Úlfhildur the Elf-lady at Lake Mývatn in North-Iceland - Icelandic Folklore

Úlfhildur the Elf-lady at Lake Mývatn in North-Iceland - Icelandic Folklore

Lake Mývatn North-Iceland

I have been telling you a bit about the Elves of Iceland in my travel-blog. In this travel-blog, I want to tell you about an elf-lady at Lake Mývatn in Mývatnssveit way up in North-Iceland. Her name is "Úlfhildur álfkona" or Úlfhildur the elf-lady.

Lake Mývatn, where this folklore happened, is Iceland's 4th largest lake and was created in a basaltic lava eruption some 2,300 years ago. Here you will find so many wonderful lava formations and mysterious lava pillars by the lake. Some 40-50 small islets and skerries are to be found in Lake Mývatn.

Top photo: Lake Mývatn by Höfði

Kálfaströnd Mývatn

Kálfastrandarvogar by Lake Mývatn

Now on with the story...

"Once upon a time there was a farmer on a farm, he lived north by Lake Mývatn. That lake is so big that the road around it is no less than 37.5 km (or what we call in Icelandic "þingmannaleið").

It happened once at the beginning of the grass cutting when everybody was attending to the hey out in the field, that a woman came walking from the lake and headed for the farm. She walked up to the farmer and asked him for permission to stay at the farm for the night.

The farmer gave her permission to stay. He then asked: "What is your name?" and she replied: "Úlfhildur". The farmer then asked: "Where are you from?", but Úlfhildur evaded that question.Horses by Lake Mývatn

Horses by Lake Mývatn

That night hey was collected and Úlfhildur asked for a rake. Úlfhildur raked as much hey as two healthy women would have managed to do. The next morning Úlfhildur wanted to rake with the other female workers on the farm, but the farmer told her that there was no need for another worker at the farm and tried to give her a hint that he wanted her to leave.

Úlfhildur started crying and the farmer then gave her permission to stay for another day.

The next day the farmer told her that now she would have to leave, but she again started crying and the farmer felt sorry for her and allowed her to stay for a week. When that week had passed the farmer told her that he couldn't have her staying with him any longer, but the story repeated itself and Úlfhildur started crying.

Kálfaströnd Mývatn

Kálfastrandarvogar and Lake Mývatn

The farmer seems to have been a softy as he then promised her that she could stay for the rest of the summer. Úlfhildur was very relieved.

Everybody at the farm liked Úlfhildur and none of them had known a harder working, tidier woman with better morals than Úlfhildur. As autumn drew closer it was decided that Úlfhildur should stay until the end of the year and then she was asked to stay for another year.

At Christmas time the next year, the mistress of the farm gave her some leather from which she should make shoes for Christmas for herself and the two male workers, whom she served. She made the shoes for the workers but didn't make any for herself. On Christmas day everybody went to church apart from Úlfhildur, who stayed alone at the farm.

Regína by Kálfastrandavogur Mývatn

Kálfastrandarvogar and Lake Mývatn

Nothing of importance happened until next Christmas. The mistress of the farm gave Úlfhildur leather for shoemaking like last Christmas. And she made shoes for the male workers, but not for herself.

On Christmas day everybody went to church, but Úlfhildur stayed home alone. But on Christmas night one of the male workers noticed that Úlfhildur went away somewhere, and he thought to himself that he would follow her if they were still together at the farm the following Christmas.

Skútustaðagígar pseudo craters by Lake Mývatn

Skútustaðagígar pseudo-craters

Now Christmas passed and winter and Úlfhildur was loved and adored by everybody for her hard work and many good qualities. Now the 3rd Christmas approached. Again the mistress of the farm gave Úlfhildur leather to make Christmas shoes and as before she made the shoes for the male workers, but not for herself.

The mistress of the farm told Úlfhildur that she would have to go to church on Christmas day as the minister had scolded her for never going to church. Úlfhildur evaded this comment.

Kálfaströnd Lake Mývatn

Kálfastrandarvogar and Lake Mývatn

When everybody had gone to bed on Christmas night the worker was still awake as he had planned the year earlier. Úlfhildur then quietly got out of bed and snuck out of the farm - and the worker followed her.

She walked towards Lake Mývatn and when she arrived at the lake she took out a pair of gloves and rubbed them together, and a bridge appeared over the lake; she crossed the bridge and the worker followed her.

When she had crossed the lake she again rubbed the gloves together and the bridge disappeared. Úlfhildur continued walking and the worker saw her walking into the ground and where she went it became very dark. But the worker could still see her and followed her.

Birds on Lake Mývatn

Birds on Lake Mývatn

They now continued walking until it little by little started getting brighter. Finally, they arrived at even and beautiful fields; the fields were so beautiful and in such bloom that the worker had never before seen such a beautiful place.

On both sides of the road, the fields were covered with beautiful flowers and the meadows were bright pink in colour when the sun shone upon the dandelions and the fruit. Herds of sheep were playing in the fields, avidly devouring the flowers.

Lake Mývatn and Mt. Vindbelgur

Lake Mývatn and Mt. Vindbelgur

Nature here was dressed in its most beautiful attire. In the middle of the grassy field there was a beautiful palace and the worker thought that this must be a royal palace, as it was so ornate. Úlfhildur walked towards the palace and entered it. But the worker hid outside in a corner.

Next to the palace, there was a church and a beautiful building. After a short while, Úlfhildur exited the palace dressed as a queen with a gold ring on every finger.

She carried a child in her arms, but on her other side walked a man with a crown on his head dressed as a king. The worker thought to himself that this must be a king and a queen. They walked to the church followed by a large group of well-dressed and happy people. 

Lava pillars by Lake Mývatn

Lava pillars by Lake Mývatn

The worker walked to the church door without being seen, and Úlfhildur did not notice him. Mass started and there was beautiful harp music and singing. The child, who was in Úlfhildur's arms, became unruly and started crying during mass;

Úlfhildur gave one of her gold rings from her finger to the child, but the child threw the ring on the church floor and the worker was able to get the ring.

After mass everybody left the church and Úlfhildur entered the palace with the well-dressed gentleman, and the worker noticed that everybody was sad. After a while, Úlfhildur left the palace dressed in her normal outfit and walked briskly away from the palace.

Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn

She took the same road back from whence she had come and the worker followed her. They arrived at the lake after having followed the beautiful road as before. By the lake, she rubbed the gloves together and the bridge appeared and they crossed the lake on the bridge. She then rubbed the gloves together again and the bridge disappeared.

The worker now hurried home to arrive there before Úlfhildur did and went to bed immediately, but she arrived a little bit later and went to bed,  just before dawn.

Lake Mývatn lava pillars

Lake Mývatn and lava pillars

Morning arrived and people got up. Then the mistress of the farm told Úlfhildur that she would have to go to church today. The worker then intervened and said that she would not have to go to church as she had already been to church the night before.

"You would be the most fortunate of men if you could prove this," Úlfhildur replied. 

The worker then told the whole story about what happened that night and showed the gold ring as proof. Úlfhildur became very happy and revealed her identity.

Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn

She told them that she was an elf-queen. She told them that she had quarreled with an old lady, who had put a spell on her that she would always have to be with human beings unless a human man would manage to follow her to the realm of the elves on Christmas night, i.e. the first, second or the third Christmas night after the spell had been put on her.

The only thing this old lady had allowed Úlfhildur to do was to meet her husband for three Christmas nights. But Úlfhildur said that she herself had put a spell on the old lady in return that the old lady would die if Úlfhildur would ever be released from the spell.

Lake Mývatn

Lake Mývatn and lava pillars

Úlfhildur told the worker: "I guarantee that you will be a man of great fortune from now on, and tomorrow you shall walk to the lake; you will find two sacks with money; keep the smaller one, but give the larger one to the people you work for."

Úlfhildur then prepared for her journey back home and said farewell to everybody with kind words. She hurried towards the lake and disappeared and nobody has seen her since, but all the people on the farm missed her dearly.

The day after the worker walked to the lake and found the two purses with gold and both of them were huge. In the smaller sack was gold money, but silver money in the larger one. It is said that the worker became a man of good fortune for the rest of his life - and here the story ends".

(Roughly translated into English from the Collection of Folklore of Jón Árnason - Þjóðsögur Jóns Árnasonar)

Lava pillar by Lake Mývatn

Krosshóll and the rock Kerling by lake Mývatn

There are many stories of the Elves of Iceland written in our folklore compilations, and I will be telling you many more.

I am telling you these stories as I think that they add to the mystery of the beautiful nature of Iceland. And who knows, they might even be true! At least I believe them :)

To reach this area of Iceland you can rent a car in Reykjavík and drive up north. 

Úlfhildur the Elf-lady at Lake Mývatn in North-Iceland - Icelandic Folklore

I have written a series of travel-blogs about the beautiful Mývatn area:

The Amazing Mývatn area - part I

The Amazing Mývatn area - part II

The Amazing Mývatn area - part III

The Amazing Mývatn area - part IV

Have a lovely time exploring Mývatn in North-Iceland :)

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