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 Types of Elves/Elf Terms

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Larien Ikazuchi
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PostSubject: Types of Elves/Elf Terms   Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:51 pm

Álfheimr

Álfheimr isn't a specific type of elf, but just simply "elf Home".

Alfheim (Old Norse: Ālfheimr, "elf home") is the abode of the Álfar (elves) in Norse mythology and appears also in northern English ballads under the form Elphame (Elfhame, Elfame) as a fairyland, sometimes modernized as Elfland (Elfinland, Elvenland).

Álfheim as an abode of the Elves is mentioned only twice in Old Norse texts.

The eddic poem Grímnismál describes twelve divine dwellings beginning in stanza 5 with:

Ydalir call they the place where Ull
A hall for himself hath set;
And Álfheim the gods to Frey once gave
As a tooth-gift in ancient times.


A tooth-gift was a gift given to an infant on the cutting of the first tooth.

In the 12th century eddic prose Gylfaginning Snorri Sturluson relates it as the first of a series of abodes in heaven:

That which is called Álfheim is one, where dwell the peoples called Light-elves [Ljósálfar]; but the Dark-elves [dökkálfar] dwell down in the earth, and they are unlike in appearance, but by far more unlike in nature. The Light-elves are fairer to look upon than the sun, but the Dark-elves are blacker than pitch.

The account later, in speaking of a hall called Gimlé and the southernmost end of heaven that shall survive when heaven and earth have died, explains:

It is said that another heaven is to the southward and upward of this one, and it is called Andlang [Andlangr 'Endlong'] but the third heaven is yet above that, and it is called Vídbláin [Vídbláinn 'Wide-blue'] and in that heaven we think this abode is. But we believe that none but Light-Elves inhabit these mansions now.

It is not indicated whether these heavens are identical to Álfheim or distinct. Some texts read Vindbláin (Vindbláinn 'Wind-blue') instead of Vídbláin.

Modern commentators speculate (or sometimes state as fact) that Álfheim was one of the nine worlds (heima) mentioned in stanza 2 of the eddic poem Völuspá.


In English Text

In several Scots and in Northern Middle English folkoric ballads, Álfheim was known in as Elphame or Elfhame. In later English publications it has been called Alfheim, Elfland or 'Elfenland. The fairy queen is often called the "Queen of Elphame" in ballads such as that of Thomas the Rhymer:

'I'm not the Queen of Heaven, Thomas,
That name does not belong to me;
I am but the Queen of fair Elphame
Come out to hunt in my follie.'

Allison Peirson was burned as a witch in 1588 for converse with the 'Queen of Elfame' and for prescribing magic charms and potions. (Byre Hills, Fife, Scotland)

Elfhame or Elfland, is portrayed in a variety of ways in these ballads and stories, most commonly as mystical and benevolent, but also at times as sinister and wicked. The mysteriousness of the land, and its otherworldly powers are a source of scepticism and distrust in many tales. Examples of journeys to the realm include "Thomas the Rhymer" and the fairy tale "Childe Rowland", the latter being a particularly negative view of the land.

Use by J.R.R. Tolkien

The twentieth-century fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien anglicized Álfheim as Elvenhome, or Eldamar in the speech of the Elves. In his stories, Eldamar lies in a coastal region of the Undying Lands in the Uttermost West. The High King of the Elves in the West was Ingwë, an echo of the name Yngvi often found as a name for Frey, whose abode was in Álfheim according to the Grímnismál.

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PostSubject: Re: Types of Elves/Elf Terms   Tue Jul 14, 2009 11:58 pm

Dark Elves

Dark elves (Old Norse: Dökkálfar, usually called the Svartálfar "black elves") are known as a class of elves living underground in Old Norse mythology, the counterparts to the Ljósálfar ("Light-elves"). They are very similar to dwarfs as they mainly live in places where there is little light, though unlike both high elves and dwarves the dark elves are an evil race that like suffering and pain. Their physical appearance is of darkly colored hair and black/dark eyes, as opposed to light elves with blond hair and blue eyes. Their skin tone could be any shade of color just like humans.[ The dark elves originated in the Eddic and Germanic myths. They are more recently described as a race of elves and sometimes counterparts to the high elves in fiction and modern popular culture.

Dark elves are also now a common character in modern fantasy fiction, although usually very highly embellished with outside influences and rarely displaying many elements of the ancient folktales that inspired their inclusion, throughout fantasy fiction of many types. Their appearance varies considerably from representation to representation, as does their given background.

Norse/Germanic Folklore

In Norse mythology, Svartálfar ("Swart-elves" or "black elves"), sometimes considered synonymous with duergar ("dwarves"), are subterranean creatures who dwell in the world of Svartálfheim. They may be either benevolent or malevolent. The original Svartalfar worked the forges on the lowest level of the world tree. Their roles and countenance vary throughout Germanic folklore but are sometimes mentioned with Black or Dark hair.

The Dökkálfar ("Dark-elves") are male ancestral spirits who may protect the people, although some can be menacing, especially when one is rude to them. They are generally light-avoiding, though not necessarily subterranean.

In the prose Edda Gylfaginning, Snorri Sturluson, author of among other things the Younger Edda, distinguishes them from the Ljósálfar ("Light-elves") of Álfheim, in most sources simply known as elves.

Scottish Folklore

In the Orkney Islands, the Trow or the black elves or drows are similar to the Svartalfar or to Scandinavian trolls or dwarves, and inhabit mines and caves. They may be either helpful or harmful but stories regarding harm are more common.

The Drow or the dark elves are the Shetland Isle equivalent of the Trow, but unlike the trow, they are thought of as exclusively malicious. They are tiny elves known for their mining and metal-working, like dwarves.

In the Scottish Gaelic language, the terms Daoi-Sith (loosely interpreted as "dark elves"), and Du-Sith (loosely interpreted as "black elves") exist. Both terms are obscure, and the latter seems to have been used as a proper name. Apart from an ambiguous folktale of uncertain origin involving one Sir Lachlan Mor M'Clean [3], there are no known surviving myths or stories associated with these creatures.

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PostSubject: Re: Types of Elves/Elf Terms   Wed Jul 15, 2009 12:05 am

Erlking

The Erlking (German: Erlkönig, "Alder King") is a character depicted in a number of German poems and ballads as a malevolent creature who haunts forests and carries off travellers to their deaths. The name is an 18th-century mistranslation of the original Danish word elverkonge, "elf-king". The character is most famous as the antagonist in Goethe's poem Der Erlkönig and Schubert's musical adaptation of the same name.

The Erlking as a character has its origins in a common European folkloric archetype, the seductive but deadly fairy or siren (compare La Belle Dame sans Merci and the nix). In its original form in Scandinavian folklore, the character was a female spirit, the elf-king's daughter (Elverkongens datter). Similar stories existed in numerous ballads throughout Scandinavia in which an elverpige (female elf) was responsible for ensnaring human beings to satisfy their desire, jealousy and lust for revenge.

The Erlking's Daughter

Johann Gottfried von Herder introduced this character into German literature in Erlkönigs Tochter, a ballad published in his 1778 volume Stimmen der Volker in Liedern. It was based on a Danish folk ballad published in the 1739 Danske Kaempevisor. Herder undertook a free translation but mistranslated the Danish name elverkonge as "Erlkönig", "alder king"; the confusion appears to have arisen with the German word elle, "alder". It has generally been assumed that the mistranslation was the result of error, but it has also been suggested that Herder was imaginatively trying to identify the malevolent sprite of the original tale with a woodland demon (hence the alder king).

The story, as retold by Herder, portrays a man named Sir Oluf riding to his marriage but being entranced by the music of the elves. One of the elf maidens, the Elverkonge's daughter, appears and invites him to dance with her. He refuses and spurns her offers of gifts and gold. Angered, she strikes him and sends him on his way, deathly pale. The following morning, on the day of his wedding, his bride finds him lying dead under his scarlet cloak.

Goethe's Erlking

Although inspired by Herder's ballad, Goethe departed significantly from both Herder's rendering of the Erlking and the Scandinavian original. The antagonist of Goethe's Der Erlkönig is, as the name suggests, the Erlking himself rather than his daughter. Goethe's Erlking differs in other ways as well: his version preys on children, rather than adults of the opposite sex, and the Erlking's motives are never made clear. Goethe's Erlking is much more akin to the Germanic portrayal of elves and valkyries - a force of death rather than simply a magical spirit.

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PostSubject: Re: Types of Elves/Elf Terms   Wed Jul 15, 2009 12:07 am

Light Elves

In Norse mythology, the light elves (Old Norse: Ljósálfar) live in the Old Norse version of the heavens, in the place called Álfheim underneath the place of the Gods. The idea of the light elf is one of the most ancient records of elves (Old Norse: álfr singular, álfar plural) preserved in writing, as close to the prototypical idea of the elf as we might get from Nordic mythology (as preserved an ancient Germanic paganism). The "light elf" designation is in contrast to the dark elf who is an earth dweller and may be a dwarf.

According to the early Nordic source that mentions light versus dark elves, the Nordic Eddas of the 13th century, the light elves are bright and radiant. The Edda Gylfaginning by Snorri Sturluson, says that they are "fairer to look upon than the sun" (Arthur Gilchrist Brodeur's translation). Snorri also stresses the great difference in both appearance and nature between them and the dark elves, known as the Dökkálfar in the following passage:

"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." – Gylfaginning, 13th century.

The light elf may have received its name and place from the Eddic references that the Álfheim belonged or was led by Freyr, god of the sun and sunlight. The placement of the elves, per Snorri, was in the heaven not quite as high as the gods, from which they could interact with the gods. Hence they were positioned between heaven and man, similar to the Semitic notion of the angels.

The Mythology of All Races Series maintains that Snorri was the only author to differentiate light from dark elves. Because he called the dark elves dwarves, scholars think light elves might have been álfar in other texts.

High Elves

High elves are distinguished from other fantasy elves by their place of living, as they usually dwell in stone cities, instead of woods, like wood-elves. High elves and dark elves can be used to contrast respectively the good elves and the evil elves, as done in Warhammer. Typically high elves consider themselves the most purely good race of all, and haughtily view all other races beneath them, especially other elven races, and they are usually the most magically developed of all elves.

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PostSubject: Re: Types of Elves/Elf Terms   Wed Jul 15, 2009 12:12 am

Svartálfar

In Norse mythology, the Svartálfar ("black elves") or Dökkálfar ("Dark elves") are supernatural beings (Old Norse "vættir," wights) that are said to reside in the underground world of Svartálfaheim. They, like the trolls, are often correlated with the dvergar ("dwarves") and their home is often considered to be the same as Niðavellir, an underground area beneath Midgard.

Dwarves and Dark Elves

Svartálfar acquired their name because they were seen as the light-avoiding counterparts to the common elf, living in Álfheim. Snorri Sturluson, the presumed author of the Prose Edda, at times refer to the light elves as Ljósálfar.

The term black or dark elf might rather be suggestive of their place of residence than of their presumed nature, although they are described as greedy and troublesome for humans, in comparison to the prestigious (light) elves. Besides their underground lives, Svartálfar had many of the same traits attributed to them as the dwarves. These include growing from the maggots of Ymir's flesh, turning to stone when exposed to daylight, and being human-like, but ugly and misshapen.

Kevin Crossley-Holland states that:

"No valid distinction though can be drawn between the dwarfs and the dark elves; they appear to have been interchangeable."

Confusion between unrelated, mythologic entities does arise over time, for example in the stories of the trolls (ogre-like beings that are also confused with dwarves).

Later Influences

Like many mythological elves, regardless of morality (though much closer to the dire varieties in particular), dark elves are often said to be responsible for many of the maladies befalling humanity. In particular, bad dreams are said to be within the domain of the Dökkálfar, as indicated by the German word for nightmare, Albtraum ("Elf-dream"). It is said that the dark elves will sit upon the dreamer's chest and/or whisper the bad dreams into the sleeper's ears. In Scandinavia, the creature responsible for this is known as the Mara. In Danish for example the translation of nightmare is "mareridt". Mare referring to the Mara, and Ridt coming from the verb "at ride" meaning "to ride".

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