Which kind of elf springs to mind when you hear the word? Legalos in all his blond yumminess or jolly old Saint Nick? Both? Neither? No matter- elves have a history far older than most people realize. Not only that, but elves
have been very different creatures throughout their history as well.
The Oldest Elves
The first elf stories
to appear in history were in Norse mythology
. The Norse people were located in the countries around Scandinavia and Germany and contributed a great deal to both European and North American culture. One of their contributions was the beginning of the elvish legends.
The oldest elves were magical being the size of humans. There were dark elves and light elves running around and important men could actually become elves after they died. Because of their beauty and their size, elves were occasionally found in the company of humans and many times this company produced children. Half-children of elves show up in many of the Old Norse legends.
Elves eventually became equivalent with minor gods in many Norse beliefs. Because they were so important, sacrifices would be made to the elves to help with healing and with fertility. Elves were believed to be minor fertility gods in particular.
In the same area, elves
changed over time. They became beautiful girls, occasionally small enough to live inside a flower. Elves were light hearted and beautiful but could turn vicious quite easily. If you offended an elf, you would be in big trouble, so most Scandinavians took precautions to placate the elves. They laid out offerings of butter and marked their homes with Elf crosses to protect themselves from elves with bad intentions.Elves
of this time would dance during the night and leave elf circles trod in the grass or with a ring of mushrooms. Interestingly enough, in Scandinavia, there is still a great deal of respect for elves today. In one documented instance, a soccer ball rolled near a supposed home of elves, and the players elected to leave the ball and get a new one to finish the game rather than disturb the elves.
In other areas, elves were much like fairies and would be mischievous, but not especially dangerous. Elves again shrunk in size and in some cases were only as big as your finger. This is also when elves gained pointed hats and ears.
In many countries such as Iceland and the Scandinavian countries, there is still a very strong belief in hidden people and elves. While it seems more people in these countries believe in elves, there are still plenty of people in other countries that believe as well.
Even if are rather skeptical of the magical creatures
with sage wisdom and long ears, you might be swayed by the jolly old elf who brings presents and good cheer every Christmas
. If Santa doesnít do it for you, watch Lord of the Rings again just to admire an Orlando Bloom
styled elf. (Tolkien is responsible for most of our modern elf attributes, by the way.) And if you still arenít starting to fancy the elvish race, pick up a few of my favorite elves Ė the ones who make the delicious Keebler cookies. Or take the healthier route and go for a bit of Snap, Crackle and Pop as you enjoy a bowl of Rice Krispies.