A kind deed well repaid by the hidden people

For many centuries in Iceland there has been a strong belief in the hidden people or elves who are said to inhabit rocks and hills. There are many stories about the hidden people and their interaction with humans. It was sometimes the case that the hidden people would seek help from neighbouring humans when for example an elf woman was experiencing a difficult birth.
One such story is as follows: Once upon a time one of the hidden people came to Guðrún the midwife who lived on the farm Kálfafell. The man begged her to come immediately and help his wife. Despite it being night and she already having gone to bed, Guðrún agreed to go with him. She hastily got dressed and followed the man up the meadow to where there was a fine house. The man escorted her inside the house that was made of stone.

On the floor lay a woman in the agonizing throes of labour. Guðrún at once set about helping the poor woman and with her expertise the baby was born.When it came time to cut the umbilical cord Guðrún remarked that she had forgotten her scissors on the table at home. The husband said he would go and fetch them. He left the house and soon returned with the scissors. Guðrún cut the cord and made mother and baby as comfortable as possible.

Her work completed Guðrún wished to return home but the couple insisted that there was no hurry. They said they were too poor to pay the midwife´s fee but promised that the cow on Guðrún´s farm would milk better than any the coming summer.
After some time the man said that Guðrún should head home as her husband Þorsteinn would very likely want to go fishing early that morning. Guðrún got ready to depart and the man accompanied her. As she lay down beside her husband he woke up. “How cold you are,” he remarked. Guðrún then fell asleep and when she woke she wondered if all that had happened during the night had simply been a dream. Her feeling was that it had all actually happened, especially when she discovered her scissors in her pocket with drops of blood on it. And then of course there was her husband´s remark about her being cold when coming to bed.

That summer Guðrún and Þorsteinn´s cow gave double the yield of any other cow on farms in the locality. The hidden people had indeed kept their promise.

Þjóðsagnakver. 1950. Magnús Bjarnason safnaði. Hlaðbúð, Rv. s. 71-72.   Translation and narration by Neil McMahon (Photo LM)

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