Elves…are they the tall stately creatures of Lord of the Rings (you a fan of Legolas, too?), or the silly little thing that your parents put on the shelf for you at Christmas (Santa’s elves will be featured in December)? Actually, they’re both. And several other pointy-eared things in between.
Elves are classified as a type of Fae (as we learned last week, this means anything having to do with fairies). Stories of elves seem centralized in Germany, but elves populate legends all over the world (www.encyclopedia.com). It’s interesting to note that the light elves (the good ones) and the dark elves (the not-so-good ones) seem to correspond with the Seelie (good summer) and Unseelie (the naughty winter) Courts of the Fae in Scottish lore (www.britanica.com). Perhaps modern Elves are descendants of this Fae legend?
Speaking of the Fae, in some ancient stories, such as the King Arthur Legend, elves and fairies are interchangeable. Some histories have Merlin falling in love with Nimue, the Lady of the Lake (she tosses up Excalibur), who happens to be an elf. She also tries to trap and kill him (obviously she’s one of the naughty elves). Some origins in Norse mythology have elves with wings like butterflies. Also, in Norse legends, elves came in pairs—one light and one dark. Sounds familiar, eh? The Norse light elves were said to inhabit Alfheim—Heaven. And the dark elves inhabited Niflheim—Hell (https://www.ancient-origins.net/). I find it interesting how multiple cultures found similar representations for possible angelic or demonic beings.
I’d be remiss in discussing elves if I didn’t take a minute and mention J.R.R. Tolkien (if you’ve never heard of him, stop what you’re doing and message me IMMEDIATELY). If the name sounds familiar, but you can’t quite place it, Tolkien is the author of the world-wide best sellers The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Tolkien’s world building was extensive and has revolutionized the way the world (literally the world!) views elves. This master of languages created several races of elves that have bits and pieces taken from elvish mythology world over. The next time you see a lanky blonde with long hair and pointy ears, you can thank Tolkien.
Elves have become a staple in today’s fantasy novels (as well they should!) but have been around for centuries in their original cultures.
Why do you think so many cultures have similar representations of elves? Let me know in the comments. Go to the top of the article, find the grey “comments” and click!
The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien
Creative Writing Prompts
“Quiet! There’s an elf about!” Da shushed. “Do you want to be carried off to Niflheim?” I gulped as a pointed ear poked round the side of the barn.
I am an Elf upon the Shelf. Literally. My human put me here last night. I feel like I get a bad rap. Really, I’m just doing my job. Like the time when…
Gliding silently over the moss-strew floor, sunlight dappled the shoulders and blonde hair of the creature who ruled this forest realm.
A brief history of elves
For those of you who aren’t familiar with Tolkien elves, this is where this week’s give away stems:
For all my Lord of the Rings loving friends…If you’ve never watched the movies, go check them out. You’ll appreciate this clip more after doing so. 😉
They’re Taking the Hobbits to Isengard