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Poor little birdie teased by Richard Doyle.jpg
Elf in English folklore.
Grouping Mythological creature
First reported In folklore
Country Scandinavia, Germany, Great Britain, United States
Habitat Woodland

An elf (plural elves) is a being of Germanic mythology. The elves were originally thought of as a race of divine or semi-divine beings (wights, vættir) endowed with magical powers, which they use both for the benefit and the injury of mankind. In pre-Christian mythology, they appear to have been divided into light elves and dark elves, difficult to delineate from the Æsir (gods) on one hand and the dvergar (dwarves) on the other.

In early modern and modern folklore, they become associated with the fairies of Romance folklore and assume a diminutive size, often living underground in hills or rocks, or in wells and springs. 19th-century Romanticism attempted to restore them to full stature, often depicting them as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty. From their depiction in Romanticism, elves entered the 20th-century high fantasy genre in the wake of the publications of J. R. R. Tolkien, especially the posthumous publication of his Silmarillion where Tolkien's treatment of the relation of light elves, dark elves, black elves and dwarves in Norse mythology is made explicit.



The name elf is from Old English ælf (plural ylfe), ultimately from a Common Germanic *alboz (also *albiz), corresponding to Old Norse álfr, Old High German alb. It survives as an element in given names such as English and German Alfred, Alfwin, Elfreda, or Scandinavian Alfhild, Alvar. There are no obvious cognates outside of Germanic, but some have compared the ṛbhu, a type of genii in Hindu mythology.

Germanic mythology

Jacob Grimm discusses "Wights and Elves" comparatively in chapter 17 of his Teutonic Mythology. He notes that the Elder Edda couples the Æsir and the álfar, a conjunction that recurs in Old English ês and ylfe, clearly grouping the elves as a divine or supernatural class of beings, sometimes extended by the Vanir as a third class: The Hrafnagaldr states Alföðr orkar, álfar skilja, vanir vita "The Allfather [i.e. the áss] has power, the álfar have skill, and vanir knowledge".

A notable crux in Old Norse mythology is the distinction of álfar and dvergar. They appear as separate races in extended lists such as the one in Alvíssmál, listing Æsir, álfar, Vanir, goð (gods), męnn (humans), ginregin, jǫtnar, dvergar and denizens of Hęl. Middle High German tradition also separates the elbe from getwerc.

On the other hand, there is a close kinship between elves and dwarves, evident already because many dwarves have elvish names, including simple Álfr "elf", and Alberich "king of elves". Loki is particularly difficult to classify; he is usually called an áss, but is really of jǫtunn origin, and is nevertheless also addressed as álfr. The conclusion of Grimm is that the classification "elf" can be considered to "shrink and stretch by turns". The etymology connecting *alboz with albus "white" suggests an original dichotomy of "white" vs. "black" genii, corresponding to the elves vs. the dwarves which was subsequently confused. Thus the "white" elves proper are named ljósálfar "light elves", contrasting with døckálfar "dark elves". Snorri in the Prose Edda states that the light elves dwell in Álfheim while the dark elves dwell underground. Confusion arises from the introduction of the additional term svartálfar "black elves", which at first appears synonymous to the "dark elves"; Snorri identifies with the dvergar and has them reside in Svartálfaheim. This prompts Grimm to assume a tripartite division of light elves, dark elves and black elves, of which only the latter are identical with dwarves, while the dark elves are an intermediate class, "not so much downright black, as dim, dingy". In support of such an intermediate class between light elves, or "elves proper", on one hand, and black elves or dwarves on the other, Grimm adduces the evidence of the Scottish brownies and other traditions of dwarves wearing grey or brown clothing.

Old Norse

The god Frey, the lord of the light-elves
The hero Völundr the 'ruler of the elves' (vísi álfar), sometimes thought to be dwarves, nicknamed 'dark elves' (dökkálfar)

The earliest preserved description of elves comes from Norse mythology. In Old Norse they are called álfar (singular, nominative: álfr).

Men could be elevated to the rank of elves after death, such as the petty king Olaf Geirstad-Elf. The smith hero Völundr is identified as 'Ruler of Elves' (vísi álfa) and 'One among the Elven Folk' (álfa ljóði), in the poem Völundarkviða, whose later prose introduction also identifies him as the son of a king of 'Finnar', an Arctic people respected for their shamanic magic (most likely, the sami). 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 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 (seiðr), 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.[1]

They are also found 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 Norwegian province Østfold, 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...[2]

The last king is named Gandalf.[3]

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 vörðar ("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 þáttr. It is said that elves are the Germanic equivalent to the nymphs of Greek and Roman mythology, and vili and rusalki of Slavic mythology.[citation needed]

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.[4] He referred to other elves as "light-elves" (ljósálfar), which has often been associated with elves' connection with Freyr, the god of fertility (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 staðr þar, er kallaðr er Álfheimr. Þar byggvir fólk þat, er Ljósálfar heita, en Dökkálfar búa niðri í jörðu, ok eru þeir ólíkir þeim sýnum ok miklu ólíkari reyndum. Ljósálfar eru fegri en sól sýnum, en Dökkálfar eru svartari en bik."[5]

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".[6] Some scholars have compared elves to the Vanir (fertility gods).[7] 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.[citation needed] 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).[citation needed]

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,[8] 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, it might be assumes 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:

Þorvarð healed but slowly; and when he could get on his feet he went to see Þorðís, 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."[9]

Old English

The Old English form of the word is ælf (pl. ælfe, with regional and chronological variants such as ylfe and ælfen).[10] Words for the nymphs of the Greek and Roman mythos were translated by Anglo-Saxon scholars with ælf and variants on it.[11]

Old English tradition preserves the ylfe exclusively as mischievous, harmful beings. The 10th century Metrical Charm "Against A Sudden Stitch" (Wið færstice) offers remedy against sudden pain (such as rheumatism) caused by projectiles of either ése or ylfe or witches (gif hit wære esa gescot oððe hit wære ylfa gescot oððe hit wære hægtessan gescot "be it Ése-shot or Elf-shot or witch-shot").[12]

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.[13] 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 the region 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.[14] So too a tangle in the hair was called an elf-lock, as being caused by the mischief of the elves (or especially by Queen Mab),[15] 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.[16]


Very little material concerning elves or elben survives in Old High German beyond the mere noun form alp, plural alpî, elpî. Middle High German has a feminine singular elbe and a plural elbe, elber,[17] but the word becomes very rare, mostly surviving in the adjective elbisch, and is replaced by the Anglo-Saxon form elf, elfen via 18th century German translations of Shakespeare's A Midsummernight's Dream. The masculine alp survives in German with a shifted meaning of "nightmare".

Jacob Grimm in his Deutsches Wörterbuch deplored the "unhochdeutsch" form Elf, borrowed "unthinkingly" from the English, and Tolkien was inspired by Grimm to recommend reviving the genuinely German form in his Guide to the Names in The Lord of the Rings (1967) and Elb, Elben was consequently reintroduced in the 1972 German translation of The Lord of the Rings.

In Christian folklore, the elber 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, Alptraum, means "elf dream". The archaic form Alpdruck 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.[18]

Modern folklore


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 British folklore 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 "Elf cross" which protected against malevolent elves.[19]

The elves of Norse mythology have survived into folklore mainly as females, living in hills and mounds of stones.[20] The Swedish älvor.[21] (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) 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.[19] 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.[19] As the name suggests, the elves were perceived as a potential danger against people and livestock.[19] The second form was an ordinary cross carved onto a round or oblong silver plate.[19] 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.[19] In some locations it also had to be on the altar of a church during three consecutive Sundays.[19]

Ängsälvor, "meadow elves", (1850), painting by Nils Blommér.
Älvalek, "Elf Play", (1866), painting by August Malmström.

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. Typically, elf circles were fairy rings consisting 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,[22] 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.[20]

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 pass into both Rivendell and Lothlorien, where time seems almost to stand still. 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.[23]

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 a beautiful old woman and by her aspect people saw that she belonged to the subterraneans.[24]


Natives of Iceland either believe in elves or are unwilling to rule out their existence.[25] Several Icelanders believe in huldufólk or “hidden folk”, the elves that dwell in rock formations. If the natives don’t explicitly express their belief, they are certainly reluctant to express disbelief.[26] A 2006 and 2007 study on superstition by the University of Iceland’s Faculty of Social Sciences supervised by Terry Gunnell (associate folklore professor), reveal that natives would not rule out the existence of elves and ghosts (similar results of a 1974 survey by Professor Erlendur Haraldsson, Fréttabladid reports). Gunnel stated: “Icelanders seem much more open to phenomena like dreaming the future, forebodings, ghosts and elves than other nations.” His results were consistent with a similar study conducted in 1974.[27]

A recent episode of the Sci-Fi Channel's Destination Truth took the host and crew to Iceland to investigate the myth. They did find that several of their electronic devices had malfunctioned, glitched, or even been pushed or turned over. Some strange noises were also heard both by them personally and using a parabolic mic. Some EVP (Electronic Voice Phenomenon) was also recorded. Overall, no images of the elves were recorded and no one had seen anything of the like. The evidence was inconclusive.


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 ellerkonge 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[28] 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.[29]


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 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 commonly 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 similar to the concept of fairies.

Successively, the word elf, as well as literary term fairy, evolved to a general denotation of various nature spirits like Puck, hobgoblins, Robin Goodfellow, the English and Scots brownie, the Northumbrian English hob 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 as well as Northern English and Scottish Lowlands folklore (as seen in such tales as The Queen of Elfan's Nourice and other local variants).

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.

In the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, and Ireland the modern children's folklore of Santa Claus typically includes diminutive elves at Christmas; green-clad elves with pointy ears, long noses, and pointy hats as Santa's assistants or hired workers. They make the 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[citation needed], as opposed to elven or elfin.

Fantasy fiction

The fantasy genre in the 20th century grows out of 19th century Romanticism. 19th century schoars such as Andrew Lang and the Grimm brothers collected "fairy-stories" from popular folklore and in some cases retold them freely, A pioneering work of the genre that would come to be known as "fantasy" was The King of Elfland's Daughter, a 1924 novel by Lord Dunsany. The Hobbit by J. R. R. Tolkien (1937) is seminal, predating the lecture On Fairy-Stories by the same author by a few years. In the 1939 lecture, Tolkien introduced the term "Fantasy" in a sense of " higher form of Art, indeed the most nearly pure form, and so (when achieved) the most potent". Elves played a central role in Tolkien's legendarium, notably The Lord of the Rings. Tolkien's writing has such popularity that 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.

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. They are also said to be much more gifted in magic and stronger mentally but not physically.

At one time, elves were represented as having no facial hair, and were considered androgynous. However, lately in popular media, elves have come to include those with more "masculine" characteristics.[citation needed] 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"[citation needed]). Elves of the Tolkien mold have become standardized staple characters of modern fantasy.

See also


  1. ^ Setr Skuld hér til inn mesta seið at vinna Hrólf konung, bróður sinn, svá at í fylgd er með henni álfar ok nornir ok annat ótöluligt illþýði, svá at mannlig náttúra má eigi slíkt standast.[1]
  2. ^ The Saga of Thorstein, Viking's Son (Old Norse original: Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar). Chapter 1.
  3. ^ Harald Fairhair's saga in Heimskringla.
  4. ^ Hall 2004, pp. 31-35
  5. ^ Sturluson, Snorri. The Younger (or Prose) Edda, Rasmus B. Anderson translation (1897). Chapter 7.
  6. ^ Hall 2004, pp. 37-46
  7. ^ Hall 2004, pp. 43-46
  8. ^ Hall 2004, p. 40
  9. ^ The Life and Death of Cormac the Skald (Old Norse original: Kormáks saga). Chapter 22.
  10. ^ Hall 2004, esp. pp. 212-16
  11. ^ Hall 2004, pp. 81-92
  12. ^ Hall 2004, esp. pp. 56-66
  13. ^ Hall 2004, pp. 71-76, et passim
  14. ^ Hall, Alaric. 2005. 'Getting Shot of Elves: Healing, Witchcraft and Fairies in the Scottish Witchcraft Trials', Folklore, 116 (2005), 19-36.
  15. ^ "elf-lock", OED Online (Oxford University Press), 1989,, retrieved 26 November 2009 
  16. ^ Collins, Willam. 1775. An Ode On The Popular Superstitions Of The Highlands Of Scotland, Considered As The Subject Of Poetry.
  17. ^ Marshall Jones Company (1930). Mythology of All Races Series, Volume 2 Eddic, Great Britain: Marshall Jones Company, 1930, pp. 220.
  18. ^ Hall 2004, pp 125-26
  19. ^ a b c d e f g The article Alfkors in Nordisk familjebok (1904).
  20. ^ a b An account given in 1926, Hellström (1990). En Krönika om Åsbro. pp. 36. ISBN 91-7194-726-4. 
  21. ^ 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.
  22. ^ Google Maps
  23. ^ 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.
  24. ^ "Lilla Rosa och Långa Leda". Svenska folksagor. Stockholm: Almquist & Wiksell Förlag AB. 1984. pp. 158. 
  25. ^ "Building in Iceland? Better Clear It With the Elves First". 
  26. ^, Chasing waterfalls ... and elves
  27. ^, Iceland Still Believes in Elves and Ghosts
  28. ^ Thistelton-Dyer, T.F. The Folk-lore of Plants, 1889. Available online by Project Gutenberg. File retrieved 3-05-07.
  29. ^ 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.
  • Jacob Grimm, Teutonic Mythology
  • Marshall Jones Company (1930). Mythology of All Races Series, Volume 2 Eddic, Great Britain: Marshall Jones Company, 1930, 220-221.
  • Jolly, Karen Louise. Popular Religion in Late Saxon England: Elf Charms in Context. Chapel Hill, University of North Carolina Press, 1996.
  • Coghlan, Ronan. Handbook of Fairies, Milverton, Capall Bann, 2002.

External links


Up to date as of January 14, 2010
(Redirected to Elf (film) article)

From Wikiquote

Elf is a 2003 film about a man (Will Ferrell) raised by Santa's elves at the North Pole is sent to the America in search of his true identity.

Directed by Jon Favreau. Written by David Berenbaum.
This holiday, discover your inner elf.



  • [Answering the phone] Buddy the Elf; what's your favorite color?
  • [Whispering to fake Santa] You stink. You smell like beef and cheese! You don't smell like Santa.
  • [To fake Santa] You sit on a throne of LIES.
  • [Burps loudly for what seems like thirty seconds] Did you hear that?
  • First we'll make snow angels for two hours, then we'll go ice skating, then we'll eat an entire roll of Toll House cookie dough as fast as we can, and then to finish, we'll snuggle!
  • [Dejectedly] Why don't you just say it? I'm the worst toymaker in the world! I'm a cotton-headed ninny-muggins. [Elves gasp]
  • [In a public restroom, looking over the wall into the neighboring stall] Hey, have you seen these toilets? They're GINORMOUS!
  • Us elves like to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup.
  • [To wild racoon] Does someone need a hug? [The raccoon attacks him] I just wanted a hug!
  • [After getting hit in the face with a snowball] Ow! Son of a Nutcracker!
  • [About the mail room] This place reminds me of Santa's workshop. Except it smells like mushrooms and everyone looks like they want to hurt me.
  • [Repeated several times throughout movie] First, I went through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest... Then, I went past the sea of twirly, swirly gumdrops... And after that: I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.
  • Morning, Sarah. That's a very nice purple dress. It's very purpley.
  • "I'm sorry that I ruined your lives and crammed eleven cookies in the VCR. I don't belong here. I don't belong anywhere. I'll never forget you. Love, Buddy."
  • Francisco; that's fun to say... Francisco... Fran... cisco... Francisco...
  • I'm in love, I'm in love, and I don't care who knows it!!

Miles Finch

  • DO NOT PUT ME ON HOLD! [silence in Walter's office] I'll be there tomorrow. 71 degrees.


Gimbel's Manager: This is the North Pole.
Buddy: No, it isn't.
Gimbel's Manager: Yes, it is.
Buddy: No, it isn't.
Gimbel's Manager: Yes, it is.
Buddy: No, it isn't.
Gimbel's Manager: Yes, it is.
Buddy: No, it's not! WHERE'S THE SNOW!? [smiles]
Gimbel's Manager: Why are you smiling like that?
Buddy: I just like smiling; smiling's my favorite.
Gimbel's Manager: [pause] Make work your favorite, okay? Work is your new favorite.

Buddy: Sounds like somebody needs to sing a Christmas Carol.
Jovie: No way.
Buddy: The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.
Jovie: Thanks, but I don't sing.
Buddy: Oh, well, it's just like talking, except longer and louder, and you move your voice up and down.
Jovie: I can sing, I just choose not to sing. Especially in front of other people.
Buddy: If you can sing alone, you sing in front of other people. There's no difference.
Jovie: Actually, there's a BIG difference.
Buddy: No, there's not. Wait... [Starts singing loud and off-key] I'm singing/I'm in a store/and I'm siiiiiingiiiiing!/I'm in a store/and I'm siiiiiingiiiiing!
Gimbel's Manager: HEY! There's no singin' in the North Pole!
Buddy: Yes, there is!
Gimbel's Manager: No there's not!
Buddy: We sing all the time!
Gimbel's Manager': No you don't!
Buddy: Especially when we build toys! [Back to Jovie] See?

Deb: (over intercom) Mr. Hobbes? It's me on the intercom?
Walter Hobbes: Yeah?
Deb: I think someone sent you a Christmas gram. (escorts Buddy in)
Buddy: (excitedly) DAD!!!!

Jovie: What were you doing in the women's locker room this morning?
Buddy: I heard you singing.
Jovie: You sure it didn't have anything to do with the fact that I was naked and in the shower?
Buddy: I didn't know you were naked. Why were you here so early?
Jovie: They shut my water off. What were you doing here?
Buddy: Building this.
Jovie: You built this? They're kinda pissed about this.
Gimbel's Manager: Hey guys, you seen the place? Pretty good, they must have brought in a professional. I dunno why, but someone's gunning for my job. But look, let's stick together on this. If you get wind of anything, call me on my radio. Channel three. Code word is "Santa's got a brand new bag." [to Jovie] Six inch ribbon curls, honey.
Jovie: [rolls her eyes] But that's impossible.
Gimbel's Manager: [interrupting] SIX... inches. [storms away]
Buddy: By the way, you have the most beautiful singing voice in the whole wide world.

Buddy: Who the heck are you?
Gimbel's Santa: What are you talkin' about? I'm Santa Claus.
Buddy: No, you're not.
Gimbel's Santa: Uh, why of course I am! Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho.
Buddy: Well, if you're Santa, what song did I sing for you on your birthday this year?
Gimbel's Santa: Um, Happy Birthday of course! Ho, ho, ho, ho, ho, ho. How old are you son?
Kid with Santa: Four.
Gimbel's Santa: You're a big boy. What's your name?
Kid with Santa: Paul.
Gimbel's Santa: Now what can I get you for Christmas?
Buddy: Don't tell him what you want, he's a liar.
Gimbel's Santa: Let the kid talk.
Buddy: You disgust me! How can you live with yourself?
Gimbel's Santa: Just cool it, Zippy.
Buddy: You sit on a throne of lies.
Gimbel's Santa: Look, I'm not kiddin'.
Buddy: You're a fake.
Gimbel's Santa: I'm a fake?
Buddy: Yes!
Gimbel's Santa: How'd you like to be dead, huh? Ho, ho, just kidding.
Buddy: You stink.
Gimbel's Santa: I think you're gonna have a good Christmas, all right.
Buddy: You smell like beef and cheese, you don't smell like Santa.

Emily: You sure like sugar, huh?
Buddy: Does syrup have sugar in it?
Emily: Yes.
Buddy: Then YES! We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corns, and syrup.

Buddy: [out of breath from chasing Michael] Wow, you're fast. I'm glad I caught up to you. I waited 5 hours for you. Why is your coat so big? So, good news - I saw a dog today. Have you seen a dog? You probably have. How was school? Was it fun? Did you get a lot of homework? Huh? Do you have any friends? Do you have a best friend? Does he have a big coat, too?
Michael: Go away!

Buddy: [drunk] I know I sound like a broken record but we are buddies, you're my best friend, that's it.
Mailroom Guy: You know, I have really great ideas, but no one around here listens to me.
Buddy: I listen to your ideas, you have great ideas.
Mailroom Guy: I got to go with the flow.
Buddy: Then go with the flow.
Mailroom Guy: No! I got to get out of the flow, that's what got me here.
Buddy: Then get out of the flow.
Mailroom Guy: I mean I'm 26 years old, I've got nothing to show for it.
Buddy: You're young, you're so young...You know my papa, he didn't make master tinker till he was 490.
Mailroom Guy: [chuckles] 490...
Buddy: Ticklefight! [tickles the mailroom guy, who laughs hysterically]

[Buddy and Jovie are ice skating at Rockfeller Center. Buddy kisses Jovie on the cheek.]
Buddy: Sorry.
Jovie: You missed.
Buddy: What do you mean I missed?
Jovie: You missed.
[She kisses Buddy on the mouth.]

Miles Finch: It's just one of those ideas, I'm just psyched out of my mind about...ya' know, it's just one of those ideas where you're like, YES!
Eugene: [brainstorming for a new book] What about this: a tribe of asparagus children, but they're self-conscious about the way their pee smells. [hand movements]

Gimbel's Manager: Okay, everyone! Tomorrow, 10 A.M., Santa's coming to town!
Buddy: SANTA!!!!! Oh my god! [excitedly, to the Manager] I know him! I know him!

Gimbel's Worker: Passion Fruit spray?
Buddy: Sure. (takes bottle and sprays it in his mouth) EWW NO! NO! AHH AHH MEHHHHH!


External links

Wikipedia has an article about:

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

ELF (0. Eng. aelf; cf. Ger. Alp, nightmare), a diminutive supernatural being of Teutonic mythology, usually of a more or less mischievous and malignant character, causing diseases and evil dreams, stealing children and substituting changelings, and thus somewhat different from the Romanic fairy, which usually has less sinister associations. The prehistoric arrowheads and other flint implements were in England early known as "elf-bolts" or "elf-arrows," and were looked on as the weapons of the elves, with which they injured cattle. So too a tangle in the hair was called an "elf-lock," as being caused by the mischief of the elves.

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

See also elf
See also ELF



Etymology 1

From Proto-Germanic *ainlif- (eleven), a compound of *ainaz (one) and *lif-.


Elf f. (genitive Elf, no plural)

  1. A football team (so called because that is the number of players on such a team).

Etymology 2

Derived from English literature, 18th century.


Elf m (genitive singular: Elfen, nominative plural: Elfen)

  1. elf.
Derived terms
  • Elfe (female form), in the context of Tolkien's work also: Elfin
  • elfisch


  • Marshall Jones Company (1930). Mythology of All Races Series, Volume 2 Eddic, Great Britain: Marshall Jones Company, 1930, pp. 220.

Simple English

An elf is a mythical creature of various origins that is usually regarded as a good being that helps to make trees and nature good. It is therefore commonly associated with paganism and witchcraft (many modern witches today believe that elves are real creatures).

Elves are usually described as a taller human but with more firmer touch to them. In the Lord of the Rings, however, elves were described as human sized (and if anything taller), hence changing the description of elves.

In most modern fantasy scenarios, elves are one of the 3 main races (Elves, Dwarves and Humans), although if these 3 are described as the good races, they then become one of 6 races, including orcs, goblins and trolls and/or giants.

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