Alcoa, the biggest aluminum company in the country, encountered two problems peculiar to Iceland when, in 2004, it set about erecting its giant smelting plant. The first was the so-called hidden people-- or, to put it more plainly, elves-- in whom some large number of Icelanders, steeped long and thoroughly in their rich folkloric culture, sincerely believe. Before Alcoa could build its smelter it had to defer to a government expert to scour the enclosed plant site and certify that no elves were on or under it. It was a delicate corporate situation, an Alcoa spokesman told me, because they had to pay hard cash to declare the site elf-free, but, as he put it, "we couldn't as a company be in a position of acknowledging the existence of hidden people." The other, more serious problem was the Icelandic male: he took more safety risks than aluminum workers in other nations did....The Icelandic male had a propensity to try to fix something it wasn't his job to fix.