Once upon a times elves were cute little creature’s in Santa’s workshop who helped stack presents onto his sleigh. Or they were pointy eared, tiny folk who made shoes for cobblers who could no longer keep up with demand.
These days, as I discussed a couple of weeks back, elves in common public opinion have become tall, pale, long haired, feminine, graceful creatures with their own language and a secret desire to hug every tree they can find.
Interesting how the work of one man can change things so much.
But even Santa’s elves and the shoe elves are a change from what elves used to be. Santa elves and cute elves from kids tales.
Once upon a time elves were pranksters and tricksters (think Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream) and liable to exact terribly savage revenge on anybody who crossed them. Taking their roots in Norse mythology, these elves would steal food, babies (!) and cast spells on unsuspecting humans either for their amusement or simply their pleasure.
If you skip away from their Norse roots and look at Scottish folklore, you end up deep in the realms of the Seelie and Unseelie Courts (or the light and dark fae). Now . . . I do realises that the Seelie and Unseelie are actually faeries, but the similarities are enough that I mention them here. I’ll have to touch properly on faeries another time.