Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity by Alaric Hall
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
Here comes a scholarly look at the concept of elves in England as believed by the Anglo-Saxons who conquered the islands. In my reading of the book I found it to be very scholarly, dry and textbook like. Bit hard to enjoy and focus on but none the less informative.
The concept of Alf, Alp or alb comes up a lot in English lore. Usually it is thought to mean Elf but what is an elf ?, especially in Anglo Saxon lore. The author here uses old lore from the norse and scandinavia to help give the reader a picture of what elves were. The author also relies strongly on linguistics and word variation to give us a definition. While that in itself can be enlightening it can also make for very difficult reading especially if you are not a linguist.
For starters going into old Scandinavian folklore we learn from bardic writing left behind that Elves were usually though of as males who were warriors at that. They were described in very human terms. The author nexts evaluates Icelandic Lore about elves. It is here we learn that Snorri Stulson had his view of elves influenced very strongly by Christianity. Especially with him dividing them into light elves and dark elves. Dark Elves lived below the earth and light elves lived above in the sky with the Aesir. THe elves in Snorri Stulson's view had their own world.
In Germanic lore there were no female elves, yet there were supernatural being that were supernatural. THe three that were spoken of were the Nornir, Disir and Valkyries. In original mythos the terms seem to bespeak supernaturalness and not a specific definition. It was only later that there would be female elves and these seem to have been based on the Greek concept of Nymph. Nymph were water maidens who could sing and seduce men. In fact look at Grenedel from Beowulf. His mom was a water nymph. Female supernatural being were thought to be able to easily seduce men.
In Pagan times the Elves especially the light elves were thought to be on the good side with the gods of Aesir and menfolk. On the bad side of things were the Jotun ( Giants) Dwarves and Darl Elves. In CHristian times the Elves became demonized quite literally. THey were sided with Demons, Satan and monsters. It should be of interest to note that in original mythos predating Snorri Stulson there is no concept of Vanir or the Earth Gods. There is just Alfar, the world of elves. Freyr was the the king of Alfar.
As time went on female elves were introduced and the roles of male and female were changed up in the elven world. Men were effeminate and attractive, while the females carried swords and fought about. Let us not forget that elves would merge into what is called the faerie kingdom andd that English lore would borrow bits from Celtic lore as well.
Elves were best known for shooting livestock and people with what is called Elf shot. The arrow would shoot into a human or cattle fin the elf was offended. This could manifest as fever sickness or shape pains.THe healer or witch would remove the arrows. This very similar to Shamic practices of removing spirit arrows.
remember avoid wild abandoned places for that is where elves tend to dwell. If you are as scholar who is researching this stuff and are going for a degree then this book might be for you. As for general info I would say go ahead and by it but it would be better if it was written more at a lay mans level.
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