Revealing the True Nature of Elves: Dangerous Beauties and Diabolical Fiends
Present day movies show elves as beautiful beings who help people in their times of need. However, the original ancient form of these beings was quite hostile towards humans. Often enough, elves would lure humans to their death. The purpose of this article is to unmask and reveal the true identity of elves and to expose their hostility towards the human race.
Depiction of a "Korrigan", small elf of the Celtic forests ( CC BY 2.0 )
In the Arthurian legends, the wizard Merlin was said to have once fallen in love with an elven maiden. In fact, she used her charms to lure Merlin into the forest where she tried to trap him and kill him. It was a matter of luck that Merlin struggled with his attraction for the beautiful woman and escaped with his life.
Nimue, the Lady of the Lake, shown holding the infatuated Merlin trapped and reading from a book of spells, in The Beguiling of Merlin by Edward Burne-Jones. ( Public Domain )
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Sometimes the concepts of elves and fairies are regarded as one and the same. The origin of fairies is in Anglo-Saxon mythology and even King Arthur is at times regarded as being the son of a fairy. Fairies are said to be born of and associated with flowers and their wings are said to resemble those of butterflies or dragonflies. Elves are usually associated with trees and their origins can be traced back to Norse mythology.
Puck and Fairies, detail from A Midsummer Night's Dream. ( Public Domain )
Dangerous Beauties and Baby-Stealers
Fairies are usually neutral towards humans. At times they help humans, while they can also kidnap human children.
The devil steals a baby and leaves behind a fairy replacement, known as a changeling. Early 15th century. ( Public Domain )
Arthur was believed to be part fairy, while Merlin was believed to be part elf. Medieval elves seem to be a mix between elves and Greek nymphs. Writer Gustavo Adolfo Becquer’s elf from the tale Green Eyes resembles water nymphs by luring a human boy into the lake and drowning him.
Nymphs or Naiads would lure men to their watery graves. ( Public Domain )
Elves of Nordic Legend
The most ancient form of elves came from the mythology of the Norsemen. In Norse mythology, elves came in pairs – light and dark elves. Light elves were appreciated and esteemed by the god Odin. Some legends say that the look of the elves was linked to the changes of the seasons in nature. Elves were mostly immortal, but they could die if their sacred oak tree was cut. Light elves or Ljosalfar, as the Norsemen called them, inhabited the beautiful world of Alfheim.
Light elves were said to live in Álfheimr, and were "fairer than the sun to look at". Elfplay, 1866. ( Public Domain )
Dark elves or Dokkalfar were said to be quite ugly and they lived in the world called Niflheim. While dark elves were said to be evil by nature, light elves regarded humans as inferior to them, so they did not hold the human race in high esteem. In a way, light elves can be seen as a portrait of the perfect Norseman; Blonde hair, blue or green eyes, the fine nose, and the close link with nature are all traits that the ancient Norsemen valued.
An artist’s depiction of Malekith the Accursed, ruler of the Dark Elves of Svartalfheim. ( Fair Use )
Also as a metaphor, dark elves could have represented the ugly Romans who had none of the beautiful traits mentioned above. Pointy ears were also a defining characteristic for elves, a characteristic which distinguished them from humans. This is explained through the fact that they were said to have very fine hearing.
In lore, elves had pointed ears, and excellent hearing. (Flickr/ CC BY 2.0 )
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Beware the Ancient Elves
In the present day, movies show the funny image of the happy Christmas elves who help Santa by making toys for human children. Even though this image is more prominent in the present, this does not make the original depiction of elves any less true. In the past, elves were said to take away human children, to curse humans or to drive them mad. These things happened especially when humans interfered in the lives of the elves by disturbing them. The revenge or retaliation of the elves was to be feared.