Drangurinn Rock and the Elves in South-Iceland Folklore
Drangurinn rock is a mysterious giant tuff rock formation that sits below the Eyjafjöll Mountains in the south of Iceland. However, according to Icelandic folklore, it did not get there naturally, but It is said that a semi-legendary outlaw tore it from Mount Hrútafell and dropped it just there.
According to the story, a strongman named Grettir Ásmundsson once passed through this area in a bad mood. In his rage, he grabbed a handful of the mountain and flung it westwards onto the lowlands. The rock he threw down is Drangur, while Grettisskarð (Grettir’s Pass) is a corresponding gap in the mountain ridge above.
Under these rocks are caves and passages to which additional buildings have been added throughout the centuries, and most of them are still standing. These buildings are a good example of what is called “fornmannahús”, literally ancient habitations.
In any case, the myths around Drangurinn Rock don’t stop with its strange arrival at its current location. The caves beneath the rock, where (human) farmers would keep their cows and hay, are said to have been home to elves.
As story goes, the elves cared for cows that gave birth overnight, but did not like human interference. So farmers, who left their cows to give birth, returned to find mother and calf safe in the morning.
But if a new farmer would buy the farm and would, as he was used to, have his assistants stay with the cow while it was giving birth, something would inevitably go wrong and assistants who didn’t leave would have something happen that would force them out, or they would be made to fall asleep.
It seems that once a farmer wanted to check in on the cow which was about to give birth but, when he left it, and the newborn calf was thrown out of the shed and into the arms of the farmer when he opened the doors.
Another such incidence happened in the first part of the 19th century: a farmers asked two of their workers, a man and a woman, to sit by a cow while it was giving birth, as it looked like the cow would have some problems. Well into the night the man told the woman to go make some coffee for them. But as she came back with the coffee she found the man asleep in the cowshed. The cow had given birth and the calf was by its mother’s side, dry and clean. All this happened while the man was asleep.
One man, a farmhand, is said to have gotten to know the elves quite well, and reported that they were a lot like humans and just as beautiful.
When he disappeared after his days of labor were over, it was believed he had married an elf-woman…