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« : September 29, 2005, 12:14:57 AM »

It is widely known that Tolkien was influenced by a desire to recreate the Elves of Scandinavian folklore in his Books.

This text (originally written in Russian and translated and slimmed by Leonid L. Korablev )



Leonid L. Korablev
The True Elves of Europe


(The Unfallen Elves of J.R.R. Tolkien)

Contents:
1. Sources on Elves.

2. Elves in North-Western European mythologies.

a. The name & its connotations.
b. Descendants of Elves.
c. Customs associated with Elves.
3. The Ancestry of European Elves, and Tolkien's possible intentions.

4. Tolkien's not-so-obvious borrowings.


Abstract:
In view of (relatively) abundant references to Elves in surviving ancient and medieval texts, modern connotations of the word 'elf' as well as 18th-19th century related folk-lore ideas appear as grotesque distortions of a waning tradition. Observing the older references, we notice striking similarities between Elves and their counterparts of various names across the mythological landscape of North-Western Europe. We claim that these are traces of an integral tradition, which, with time, gradually lost its integrity and merged with other traditions and/or random elements of folk fancy. It is clear that Tolkien widely used the elements of that tradition in creating his Elves; we maintain that besides being a marvelous achievement of a story-teller, Tolkien's Elves (Eldar, Quendi) were a (veiled) attempt of a scholar at reconstructing the tradition in question. Similar treatment of the Atlantis myth (i.e. providing a 'real' story of which the known myth could be an echo) speaks in favor of our hypothesis.

1. Webster's dictionary defines an Elf to be "a tiny, ...prankish fairy" (or "a small child or being, especially a mischievous one"), in perfect accordance with popular literary usage of Shakespeare and others. However, the word is much older than its current meaning and used to have completely different connotations. There is abundant linguistic and literary evidence that the beings of the same name were treated very seriously and with much reverence all over the ancient Northern Europe, and that the names "Elf" and its analogies in other languages was applied to a separate, quite independently from humans existing race ("folk") of beings, comparable and very often even superior to humans in many respects.


Evidence:
A host of masculine and feminine names in Anglo-Saxon [1], Old- and Middle- High-German, Old Norse-Icelandic, including the element 'Elf' , 'AElf', 'Alb', 'Alfr'.



Masculine:

  Gothic    (Alt-) Mittel-hochdeutsch     Anglo-Saxon     Old Norse-Icelandic    Translation 
Alpbrecht, AlprechtAElfbeorth, AElfbrihtElven-bright
Alphari, Alphere, Alfheri AElfhereElf-like Warrior
Alphoh AElfheahHigh (tall) as an Elf; Elven-noble; proud, haughty
AElfhelm, (cf. Elfhelm of Rohan)protected by Elves ? (helm-protection by Elves)
Albgastir[2] AlpkastElven Guest
AlpkerAElfgar AlfgeirrElven Spear
AElfnodh (cf. Quenya Eldakan) bold, brave as an Elf
AlberadAElfredAlfradhrElven-Wise (counsel from an Elf)
Alpwin,(Lombardic) AlboinAElfwineAlfvinrElf-Friend
AlfwardAElfweardElf-Ward(en)
Alfhard, AlphartAElfheardElf-Hardy (Elven-strong)
Albsigis[2]AElfsigeelven victory ? (elven-mastery, wizardry [3])
Feminine:
Albuera[2]AlbweraAElfwaruElf-protection (protection by an Elf)
Alphilt, AlbhiltAElfhildAlfhildrElven Battle- maiden (valkyrja)
AlbrunaAElfrun(e)*AlfrunSecret counsel from Elves or prophetess like an Elf
Alpsuint, (Lombardic) AlpsuindaAElfswidhelven-swift
Alpdrud,  AlbedrudisAElthrydhElfridaelven daughter of Thor (valkyrja)
Albgiba[2]AElfgifu, AElfgeovaAlgivaElf-Gift
« : September 30, 2005, 11:46:26 PM Elril Galia »



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« #1 : September 30, 2005, 11:44:56 PM »

Searle's "Onomasticon" (mentioned by Arundell Lowdham, a character of JRRT's "Notion Club Papers") contains 35 different names of the form AElf + adjective (noun); it mentions 75 recorded bearers of the name AElfwine "Elf-friend".

Of particular interest in the same "Onomasticon" are names AElfing, AElfmann, AElmanus, AElmon etc. that could be interpreted as "descendant of Elves". Indeed, claiming an Elf for an ancestor was not at all unusual (for example, in ancient Germanic countries [including Scandinavia] this was often the case with nobility); we will have a closer look at such cases later when discussing the sources of 'undiminished' tradition concerning Elves.

We should also mention the usage of 'aelfsciene' ("elven-shining") by the poets of "Caedmon school" to describe the surpassing beauty of Sarah and Judith (Anglo-Saxon Paraphrase of Genesis, VII-VIII, the poem "Judith", IX-X. See "Letters of JRRT", #236). It is interesting that Old Norse 'fridh sem alfkona vaeri' [4] (beautiful as an elven woman) matches this usage quite closely. [Add here Middle-English 'scho was so faire ....as ....an elfe out of an-othire erde'(she was so fair as if an elf-maid from another world) [5]]

Of interest is also the Old Norse-Icelandic kenning for warrior: 'her-gramr rog-ALFR' (war-fierce-hostility-ELF) & many others [6]. [Add here also two Snorri Sturluson's comments about use of "alfr" in kennings for "warrior", see "Snorra Edda", Skaldskaparmal.]

Clearly, the connotations of the name 'Elf' must have changed greatly over the centuries, losing its initial associations with strength, brightness, beauty and wisdom.

Alongside with linguistic, there is plenty of literary evidence connected with 'Elf', 'AElf', 'Alf', 'Alb'. Sources listed below contain descriptions or references to the Elves that would hardly fit with the modern Webster's definition, but are in good agreement with the above bright image of an Elf.

We have separated a number of features, that, in our opinion, characterized the 'original Elves' and got diluted and distorted with time, in each country in its own way. Later we will briefly describe some of the mergings and adulterations of the 'original' image that took place.

These are the features in question. The numbers following a source show which of these are explicitly stated in it as characteristic of the beings called Elves (see a table below for a variety of equivalent names in several Northern European languages).

1. Elves are about as tall as humans.

2. Elves are beautiful.

3. Elves are strong and make fierce warriors.

4. Elves excel in arts (especially music), possess the gift of foreknowledge and can bestow similar gifts upon chosen humans.

5. Dwelling places of Elves are removed from those of humans (e.g. beyond the sea, on islands etc.).

6. Elves possess a speech of their own, distinct from that of humans.

7. Elves and humans can have common children.

Let us now list the sources, grouped by their country of origin. Within these groups they roughly fall into two categories - original texts and works of folklore collectors who interpreted the matter of Elves in the beliefs of their respective countries.



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« #2 : September 30, 2005, 11:46:00 PM »

Iceland (Alfar & later Huldu-folk):
Besides the famous 'Elder Edda' and 'Snorra Edda' of Snorri Sturluson, where "Aesir and Alfs", the gods and the Elves, are commonly mentioned together, and a reference is made to their separate speech, different from those of the gods and mortals, in 'Alvismal', there are:

  ALFAR
"Hrolfs saga kraka" (XIV-XV): 1,2,4,5,7
"Goengu-Hrolfs saga" (XIV): 1,4,5
"Prests saga Gudhmundar (godha) Arasonar" (XIII): 4
"Nornagests thattr" (XIV): 4,5
"Saga af Tristram ok Isoend" (A.D. 1226): 1,2,3,4,5
"Hrafnagaldr Odhins" (XVII): 4
"Moettuls saga" (XIII): 4; & many others "Riddara & lygi soegur".
"Jarlmanns saga ok Hermanns" (XV) - here Icelandic Elves are already called
 HULDU-FOLK (the Hidden People);
Later of the Huldu-folk we have:
"THorsteins thattr baejarmagns" (XV): 1,4,5
"Koetlu draumur" (XVI): 1,2,5,7
Jon Gudhmundsson: "Tidhfordrif", "Samantektir um skilning a Eddu" (XVII): 1,2,
                        4,5,7
Torfaeus (i.e. THormodhur Torfason): "Historia Hrolfi Krakii...." [see
        preface](1705): 4,5,7
Finnus Johannaeus (i.e. Finnur Jonsson): "Historia Ecclesiastica Islandiae"
 [vol II, p. 368 ff.], (1774): 1,2,4,5,7
Jon Arnason: "Islenzkar THjodhsoegur" (1862-1864): 1,2,4,5,6,7

The most important for us are treatises of Jon Gudhmundsson hinn Laerdhi 'Learned' (1574-1658?) respecting the nature and the origin of Elves because these preserve earliest detailed written accounts and memories of ancient Norse-Icelandic 'Alfar'; namely, aforesaid "Tidhfordrif" (1644), "Samantektir um skilning a Eddu" (1641), poems: "Fjoelmodhur" (1649), "Snjafjallavisur hinar fyrri" (1611), "THeim godhu jardharinnar innbuum tilheyri thessar oskir", "Huldufolks mal" & etc. Also, Olafr Sveinsson from Purkey (1780-1845) later compiled the "Writ about Hid-folk, or Elves, for Instruction and knowledge of the Realm of Nature" [7], having collected a lot of related folk- tales (testimonies of encounters with Elves). [Belief in Elves is strong even in contemporary Iceland; a certain sociological research claims that more than a half of the population believes in their existence.]


Scandinavia & Denmark (Alfer):

Olaus Magnus "Historia de Gentibus Septentrionalibus" (1555): 1-5
A. Afzelius "Svenska Folkets Sago-Haefder (1851-): 1,2,4,5
F. Nansen "In northern mists" (1911): 1,4,5,7
A. Faye "Norske Folkesagn" (1884): 1,2,4,5,7
Thor Age Bringsvaerd "Phantoms & Fairies from Norwegian Folklore": 1-5
J. Moe, P. Asbjoernsen "Norske Folke Eventyr" (1842): 1,2,4,5,7
Olav Boe "Trollmakter og godvette": 1,7
Ashild Ulstrup & Wench OEyen "Huldra - den farlege lengten" (1993): 2,4,5,7
W. Craigie "Scandinavian Folk-lore" (1896): 1,2,4-7
B. Thorpe "Northern Mythology", vol.1 (1851): 1,2,4,5,7
We can also mention here Jacob Grimm with his "Teutonic Mythology"
      (1882-): 2,4,5,6,7



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« #3 : September 30, 2005, 11:47:22 PM »

Germany:
One has to mention the heroic sagas about the THidhrek af Bern (who was considered to be a son of an Elf), his knight Alphart, and Hagen [8], the son of queen Odda, who also had an Elvish ancestor:

"THidhreks saga af Bern" (1250): 3,4,7

Numerous later works of the Grimm brothers unfortunately contain many arbitrary elements, as the old image of Elves has dramatically faded in folk- lore [9].

Scotland:
Rev. Robert Kirk (1630-1692), believed to have been taken in 1692 by the Elves [10] to live among them, composed "The Secret Commonwealth of Elves, Fauns and Fairies", a detailed note on Elves derived from collecting local lore and "his own experiences". It is interesting that 114 years later, his successor at the same parish, Rev. Patrick Graham returned to the topic in his "Sketches Descriptive Picturesque Scenery of the Southern Confines of Perthshire" published in 1806 and containing interesting information on the Scottish counterpart of Elves, Daoine Sithe.

Of the latter we must say in more detail. Although not directly "Elves" in most sources, Scottish daoine sithe, Irish daoine sidhe, and even the Danaan deities, Welsh Tylwyth Teg and other beings of Celtic mythological traditions possess the same features and the Elves proper. The sources below allow us to think of North-Western European Elves as consisting of two large groups - the Scandinavian and Germanic branch (with whom the name Elves is usually associated) and the Celtic branch, represented by the above mentioned beings and Trows of Shetland Isles. Indeed, we can think of our 'original' image of Elves as predating both traditions, a common ancestor of both branches. Naturally, Celtic imagination captured and retained a somewhat different image, in perfect agreement with the difference between the Celtic and Teutonic mentality. Thus we have:


Scotland (Daoine Sithe):
Rev. Patrick Graham "Sketches Descriptive of Picturesque Scenery of the
Southern Confines of Perthshire" (1806): 1,2,4,7
J.F. Campbell "Legend of Islay": 4, "Kirkcundbright": 1,2, "Sutherland legend
      #4": 4,5 ["Popular Tales of the West Highlands", 1890-1893]


Ireland (Daoine Sidhe):
We can find all the above features except 6 in old Irish legends of Tuatha De Danaan, as described in "The Book of Leinster", "The Book of the Dun Cow" and other well-known sources. In modern times we have the works of:
Lady Wilde "Ancient Legends of Ireland" (1887): 1,2,3,4,5
W.B. Yeats "Irish Fairy and Folktales" (1893): 1,2,3,4,5
W.Y. Evans-Wentz "The fairy faith in Celtic countries" (1911): 1 through 6



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« #4 : September 30, 2005, 11:47:56 PM »

Wales (Tylwyth Teg and Gwragedd Annwn):
King Gowran of Welsh Triads (V): 5
pseudo-Gildas's "Description of the Isle of Avalon" (XII): 1,2,5
W. Owen (Pughe) "Geiriadur" (Welsh-English Dictionary, 1803): 1,2 [11]
"The Legend of the Meddygon Myddfai" (ca. 1230): 1,2,4,5,7
Th. Keightley "The Fairy Mythology...." ,1850, W. Sikes "British Goblins "
1880: "The Legend about secret garden of Tylwyth Teg (or Gwragedd Annwn) near
Brecknock": 1,2,4,5
"The Legend about Shui Rhys (Cardiganshire)", mentioned by W. Sikes: 6
W. Howells "The Pembrokeshire Legend" (1830): 1(?),2,4,5
J. Rhys "Celtic Folklore" (1901): 1(?),2,4,5,6,7


Shetland Isles (Trows):
John Spense "Shetland folk-lore" (1899): 4,5,7



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« #5 : September 30, 2005, 11:48:38 PM »

Elvish Ancestors.
As we have mentioned above, claiming Elvish ancestry was not at all unusual in ancient Germanic (Scandinavian) lands; similar cases are to be found in Wales & in the whole Gaelic area as well. Such ancestry allowed to perform deeds hard or impossible for mere humans.

In "Das Niebelungenlied" we find that the resistance of the Burgunds endures mostly because of Hagen's (Hoegni) feats, whose Elvish ancestry makes it hard for his mortal opponents to defeat him; finally, he is vanquished by Dietrich of Bern (THidhrekr), who was reputed to be the son of an elf. A later Middle High German song tells of Alphart, a knight of the same Dietrich, who was able to disperse a host of enemies by challenging them one by one to a single fight. In Welsh lore ("Meddigon Meddfai", 1230 AD) we find the story of three brothers, the sons of "gwraig Annwn" (an elvish wife), who, due to virtues of their descent, became famous doctors in Wales. [Add here also similar traditions witnessed by Scottish minister Rev. P. Graham.]

Most interesting is Icelandic "Koetlu Draumur" (XVI c.), where an Elf's love for a mortal woman Katla (consummated in her dream [12]; she bore his son, whom her mortal husband Marr accepted as his own) serves as a reason why later that son of Katla, the sea-traveler Are Marsson (actually well-known through Iceland) could reach the mysterious island of Hvitra-manna-land [13]. This motif is certainly a familiar one to every reader of "The Simarillion". Elvish descendants. Add here also Scyld Scefing ("Beowulf"), Skuld Helgadottir ("Hrolfs saga Kraka"), Merlin ("Robert of Gloucester's chronicle".)



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« #6 : September 30, 2005, 11:56:30 PM »

The Family of North-Western European Elves.
We have a whole family of initially similar peoples (beings) who occupy a prominent place in the high myths and folklore of North-Western European nations. The word 'Elf' itself, used in this paper to refer to a single being of the kind, can be traced (see Jacob Grimm, "Irische Elfenmaerchen") to the Old- and Middle High German 'Alb', 'Alf', 'Alp'. Etymology will help us establish a 'family tree' of European Elves; analysis of features attributed to various kinds of Elves in literature and folklore will testify to the tendency of 'deterioration' and 'randomization' of the original high myth.

Originally a fully independent from humans, wise and strong race with time has merged in the minds of the Scandinavians, the Germans, the English, the Welsh and others with the guardian spirits of Nature (dwellers in the forests, rivers etc, Anglo-Saxon 'wudu-aelfen' and 'sae-aelfen' are perhaps an intermediate state of such a merging), malignant sprites and demons that cause illness to men and cattle ("malignant elves" used to be a medical term, alongside with "elf-fire", a cattle disease in Sweden, see Nils Thun, "Studia Neophilologica", 1969), or, in one case, a historical tribe, the so-called 'Alfar' of 'Alfheimar', an area of Scandinavia between the two rivers Raumelfr and Gautelfr. In a few cases the Elves were identified with the souls of the dead (which may have arisen from the confusion between the old barrows and the hills in which the Elves were reputed to dwell [14].)

Of the cases above, the first two represent a 'logical merging' of a folklore element whose function became unclear with the entities whose function is well-connected with the everyday life of a people; logical, that is, if we assume that every part of folklore has to have a specific 'function'. More examples of mergings and introduction of random elements will follow; now let us list the names the Elven kinds were known under in Europe conjecture on their relation. We must keep in mind that in many cases the original name has become a 'taboo', supplanted in everyday usage by an euphemism of sorts, for the fear of possible harm or out of courtesy to its bearers, unless indicated otherwise, the plural of a name is given.

   Althochdeutsch, Mittelhochdeutsch       Alb, Alf, Alp fem. Elbe, pl. Elben, Elber   
Anglo-Saxonaelf, pl. ylfe (*ielfe)
Old Norse-Icelandicalfr, pl. alfar (Ljos-alfar)
later Icelandicalfa-folk, huldu-folk ('hidden folk")
Norse  (Norway) alfer, elver, elvir
Danish (Denmark)alfer (elle-folk)
Swedishaelfvor, aelfvar
Dutchalven
Shetland Islandstrows
Faeroeshuldu-menn (huldu-folk)
A few other races should be mentioned here, because of their overwhelming similarities with the above:
WalesTylwith Teg ("Fair Family")
Gaelic (Ireland/Scotland)Daoine Sidhe / Daoine Sithe ("Dwellers of Hills" / "People in peace")
Tuatha de Danaan



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« #7 : September 30, 2005, 11:57:44 PM »

« : October 01, 2005, 12:26:31 AM Elril Galia »



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« #8 : October 01, 2005, 12:27:59 AM »

Tolkien's not-so-obvious borrowings.

Although Tolkien never made a secret of his sources, it is quite astounding how many of the folk- and place-names in "The Lord of the Rings" and "Silmarillion" correspond precisely to ancient Norse-Icelandic, Anglo-Saxon and other ones that were actually used for things associated with Elves. This seems to corroborate our hypothesis that in creating his Elves Tolkien might have been thinking of reconstructing the 'original' image that, should such an original exist, was reflected in various Elves of North-Western European mythologies. A striking example of this approach is provided by his treatment of the Atlantis myth. The story of Numenor is not only an example of a fascinating mythical image employed by a master story-teller to produce a compelling story with a moral purport of his own, but rather an amazing attempt to provide the real story that with time took the form of the familiar myth (or, rather, familiar mess of ideas associated with Atlantis). And in the middle of it all stands the 'original' name of the Downfallen land and people, Atalante (in ancient Elvisn language 'Quenya'), which is, of course, Atlantis given its 'original' meaning.

We claim that this approach, this challenge of reconstructing the 'original' image behind the current mythological mess pervades all of Tolkien's work, and that creating linguistic proof of its authenticity as in the case of Atlantis-Atalante is not a singular occurrence either. Let us offer a list of names Tolkien chose to use for his creations and their historical counterparts.

* Cala-quendi, the Elves of Light - Vikings knew the Ljos-alfar, also the Elves of Light, who lived in remote world of their own, Ljos-alfa-heimr, presided over by Yngvi-Freyr. The king of Vanyar, the noblest kindred of Tolkien's Elves who never left Valinor (blessed realm over the sea) for Middle-earth (Midhs-gardhar) and dwell there with the gods till present day is called Ingwe.

* Elda-mar, the Elvenhome - We have already mentioned Ljos-alfa-heimr, its word-for-word translation. In "The Book of Lost Tales" and "Ambarkanta" Tolkien suggests a 'lost' Anglo-saxon AElf-ham, an intermediary name of the same meaning.

* Alqua-londe, the Elvish Haven of the Swans - In Middle English the land of the Elves is called Eluen londe

* Eles-sar (name), "the Elven Stone" - Cf. Germanic personal name Alb-stein, Anglo-Saxon AElf-stan, Modern German Elb-stein usually interpreted as a sacrificial stone "upon which victims were broken" or stones in which (inside) "Elfs" sat. (Swedish aelf-qvarn) Tolkien (apparently) restored the true meaning of this old Germanic name as "Elven (gem-)stone (!), jewel of Elves".

* The sundering of Elves. (Vanyar, Noldor, Teleri) - A classification of Elves was not unfamiliar to speaker of Anglo-Saxon, with 'wudu-aelfen' (forest- elves), 'sae-aelfen' (sea-elves) & etc.... (Cf. also "The Noldor are....the Sword-elves", and Old Norse-Icelandic kenning for warrior 'sverdh-alfr' of the same meaning.)




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« #9 : October 01, 2005, 12:31:28 AM »


This article is a much abridged version of the original Russian text. Unfortunately, no electronic copy of the Russian original exists.


Footnotes:
[1] Listed 35 extant forms (R. Jente, E. Foerstemann, vol.I)

[2] Hypothetical (unattested) form

[3] Cf. comments of J.Tolkien to his edition of Anglo-Saxon "Exodus", 1981, pp.66-67 (sige-tibre)

[4] "Strengleikar" (XIII cent.) Thanks for info. to Einar G. Petursson (doktor phil., Stofnun A.M. a Islandi).

[5] "The Wars of Alexander" (about A.D. 1450)

[6] See "Lexicon Poeticum" by Sveinbjoern Egilsson\Finnur Jonsson

[7] "Alfasoegubok" ('eitt skrif, sem ahraeri Huldufolk edhur Alfa til frodhleiks og thekkingar a natturunnar rike'). [See Jon Arnason "Islenzkir thjodhsoegur og aeventyri."]

[8] Of conceiving Hoegni (Hagen) see "THidhreks saga" ed. by C.R.Unger (chapters 169, 170 A,B).

[9] See especially their preface to "Irische Elfenmaerchen".

[10] Daoine Sith(e)

[11] Author has been kindly provided with it by Arden Smith (Berkeley University, C.A.).

[12] Icelandic 'leidhsla' (vision; guidance, being "led" in a vision through some (invisible before) places).

[13] Cf. F.Nansen "In Northern Mists", vol.I, pp.377-78

[14] See "Flateyjarbok", vol.II (Olafs thattr Geirstadhaalfs).



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« #10 : December 03, 2006, 05:07:43 AM »

What is an Icelandic Elf

An elf is a mythical creature of Norse mythology which survived in northern European folklore. Originally a race of minor gods of nature and fertility, elves are often pictured as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty living in forests and other natural places, underground, or in wells and springs.

They have been portrayed to be long-lived or immortal and they have magical powers attributed to them.

Following the success of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic The Lord of the Rings wherein a wise, angelic people named elves play a significant role they have become staple characters of modern fantasy.

Characteristics of traditional elves

1. Icelandic Elves in Norse mythology
2. The first elves in Icelandic history, by Snorri Sturluson
3. Scandinavian elves in Iceland

4. German elves in Iceland

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

1. Elves in Norse mythology
The earliest preserved description of elves comes from Norse mythology. In Old Norse they are called álfar (singular, nominative case: álfr), and although no older or contemporary descriptions exist, the appearance of beings etymologically related to álfar in various later folklore strongly suggests that the belief in elves were common among all the Germanic tribes, and not limited solely to the ancient Scandinavians.

 

Elves make various appearances in Norse mythology.

 

Although the concept itself is never clearly defined in our sources, elves appear to have been understood as powerful and beautiful human-sized beings. They are commonly referred to collectively as semi-divine beings associated with fertility as well as the cult of the ancestors. As such, elves appear similar to the animistic belief in spirits of nature and of the deceased, common to nearly all human religions; something that, on a side note, is true also for the Old Norse belief in fylgjur and vörđar ("follower" and "warden" spirits, respectively). Arguably, elves are the Germanic equivalent to the nymphs of Greek and Roman mythology, as well as the vili and rusalki of Slavic mythology.

The first elves in Icelandic history, by Snorri Sturluson
 

The Icelandic mythographer and historian Snorri Sturluson seems to have referred to dwarves (dvergar) as "dark-elves" (dökkálfar) or "black-elves" (svartálfar); whether this usage reflects wider medieval Scandinavian belief is uncertain. Elves who are not dark-elves are referred to by Snorri as "light-elves" (ljósálfar); this usage has often been connected with elves' etymological connection with whiteness. Snorri describes their differences like so:

 

There are many magnificent dwellings. One is there called Alfheim. There dwell the folk that are called light-elves; but the dark-elves dwell down in the earth, and they are unlike the light-elves in appearance, but much more so in deeds. The light-elves are fairer than the sun to look upon, but the dark-elves are blacker than pitch.

 

Evidence for elves in Norse mythology outside Snorri's work, and in earlier evidence, comes from Skaldic poetry, the Poetic Edda and legendary sagas. Here elves are linked with the Ćsir, particularly through the common phrase "Ćsir and the elves", which presumably means "all the gods". The elves have been compared or identified with the Vanir (fertility gods) by some scholars (e.g. Hall 2004, pp. 43-46). However, in the Alvíssmál ("The Sayings of All-Wise"), the elves are considered distinct from both the Vanir and the Ćsir, as revealed by a series of comparative names in which Ćsir, Vanir, and elves are given their own versions for various words in a reflection of their individual racial preferences.

 

Possibly, the words designate a difference in status between the major fertility gods (the Vanir) and the minor ones (the elves). Grímnismál relates that the Van Freyr was the lord of Álfheimr (meaning "elf-world"), the home of the light-elves. Lokasenna relates that a large group of Ćsir and elves had assembled at Ćgir's court for a banquet. Several minor forces, the servants of gods, are presented such as Byggvir and Beyla, who belonged to Freyr, the lord of the elves, and they were probably elves, since they were not counted among the gods. Two other mentioned servants were Fimafeng (who was murdered by Loki) and Eldir.

 

Some speculate that Vanir and elves belong to an earlier Nordic Bronze Age religion of Scandinavia, and were later replaced by the Ćsir as main gods. Others (most notably Georges Dumézil) argue that the Vanir were the gods of the common Norsemen, and the Ćsir those of the priest and warrior castes.

 

A poem from around 1020, the Austrfaravísur ('Eastern-journey verses') of Sigvatr Ţorđarson, mentions that, as a Christian, he was refused board in a heathen household, in Sweden, because an álfablót ("elves' sacrifice") was being conducted there. However, we have no further reliable information as to what an álfablót involved, but like other blóts it probably included the offering of foods, and later Scandinavian folklore retained a tradition of sacrificing treats to the elves (see below). From the time of year (close to the autumnal equinox) and the elves' association with fertility and the ancestors, we might assume that it had to do with the ancestor cult and the life force of the family.

 

In addition to this, Kormáks saga accounts for how a sacrifice to elves was apparently believed able to heal a severe battle wound:

 

Ţorvarđ healed but slowly; and when he could get on his feet he went to see Ţorđís, and asked her what was best to help his healing.

 

"A hill there is," answered she, "not far away from here, where elves have their haunt. Now get you the bull that Kormák killed, and redden the outer side of the hill with its blood, and make a feast for the elves with its flesh. Then thou wilt be healed.

 

The Scandinavian elves were of human size. Full-sized famous men could be elevated to the rank of elves after death, such as the petty king Olaf Geirstad-Elf, and the smith hero Völund (titled as "ruler of elves" in the Völundarkviđa). Even crossbreeding was possible between elves and humans in the Old Norse belief. One case appears in Hrólf Kraki's saga, where the Danish king Helgi finds an elf-woman clad in silk who is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen. He rapes her and later she bears the daughter Skuld, who married Hjörvard, Hrólf Kraki's killer.

 

Another case was the hero Högni, whose mother was a human queen, and whose father, according to the Thidrekssaga, was an elf by the name of Aldrian (though it should be noted that this text is largely translated from German material).

 

There are also in the Heimskringla and in Ţorsteins saga Víkingssonar accounts of a line of local kings who ruled over Álfheim, corresponding to the modern Swedish province Bohuslän, and since they had elven blood they were said to be more beautiful than most men.

 

The land governed by King Alf was called Alfheim, and all his offspring are related to the elves. They were fairer than any other people ...

 

The last king in Alfheim was named Gandalf.

 

3. Scandinavian elves in Iceland

In Scandinavian folklore, which is a later blend of Norse mythology and elements of Christian mythology, an elf is called elver in Danish, alv in Norwegian, and alv or älva in Swedish (the first is masculine, the second feminine). The Norwegian expressions seldom appear in genuine folklore, and when they do, they are always used synonymous to huldrefolk or vetter, a category of earth-dwelling beings generally held to be more related to Norse dwarves than elves.

 

In Denmark and Sweden, the elves appear as beings distinct from the vetter, even though the border between them is diffuse. The insect-winged fairies in the folklore of the British Isles are often called "älvor" in modern Swedish or "alfer" in danish, although the correct translation is "feer." In a similar vein, the alf found in the fairy tale The Elf of the Rose by Danish author H. C. Andersen is so tiny that he can have a rose blossom for home, and has "wings that reached from his shoulders to his feet". Yet, Andersen also wrote about elvere in The Elfin Hill.

 

The elves in this story are more alike those of traditional Danish folklore, who were beautiful females, living in hills and boulders, capable of dancing a man to death. Like the huldra in Norway and Sweden, they are hollow when seen from the back. Small wingless elves of British folklore also appear distinct thus Santa's Elves at called "tomte" in Swedish or "nisse" in Danish.

 

The elves of Norse mythology have survived into folklore mainly as females, living in hills and mounds of stones (cf. Galadriel's account of what would happen to the Elves who remained in Middle-Earth). The Swedish älvor (sing. älva) were stunningly beautiful girls who lived in the forest with an elven king. They were long-lived and light-hearted in nature.

 

The elves are typically pictured as fair-haired, white-clad and like most creatures in the Scandinavian folklore can be really nasty when offended. In the stories, they often play the role of disease-spirits. The most common, though also most harmless case was various irritating skin rashes, which were called älvablĺst (elven blow) and could be cured by a forceful counter-blow (a handy pair of bellows was most useful for this purpose). Skĺlgropar, a particular kind of petroglyph found in Scandinavia, were known in older times as älvkvarnar (elven mills), pointing to their believed usage. One could appease the elves by offering them a treat (preferably butter) placed into an elven mill – perhaps a custom with roots in the Old Norse álfablót.

 

The elves could be seen dancing over meadows, particularly at night and on misty mornings. They left a kind of circle were they had danced, which were called älvdanser (elf dances) or älvringar (elf circles), and to urinate in one was thought to cause venereal diseases. Typically, it consisted of a ring of small mushrooms, but there was also another kind of elf circle:

 

On lake shores, where the forest met the lake, you could find elf circles. They were round places where the grass had been flattened like a floor.

 

Elves had danced there. By Lake Tisaren, I have seen one of those. It could be dangerous and one could become ill if one had trodden over such a place or if one destroyed anything there.

 

If a human watched the dance of the elves, he would discover that even though only a few hours seemed to have passed, many years had passed in the real world. (This time phenomenon is retold in Tolkien's Lord of the Rings when the Fellowship of the Ring discovers that time seems to have run more slowly in elven Lothlórien. It also has a remote parallel in the Irish sídhe.) In a song from the late Middle Ages about Olaf Liljekrans, the elven queen invites him to dance.

 

He refuses, he knows what will happen if he joins the dance and he is on his way home to his own wedding. The queen offers him gifts, but he declines. She threatens to kill him if he does not join, but he rides off and dies of the disease she sent upon him, and his young bride dies of a broken heart.

 

However, the elves were not exclusively young and beautiful. In the Swedish folktale Little Rosa and Long Leda, an elvish woman (älvakvinna) arrives in the end and saves the heroine, Little Rose, on condition that the king's cattle no longer graze on her hill. She is described as an old woman and by her aspect people saw that she belonged to the subterraneans.

 

4. German elves in Iceland
What remained of the belief in elves in German folklore was that they were mischievous pranksters that could cause disease to cattle and people, and bring bad dreams to sleepers. The German word for nightmare, Albtraum, means "elf dream".

 

The archaic form Albdruck means "elf pressure"; it was believed that nightmares are a result of an elf sitting on the dreamer's chest. This aspect of German elf-belief largely corresponds to the Scandinavian belief in the mara. It is also similar to the legends regarding incubi and succubi.

 

As noted above, an elven king occasionally appears among the predominantly female elves in Denmark and Sweden. In the German middle-age epic the Nibelungenlied, a dwarf named Alberich play an important role. Alberich literally translates as "elf-sovereign", further contributing to the elf–dwarf confusion observed already in the Younger Edda.

 

Via the French Alberon, the same name has entered English as Oberon – king of elves and fairies in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

 

The legend of Der Erlkönig appears to have originated in fairly recent times in Denmark and Goethe based his poem on "Erlkönigs Tochter" ("Erlkönig's Daughter"), a Danish work translated into German by Johann Gottfried Herder.

 

The Erlkönig's nature has been the subject of some debate. The name translates literally from the German as "Alder King" rather than its common English translation, "Elf King" (which would be rendered as Elfenkönig in German). It has often been suggested that Erlkönig is a mistranslation from the original Danish ellerkonge or elverkonge, which does mean "elf king".

 

According to German and Danish folklore, the Erlkönig appears as an omen of death, much like the banshee in Irish mythology. Unlike the banshee, however, the Erlkönig will appear only to the person about to die. His form and expression also tell the person what sort of death they will have: a pained expression means a painful death, a peaceful expression means a peaceful death. This aspect of the legend was immortalised by Goethe in his poem Der Erlkönig, later set to music by Schubert.

In the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Der Schuhmacher und die Heinzelmännchen, a group of naked, one foot tall beings called Heinzelmännchen help a shoemaker in his work.

 

When he rewards their work with little clothes, they are so delighted, that they run away and are never seen again. Even though Heinzelmännchen are akin to beings such as kobolds and dwarves, the tale has been translated to English as The Shoemaker & the Elves, (probably due to the similarity of the henzelmannchen to Scottish brownies) and is echoed in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter stories.

 

5. English elves in Iceland

The word elf came into English as the Old English word ćlf (pl. ćlfe, with regional and chronological variants such as ylfe and ćlfen), and so came to Britain originally with the Anglo-Saxons. Words for the nymphs of the Greek and Roman mythos were translated by Anglo-Saxon scholars with ćlf and variants on it.

 

Although our early English evidence is slight, there are reasons to think that Anglo-Saxon elves (ćlfe) were similar to early elves in Norse mythology: human-like, human-sized supernatural beings, capable of helping or harming the people who encountered them. In particular, the pairing of ćsir and álfar found in the Poetic Edda is mirrored in the Old English charm Wiđ fćrstice and in the distinctive occurrence of the cognate words os and ćlf in Anglo-Saxon personal names.

 

In relation to the beauty of the Norse elves, some further evidence is given by old English words such as ćlfsciene ("elf-beautiful"), used of seductively beautiful Biblical women in the Old English poems Judith and Genesis A. Although elves could be considered to be beautiful and potentially helpful beings in some sections of English-speaking society throughout its history, Anglo-Saxon evidence also attests to alignments of elves with demons, as for example in line 112 of Beowulf. On the other hand, oaf is simply a variant of the word elf, presumably originally referring to a changeling or to someone stupefied by elvish enchantment.

 

Little documentation exists on English rustic beliefs and terminology before the 19th century, but it seems that the term elf was used, at least on some occasions or in some places, for various kinds of uncanny wights, either human-sized or smaller. But other terms were also used.

 

Elf-shot (or elf-bolt or elf-arrow) is a word found in Scotland and Northern England, first attested in a manuscript of about the last quarter of the 16th century. Although first attested in the sense 'sharp pain caused by elves', it is later attested denoting Neolithic flint arrow-heads, which by the 17th century seem to have been attributed in Scotland to elvish folk, and which were used in healing rituals, and alleged to be used by witches (and perhaps elves) to injure people and cattle.

 

So too a tangle in the hair was called an elf-lock, as being caused by the mischief of the elves, and sudden paralysis was sometimes attributed to elf-stroke. Compare with the following excerpt from an 1750 ode by Willam Collins:

 

There every herd, by sad experience, knows

How, winged with fate, their elf-shot arrows fly,

When the sick ewe her summer food forgoes,

Or, stretched on earth, the heart-smit heifers lie.

 

The elf makes many appearances in ballads of English and Scottish origin, as well as folk tales, many involving trips to Elphame or Elfland (the Álfheim of Norse mythology), a mystical realm which is sometimes an eerie and unpleasant place.

 

The elf is often portrayed in a positive light, such as the Queen of Elphame in the ballad Thomas the Rhymer, but examples exist of the elf has a sinister character, as in the Tale of Childe Rowland, or the ballad Lady Isabel of the Elf-Knight, in which the Elf-Knight bears away Isabel to murder her. In none of these cases is the elf a spritely character with pixie-like qualities.

 

English folktales of the early modern period typically portray elves as small, elusive people with mischievous personalities. They are not evil but might annoy humans or interfere in their affairs.

 

They are sometimes said to be invisible. In this tradition, elves became more or less synonymous with the fairies that originated from native British mythology, for example, the Welsh Ellyll (plural Ellyllon) and Y Dynon Bach Tęg.

 

Successively, the word elf, as well as literary term fairy, evolved to a general denotation of various nature spirits like pwcca, hobgoblin, Robin Goodfellow, the Scots brownie, and so forth. These terms, like their relatives in other European languages, are no longer clearly distinguished in popular folklore.

 

Significant for the distancing of the concept of elves from its mythological origins was the influence from literature. In Elizabethan England, William Shakespeare imagined elves as little people. He apparently considered elves and fairies to be the same race. In Henry IV, part 1, act II, scene iv, he has Falstaff call Prince Henry, "you starveling, you elfskin!", and in his A Midsummer Night's Dream, his elves are almost as small as insects.

 

On the other hand, Edmund Spenser applies elf to full-sized beings in The Faerie Queene.

 

The influence of Shakespeare and Michael Drayton made the use of elf and fairy for very small beings the norm. In Victorian literature, elves usually appeared in illustrations as tiny men and women with pointed ears and stocking caps.

 

An example is Andrew Lang's fairy tale Princess Nobody (1884), illustrated by Richard Doyle, where fairies are tiny people with butterfly wings, whereas elves are tiny people with red stocking caps. There were exceptions to this rule however, such as the full-sized elves who appear in Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter.

http://www.hauntediceland.com/icelandic-elves.htm



All Keeps Well for those who Wait. Nai tiruvantel ar varyuvantel i Valar tielyanna nu Vilya
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