Not long ago, I took a quiz called What Mythological Creature are you?. After answering the twelve questions, it told me I was an elf. This was news to me, since I never considered myself elf-like. Here is the paragraph the site produced.
|What Mythical Creature are you? |
Your Result: Elf
|What Mythical Creature are you?|
Quiz Created on GoToQuiz
Knowing little about elves, I decided to do some research. I learned elves come from Norse mythology, and are a race of divine, or simi-divine creatures. Originally minor gods of nature and fertility, they can help, or hinder, humans with the aid of magical powers. They often deliver inspiration for art or music. Usually, when I think of elves, my first image is Santa's elves building toys in the North Pole. There's a lot more to elves than toy building. Before Christianity, elves were categorized as either light or dark.
Like angels, light elves lived between heaven and the world of man. By heaven, I mean the Old Norse heaven Alfheim, found below the dwelling place of the gods. Though capable of interacting with gods, light elves weren't placed as high as the supreme beings. The Icelandic poet and historian Snorri Sturluson (1179-1241) wrote of the light elves, and their dark cousins in his Gylfaginning.
"There are many magnificent dwellings. One is there called Alfheim. There dwell the folk that are called light-elves; but the dark-elves dwell down in the earth, and they are unlike the light-elves in appearance, but much more so in deeds. The light-elves are fairer than the sun to look upon, but the dark-elves are blacker than pitch."
So, while the light elves are "fairer than the sun," their dark cousins are something very different.
The Nightmare (1781)
Artist: Henry Fuseli
Dark elves, wishing to avoid light, live in the murky underground of Svartalheim. Though "dark elf" may allude to their subterranean living quarters, they are commonly described as avaricious and annoying to an extreme. They're actually very similar to dwarves. Like dwarves, dark elves grow from maggots in Ymir's body. Ymir, who I wrote about before, was responsible for a host of troublesome entities springing from various parts of his body. Also like dwarves, dark elves look like hideous people, and turn to stone when sunlight strikes them. They're often blamed for nightmares, sitting on peoples' chests; and whispering frightening dreams into ears. The German word for nightmare is Albtraum, or "elf-dream."
Tall or Tiny?
A small forest elf
The Sun Egg (1932) by Elsa Beskow
Though early light elves were human sized, in modern folklore they became tiny. Fortunately, 19th century Romanticism helped return them to their original stature. Since I think taller elves are more interesting, this was a positive development. J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings also promoted the taller elf.
Try taking the quiz yourself, and learn what mythological creature you are.