Elves: Exploring the Legend and Myth By Charlotte Kuchinsky
Elves are often featured in children’s fairy tales They have roots deep in the folklore of countries such as Germany, Holland, Sweden, England, and Norway.
Their legend goes back as far as mankind can remember; perhaps even as far back as the beginning of time itself.
In some countries they were worshipped in nature through trees, mountains, and waterfalls.
Most cultures agreed that these creatures were mysterious. Some went so far as to view them as supernatural beings or gods.While some believed only in the goodness of elves, others believed there were two different kinds of elves, both good and bad (light or dark).
Elves were often portrayed as benevolent and helpful creatures, albeit a bit mischievous from time to time. However, a few cultures viewed them as evil incarnate and took precautions to protect themselves from them.
Mythology as a whole, verifies that it could be difficult to determine the sex of elves. Both males and females possessed delicate features, long flowing hair, sparkling dark eyes, pointed ears and a great deal of grace.
Such a description easily explains why elves were often portrayed as strictly feminine in certain types of folklore.
Many believe that an elf’s face beams an inner light that makes them appear angelic.
Light elves were considered peace-loving creatures who were tasked with the preservation of nature. However, they were believed to love all things beautiful, often assisting mankind by delivering inspiration for musical scores and stunning works of art.
Good elves were considered to be exceedingly beautiful, with faces that “beam” a natural inner light, making them appear to be almost angelic. They almost always wore white or extremely pale colors with metallic threads running through it.
Dark elves, on the other hand, were sometimes depicted as being pitch black with florescent eyes. They sported nothing but black, dark gray, or silver clothing. Even though their features very much resembled those of light elves, their countenance could often take on a demonic quality, which might explain why they are often associated with black magic.
Dark elves are exceedingly prideful and full of spite. Some claim these creatures hated mankind and loved to plague humans with their many pranks. They were believed to possess strong spirits and equally strong, agile bodies.
Light elves were believed to live in lush forests near wooded lakes. Dark elves, on the other hand, are banished to caves and underground ravines.
In many cultures elves are depicted as fully-grown humans much like those that were featured in “Lord of the Rings.” But in some instances they have been reduced to smaller sized humans with slightly distorted features. Some indicate that elves can be so small that they can work in our world without being seen.Elves have heightened senses that allow them to hear and see better than most humans. Some cultures also believed that elves possessed a kind of extra sensory perception that allowed them to “tune in” to things happening around them so that they could rush to the aid of those in trouble.
Many believe that elves are immortal while others believe they simply live to a ripe old age; as much as 1000 years. Still others believe that an elf’s life span depends upon the creature’s life journey.
They think that elves live as long as is necessary for them to complete their tasks in life. Once everything is completed, the elf dies. In any case, death is not something that elves feared. They accepted death as a return to nature.
While many believed that elves co-existed with humans in the mortal realm, others claimed that they had the capability to move between the level of humankind and the netherworld. Not bound by the laws of the nature, it was thought that elves could move through solid surfaces like walls, windows, and doors to gain entry wherever they chose.
According to German mythology, elves were once thought to be gods of nature and fertility. But German elves were quite mischievous and would cause nightmares in human dreams just for a lark. Sometimes their pranks were far less benign; causing crops to die, cattle to be diseased, and humans to take ill.
Some folklore said that humans who saw an elf were destined to die shortly. The form and countenance of the sited elf would give the intended victim an insight to the method of their death. A peaceful countenance was equated to a peaceful death. A grimaced countenance indicated a violent death.
According to Norse mythology, elves often entered the mortal realm to seek out love and companionship among humans. This sometimes resulted in crossbreeding. If the human of the duo discovered their elf partner’s deception, it often did not fair well for their offspring. Sometimes those children would be abandoned, sold, or given away because they were considered unclean.
In Danish folklore elves were considered a race of beings unto themselves. Oftentimes they were depicted only as female in gender. They were believed to live in the same realm as fairies, with rolling hills, lush forests, sparkling springs, and fields full of flowers. However, they too often escaped into the human world to create havoc.
In Swedish folklore elves were depicted as beautiful women who acted as servants to their elven king. They are generally depicted as being fair-haired and a skin so pale that it almost matches their customary white garments.
Scandinavians believed in the theory of light and dark elves. Some feared the dark elves and wore pentagram amulets around their neck to protect themselves. They also carved or painted the symbol onto their homes; inside and out. They believed the symbol would not allow elves to pass by the symbol.
Some elves were gifted with an ability to dance, something they loved to do in the early morning mist.
It was believed that humans who watched their dance would be cursed.
While the human believed they were merely watching for just a few minutes, they often discovered that years had passed them by in the mortal realm.Unlike other cultures who have, one by one, abandoned the idea of elves, a lot of Scandinavians still believe in the existence of elves; in fact a startling 40 percent aren’t willing to abandon their cherished fantasy friends.
English folktales often depicted elves as the smaller version like those to whom we have become most accustomed. They weren’t considered evil but did like to pull pranks; hiding possessions of humans, moving objects, or making messes.
Some English elves were also believed to be invisible. Much like fairies, they could hide themselves in plain sight. In fact, in some English literature, elves and fairies became synonymous.
Of course elves have a prominent position in the folklore of America; particularly that tied to the celebration of Christmas. Those who continue to believe in the essence of Santa, also hold on to their beliefs in the elves that serve him.
Like English folklore, American mythology depicts elves as diminutive in size with a happy-go-lucky attitude.
They are considered to be great toy makers, which explains their attachment to Santa.
Like fairies, leprechauns, and gnomes (a close relation to elves), there seems little need to prove their existence. Like many supposed fantasies, the strength of elves lies in their ability to spark the imagination. That they do successfully. What more can we ask?
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