It is a fairly common belief that the legend of elves was created by JRR Tolkien amongst other now popular mythical creatures that he created. However, Tolkien simply popularised the creatures, and legends of elves have existed for centuries as a distinct legend from fairies (although the two legends often get conflated). The English word ‘elf’ comes from the Old English ælf, with the Common Germanic term probably being ɑlβi-z. The origin of the word probably meant ‘white’ or ‘white person’, with whiteness being associated with beauty and luminosity.
Whilst Tolkien may not have invented elves, this scene from the Lord of the Rings movie series certainly evokes medieval imagery of beautiful human-like creatures, surrounded by white and light
Surprisingly, almost all surviving textual sources about elves were produced by Christians. This comes in sharp contrast to my last post about medieval mermaids where the Church tried to…
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