When I think of elves, the first thing that springs to mind is the Grimm Brothers, or more specifically, The Elves and the Shoemaker. It was one of my favourite bedtime stories! I loved the magic of it, the symbolism, the pride these magical little creatures took in their work. I remember asking my dad a dozen questions about craftsmanship (all that detailing), about elves and where they came from, about the world in which they lived. And I remember my dad, with his infinite patience, sharing that simple joy.
Later, when I discovered The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings, I fell in love with a whole new set of characters and the world Tolkien created. I’m sure this is not going to come as a surprise, given my slight obsession with archers, but my favourite elf is Legolas because of his seriously mad archery skills – what he can do with a bow! He could give Hawkeye a run for his money! Though, in my head they would work together 🙂
I used to have a poster, ‘Hans Christian Anderson’ by Anne Grahame Johnstone, and the artwork is quite beautiful – the magic just springs to life. One of Hans Christian Andersons’ most noticeable stories about elves is The Rose Elf.
Elves are mentioned in a variety of folklores, and are associated with magical powers and supernatural beauty. The dark side of the myth associates these creatures with sexual threats; seducing people and causing harm. They have been related to fairies, especially in romantic literature and have even been counted as minor dieties. They are depicted as different sizes, but more recently human-sized and god-like.
Elves in Film and Literature
- Tolkien’s elves seem to dominate modern fantasy literature, though William Shakespeare’s fairy characters influenced a great many writers. One of Shakespeare’s more notable characters, and one of my favourites, is Puck from Midsummer Night’s Dream.
- Elves feature prominently as Jack’s allies in the movie Legend.
- In The Spiderwick Chronicles, elves appear as one of the species of faery.
- I have to mention, briefly, Santa’s little helpers, as there have been a number of films representing elves from the North Pole. Will Ferrell stared in the film Elf in 2003, and entertained us, as only Will can!
- In the Harry Potter series, J.K. Rowling’s elves were slaves, though I have it on good authority (I haven’t read the series), that they were happy with their lot in life!
- Elves also play a role in comics – Marvel has Dark Elves, ruled by Malekith the Accursed; featured in Thor: The Dark World. There is also ElfQuest, created by Wendy and Richard Pini.
- Elves are used in a number of board, roleplaying, and computer games, such as Warhammer 40K, and Dungeons and Dragons (featuring Black Elves known as Drow). There are also a number of board games incorporating the fantasy world, Glorantha, created by Greg Stafford. In Warhammer, Dark elves are known for their aggression, deceit and stealth – brutal by nature.
- Sir Terry Pratchett created interesting creatures within Discworld, elves who were extra dimensional. Here’s what Sir Terry has to say about elves:
“Elves are wonderful. They provoke wonder.
Elves are marvellous. They cause marvels.
Elves are fantastic. They create fantasies.
Elves are glamorous. They project glamour.
Elves are enchanting. They weave enchantment.
Elves are terrific. They beget terror.
The thing about words is that meanings can twist just like a snake, and if you want to find snakes look for them behind words that have changed their meaning.
No one ever said elves are nice.
Elves are bad.”
What about you – do you have a favourite? What do you think about elves and the role they play in fantasy literature? I’m sure you can agree, they are definitely worthy of the Fantasy Squad.
Thanks for stopping by.