Where did the idea of 'Elves' come from?

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edaw1982
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Where did the idea of 'Elves' come from?

Postby edaw1982 » 2012-05-05 06:27am

I get that 'Elves' of the pointy-earred forest dwelling badass archery cliche comes from (like damned near everything else in Fantasy) from Tolkien and the rest of the Inklings. But dwarves for example are based off Norse legends.
Are Elves supposed to be based of Fae/Unseelie of the Gaelic myths, or are they based predominantly on some other myth?
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Re: Where did the idea of 'Elves' come from?

Postby gigabytelord » 2012-05-05 07:22am

edaw1982 wrote:I get that 'Elves' of the pointy-earred forest dwelling badass archery cliche comes from (like damned near everything else in Fantasy) from Tolkien and the rest of the Inklings. But dwarves for example are based off Norse legends.
Are Elves supposed to be based of Fae/Unseelie of the Gaelic myths, or are they based predominantly on some other myth?


I always believed that they originated from ancient Germanic or Norse folklore, not sure how true that is though.

I did some quick searching and found this link which kind of backs me up on that, however I'm not sure of it's validity.
http://ezinearticles.com/?Where-Do-Elves-Come-From?&id=620928

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Re: Where did the idea of 'Elves' come from?

Postby edaw1982 » 2012-05-05 07:31am

^
I would say 'Well I'll be damned', but I wouldn't want to tempt fate.
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Re: Where did the idea of 'Elves' come from?

Postby Thanas » 2012-05-05 08:02am

It is said specifically in an introduction to the LotR that he took them from that. Notice how he also does not use the word "elf" or "elves" but rather the middle-German form Elb.
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Re: Where did the idea of 'Elves' come from?

Postby loomer » 2012-05-05 08:21am

Sociologically, there's a theory that Elves were actually gays or somewhat androgynous men. I don't consider it to have much merit, but it's certainly a thought (and Orlando Bloom as Legolas makes an odd degree of sense under the theory, being as attractive as he is.)
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Re: Where did the idea of 'Elves' come from?

Postby Johonebesus » 2012-05-05 09:44am

The Germans had lios-alfar, light elves, nature spirits associated with fertility and the sun. Their best modern equivalent would be little winged fairies with nature powers. The dwarves of course were the svart-alfar, chthonic spirits associated with darkness and metallurgy.

Tolkien's elves have more in common with Gaelic Tuatha dé Danann, an ancient and wise race of immortals who once ruled the world and performed great deeds of heroism and magic, but are now doomed to fading and giving way to man.



Thanas, that I assume is the German translation. Tolkien did use the modern English words. Did Tolkien himself write the translation or at least translate certain key terms? The latter does seem plausible.


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Re: Where did the idea of 'Elves' come from?

Postby loomer » 2012-05-05 12:16pm

Been a long time since I read it, but I think it was in one of Alaric Hall's works.
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Re: Where did the idea of 'Elves' come from?

Postby Simon_Jester » 2012-05-05 04:23pm

Elves come (mostly) from northern European legends of "magic people who live in the forests." The details may have been taken from a lot of different places: the Celtic/Gaelic culture of Ireland, the Germanic and Norse traditions, and so on. Good creative fiction is like that; anything really new has to take inspiration from many places. Tolkien himself might have said he was trying to take all those disparate stories of magic people in the forests, and merge them back together in an attempt to "reconstruct" the archetypal ur-elf.

Also, I know Tolkein pulled some bits from other sources, like his own version of Catholic theology in which much of the reason for elven 'magic' is that they have grace: divine blessings that give them powers of magic and creation that mortals (even master craftsmen like the dwarves) do not possess.

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Re: Where did the idea of 'Elves' come from?

Postby Elfdart » 2012-05-09 04:12pm

Another modern source is Poul Anderson, author of The Broken Sword and Three Hearts and Three Lions. The elf depicted in the typical RPG or video game is heavily influenced by Anderson's version.
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Re: Where did the idea of 'Elves' come from?

Postby The Yosemite Bear » 2012-05-10 01:23am

hey Celts had total bastards....
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