Elves and Fairies and Yokai, Oh My!

woodelf from spiderwick field guideFor today’s Friday Feature, I wanted to share this fun little blog on Elves and Faeries by writer and friend of A Pilgrim in Narnia, L.A. Smith.

I’ve blogged before about C.S. Lewis’ faerie lecture in The Discarded Image, and guest blogger Prof. J. Aleksandr Wootton has shared his great resource list. This post takes the conversation both global and to the point of what writers can do today.

Here’s the new link to this file: click here.

the traveller's path

“Go not to the Elves for counsel, for they will say both no and yes.”

 – J.R.R. Tolkein

Elves are fascinating creatures of legend, and their roots go deep into our history. And when I say “our”, I mean collective mankind, for although we may think that the concept of elves is a Western European one, you can actually find elf-like creatures in most of the world’s mythology. In the Norse and Germanic cultures they are alfar, supernatural beings having great beauty and long lives, sometimes helping humans, sometimes hindering them. These are the Tolkein elves,for the most part, which is not surprising, as his LOTR saga was based on Norse mythology.

Many legends of elves speak of the Trooping of the Elves, a mysterious night trek of a long line of elves, and woe to the human who spies them! This is referenced in Lord of the Rings, the long march of the Elves as they leave Middle Earth... picture from WikiCommons Many legends of elves speak of the Trooping of the Elves, a mysterious night trek of a long line of elves, and woe to the human who spies them! This is referenced in Lord of the…

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About Brenton Dickieson

“A Pilgrim in Narnia” is a blog project in reading and talking about the work of C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and the worlds they touched. As a "Faith, Fantasy, and Fiction" blog, we cover topics like children’s literature, apologetics and philosophy, myths and mythology, fantasy, theology, cultural critique, art and writing. This blog includes my thoughts as I read through Lewis and Tolkien and reflect on my own life and culture. In this sense, I am a Pilgrim in Narnia--or Middle Earth, or Fairyland. I am often peeking inside of wardrobes, looking for magic bricks in urban alleys, or rooting through yard sale boxes for old rings. If something here captures your imagination, leave a comment, “like” a post, share with your friends, or sign up to receive Narnian Pilgrim posts in your email box. Brenton Dickieson is a father, husband, friend, university lecturer, and freelance writer from Prince Edward Island, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter, @BrentonDana.
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10 Responses to Elves and Fairies and Yokai, Oh My!

  1. L.A. Smith says:

    Aww, thanks for the re-post! Appreciate it!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Aonghus Fallon says:

    Yeats divided Irish fairies into trooping and solitary fairies – which would sort of tie in with the notion of an elvish procession. The solitary fairies tended to stay above ground.

    You’re probably already familiar with the Cailleach (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cailleach) an Irish-Scottish legend, which I’m guessing was one source of inspiration for the White Witch – although the latter owes a great deal to Hans Anderson’s Snow Queen as well.


    • I knew about Cailleach, but have never known how to pronounce it. I will have to dig into my Scottish heritage. I had not thought of white witch = hag of any kind. It would take a turn of thinking for me–not on the white witch but on hags. I don’t know if they have that stately harsh beauty of the white witch.


  3. Aonghus Fallon says:

    Yeah, a hag has very specific connotations in Irish mythology (ie, not beautiful!). The Morrigan in one of her three manifestations is classified as a hag.

    Scots Gaelic and Irish differ slightly in pronunciation. I’d pronounce Cailleach – “Kyle-luck”, stressing the last ‘k’ as in ‘loch’.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. David Llewellyn Dodds says:

    Thank you for this!

    Though I did not meet either until I was an adult (and reading them aloud to children), I delight in two uses of similar… ‘beings’, in some ways “human-like creatures who lived alongside humans”, but solitary and benevolent ones, Astrid Lindgren’s The Tomten (also in The Tomten and the Fox) – two very atmospheric picture books – and Katharine Briggs’s Hobberdy Dick (a richly detailed little novel). Related to the former, though quite distinct, too, is the jultomte who (or more the expectation of whom) features in one of Sven Nordqvist’s delighful Pettson and Findus books, Findus at Christmas / aka: Merry Christmas Festus and Mercury (2011) (Original: Pettson får julbesök, 1989).

    What you say about the Arabic jinn is interesting and seems to have its parallels in Jewish lore which I encountered in Gershom Scholem’s 1974 book based on his contributions to the new Jewish Encyclopedia and entitled simply, Kabbalah. I wonder what MacDonald’s exact sources were for his treatment of (the apparently solitary) Lilith?

    Liked by 1 person

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