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A small forest elf (älva) rescuing an egg, from Solägget (1932), by Elsa Beskow
An elf is a creature of Germanic mythology which still survives in northern Europe. The elves were originally a race of minor nature and fertility gods, who are often pictured as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty living in forests and underground places and caves, or in wells and springs. They have been portrayed to be long-lived or immortal and as beings of magical powers. Following J. R. R. Tolkien's influential The Lord of the Rings—in which a wise, angelic (and human-sized) people named Elves have a significant role—elves became staple characters of modern fantasy (see Elves in fantasy fiction and games).

Elf can be pluralised as both elves and elfs. Something associated with elves or the qualities of elves is described by the adjectives elven, elvish, elfin or elfish. According to a convention of modern fantasy, the 'v' in elven or elvish refers to human-sized elves (who correspond more closely to those of the old Germanic paganism), whereas the f in elfin or elfish refers to tiny-sized elfs (who correspond more closely to the folklore of the Renaissance and Romantic Eras). They are also called:
  • Danish: Elver, elverfolk, ellefolk, huldrer or alfer (note alfer today translates to fairies). .
  • Dutch: elf, elfen, elven, alven.
  • English: (Old English) ælf; (Middle English) albe; (Current) elf, elves.
  • German: Elb (m) Elbe (f), Elben; Alb (m) "incubus"; from the English: Elf (m), Elfe (f), Elfen "fairies".[1]
  • Icelandic: álfar, álfafólk and huldufólk (hidden people).
  • Old Norse: álfar.
  • Swedish: alfer, alver or älvor (note Älvor today translates to fairies).
  • Norwegian: alv, alven, alver, alvene / alvefolket (note alvefolket today translates to elfpeople)
The word elf (álf) may possibly trace back as far as the theoretical Proto-Indo-European root word *albh meaning "white", from which also stems the Latin albus "white", and its derivatives in Portuguese, Spanish and English albino.[2][3]

Elves in Norse mythology

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The god Frey, the lord of the light-elves
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 was common among all the Germanic tribes, and not limited solely to the ancient Scandinavians.

Although the concept itself is never clearly defined in the extant sources, the elves appear to have been conceived as powerful and beautiful human-sized beings. Full-sized famous men could be elevated to the rank of elves after death, such as the petty king Olaf Geirstad-Elf, whereas the smith hero Wayland Smith was titled as "ruler of elves" while alive, in the Volundarkvida. In the Thidrek's Saga a human queen is surprised to learn that the lover who has made her pregnant is an elf and not a man. In the saga of Hrolf Kraki a king named Helgi rapes and impregnates an elf-woman clad in silk who is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen.

Crossbreeding was consequently possible between elves and humans in the Old Norse belief. The human queen who had an elvish lover bore the hero Högni, and the elf-woman who was raped by Helgi bore Skuld, who married Hjörvard, Hrólfr Kraki's killer. the saga of Hrolf Kraki adds that since Skuld was half-elven, she was very skilled in witchcraft (seiğr), and this to the point that she was almost invincible in battle. When her warriors fell, she made them rise again to continue fighting. The only way to defeat her was to capture her before she could summon her armies, which included elvish warriors.[4]

There are also in the Heimskringla and in The Saga of Thorstein, Viking's Son 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...[5]

The last king is named Gandalf.[6]

In addition to these human aspects, they are commonly described as semi-divine beings associated with fertility and the cult of the ancestors and ancestor worship. The notion of elves thus appears similar to the animistic belief in spirits of nature and of the deceased, common to nearly all human religions; this is also true for the Old Norse belief in dísir, fylgjur and vörğar ("follower" and "warden" spirits, respectively). Like spirits, the elves were not bound by physical limitations and could pass through walls and doors in the manner of ghosts, which happens in Norna-Gests şáttr. It is said that elves are the Germanic equivalent to the nymphs of Greek and Roman mythology, and vili and rusalki of Slavic mythology.

The Icelandic mythographer and historian Snorri Sturluson referred to dwarves (dvergar) as "dark-elves" (dökkálfar) or "black-elves" (svartálfar); but whether this reflects wider medieval Scandinavian belief is uncertain.[7] He referred to other elves as "light-elves" (ljósálfar), which has often been associated with elves' connection with Freyr, the god of the sun (according to Grímnismál, Poetic Edda). Snorri describes the elf differences as follows:

"There is one place there [in the sky] that is called the Elf Home (Álfheimr). People live there that are named the light elves (Ljósálfar). But the dark elves (Dökkálfar) live below in earth, and they are unlike them in appearance – and more unlike them in reality. The Light Elves are brighter than the sun in appearance, but the Dark Elves are blacker than pitch." (Snorri, Gylfaginning 17, Prose Edda)

"Sá er einn stağr şar, er kallağr er Álfheimr. Şar byggvir fólk şat, er Ljósálfar heita, en Dökkálfar búa niğri í jörğu, ok eru şeir ólíkir şeim sınum ok miklu ólíkari reyndum. Ljósálfar eru fegri en sól sınum, en Dökkálfar eru svartari en bik."[8]

Further evidence for elves in Norse mythology comes from Skaldic poetry, the Poetic Edda and legendary sagas. In these elves are linked to the Æsir, particularly by the common phrase "Æsir and the elves", which presumably means "all the gods".[9] Some scholars have compared elves to the Vanir (fertility gods).[10] But in the Alvíssmál ("The Sayings of All-Wise"), elves are considered distinct from both the Vanir and the Æsir, as revealed by a series of comparative names in which Æsir, Vanir, and elves are given their own versions for various words in a reflection of their individual racial preferences. It is possible that 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 Frey was the lord of Álfheimr (meaning "elf-world"), the home of the light-elves. Lokasenna relates that a large group of Æsir and elves had assembled at Ægir'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 Æsir as main gods. Others (most notably Georges Dumézil) argue that the Vanir were the gods of the common Norsemen, and the Æsir those of the priest and warrior castes (see also Nerthus).

A poem from around 1020, the Austrfaravísur ('Eastern-journey verses') of Sigvat Thordarson, 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,[11] 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:

Şorvarğ healed but slowly; and when he could get on his feet he went to see Şorğís, 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."[12]

Scandinavian elves

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Little älvor, playing with Tomtebobarnen. From Children of the Forest (1910) by Swedish author and illustrator Elsa Beskow.
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 which is comparable to the Icelandic huldufólk (hidden people).

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. The elves of Norse mythology have survived into folklore mainly as females, living in hills and mounds of stones[13] (cf. Galadriel's account of what would happen to the Elves who remained in Middle-earth). The Swedish älvor[14] (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 älvablåst (elven blow) and could be cured by a forceful counter-blow (a handy pair of bellows was most useful for this purpose). Skålgropar, 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.

In order to protect themselves against malevolent elves, Scandinavians could use a so-called Elf cross (Alfkors, Älvkors or Ellakors), which was carved into buildings or other objects.[12] It existed in two shapes, one was a pentagram and it was still frequently used in early 20th century Sweden as painted or carved onto doors, walls and household utensils in order to protect against elves.[12] As the name suggests, the elves were perceived as a potential danger against people and livestock.[12] The second form was an ordinary cross carved onto a round or oblong silver plate.[12] This second kind of elf cross one was worn as a pendant in a necklace and in order to have sufficient magic it had to be forged during three evenings with silver from nine different sources of inherited silver.[12] In some locations it also had to be on the altar of a church during three consecutive Sundays.[12]

The elves could be seen dancing over meadows, particularly at night and on misty mornings. They left a kind of circle where they had danced, which were called älvdanser (elf dances) or älvringar (elf circles), and to urinate in one was thought to cause venereal diseases. Some people think these are the same as fairy rings, but they are different because elves and fairies are not the same kind of beings. Typically, elf circles 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,[16] 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.[13]

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 The 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.[17]

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.[18]

These myths and legends of elves that are so popular among Scandinavians, are quite prevalent in their everyday lives. It has been said that to this day, many Scandinavians do still believe in this existence of " hidden people", and will often go out of their way to see that they do not disturb these creatures. For example, just outside of Reykjavik, Iceland, a soccer game was called to a halt when a misled ball rolled off the beaten path, and stopped right next to a sign that marked the home of 3 elves believed to dwell near the stones where the ball was resting. Instead of reclaiming the ball, the soccer player opted to leave it there in order to avoid disturbing the elves.

German elves

The original German elves (Old Saxon alf; Middle High German: alb, alp; plural elbe, elber; Old High German alb, by 13th century[19]) are thought to be light creatures who lived in heaven during the era of Germanic paganism, and may have included dark elves or dwarves underground (as understood to be similar to the álfr of Old Norse mythology). In post-Christian folklore they began to be described as 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.[20]

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 (see below).

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 elverkonge 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 first story of the Brothers Grimm fairy tale Die Wichtelmänner, the title protagonists are two naked mannequins, which 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 Wichtelmänner are akin to beings such as kobolds, dwarves and brownies, the tale has been translated into English as The Elves and the Shoemaker, and is echoed in J. K. Rowling's Harry Potter stories (see House-elf).

Variations of the German elf in folklore include the moss people[21] and the weisse frauen ("white women"). On the latter Jacob Grimm does not make a direct association to the elves, but other researchers see a possible connection to the shining light elves of Old Norse.[22]

Dutch elves

Dutch elves are like the German, in most respects. See the discussion of the Dutch "elf spirit" or "elf ghost" in Elegast, the wood people and the elvenized witte wieven.

English elves

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Poor little birdie teased, by Victorian era illustrator Richard Doyle depicts the traditional view of an elf from later English folklore as a diminutive woodland humanoid.

The word elf came into English as the Old English word ælf (pl. ælfe, with regional and chronological variants such as ylfe and ælfen), and so came to Britain originally with the Anglo-Saxons.[23] Words for the nymphs of the Greek and Roman mythos were translated by Anglo-Saxon scholars with ælf and variants on it.[24]

Although our early English evidence is slight, there are reasons to think that Anglo-Saxon elves (ælfe) were similar to early elves in Norse mythology: human-like, human-sized supernatural beings, predominantly if not exclusively male, capable of helping or harming the people who encountered them. In particular, the pairing of æsir and álfar found in the Poetic Edda is mirrored in the Old English charm Wiğ færstice and in the distinctive occurrence of the cognate words os and ælf in Anglo-Saxon personal names (e.g. Oswald, Ælfric[25]).

In relation to the beauty of the Norse elves, some further evidence is given by old English words such as ælfsciene ("elf-beautiful"), used of seductively beautiful Biblical women in the Old English poems Judith and Genesis A.[26] 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.

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.[27] 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.[28]

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 occasionally portrayed in a positive light, such as the Queen of Elphame in the ballad Thomas the Rhymer, but many examples exist of elves of sinister character, frequently bent on rape and murder, as in the Tale of Childe Rowland, or the ballad Lady Isabel and the Elf-Knight, in which the Elf-Knight bears away Isabel to murder her. Most instances of elves in ballads are male; the only commonly encountered female elf is the Queen of Elfland, who appears in Thomas the Rhymer and The Queen of Elfland's Nourice, in which a woman is abducted to be a wet-nurse to the queen's baby, but promised that she may return home once the child is weaned. 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 Têg. Lompa Lompa the Gigantic Elf from Plemurian Forest.

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"To make my small elves coats; and some keep back." One of Arthur Rackham's illustrations to William Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.[29]

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.

There is a legend concerning the Buckthorn vows that if one sprinkles Buckthorn in a circle and then dances within it under a full Moon, an elf will appear. The dancer must notice the elf and say, 'Halt and grant my boon!' before the creature flees. The elf will then grant one wish.


Modern elves

Elves at Christmas

In the USA, Canada, and Britain, the modern children's folklore of Santa Claus typically includes diminutive, green-clad elves with pointy ears and long noses as Santa's assistants. Sometimes just referred to as elfs. No one knows who wraps the gifts at Christmas but they make toys in a workshop located in the North Pole. In this portrayal, elves slightly resemble nimble and delicate versions of the dwarves of Norse mythology.

The vision of the small but crafty Christmas elf has come to influence modern popular conception of elves, and sits side by side with the fantasy elves following Tolkien's work (see below). The American cookie company Keebler has long advertised that its cookies are made by elves in a hollow tree, and Kellogg's, who happens to now be the owner of Keebler, uses the elves of Snap, Crackle, and Pop as mascots of Rice Krispies cereal, and the role of elves as Santa's helpers has continued to be popular, as evidenced by the success of the movie Elf. It should be noted that these elves are referred to as elfish, as opposed to elvish.

Elves in modern fantasy

Modern fantasy literature has revived the elves as a race of semi-divine beings of human stature. Fantasy elves are different from Norse elves, but are more akin to that older mythology than to folktale elves – they are unlikely to sneak in at night and help a cobbler mend his shoes.

The first appearance of modern fantasy elves occurred in The King of Elfland's Daughter a 1924 novel by Lord Dunsany. The next modern work featuring elves was The Hobbit, a 1937 novel by J. R. R. Tolkien and elves played a major role in many of Tolkien's later works, notably The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien's elves were followed by grim Norse-style elves of human size in Poul Anderson's 1954 fantasy novel The Broken Sword.

Though Tolkien originally conceived his Elves as more fairy-like than they afterwards became, he also based them on the god-like and human-sized Ljósálfar of Norse mythology. His Elves were conceived as a race of beings similar in appearance to humans but fairer and wiser, with greater spiritual powers, keener senses, and a closer empathy with nature. They are great smiths and fierce warriors on the side of good.

Tolkien's Elves of Middle-earth are immortal in the sense that they are not vulnerable to disease or the effects of old age. Although they can be killed in battle like humans and may alternately wither away from grief, their spirits only pass to the blessed land in the west called Valinor, whereas humans' souls leave the world entirely.

Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955) became astoundingly popular and was much imitated. In the 1960s and afterwards, elves similar to those in Tolkien's novels became staple non-human characters in high fantasy works and in fantasy role-playing games.

Tolkien's Elves were enemies of goblins (orcs) and had a longstanding quarrel with the Dwarves; these motifs often reappear in Tolkien-inspired works.

Tolkien is also responsible for reviving the older and less-used terms elven and elvish rather than Edmund Spenser's invented elfin and elfish. He probably preferred the word elf over fairy because elf is of Anglo-Saxon origin while fairy entered English from French. He certainly felt the need to differentiate elves, as only one kind of the creatures of Faërie, from other inhabitants of that land, and lamented the confusion in English between Fairy (i.e., Faërie) and fairy (i.e., fay or elf). Tolkien also wished to distinguish his elves from the diminutive airy-winged fairies popularized by Drayton’s Nymphidia.[30]

Post-Tolkien fantasy elves (popularized by the Dungeons & Dragons role-playing game) tend to be more beautiful and wiser than humans, with sharper senses and perceptions. Often elves do not possess facial or body hair, and are consequently perceived to be androgynous.

A hallmark of fantasy elves is also their long and pointed ears (a convention begun with a note of Tolkien's that the ears of elves were "leaf-shaped"). The length and shape of these ears varies depending on the artist or medium in question. For example, while most elves in Western fantasy have ears only slightly longer than humans', in various other areas of fantasy they are also depicted to have very long ears that stand out at dramatic angles from their heads.

Half-elves and divergent races of elves, such as high elves and dark elves, were also popularized at this time; in particular, the evil drow of Dungeons & Dragons have inspired the dark elves of many other works of fantasy.

Fair elves of the Tolkien mold have become standardized staple characters of modern fantasy to such an extent that diverging from the established conceptions of how an elf is supposed to look and behave has become an end in itself for certain works of fantasy which aspire to innovation. For examples of the various ways modern fantasy writers have achieved this, see the main article.

It is worth noting that those things described as being of or related to these fair elves are referred to as "elven", as opposed to "elfish" (a term more closely associated with the sprite-like elves of medieval conception). Also Tolkien based Elves are found in Christopher Paolini's Inheritence Trilogy.

In Paolini's books, elves have their own city which is located in Du Weldenvarden. The trees are very beautiful and the noble elves treat them like equals. They have a festival hosted under the Menoa Tree every century to honor their pact with the dragons. Every elf is required to bring a piece of work that they have created. It can be a piece of art, a poem, etc. But it should not be created with magic, such is the requirement. There is a story of the Menoa Tree of how it gained its intelligence. "Once an elf named Linnea fell in love with a man. She was a master of singing to plants. The man fell in love with the old woman, Linnea, and for a time they were happy. But the man wanted someone his age and found another woman. When Linnea found out, she got so mad that she killed the man. Horrified by what she had done, she went to the Menoa Tree, and sang for 3 days and 3 nights, until she sang herself into the tree." The elves also have the power to sing in the ancient language. They give the tree or plant their strength and are able to mold it into any shape they want to. They can harness the power of the ancient language to create extraordinary magic. Elves are the fairest beings on Earth.

Elves in psychedelic experience

During strong psychedelic experiences, meetings with mythological entities of different kinds are relatively common. Elves are no exception to this. Elves and fairies are highly associated with magic mushrooms, (especially Fly Agaric) both in art and in some cases of psychedelic experiences. The green fairy is also associated with the liquor absinthe in that due to absinthe's green color 'the green fairy' (or in French 'la fée verte') are common terms for the drink.

Main article: Machine elves

Machine elves, a term first introduced by writer and psychedelic researcher Terrence McKenna, is used to describe the presumed other-worldly intelligent beings which subjects sometimes feel they encounter during psychedelic experiences (especially those induced by naturally-occurring tryptamines, such as DMT or psilocybin), as well as during shamanic and alien abduction experiences.


1. ^ Masculine Elb is reconstructed from the plural by Jacob Grimm, Deutsches Wörterbuch, who rejects Elfe as a (then, in the 1830s) recent anglicism.
2. ^ Hall, Alaric Timothy Peter. 2004. The Meanings of Elf and Elves in Medieval England (Ph.D. University of Glasgow). pp. 56-57.
3. ^ IE root *albh-, in American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language 2000. [1]
4. ^ Setr Skuld hér til inn mesta seiğ at vinna Hrólf konung, bróğur sinn, svá at í fylgd er meğ henni álfar ok nornir ok annat ótöluligt illşıği, svá at mannlig náttúra má eigi slíkt standast.[2]
5. ^ The Saga of Thorstein, Viking's Son (Old Norse original: Şorsteins saga Víkingssonar). Chapter 1.
6. ^ Harald Fairhair's saga in Heimskringla.
7. ^ Hall 2004, pp. 31-35
8. ^ Sturluson, Snorri. The Younger (or Prose) Edda, Rasmus B. Anderson translation (1897). Chapter 7.
9. ^ Hall 2004, pp. 37-46
10. ^ Hall 2004, pp. 43-46
11. ^ Hall 2004, p. 40
12. ^ The Life and Death of Cormac the Skald (Old Norse original: Kormáks saga). Chapter 22.
13. ^ An account given in 1926, Hellström (1990). En Krönika om Åsbro, 36. ISBN 91-7194-726-4. 
14. ^ For the Swedish belief in älvor see mainly Schön, Ebbe (1986). "De fagra flickorna på ängen", Älvor, vättar och andra väsen. ISBN 91-29-57688-1. . A more summary description in English is provided by Keightley, Thomas (1870). The Fairy Mythology. , esp. chapter Scandinavia: Elves.
15. ^ The article Alfkors in Nordisk familjebok (1904).
16. ^ [3]
17. ^ Keightley, Thomas (1870). The Fairy Mythology.  provides two translated versions of the song: Sir Olof in Elve-Dance and The Elf-Woman and Sir Olof.
18. ^ (1984) "Lilla Rosa och Långa Leda", Svenska folksagor. Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell Förlag AB, 158. 
19. ^ Marshall Jones Company (1930). Mythology of All Races Series, Volume 2 Eddic, Great Britain: Marshall Jones Company, 1930, pp. 220.
20. ^ Hall 2004, pp 125-26
21. ^ Thistelton-Dyer, T.F. The Folk-lore of Plants, 1889. Available online by Project Gutenberg. File retrieved 3-05-07.
22. ^ Grimm, Jacob (1835). Deutsche Mythologie (German Mythology); From English released version Grimm's Teutonic Mythology (1888); Available online by Northvegr © 2004-2007, Chapter 32, pages 2,3; Marshall Jones Company (1930). Mythology of All Races Series, Volume 2 Eddic, Great Britain: Marshall Jones Company, 1930, pp. 221-222.
23. ^ Hall 2004, esp. pp. 212-16
24. ^ Hall 2004, pp. 81-92
25. ^ Hall 2004, esp. pp. 56-66
26. ^ Hall 2004, pp. 71-76, et passim
27. ^ Hall, Alaric. 2005. 'Getting Shot of Elves: Healing, Witchcraft and Fairies in the Scottish Witchcraft Trials', Folklore, 116 (2005), 19-36.
28. ^ Collins, Willam. 1775. An Ode On The Popular Superstitions Of The Highlands Of Scotland, Considered As The Subject Of Poetry.
29. ^ [4]
30. ^ Tolkien, J.R.R. (1964). “On Fairy-Stories”. Tree and Leaf. George Allen and Unwin Ltd. Reprinted in Tolkien, J.R.R. (1966). The Tolkien Reader. Ballantine Books: New York

Old Norse (Eddic): Fairy Tales:

See also

Concerning traditional elves: Related folklore creatures: Miscellaneous:
Germanic paganism refers to the religious traditions of the Germanic peoples preceding Christianization. The best documented of the Germanic Pagan religions is 10th and 11th century Norse paganism.
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Europe is one of the seven traditional continents of the Earth. Physically and geologically, Europe is the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, west of Asia. Europe is bounded to the north by the Arctic Ocean, to the west by the Atlantic Ocean, to the south by the Mediterranean Sea,
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deity or god is a postulated preternatural or supernatural being, who is always of significant power, worshipped, thought holy, divine, or sacred, held in high regard, or respected by human beings.
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FOREST (an acronym for "Freedom Organisation for the Right to Enjoy Smoking Tobacco") is a United Kingdom political pressure group that campaigns for the right of people to smoke tobacco and opposes attempts to ban or reduce tobacco consumption.
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cave is a natural underground void large enough for a human to enter. Some people suggest that the term 'cave' should only apply to cavities that have some part which does not receive daylight; however, in popular usage, the term includes smaller spaces like sea caves, rock
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Immortality (or eternal life) is the concept of living in physical or spiritual form for an infinite length of time. What form an unending or indefinitely-long human life would take, or whether the soul, should such a thing exist, possesses immortality, has been the subject
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Magic, sometimes known as sorcery, is a complete conceptual system of thought, belief, and knowledge that asserts human ability to control the natural world (events, objects, people, and physical phenomena ) through mystical, paranormal or supernatural means.
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John Ronald Reuel Tolkien

Tolkien in 1972, in his study at Merton Street, Oxford. Source: J. R. R. Tolkien: A Biography, by Humphrey Carpenter.
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The Lord of the Rings

Cover design for the three volumes of The Lord of the Rings
Author J. R. R. Tolkien
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Fantasy novel
Publisher Allen & Unwin
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 Sundering  In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, an Elf is an individual member of one of the races that inhabit the lands of Arda.
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A stock character is a one that relies heavily on cultural types or stereotypes for their personality, manner of speech, and other characteristics. In their most general form, stock characters are related to literary archetypes, but they are often more narrowly
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Fantasy media
  • Fantastic art
  • Fantasy anime
  • Fantasy art
  • Fantasy authors
  • Fantasy comics
  • Fantasy fiction magazines
  • Fantasy films
  • Fantasy literature
  • Fantasy television
Genre studies

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In many works of modern fantasy, elves are a race of semi-divine humanoid beings. Fantasy elves differ in many ways from the traditional elves found in northern European folklore and Victorian era literature; although in particular, the álfar
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Plural is a grammatical number, typically referring to more than one of the referent in the real world.

In the English language, singular and plural are the only grammatical numbers.

In English, nouns, pronouns, and demonstratives inflect for plurality.
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    In grammar, an adjective is a word whose main syntactic role is to modify a noun or pronoun (called the adjective's subject), giving more information about what the noun or pronoun refers to.
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    Fantasy media
    • Fantastic art
    • Fantasy anime
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    • Fantasy fiction magazines
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    • Fantasy television
    Genre studies

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    fairy (fey or fae or faerie; collectively wee folk, good folk, people of peace, and other euphemisms)[1] is the name given to alleged benevolent metaphysical spirit or supernatural being.
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    Old Norse}}} 
    Writing system: Runic, later Latin alphabet.
    Language codes
    ISO 639-1: none
    ISO 639-2: non
    ISO 639-3: non

    Old Norse
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    grammatical number is grammatical category of nouns, pronouns, and verb agreement that expresses count distinctions (such as "one" or "more than one").[1]
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    The nominative case is a grammatical case for a noun, which generally marks the subject of a verb, as opposed to its object or other verb arguments. (Basically, it is a noun that is doing something, usually joined (such as in Latin) with the accusative case.
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    Germanic peoples are a historical group of Indo-European-speaking peoples, originating in Northern Europe and identified by their use of the Germanic languages which diversified out of Common Germanic in the course of the Pre-Roman Iron Age.
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    Hrólfs saga kraka, the Saga of King Hrolf kraki, is a late legendary saga on the adventures of Hrólfr Kraki and his clan, the Skjöldungs. The events can be dated to the late 5th century and the 6th century. It is believed to have been written in the period c. 1230 - c.
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