In the land of basalt, granite is king.

We were driving slowly from Arnes to Reykjanfjörður, the SUV pulling a trailer loaded with sheep and lambs, each of their ears notched in a code understood only by the few, marking them as Reykjanfjörður sheep. We’d just rounded them up on the cold and windy June day, a thin line of us running downhill with the wind at our backs, arms flailing wildly as we danced back and forth to appear larger and more threatening than we were. They were packed like sheep in the trailer, no room to move or fall over as we bumped along the rutted dirt roads.

As we slowly drove south from Arnes towards the slanted expanse of Reykjaneshyrna where Árný would later tell the story of the infamous mage Þórður Guðbrandsson while we stood in the sea-cave where he hid with his kidnapped farm girl after escaping from his burning, Númi acted as tour guide. The old church, the new church, the school where his cousin had been the last infant delivered by the local midwife before she retired, all the landmarks of this isolated area which were also all the buildings. Our course along the road pivoted around the small island to our left, a few hundred meters off the shore, where we’d collected Eider down two days earlier. Halfway across the deep blue water of this finger of the Greenland Sea, the low tide exposed even more of the rocks where the seals congregated and basked in the late afternoon sun.

People have farmed and herded in these fjords for a thousand years. The local museum has the Viking artifacts to prove it. And in all that time, an anomaly stood out in the midst of the pastures. Númi ‘pointed’ it out as we drove by and Árný took us to visit it a week later on a cold and rainy afternoon. The ‘Elf-house’, or Grásteinn, where children had played for centuries and the local magic lived.

It’s unsurprising that in a landscape dominated by crags of basalt, a giant granite boulder would stand out. It wasn’t until relatively recently that the stone’s true story was discovered. The house sized stone had provided a home for elves for at least 10,000 years since it had hitched a ride on an iceberg from Greenland and became stranded, now ten meters above sea level and surrounded by sheep.

It doesn’t take a trained geologist to realize that the Grásteinn doesn’t belong, standing out like the one horned sheep among the sheep in the trailer behind us. It may take a scientist to know that that one stone is older than the entire island that is Iceland, but the elves knew it was something special far earlier. As we drove by and Númi told me of those that called it home and the stories the children told about them, I pointed at it foolishly asking ‘That stone?’ as if there were others it could possibly be. That’s when I learned the second important thing about the Elf-house. Those who point at it lose the finger they used. Every time I hoisted a hundred pound cedar log from the beach or felt them shift in the back of the tractor, I thought of that alien stone in the pasture and wondered if it was waiting to claim its price.

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