Elves Stop Construction

A couple of years ago I wrote a post about Taniwha and whether their alleged presence should constitute a stop sign for construction projects. At the time I was responding to an article which proposed just that on the grounds that the Taniwha claims could represent indigenous knowledge of the area relevant to construction.

I admitted that possibility but argued that any fantastical creature could be substituted for Taniwha and no information would be lost – we would still be confronted with a superstitious claim with no way to verify if there was an underlying consideration that could impact civil works. I suggest alternative creatures such as fairies and gremlins – had I inserted Elves I would have had a much smoother segue to my latest topic.

Icelanders also have mythical creatures that interrupt engineering projects – via human intermediaries of course.

It appears local myth has it that Elves occupy the landscape, including in this case lava fields scheduled to have a road constructed. Many in Iceland believe in, or at least do not dismiss, the existence of these Elves. Might we conclude then that the Elves are stand-ins for other environmental concerns? Perhaps but it seems to me that a more productive case could be made by referencing only known biological and environmental entities – indeed the disruption by Elves routine seems to be almost a matter of amusement in some quarters such that the media employ a stock “The Elves have left the area” bit.

In this case then the inclusion of the Elves may grab interest but it quickly gives ground to ridicule.

Are there parallels to the situation here in NZ? In both cases there are vague claims of supernatural entities who must be appeased/avoided or otherwise respected based on claims by human representatives who may or may not  be transmitting (in garbled fashion) legitimate concerns about the advisability of local engineering projects.

Should we automatically take all claims on equal footing? If so what other entities might we need to be wary of, borrowers? If not – on what basis do we make that determination? Supporting ecological/geological evidence? If so that seems to lead to cultural arrogance itself. What we are in essence saying is “Your cultural heritage need not be taken seriously in its own right – it is just a method of encoding local knowledge of other things”.

Is that better? I’m not sure.

Where cultures clash it it not always possible for both to leave the encounter unchanged, but I’m not sure it is helpful to add in spurious interpretations that at best add little to the conversation and at worse cheapen the whole enterprise.

    • ole Blake
    • December 24th, 2013

    I am neither a scholar nor learned educator, but have existed for 71 years. My old dad started my education by having me watch people in everyday life. Over the years., I have come to this conclusion. Cultures should not merge. In race, creed and culture, there are differences that can not be reconciled between one to another,. It is my contention that each group that see there way of life so different that they seek to make rules that other societies must live by to exist iwith them should seek to move in to an area that only that group inhabits.
    Whether Bible stories are true or not, one can plainly see the reason for confounding the languages and separating the people into individual nations,
    Today we face many minority complaints on so many subject that our world is truly confused.
    To me there are right and wrong ways to live. Any intrusion into another way of life (unless life and limb are subject harm) is wrong.
    To believe in Elves is an individual thing. Granted by our creator as he gave us freewill to think and imagine what we will.
    As for engineering intrusion, I saw many times on the industrial floor decisions made by engineers who did not consider the people who had to follow those decisions and the results many times were disastrous.
    One of the greatest falsehoods in projects of public and civil works is that they are to be accomplished for the “pubic good” But if enough investigative work is done before hand, most time it will be found that only a few benefit from the projects
    Just a few words from an old man who cares about our world and the people in it.

  1. It’s just crazy.

    • Crazy is a relative term, an official quoted in the story drew a direct comparison between belief invisible elves and and belief in an invisible god.

      ok, it is a bit crazy. :)

    • ole Blake
    • December 24th, 2013

    Is it that our world works like this that one man’s trash is another man’s treasure, Could it be that our thoughts run the same way, What one considers crazy another considers serious, Can we cultivate cultural blind spots and allow the insane to some rule the sane of others. Are there no yardsticks to determine right and wrong,?

    • I find reality to be an excellent yardstick with regard to generating correct beliefs. Right and wrong are value judgements which may be left to more personal revelation.

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