. He said that she was dreaming and that she should be allowed to enjoy her dream.

The wife didn't wake up until well into the night and when she woke up she sighed anxiously. She said that she had dreamt that a man came to her bed and asked her to get up and go with him.

So she did and he took her a bit far away from the turf house and up to a big rock, which was located on the Burstarfell estate and which was familiar to the woman.

Álfkonusteinninn á Bustarfelli - Elf-rock at Bustarfell

Álfkonusteinninn á Bustarfelli - the Elf-rock at Bustarfell

The man walked three times clockwise around the rock and the woman watched the rock turn into a small, but a very ornate house. The man took the woman by the hand and took her into the house, where everything was beautifully decorated.

There she saw a woman lying on the floor in labour. There was also an old woman in the house, but nobody else was around.

The man broached his business to the wife of the sheriff and asked her to save his wife, who was lying on the floor and would die without the help of a human being (these people were elves).

The sheriff's wife walked to the childbearing woman and said: "May the good Jesus help you." After hearing these words the childbearing woman soon delivered her child which brought great joy to the people present.


Álfkonusteinninn á Bustarfelli - Elf-rock at Bustarfell

Álfkonusteinninn á Bustarfelli - the Elf-rock at Bustarfell

But the sheriff's wife noticed that after she uttered the name of Jesus, the old woman started to sweep the kitchen thoroughly and she gathered that the old woman did not think that the house got any cleaner by the mentioning of the name of Jesus. Now the newborn child was washed and the sheriff's wife was put in charge of washing the child.

The childbearing woman gave her a jar of ointments, which the sheriff's wife was supposed to apply to the eyes of the newborn child while she washed it. This she did and gathered that these ointments were sanitary.

Álfkonusteinninn á Bustarfelli - Elf-rock at Bustarfell

Álfkonusteinninn á Bustarfelli - the Elf-rock at Bustarfell

She thought of applying the ointment to her own eyes but was too afraid to do so because of the other people in the house. But by tact, she managed to put one fingertip into her right eye without being seen.

Now the washing was done and the sheriff's wife prepared for her homeward journey.

But as they parted the childbearing woman gave her very valuable cloth. The cloth was a golden laced woven cloth.Regína by Álfkonusteinninn á Bustarfelli - Elf-rock at Bustarfell

Álfkonusteinninn á Bustarfelli - the Elf-rock at Bustarfell

Now the man escorted the sheriff's wife out of the house and as they exited he walked three times anti-clockwise around the house and it turned back into a rock. The man escorted the woman back to the Bustarfell manor and left her there.

The sheriff's wife now took the cloth from under her head and showed it as proof of her story. Nobody had seen such an object and it is said that this cloth is still used as an antependium at the church to which Bustarfell belongs.

(The cloth is now preserved at Safnahúsið - the Culture House in Reykjavík - RHR).

The original elf-cloth at the Culture House in Reykjavík

The original elf cloth at the Culture House in Reykjavík

The original elf cloth is on display at the Culture House in Reykjavík. It is large, but difficult to photograph as it is behind glass. The photo only shows one small part of this exquisite elf cloth. Isn't it pretty?!

My two photos show just 2 small parts of the large elf cloth as the reflection of the glass is just too much for a good photo.

The original elf-cloth at the Culture House in Reykjavík

The original elf-cloth at the Culture House in Reykjavík

Now on with the story...

The sheriff's wife felt a change to her right eye, to which she had applied the ointments; now she saw everything that happened, both of this world and what is not of this world.

Close to Burstarfell, there are big boulders. Now the sheriff's wife saw that things were not what they seemed and that these were all farms, houses, and big villages. Everywhere around were myriads of people, who looked like normal people, they mowed the grass and raked the hey and worked the land and meadows. They owned cattle, sheep, and horses, which all grazed together. Also, the people worked on what they liked to do. And nobody saw them but she.

She noticed that these people were much more skillful and weather-wise than other people. They would often put the hey out to dry when there was no drought and sometimes they would not put the hey out to dry when there was drought. She noticed that there would always be a drought when they put the hey out to dry, but rain if they didn't put the hey out to dry.  And many more things like that.

Regína Inside Bustarfell museum East-Iceland

At the Bustarfell museum

One day the sheriff's wife went to town. And when she visited the variety store she saw the same woman, who bore the child in the rock, standing behind the store counter. She had her arms full of the rarest things found at the store.

The sheriff's wife was aware that nobody but she saw this woman. She walked to the counter and said in a very friendly voice: "And here we meet again."

The elf-lady turned toward her in an angry manner and spat in her right eye, without uttering a word. Never again did the sheriff's wife see the elf-lady and she lost all the ability to see the other world, which she had seen after she put the ointment in her right eye."

(Translated into English from Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar - the Collection of Folklore of Jón Árnason).

Bustarfell turf house East-Iceland

Bustarfell turf house

Remember to always be respectful when visiting these elf locations, as the elves don't like shouting and racket around and on their rocks. Ask them for permission to visit their area and thank them when you leave. 

Respect is the keyword here; we would show the same respect here as we would when visiting the home of human beings. The elves will revenge disrespect and there are many accounts of the revenge of the elves

There are many more elf rocks, dwarf rocks, and stories of supernatural beings in Iceland. Apart from the breathtaking nature in Iceland, seeking out these rocks where elves supposedly live, makes travelling around Iceland even more interesting.  

I seek out elf locations on my travels in Iceland and have written several travel-blogs about the elves in Iceland.
Bustarfell turf house museum in East-Iceland

Bustarfell turf house museum in East-Iceland

In September 2016 New York Times added a link to my travel-blog in an article they were writing about elves. I think it is an honour to be mentioned in the New York Times even though their article was about the elf rock in Siglufjörður in North Iceland and my travel-blog is about the elf rock in Bustarfell in East Iceland ;)  

Either way, the traffic through my travel-blog rose immensely on the day the news article was published, and in the following week :)

The Sheriff's Wife at Burstarfell and the Elf-Rock in East Iceland - Icelandic Folklore

To visit Bustarfell you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive to the Eastfjords in a couple of days.

Also, check out these interesting tours in East Iceland: 

Guided tours by Travel East


Bustarfell is located at 65° 35,101'N, 15° 9,524'W.

See also:

The beautiful Bustarfell turf house in East-Iceland

An Elf Woman catches a Ride across Skjálfandafljót River in Bárðardalur - Icelandic Folklore 

Huldumannssteinn í Reykjavík - The Elf Rock in Reykjavík, the Capital City of Iceland

Have a lovely time visiting the elves at Bustarfell :)

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