Storri and Staebjorn are two elves who dwell in the town of Gimli, in Manitoba, Canada.
Founded in 1875, Gimli’s population is Icelandic in hertitage. When their ancestors migrated to Canada, they brought with them their myths and traditions. One of their myths is about the
Huldufolk (Hidden People) or Alfar (Elves), small mischevious creatures who steal things and then give them back to their owners. So, if you have ever misplaced your keys to our house or
car, and then they suddenly reappear, blame it on the elves.
Legend has it the Huldufolk hopped aboard with the first group of Icelandic settlers who arrived in Manitoba in 1875. At first, the elves lived on the top floor of the H.P. Tergesen store, then they moved to an elementary school which is now Gimli’s town hall.
When a brick fell from the exterior wall of the public school, just below the attic where the elves allegedly live, it was believed to have been dislodged by the elves. As a result of the falling brick the school was closed, but later used at the Town Hall. The fallen brick was not replaced leaving a constant reminder that the Huldufolk are there, even if you can’t see them.
The two elves living in the building go by the name of Snorri and Snaebjorn. Snorri being the one with the blue hat and the more mischevous of the two.
When people visit the attic in the town hall looking for the elves, they must climb the spiral staircase leading to the upper chamber, where there is message printed on a piece of glass warning: “Adults allowed to visit only if accompanied by children.”
The attic contains a gable-vaulted room with two identical elf-sized beds, chairs, a tiny bookcase that swings open to reveal a secret hiding place in the wall and a wooden trunk where children leave little letters addressed to the elves. Visitors can open the trunk to see and read the messages within. As in the tale of Peter Pan and Tinker Bell, if you believe you will see the Huldufolk.
At the local school, teachers post artwork done by the children. One message reads: “Dear Huldufolk, I believe in you.” Another says, “We Love You. PS: Could you come to school and play with us.” Sometimes the invisible elves visit the school surreptitiously and steal things from the classroom, like letters of the alphabet (O and P) that are displayed over the chalk boards on the wall.
Author Kathleen Arnason reported that there is a Fairy University in Iceland where people come to learn about mythology and the Huldufolk who reside in a parallel dimension from our human one. Ruled by a Queen, they like the color blue and live inside (not under) the rocks.
Snorri and Snaebjorn are often portrayed as two smiling dwarves with tall floppy hats. Gimli resident Jean Kristjanson sews dolls of the two elves and sells them to raise money for charity. There is also a children’s book entitled “The Gimli Huldafolk” available in Tergesen’s department store, where the Snorri and Snaebjorn found their first home.
At the picturesque gallery of outdoor murals that runs along the lake at Gimli’s harbor, one can fine a whimsical landscape mural by Jerry Johhson with images of the Huldufolk hiding in the bushes and trees, among them Snorri and Snaebjorn.
Many of the blond-haired blue-eyed residents in Gimli will openly reveal their belief in the elves. One woman on the street commented that she has heard the elves, but has never seen them. Although believed to be invisible, some say the elves decide when and where they will be seen by humans.
Belief in elves is so strong in Iceland that in 2014 plans for a highway were delayed when it was discovered a grouping or rocks inhabited by elves would be disturbed.
But the people of Iceland are not the only ones with concerns when it comes to the fairy folk. According to a 1999 article in The New York Times, the Irish stopped construction on a highway because it required bulldozing a hawthorn bush — believed to be a favorite meeting place for fairies.
Irishman Eddie Lenihan warned local officials, “If they bulldoze the bush to make way for a planned highway bypass, the fairies will come. To curse the road and all who use it, to make brakes fail and cars crash, to wreak the kind of mischief fairies are famous for when they are angry, which is often.”
NOTE: Manitoba has the largest community of Icelandic descendants outside of Iceland, many of them make their home in Gimli, which is located on the west shores of Lake Winnipeg, about an hour north of the city of Winnipeg.
The name Gimli is from a Norse Legend, and described as the most beautiful place on earth.
Gimli is also the name of a dwarf from Middle-earth in the epic fantasy “Lord of The Rings” Trilogy written by J.R.R. Tolkien. In the movie adaptation, John Ryes-Davies played the role of Gimli, the son of Glóina, a boisterous but brave dwarf warrior who accommpanied Frodo Baggins the Hobbit on a quest to destroy a cursed “One Ring” of power coveted by the Dark Lord Sauron.
A 15 foot statue of a viking created by G. Barone stands as the symbol of the town Gimli. At the base of the stone statue, a plaque reads: Vikings – Discoverers of America – Unveiled by Dr. Asgeir Asgeirsson President of Iceland in Our Centennial Year 1967 – Erected by the Gimli Chamber of Commerce.
If you visit the town of Gimli during the Icelandic Festival of Manitoba (Íslendingadagurinn), you can watch costumed vikings battle on the green and observe the crowning The Fjallkona “Lady of the Mountain”, the female incarnation (national personification) of Iceland.
During the Summer Solstice there is the Naked Dew Roll. The activity is believed to cure ailments and injuries, but only if you roll naked through a grassy meadow and allow the enchanted dew of the morning to do its thing.
Snorri and Snaebjorn
c/o The attic at
Municipal Town Hall
62 2nd Avenue
Gimli, Manitoba R0C 1B0