Merry Christmas! 😀 I know it’s not Wednesday yet, but I wanted to post this on Christmas, so here it is a day early. 🙂
I had this post in mind for a while, and I couldn’t decide which part of Christmas I wanted to focus on. Last year, I researched holly, mistletoe, wreaths, trees, and yuletide. (I intended to research one, but it turned out they were all related, so I just did one monster post with the info I found.) This year I wanted something different… I had it narrowed down to Santa and the elves but I couldn’t decide which I wanted to do. However, T. R. Noble covered Santa Claus in this post (click to read!) and made my decision for me. (Great job, T. R., I enjoyed that post so much!) So I’m going to focus on elves. 🙂
Forget the little creatures with pointy hats for a moment. The elves of folklore were not like that. They were beautiful and even seductive.
The picture reminds me more of the Greek nymphs (oreads and dryads specifically) rather than elves… I’ll stop here with that line of thought, I don’t want to digress too much.
They were magical beings credited with helping people or harming them. The good ones were called elves. The bad ones were called gnomes. (Finding this out makes me want to research why it’s common to put gnomes in the yard and such… 🤨) When looking at the research, it seems like they should be associated with Halloween and trick or treat instead of Christmas… 🤪 Anyway. Digressing again.
The small, imp-like beings were made popular by Shakespeare in A Midsummer Nights Dream. The taller ones were made popular by J. R. R. Tolkien in Lord of the Rings.
It seems that the reason elves became associated with Christmas is the same reason for Saint Nicholas becoming Santa Claus – the poem, A Visit from St. Nicholas. One line reads, “He was chubby and plump, a right jolly old elf…”
I can’t imagine Santa as an elf. But if he was considered an elf at the time of the poem, then his helpers were simply the same as he was I guess. Until someone took Santa and made him more grandfatherly and… human.
The reason that elves now work at the North pole might be because of an old story about elves helping a shoemaker. The Elves and the Shoemaker, a story from Grimm’s Fairytales, also talks about leaving a gift for the elves for their help, sort of how milk and cookies are customarily left out for Santa.
One thing during my research that I found disturbing is that some early accounts of the word were used as a replacement for demon… here, it talked about in 900 when elf was used as a replacement for Satan. Looks like some theorize that good elves were actually angels and bad elves were actually demons. 😲
Didn’t expect to find that in my research. Seems like I almost always find out something surprising in my research lately.
Before I sign off, I want to give a shoutout to Diana at La Petit Muse: Was Jesus Born On The 25th? and T. R. Noble: Holiday Traditions… An idol? who also wrote about Christmas traditions and such. 🙂
Hope you all had a Merry Christmas! ❤