Who Are Elves?
Elves have been heavily covered both in mythology, and modern fiction. These creatures have become a mainstay of fantasy storytelling, made most famous perhaps by J.R.R. Tolkien. His influence on their image has been carried over to modern role-playing games, and from there many different factions, images, and ideas about who and what they are have come into being. That being said, this article will be looking into what is arguably the origins of them.
The origin of Elves can be traced back to Germanic mythology, and their first descriptions come from these texts. They were known to be creatures of a magical nature, neither directly hostile nor helpful towards the mortal race of humans.
They are like faeries who could be helpful to us, having a fair amount of power both in the magical and terrestrial realms. By this same virtue, they could easily cause great harm to those who wronged them, and were perhaps more capable of doing so than most Fae.
Elves Vs. Fae
It is important to not make the mistake of thinking that the ‘Elves’ have anything to do with the fairies of Elizabethan era, the small flitting creatures with gossamer butterfly wings. These are an older, distinguished people with a long history.
The Elves we speak of today are known in the Edda as álfar, and are from a realm that exists alongside ours known as Álfheimr, and is recorded as being given to the God Frey in the literature, and may indicate that he rules over these people.
Types Of Elves
There are three types of Elves recorded in this literature, and the Dwarves were counted among their number. They were known as the svartálfar, or ‘black-elves’, who dwelt beneath the ground and were dark of skin and hair, and dwell within Alfheimr in Svartálfaheim. The Ljósálfar are fair of skin and hair, and were said to be ‘fairer than the sun to look at’, and live in the brighter overworld of Alfheimr.
There are many records of the Elves of Norse mythology, complete with the names of their Kings and the men who were born from them. Elves from Norse Mythology are capable of inter-breeding with humans, and it is one more source of those who say they have Fae blood.
One could speculate that the Tuatha de Danann and the Elves of Alfheimr are the same creatures, and perhaps those who landed on Irelands shores were in fact refugees of that self-same place.
Elves were also known to be trickster spirits by the Christian authorities, and were in some cases greatly feared as causers of great mischief. It is again important to point out that these are not the Elves of Norse literature. The appropriation of the name makes it very important to draw the distinction.
When dealing with the Elves of Alfheimr, keep in mind that they come from a strong and noble heritage. Valor and honor are deeply valued among their kind, and any interactions you have with them should be based on this fact. If you wish to draw their attention or appease them, you could get worse advice than to give gifts of mead, bread, and meat left out for them.