Elves

fairy-dream-alvelek-1909(2)
Art by T. Kittelsen

Did you know that J.R.R Tolkien’s elves are originally from Scandinavia? The name elf comes from the Norse word Alfr meaning Alv (Norwegian) or Elf in English. The belief in elves dates back to the Norse times in Scandinavia, and the elves were a part of the Scandinavian Norse Mythology. They were considered to be nature personified, and they carried the spirit of a tree, a rock, a mountain or a lake within their being.

oldmanwillow
Illustration from Lord of the rings

The nature was worshipped by the Norse people and so were the elves as they were considered to be divine beings with an immortal soul. The elves possessed magical powers that could either be used to help people or to hurt them, so the elves were very much respected and honored. There were Elves belonging to the Light, they lived in Alvheim, and dark elves who lived under ground. The dark elves could be dangerous and could cause natural disasters.

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Art by T. Kittelsen

There was no queen of the elves, but a king, and he was called Alberich. In some of the old sagas from the Norse period it has been mentioned that the elves married humans and had children, and that this race became a magnificent and powerful race. The king Alvarim is mentioned, he was the king of Alvheim, and he had a daughter called Alvhild. There is also mention of a King Alvgeir with a son called Gandalv. According to Norse Mythology the God Frey was the ruler of the elves.

gandalf
Art by John Howe

With the arrival of Christianity the Elves were made into something evil, a dark force ruled by the devil, and people were no longer allowed to worship them. They became feared and many spells and amulets were made to keep them away.

Theodor-Kittelsen-The-Princess-Gathering-Cotton-Grass
Art by T. Kittelsen

In the 18 hundreds there was a revival of the elves. They made their way into the fairy tales as young, beautiful and magical beings. In the Norwegian Fairy Tales we hear about elves dancing in the fog in early mornings leaving behind a ring, often overgrown with mushrooms.

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Art by August Malmström

We also hear about the danger of entering into these rings or to see the elves dance. The elfin time is different than ours, it moves much slower, and spending an hour in the company of elves can be a lifetime on earth. Therefor people were warned against seeking out elfin rings or the elves.

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Art by T. Kittelsen

Nowadays, the elves are a part of our Scandinavian heritage and folklore. Very few people believe in elves anymore in Norway, but in Iceland the belief in Elves is still strong and the world of elves is very much alive as a part of the spirit world of nature.

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From Lord of the Rings

In Norway the Victorian image of the flower fairy is more popular as a decorative element in houses or a popular theme for books and movies. The Flower Fairies are more related to the Irish belief in the fey people which is quite similar to the Norse Elves, so much so that many consider them to have sprung from the same root.

Ladys-Smock-Flower-Fairy
Art by Cicely Mary Barker

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