Älvdans is a wonderful word. It is used in Swedish to describe low-lying mist or fog, of the kind that usually appears on grey autumn days.
But älvdans makes it sound anything but dreary, transforming a miserable day into something mystical.
Today we know that this kind of mist is caused by moist air condensing and forming droplets that float, typically over meadows or still water.
But in times gone by, people in Scandinavia believed the cause was fairies gathering to dance and casting their spells.
Early-morning mist… or fairies? Photo: Roger Vikström/FLT-PICA
In Nordic folklore, elves (älvor in Swedish) were associated with fields and meadows. Generally peaceful, they are still capable of mischief. In Swedish art, elves usually appear as women, usually in floaty white dresses.
Titta! Älvdans över ängen
Look! Beautiful mist over the meadow/The elves are dancing in the meadow
Jag såg lite älvdans vid soluppgången
I saw beautiful mist at sunrise