Inspired by the god of Wednesday: Wanderer and storyteller, half-blind, with a wonderful horse.

Nancy Marie Brown in Iceland

Icelanders believe in elves. Why does that make you laugh? In my new book, Looking for the Hidden Folk: How Iceland's Elves Can Save the Earth, I look for answers to Iceland's "elf question" in history, science, religion, and art, from ancient times to today. I find that each discipline defines and redefines what is real and unreal, natural and supernatural, demonstrated and theoretical, alive and inert. Each has its own way of perceiving and valuing (or not) the world around us. And each admits to its own sort of "elf."

Illuminated by my encounters with Iceland's Otherworld over the last 35 years—in ancient lava fields, on a holy mountain, beside a glacier and an erupting volcano, crossing the cold desert at the island's heart on horseback—Looking for the Hidden Folk offers an intimate conversation about how we look at and find value in nature. It reveals how the words we use and the stories we tell shape the world we see. It argues that our beliefs about the Earth will preserve, or destroy, it. Scientists name our time the Anthropocene, the Human Age: Climate change will lead to the mass extinction of species unless we humans change course. Iceland suggests a different way of thinking about the Earth, one that to me offers hope. Icelanders believe in elves, and you should too.

"Nancy Marie Brown's Looking for the Hidden Folk is a charming and serious study of the role elves play in Icelandic culture... In Brown's impassioned, informative love letter to Iceland, the cultural historian explores the country's relationship to its lore, in the process making a persuasive case for wonder." —The New York Times Editor's Choice

"Brown delights in the fact that, in Icelandic, the word for home is the same as that for world: heima. An impish literary handbook, Looking for the Hidden Folk takes Iceland as a model of how to treat the whole world as a precious, awe-inspiring home."—Foreword Reviews

"A fascinating inquiry into the Icelandic belief in elves. This compelling and highly readable book offers a thought-provoking examination of the nature of belief itself, drawing compelling conclusions among humans, storytelling, and the environment."—Bookpage, starred review

"Wherever readers stand on the elf question, they'll come away with a new appreciation for Iceland and its mysteries." ― Booklist

Read more reviews of Looking for the Hidden Folk on my Books page, here.

Published by Pegasus Books - October 2022 - 328 pp.
hardcover: ISBN 978-1639362288
paperback: ‎ ISBN 978-1639365746
ebook: ASIN B09RX4ZYKK
audiobook: ASIN B0BTFJNFMP


I write about Iceland and Vikings, science and sagas. My books combine extremes: medieval literature and modern archaeology, myths and facts. They ask, What have we overlooked? What have we forgotten? Whose history must not be lost?

Click on a book cover to learn more. Read excerpts and essays on my blog, God of Wednesday.

Green Mountain Books
Green Mountain Books
You can order autographed copies of my books from my local bookstore, Green Mountain Books and Prints in Lyndonville, VT. Contact or (802) 626-5051.

NMB interviewed for The Far Traveller film


You can watch or listen to me talk about my books here:

"'Hidden Folk' book explores whether belief in elves and mythical creatures can save the environment" an interview with Robin Young, on NPR's Here & Now, WBUR Boston. February 2, 2022 (9:37).

"Can Iceland's Elves Save the Planet?," with Ragnhildur Jónsdóttir, on the Constant Wonder podcast, BYU Radio. November 22, 2022 (52:50).

"Looking for the Hidden Folk" & "The Seer and the Unseen," introduction to a conversation with filmmaker Sara Dosa at Scandinavia House, New York. October 11, 2022 (37:53).

"INLUS Author's Corner: Nancy Marie Brown," a webinar on Looking for the Hidden Folk for the Icelandic National League of the U.S., with Carrie Kozubal. October 4, 2022 (54:06). Find my other INLUS webinars, on The Real Valkyrie (September 2021) and the Icelandic horse (May 2021) at

"A Far Traveler: Interview with Nancy Marie Brown, author of The Real Valkyrie," a short film produced by Brielle King and J.D. Thomason for The Midgardian Magazine. Posted on YouTube April 29, 2022 (5:05).

"The Icelandic Roots Podcast with Nancy Marie Brown," an interview with Will Beaton about The Real Valkyrie and the status of women in the Viking Age. November 2021 (1:15:22). Also see a video clip on the Norse Creation myth.

"Women and Valkyries in the Viking Age," an interview with Kelly Macquire for the World History Encyclopedia. September 2021 (52:09). See also the print version.

"The Real Valkyrie: Virtual Book Talk," a webinar for Scandinavia House, New York, with Anna Dís Ólafsdóttir of Profilm, Iceland. August 2021 (1:01:14)

"The Scientist Pope," a short video produced by the Emir-Stein Center. October 2020 (7:19 minutes).

"Ivory Vikings," a lecture at Cornell University, Ithaca, NY, on September 2015 (56 minutes with Q&A). Sponsored by the Division of Rare and Manuscript Collections, the home of Cornell's renowned Fiske Icelandic Collection.

"Song of the Vikings," a lecture at the St Johnsbury Athenaeum, St Johnsbury, VT, on April 2013 (80 minutes with Q&A).

"The Far Traveler," a lecture at Cornell University Library, November 2007 (55 minutes with Q&A).

"The Far Traveler: Viking History Comes to Light in Book by Vermont Author," an interview by Neal Charnoff, Vermont Public Radio, October 2007 (9:44 minutes).

Nancy Marie Brown in Iceland


Join me in Iceland to explore the scenes and sagas that inspire my books.

My Sagas & Vikings tour to West Iceland is the perfect trip for lovers of the Icelandic sagas, elf-lore, Norse mythology, or the Viking Age. Traveling by van and on foot, we explore glaciers, hotsprings, volcanoes, lavafields, bird cliffs, waterfalls, farmsteads, forests, and beaches in the part of Iceland once ruled by saga-master Snorri Sturluson, author of the Edda, Heimskringla, and Egil's Saga. We visit museums and saga sites, including a reconstructed Viking house, the birthplace of Gudrid the Far-Traveler, Snorri Sturluson's hot tub, the home of Viking poet Egil Skallagrimsson, and a famous elf rock, and bathe at a nearby hotspring spa. We meet the Icelandic horse and learn why "a good horse has no color"; for the adventurous, horseback riding is available. Our pace is relaxed, with an emphasis on being out in nature. Each day's excursion is set in context through excerpts from my books. We return each night to the cozy Hestaland Guesthouse, run by Gudmar Petursson and Christina Guzik, to enjoy gourmet meals under the midnight sun.

Sagas & Vikings is limited to 12 guests and is only offered one week per year. For more information and a sample itinerary, go to "Tours" on this website or To book your spot for 2025, send a message to Gudmar and Christina at For more information, or to be put on a mailing list for future tours, contact me directly at

Sagas & Vikings Tour with Nancy Marie Brown

Click on the photo to see more scenes
from my recent tours.

"This was such an amazing place! 'Going to Iceland' has become the idea that soothes when life gets rough. I did not anticipate that the trip would resonate so much."—Elisabeth, 2017

"I was constantly taken with surprises and unexpected observations. I would certainly recommend this trip to almost anyone!"—Pat, 2022

"The depth of [Nancy's] knowledge and the crafting of such a memorable experience is admirable! And then physically visiting some of the places I've read about--it's quite a 'buzz.'"—Kimberly, 2023

Nancy Marie Brown in Iceland


I am represented by the Tessler Literary Agency, 27 West 20th Street, Suite 1003, New York, NY 10011.

I live in northern Vermont, where I keep a small herd of Icelandic horses and an Icelandic sheepdog. I am married to the writer Charles Fergus, author of over twenty books, including the Gideon Stolz historical mysteries A Stranger Here Below (2019), Nighthawk's Wing (2021), and Lay This Body Down (2023).

I am available for lectures or readings, for small or large groups. Vermont libraries, schools, and community groups can schedule a lecture through the Vermont Humanities Council's Speakers Bureau. To schedule an event outside the Speakers Bureau, contact me directly at: Find my Media Kit here.


I edit nonfiction books, dissertations, and scholary articles.

Many of my clients are scholars for whom English is a second language. I edit for grammar and style, length, argument, structure, voice, and audience. Contact me directly at: Examples of books and papers I have edited include:

The Last of Its Kind Gísli Pálsson, The Last of Its Kind: The Search for the Great Auk and the Discovery of Extinction (Princeton University Press, 2024).

Gísli Pálsson, The Man Who Stole Himself: The Slave Odyssey of Hans Jonathan (Chicago University Press, 2016), winner of the 2017 Vinson Sutlive Book Prize in Historical Anthropology.

Baolei Qi, Jerry W. Lin, Gaoliang Tian, and Hua Christine Xin Lewis. "The Impact of Top Management Team Characteristics on the Choice of Earnings Management Strategies: Evidence from China," Accounting Horizons 32 (March 2018): 143-164.

Francois Degeorge, Jens Martin, and Ludovic Phalippou, "On Secondary Buyouts," Journal of Financial Economics 120 (2016): 124-145.

Anna María Ágústsdóttir, "Ecosystem approach for natural hazard mitigation of volcanic tephra in Iceland: building resilience and stability," Natural Hazards 78 (September 2015): 1669-1691.

Author photos by Bjarney Luðvíksdóttir (Eyja Film), Jóhann Sigfússon (Profilm), and Ginger McCleskey