New Icelandic Elves In Manitoba

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New Icelandic Elves in Manitoba:Viking Park in Gimli Manitoba contains homes for the "hidden people"

Viking Park in Gimli, Manitoba contains homes for the “hidden people”

Note as of May 2024: The elf houses have been taken out of the park for maintenance. They will be back in a couple of months or so, after which I hope to get new photos and do an updated post.

In Icelandic lore, Huldufólk or “hidden people” lived in caves in the mountains or in houses that were not visible to the human eye. These elves are highly respected in Icelandic culture. They are known to be mischievous and will cause trouble if disturbed. In Iceland, roads have been re-routed in order not to interfere with known elf inhabitants. Many Icelanders welcome their elf friends to small houses and churches placed around the countryside. Now, a Canadian town is doing the same.

New Icelandic Elves in Manitoba:Viking Park in Gimli Manitoba contains homes for the "hidden people"

Gimli, Manitoba is located on the western shores of Lake Winnipeg, about an hour’s drive north of Winnipeg. It is in an area once known as New Iceland. In 1875, the Canadian government granted Icelandic immigrants a reserve along the west shore of Lake Winnipeg. Here the immigrants established New Iceland, which had its own constitution and government until 1887. The community is more ethnically diverse today, but the connection to its Icelandic roots remain strong.

Viking statue in Gimli Manitoba (New Iceland)

A 15-foot tall Viking statue was unveiled in 1967. It was moved to its current location on 2nd Avenue overlooking the harbour in 1988 to make way for a personal care home. In 2014 plans were developed for a park around the statue. The opening of Viking Park occurred in 2017 during the town’s annual Icelandic Festival. The Elf Garden is part of that park.

Viking Park in Gimli, Manitoba: elf houses, trolls, and runes

The park also includes a Troll Storm Garden with water-loving plants and boulders stacked into troll-like shapes with faces cut into the stone. In Icelandic folk lore, trolls come out at night and if they do not get back to their lairs before sunrise they turn back into the stone from which they came.

Viking Park in Gimli, Manitoba: elf houses, trolls and runes

Paving stones on the walkway contain donor names and Norse runes. Norse runes are symbols known to have been used for written communication in medieval times and in Icelandic history. A Culture and History wall wraps around a seating area. The wall, which is back-lit at night with LED lights, is engraved with historical information. The Breakwater Garden contains indigenous plant and grasses.

The garden is still is its infancy with young plantings, but it is already attracting visitors judging by the interest on the day I visited.

Rune Stone on Viking Hill, Gimli, Manitoba
Rune Stone on Viking Hill, erected in 2014
Remnants of an old dike/seawall lead to Viking Park in Gimli, Manitoba
This narrow path to the garden is actually a remnant of the old dike/seawall along Gimli’s South Beach

New Icelandic Elves in Manitoba:Viking Park in Gimli Manitoba contains homes for the "hidden people"

There is more to see in Gimli beyond Viking Park. Lake Winnipeg is the twelfth largest lake in the world. Fishing and tourism are key industries for Gimli. Sandy beaches make it a popular summer vacation spot. Cross-country skiing and ice fishing bring people in the winter. The town has a thriving arts community.

Marina at Gimli, Manitoba
Gimli Beach, Manitoba
Murals on the seawall at Gimli, Manitoba
Murals along the seawall

To find out more about the history and Icelandic heritage of this area, visit the New Iceland Heritage Museum in Gimli, located on 1st Avenue around the corner from Viking Park.

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New Icelandic Elves in Manitoba, Canada: Viking Park in Gimli Manitoba, the hear of New Iceland, contains homes for the hidden people. #Canada #Manitoba #Gimli #NewIceland #hiddenpeople

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  1. I love the whimsey of a garden like this and admire the town’s indulgence in it. What fun to share the history with us.

    1. Anita, I loved the houses. You can also make a game out of solving rune puzzles carved into the stone pathway.

  2. This is something I’ve never heard anything about. It would totally capture my imagination if I visited, and so you’ve made Gimli, Manitoba and Icelandic folklore something which I’d very much like to discover more of.

    1. Karen, I don’t know a lot about Viking culture, but what I do know is quite interesting. This park is a great location as well.

  3. I had never heard of the Icelandic elves and certainly not in Canada! I was equally impressed with the history of New Iceland. Very interesting!