December 3: Elves

Seemingly you can’t have Santa these days without him being followed by a bunch of Elves… Helpful little creatures in colourful clothing that spend most of their year making toys and then getting into a flap on Christmas eve because they haven’t quite finished making all the toys even though they’ve had an entire year and there are supposedly hundreds of them… I hate to say this but Santa’s elves are an absolute embarrassment.

Sorry… but they are, especially when you consider other types of elves… real elves and what not. I’ve described Santa’s elves above but real Elves are nothing like that… They aren’t happy and they don’t spend the year making toys. They aren’t necessarily evil but they are more or less ambivalent to humans… They wouldn’t go around spending all year making toys. They’ve got better things to do like… you know… stuff! However… they are a bit tricky if you get my drift… They play jokes, they hide things and they generally cause mischief.

You find these elves all across the post-roman Germanic speaking/Scandinavian world which is where we get the whole idea of the elf as a creature from. And considering that Santa and his elves supposedly live in Lapland then they kind of fit into the whole geographic origin point even if they don’t exactly correspond in terms of behaviour. These elves even show up in germanic names… like Aelfric, Aelfweard, Aelfred… Basically wherever you see an old Germanic name with AELF in it… The only name still in use

The early Germanic elves were much like the ones i describe above but actually we don’t really know a lot about them. The earliest elves we do know about come from Viking Mythology. Anyone who knows your Marvel comics will know about these guys and you’ll most likely know they’re more like the elves from Lord of the Rings… Or at least the light Elves are. As a matter of fact the old Viking Elves are probably where Tolkien got his inspiration from… That and he originally found he couldn’t use the word fairy because of it’s increasing association with homosexuality (This could also possibly be an explanation for  Legolas, especially considering that even Galdriel is more manly than he is… Tolkien was hinting at his initial idea concerning fairies…).

But anyway… In Viking Mythology you have two types of Elves… Light Elves and Dark Elves. The Light elves live in Aelfheim and the Dark Elves live in Svartalfheim. The light elves are generally the same as Tolkiens elves… Only a bit more divine and without the pointy ears… And a bit more butch. However… Some sources reckon that there is very little difference between Dark Elves and Dwarves, even going so far as to reckon that Svartalfheim and Nidavellir (Where the dwarves live) are actually the same place. But if the Dwarves and Dark Elves are the same then that provides us with an interesting connection to Santa. The Dwarves are the ones who make things… Like Mjolnir (Thor’s Hammer) for instance. Santa’s elves also make things and as they seem to have nothing to do with what we know of as Elves does that mean they’re actually these Dark Elves/Dwarves?

No… Of course not. They’re just a different, modern, more embarrassing kind of Elf… Happy ones that make toys. It’s just that, all things considered, they have almost nothing to do with their mythological counterpart… Unless they are actually Dark Elves.

Come Back tomorrow for another (more Christmas themed) post…

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