Belief in elves, or even leprechauns, all depends on where you’re raised. In some countries, they simply exist and you don’t want to piss them off. The Seer and the Unseen looks deep into Icelandic tradition to understand our relationship with these hidden folk, the land and modernization. The Huldufólk lives with us; just because not everyone can commune with them doesn’t mean disrespecting them.
The plot is simple. A road is needed and it cuts through a swath of ancient lava rock in the outskirts of Reykjavik. Four different protest groups gathered to say we cannot destroy it since it represents more than our past. It’s a life vein of Gaia, and elves live here. In greater context, belief in spirits is not restricted to one culture. This film is excellent in how just a bit of dialogue connects with other cultures. The belief of elves in Iceland is no different than those who follow the ways of Shinto or even those of First Nations–where spirits reside within Nature everywhere.
The Beck Lecture series at the University of Victoria (located in British Columbia, Canada) celebrated 30 years and concluded this year’s offerings with a look into the Icelandic occult world by Dr. Guðrún Björk Guðsteinsdóttir. She gave the curious a look at elves, ghosts, and trolls from a cultural and literary perspective. Of the former, I sometimes feel like I’m one of the Huldufólk. One slide presented describes how people can tell if one visited the elf world. “You can tell by their love of ‘beauty, art and writing’ and by their wistful look as if having gazed into a disappearing world.” I had days where I’m in that zone. When asleep, my Astral form visits that realm.
Elves hail from a Germanic culture and their appreciation for the arts is especially well known in many a fantasy product. I could resume academic studies to examine the lore. Some material is available online, but more is gained by hearing an educator talk about them than from the Internet. Academic libraries help, but unless you are a student or alumni, I can not borrow them to read off campus.
This program offers more than the flights of fantasy. It reminds Icelanders living abroad about life back home and how it has influenced popular culture. Because of this recent series of lectures, I realize why I love Guillermo del Toro’s Trollhunters and Cressida Cowell / DreamWorks How to Train Your Dragon so much. The seeds which inspired both series hail from this region. When considering the final film to HTTYD is “The Hidden World,” respect to the traditions is made.