There are, unfortunately, occasions when infrastructure development is not welcomed by those whom it effects – a typical example would be the noise pollution that accompanies a new airport or runway.
Such a clash between the need for modern infrastructure and the rights of the incumbent population has been dramatically witnessed in Iceland where, for the last eight years, a dispute has raged between road builders and erm…elf conservationists.
On one side of the battle were construction workers who, as part of a new road development across a lava field north of Reykjavik, needed to move a 50-tonne boulder out of the way. Lined up against them were campaigners for elf rights who claimed that the boulder was in fact an elf chapel – and that the users of said chapel would be very annoyed to see it lifted up and deposited somewhere else.
One of the campaigners, Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir, told the Guardian newspaper: “The elves contacted me in 2012 and pleaded with me to protect their chapel. They told me the Ófeigskirkja [boulder] had been used as a beacon to guide people through the lava field for centuries, so they asked me to write to the mayor to halt the road.”
Thankfully, as often happens with infrastructure projects, a compromise was eventually reached. In this case, after eight years of intransigence, the elf supporters finally relented – allowing the boulder to be moved as long as it was done as sensitively as possible.
The same campaigner explained: “They [the elves] moved their altar and pews out of the rock and have transferred the energy to its new location. The chapel had to be broken in two to be moved, so the elves have a lot of work to do to fix it up inside. But they seem content.”
This will come as a relief to the construction workers as there have (apparently) been documented examples of previous clashes with the elf community where things have turned sour. “There are many stories of machines breaking down and workers becoming ill when they interfere with elf rocks,” noted Bryndis Bjorgvinsdottir, a writer and folklore specialist.
However, it will perhaps be a while before the workers on the latest project can take anything for granted. Jónsdóttir is not entirely convinced that the compromise means all is well. “I just hope they’re happy in their new home,” he reflected. “The elves really don’t like being uprooted like this.”