Standort: / Meldung: "Old beliefs and legends from Iceland & Tirol"

Johnny Bliss

Disorderly artist, journalist, and late night moderator, with a fetish for microphone-based hooliganism.

18. 5. 2013 - 10:45

Old beliefs and legends from Iceland & Tirol

In today's Reality Check, we look at mythology & folklore from two very different regions of Europe, and focus on not only the differences between the two, but also the similarities.

There are (in particular) two places in Europe where I have spent an inordinate amount of time, and visited often enough to have run out of fingers to count those visits with.

Some would say that makes me a lazy traveler, when there is so much more to be seen in the world, and perhaps they are even right, but that changes nothing for me. Certain places draw me back, over and over again, and I think I can put it down to several main reasons.

There is, of course, the matter of the regional capitals. Both Innsbruck, the capital of Tirol, and Reykjavik, the capital of Iceland, are small, walkable cities surrounded by fantastic nature, each with interesting architecture, friendly people and a great local scene, to boot.

Innsbruck von Oben

APA/Hans Klaus Techt


Johnny Bliss, 2010


There are, however, many such great cities in Europe, and if it would be merely about the cities themselves, I must confess Reykjavik and Innsbruck would have some pretty steep competition for my affections.

Where this brings us, five paragraphs into this story, is finally, slowly, more-or-less to the point. The nature produces in me the odd feeling of walking outside of the material world as I know it. One gets an ethereal, otherworldly feeling standing atop a snowy mountain 2000 metres up, or walking through the volcanic lava fields of Iceland's Westmannaeyjar.

Johnny Bliss, 2013

Johnny Bliss, 2013

One can, you could say, even begin to understand the source of certain superstitions and beliefs, hearing the wind howling like a harpy in your ears or (perhaps even better) hearing absolutely nothing on a quiet night, because you are alone, many kilometres from civilization, and that is, quintessentially, a very different reality than what we are used to.

In such moments, perhaps you hear or see something that you are unable to recognize, or comprehend, as familiar or "normal". For such moments, we have mythology and folklore. Whether or not you believe there is anything to these beliefs, there you can understand their roots.

Iceland and Tirol are special for me, largely because they allow me to suspend disbelief and contemplate a spiritual world populated by the likes of elves and trolls and little people.

Johnny Bliss, 2013

What fascinated me and drew me to this topic was the realization that many regions share a lot of the same myths and mythology. For today's Reality Check special, I spoke with two regional experts about the topic.

Johnny Bliss, 2013

Johnny Bliss, 2013

Here I am with my diploma from the "Icelandic Elf School"

One of those is Magnús Skarphéðinsson, who is the headmaster of Reykjavik's Icelandic Elf School, and has studied elves and other mythological creatures in over forty different countries. He is a firm believer in elves, dwaves, and other nature spirits.

The other is Karl Berger, who works at the Tiroler Folkskunstmuseum in Innsbruck; although he is more skeptical about the existence of the mythological creatures he has studied, he has had some experiences in the mountains that he cannot easily explain.

Listen to this Saturday's Reality Check to hear both of these experts weigh in on their respective regional mythologies, and on what fundamental truths may lie at the root of them.