On Christmas Eve, Arctic Dwarfs

"“Stood to the north / a dark field / Halls of gold / Sindri's Clan,” Sindri being the famous dwarf in Norse mythology who helped to craft Thor's hammer (Photo: Wikimapia)
"“Stood to the north / a dark field / Halls of gold / Sindri's Clan,” Sindri being the famous dwarf in Norse mythology who helped to craft Thor's hammer (Photo: Wikimapia)

The dwarfs aren’t there. Yet.

But three kilometres from the Arctic Circle in Iceland where the Arctic Henge ascends above the village of Raufarhöfn, there will be dwarfs.

The Santa Claus behind this gift to tourism in his village was Erlingur Thoroddsen, the former manager of the Nordurljos Hotel where Magellan and I stayed.

Dream big must have been Erlingur’s motto—it’s said that when completed, the Arctic Henge could give Stonehenge a run for its money—we think Iceland’s largest open-air piece of art is already amazing.

Similar to Stonehenge, the Arctic Henge is like a sundial; its four gates capturing rays and casting shadows in precise locations.

But Erlingur’s Arctic Henge goes much further.

Initially his idea was to create a sundial using the lighthouse as a beacon. The artist Haukur Halldórsson explains what happened when Erlingur invited him for a visit. Haukur, a folklore artist whose fame began in the 1980s pulled out some paper and a pen and began drawing a bigger idea based on mythology from the Eddaic poem Völuspá (Prophecy of the Seeress), composed around the year 1000.

In Old Norse mythology, the cosmos has nine worlds. One of them is the world of 72 dwarfs. As the brochure we picked up at the hotel reads:

No one has been able to explain the dwarfs in the Völuspá  apart from Austri (East), Vestri (West), Nordi (North) and Sudri (South), who carry the sky, and Sindri (Witri) and his brother Brokkr who made Mjolnir, the hammer of Thor. By connecting the names of other dwarfs to the season, as for example Bjatur (Bright), Blidur (Sweet) and Svasudur (Gentle) to the summer, it is possible to fit the names of the dwarfs to a yearly circle which becomes a kind of dwarfs almanac, where each dwarf controls a five-day period. All the dwarfs have been given a role and they all have their own personalities. This means that the dwarfs can be connected to birthdays and people can connect to their personal dwarf.”

“All visitors can identify with a dwarf, according to their date of birth,“ Elingur said in an interview in 2017. Like signs from the zodiac. My dwarf is Veigur: “The defiant, strength.” Magellan’s dwarf is Dynfari: “The noisy traveller.” Check out yours here.

Haukur made sketches and models for the design and two years after its conception in 1996, construction of the Arctic Henge began.

Erlingur’s plan was to sell a souvenir for every dwarf, souvenirs made by the people in Raufarhöfn, many of them unemployed because of the demise of the herring industry. “Nothing made in China, only Icelandic handicrafts,” he said.

The four gates, inspired by the cardinal dwarfs, face their namesake directions. They will be encircled by a stone wall consisting of 68 stones, each inscribed with a dwarf’s name from the Völuspá to form a chronological calendar.

The central column will be tipped with a prism glass that refracts the sun’s light. There will be a place for visitors to sit at the Throne of the Sun to admire the celestial bodies. A space for spiritual renewal, The Hall of Rays. And the Altar of Fire and Water for rituals, ceremonies and weddings.

When will the Arctic Henge be completed? 

“It took 1,500 years to finish Stonehenge,” Erlingur said. “It doesn’t matter when—the important thing is that it gets finished.”

Erlingur was committed to seeing Arctic Henge through to the end, but he died in 2015. Haukur is now 86 years old. The monument, financed with public money, needs about ISK182 million, equal to about CAD$1.8 million, for completion. Of course, private donations are welcomed and needed.

Maybe, tonight, Christmas Eve, some dwarfs will come forth and help realize Erlingur’s Santa-sized dream.

Happy dreams to you, from us and our dwarfs, Veigur and Dynfari.


The Arctic Henge official website.

The Arctic Henge Iceland, video by Haukur Halldórsson, 2021.

Frozenotterblog. “Edda Names.” June 25, 2015. Here’s another source of the symbolism of dwarf names.

Haukur Halldórsson Facebook.

Kingsley, Jennifer. “Arctic Iceland, as seen through the Mystic Henge.” Meet the North. July 29, 2017.

Moberg, Leonard. “The Languages of Alvissmal.” Saga-Book Vol. 18 (1979-1973), pp. 299-323. JSTOR. This is where I found Magellan’s birthdate dwarf.

Richardson, Nick. Völuspá: The Seeress’s Prophecy.” The Junket. January 6, 2014. A full English translation.

“The Prophecy of the Seeress: Lee M. Hollanders 1928 Translation of the Old Norse Poem Völuspá.”

Wikipedia’s List of Dwarfs in Norse Mythology. Here’s where you can find the dwarf for your birthdate.

Yggdrasil Nordic Art and Mythology: At around the 30-minute mark, Haukur talks about the Arctic Henge.

10 Responses

  1. Interesting concept and nice to see some current builds that will stay with us for a time.
    Merry Christmas to everyone, May your dreams and thoughts help guide the world to a sustainable, stable future.

  2. Love the dwarf story. My dwarf is Loni and Dallas’s is Austri. A number of years ago we took a short train ride from Krems to Vienna. We were the only people to get on the train in Krems and had a seat reservation – this was an express train from Germany to Vienna. When the train stopped in Vienna and everybody got up – the car was completely full (except for us) of dwarfs. Craziest experience we have had on a train trip. Must have been a convention in Vienna and they had booked this car. Merry Christmas!

    1. Loni! Loni—a “lazy person!” Would anyone who knows you say that about you, Pat? Dallas—Austri, the one in the east, holding up the sky, like my sister Margie—doing so much of the work. Such fun…

  3. Merry Christmas and all Best Wishes for 2024. Your house in Calgary will be on the market fairly soon. Arlene and Orval

    1. You are the real-estate dwarf Arlene, always in the know. We’ll be watching for the digital For Sale sign for the house that had the best neighbours, you and Orval.

  4. Interesting and amazing. Think I’m the cautious dwarf…..fitting. Merry Christmas Spice and Magellan. Always look forward to the Sunday posting.❤️🌲

  5. Someplace to put on the list of places to go..Great story, thanks, Merry Christmas to you and yours, enjoy each and every moment you get to spend together. Feliz Navidad,Buon,Natale, God Jul, Joyous Noel, Kala Chrstouyenna,Glaedelig Jul,Vrolijk Kerstfeest, to name a few, but all the same…MERRY CHRISTMAS..and thanks for a great year of travel stories…

    1. Putting Raufarhöfn on your list—exactly what Erlingur intended. Seasons’ best to you and yours, too, Heather.
      Your dwarf, Aurnir wasn’t on either of our two references, but I found it on a third (Frozenotterblog). It stands for giant. Seems fitting. Tall, like your mom, with a big heart.

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