Origin of the Mythology of Elves, Fairies and Pixies

Discussion in 'History' started by ElectricFetus, Jan 29, 2004.

  1. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,477
    When and where did these mythologies come from?

    Why has modern culture come to use them and distort them in to a vast array of creature types?

    What were this creature like according to the original mythologies?

    Please provide links or sources for answering these questions as all I can find on the net so far are gaming strategy guides

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

    please help, question I can't find answers to eat away at my little soul!
     
    Last edited: Jan 29, 2004
  2. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  3. BigBlueHead Great Tealnoggin! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,996
    WCF: Although most countries have their own mythology, a lot of modern "mythological" literary concepts come from a few recognizable sources.

    Most notable of these that I've come across were the works of Paracelsus, which seem to be very popular with the RPG crowd, although mostly indirectly.

    Check out "A Book on Nymphs, Gnomes, Giants, Dwarves, Incubi and Succubae, Stars and Signs" by Theophrastus Paracelsus if you can find it - I've been unable to find an online copy, and I don't feel like spending the money on a paper copy if I did find one.

    I believe Amazon has a few collections of his works for sale:

    http://www.amazon.ca/exec/obidos/search-handle-form/701-0318768-6421926

    He talks about the elements in relation to alchemy, but a lot of the stuff that is used in modern console RPG's and the like (sylph, salamander, gnome, undine) came more originally from that guy.

    EDIT: I s'pose I should mention - he wrote this stuff in the 16th century, so it's pretty old but not ancient exactly.
     
  4. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  5. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,477
    Sounds good will see if I can find it in a libary. I still just want some rough figures though like where and when elves came up and what were they originally like?
     
  6. Google AdSense Guest Advertisement



    to hide all adverts.
  7. BigBlueHead Great Tealnoggin! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,996
    Elves in the RPG sense were borrowed by Tolkien, but they are effectively older English fairies.

    Fairies are not depicted now quite as they used to be; the big ones, like Oberon and Titania were supposed to be of something like human proportions like this:

    http://www.denison.edu/art/fairy/images/fairy111.jpg

    They generally looked human. Less powerful fairies were often associated with poisonous plants and may have originally arisen as explanations for their poisonous effects.

    Much of the fairy stuff that you commonly see is from Victorian England... people claim that it represented an outlet for the sexual repression of that period, but I assume it's just art like from any other time.

    In Tolkien's Smith of Wootton Major (which may be a little hard to find these days) he talks about a region of the world called the Kingdom of Faery, which generally contained magic stuff. The Faery people themselves were pretty much human in their outward appearance. They strongly resembled the elves of his other works.
     
  8. guthrie paradox generator Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,089
    Just look at the Arthur myth and how its been changed over the centureis, and mixed in with the holy grail, end of the world, etc.
    Ill put more up when ive read up some again, i have the mabinogion and a couple of other things around.
     
  9. guthrie paradox generator Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,089
    For millenia virtually, there have been connections between fairies and mounds in the UK. the fairis were often believed to live in the mounds, which were opened at certain times of the year, or else the fairies came out at night, and sometiems stole children, milk etc. The mounds were either magical realms or gates to the fairies magical realms. You could go in and say beguile them with music, or suchlike, but getting out again is very hard. One way was apparently to use a horseshoe, a lump of iron that can go everywhere. they dont like Iron you see.
    So for their origins, one suggestion is that they are a folk memory of the older inhabitants of the UK and elsewhere, who faded away before the invasion of people armed with iron swords etc. Or else they are personifications of natural forces. Anyhow, its all been mixed up and changed over the centuries. It hink the idea is native to the UK, at least for the past 1000 years. The Mabinogion is based upon tales over 2,000 years old, but that weer altered slightly donw the centuries, and I dont think fairies as "fairies" came into it much. Magic did though, but it was the kind of confusing mythological magic you get that isnt entirely logical.
     
  10. guthrie paradox generator Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,089
    PLus of course, giants can come from the old testament and various other books of the bible, apocrypha, etc. In Genesis, there is reference to the children of god who took human wives, the inference being that they begat the race of giants.
     
  11. BigBlueHead Great Tealnoggin! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,996
    Guthrie: agreed, stories change pretty drastically, and no one ever had any intention of keeping Arthur canonical - for instance, look at his appearances in The Fionavar Tapestry...

    WCF, I hate to tell you, but tracing this is probably Master's Thesis in English material, so we'll be able to give you only incomplete answers at best, given our limited time/laziness budget.

    http://www-unix.oit.umass.edu/~sconstan/poemlink.html

    This link leads to a poem by Alexander Pope called The Rape of the Lock. In this work the main character is attended upon by sylphs (which are a little like fairies), and there's some description of other elemental spirits. It's difficult to find many descriptions of stuff like this in the literature I'm familiar with, but now that you know the keywords you may be able to track some stuff down on your own.
     
  12. BigBlueHead Great Tealnoggin! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,996
    In the preface to the poem, Pope mentions a book called Le Comte De Gabalis which also talks about this sort of stuff. I've never read that one, so I'll leave it to others to track it down I think.
     
  13. guthrie paradox generator Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,089
    The distortion comes in two main fashions. one, the myths and legends are altered through retelling. 2- they are deliberately changed in order to write a nice poem/ book.
    Pope and Tolkein are the 2nd kind. the retelling kind always goes on, but was more common in the old days. In the UK, there are many local legends about snakes and dragons, worms etc, and they are ultimately the same kind of creature, but at various points, the myth has crystallised into one form at one point. Very few of them could breath fire, but many of them could fly. The dragon in Beowulf could breath fire, Beowulf used an iron shield. So thats a dragon for you, 1400 or so years ago. In the UK, there are a lot of legends of flying snakes, exactly what they are based upon is hard to say. Beowulf is a slightly christianised version of a more continental saxon tale. The MAbinogion is a celtic set of storys, and they are a bit different in outlook, mood and suchlike. In a sense, tolkein is the closest to the original tales that I have read, since th magic is in the background, not massively powerful in a firepower big bang sort of way, yet does a lot, ie make a country vanish. And it is never actually expalined how it was done and relates to the structure of the universe. So as for how it arose, your looking at ancient ideas of the form of the universe, the use of unknown knowledge eg of explises by special castes of people, and the fear and otehrwise of the darkness beyond the campfire.
     
  14. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    53,152
    It is obvious to me, these myths come about as a result of hallucingenic mushroom intoxication!

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!



    These myths are remnants of earlier, pagan times when the mushroom was more widely used.
     
  15. BigBlueHead Great Tealnoggin! Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    1,996
    Herodotus wrote of a valley in Egypt where winged snakes came down from the mountains, and the ibis killed them - he was supposedly shown the skeletons of the winged snakes. The way he described it, it sounded more like some kind of tourist trap, but since Herodotus was a bit of a tourist I suppose he got what he deserved.

    I'm unsure of where these kinds of story come from, I assume they're usually from someone's very imaginative interpretation of a skeleton. I've also heard that the stories of cyclopes came from elephant skulls... seeing one, I can sort of understand why.

    http://www.mjourney.com/news/News_from_Greece/images/story.elephant.skull.jpg
     
  16. Hastein Welcome To Kampuchea Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    379
    Just take a walk in the woods every once in a while, it's pretty easy to imagine where these strange stories come from: images made up of the wild and superstitious world man used to live in. A lot of them are archetypes as well; primordial stories common to all mankind, but told in different ways by different cultures.
     
  17. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,477
    I want to thank everyone for you input... but I still await info on the origin and original nature of some of these mythologies.
     
  18. guthrie paradox generator Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    4,089
    How much time do you have? Your question is perilously close to meaningless, for lacking 1) a time machine. 2) adequate historical records. 3) Phsychological reports. 4) Physical evidence,
    almost everything we say about the origin and original nature of these myths is conjectural.
    Hastein is about right, take a walk in the woods. Its amazing how your imagination can run away with you. If you then, for example, combine that with evidence based ideas, such as the skeletons mentioned by great Bluehead, thats enough to cover some begginings. Another would be the origins of giants. It seems taht there are some exceptionally large old time corpses around, ie well over 6 ft. they dug up quite a few in east central asia a few years ago, and I believe there is evidence that there were some in Judah bothering DAvid 3,000 years ago. So, all it takes is 20 generations of transmission over 2,000 miles, a migrations, an invasion, a round of plague, 3 famines and you have something like what we have today.
    Another example would be creation myths. I cant be bothered to go hunting them up just now, but a lot of them are based in specific localities, and rely upon local vagaries of climate, flora and fauna. Imagine that transmitted along trade routes. Anotehr category of story is the one whereby a place name is know, and it means something, but a story is related about why it is called that. I re-read Culhwch and Olwen, a story from the MAbinogion yesterday, and it includes an onomatopeic place name, Mesur-y-Peir, which means in its parts" measure of the cauldron" as being a palce where King Arthur came ashore after invading Ireland and taking the magical Cauldron of the Irish King. Now, the place may have been named that because of some other reason, and along came a bard and thought hed weave it into a grander tale to make the place seem more important. Or maybe some chieftain did come ashore there with some booty from Ireland. Or something. But we cannot really tell.
     
  19. ElectricFetus Sanity going, going, gone Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    18,477
    Oh come on there must be record of the first of the first recorded versions of fairy tales!!! For the love... ok can some one pull up the earliest known stories of elves please let’s start with that.
     
  20. spidergoat Venued Serial Membership Valued Senior Member

    Messages:
    53,152
  21. weebee Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    374
    ….Victorians; they loved fairies. Not the first occurrence, but the one which made such a lasting impact.

    You might want to try looking up the word fairy in the English Oxford Dictonary. On-line this will give you the history of the word. It’s 11 pages long so I thought I wouldn’t post it.

    …the earliest use is in -1320 ‘land, home, term for ‘fays’ (fairy-folk.), stems from ‘fate’

    c1300 K. Alis. 6924 That thou herdest is fairye


    I can’t trace that one but 20 years later Sir Orfeo was written;
    c1320 Orfeo 273 The kyng of Fayré, with his route, Com to hunte all aboute
    Sir Orfeo was written by an anonymous author c. 1300. The author was probably familiar with Ovid's version of the Orpheus story, as well as Boethius'. The story differs from the "traditional" Orpheus story in a number of important details. It is a courtly romance, as opposed to the moral story found in Boethius. The underworld has been transformed to a fairy kingdom, and Orfeo's wife (named Heurodis) is not necessarily dead, but kidnapped. Orfeo, for his part, is a king who abandons his kingdom after the death of his wife, as well as a minstrel.
    http://www.tiltedworld.com/brenda/music/changeheart.html

    Hope that helps.
     
  22. weebee Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    374
    Elf
    Beowulf 112 (Gr.) Fram anon untydras ealle onwocon eotenas and ylfe. c1000 Sax. Leechd. II. 296 Wi ælfe and wi uncu um fidsan gni myrran on win. c1205 LAY. 19256 Sone swa he com an eor e aluen hine iuengen. c1386 CHAUCER Man of Law's T. 656 The mooder was an elf by aventure. 1426 AUDELAY Poems 77 (Mätz.) Alfe Rofyn be-gon to rug. c1460 Towneley Myst. (Mätz.) He was takyn with an elfe. 1513 DOUGLAS Æneis VIII. vi. 7 Wyth Nymphis and Favnis apoun euery syde, Quhilk fairfolkis, or than elvis, clepyng we. 1579 E. K. in Spenser's Sheph. Cal. June 25 Gloss., For Guelfes and Gibelines, we say Elfes & Goblins. 1610 SHAKES. Temp. V. i. 33 Ye Elves of hils, brooks, standing lakes and groues. 1635 HERRICK Hesper. (1869) II. App. 477 Come follow, follow me You fairie elves that be. 1700 DRYDEN Wife Bath's T. 3 The King of elfs..Gamboll'd on heaths. 1712-4 POPE Rape Lock I. 33 Airy elves by moonlight shadow seen. 1866 KINGSLEY Herew. xv. 193 You are an elf and a goddess. 1875 B. TAYLOR Faust I. i, Then the craft of elves propitious Hastes to help where help it can.
    http://www.rialian.com/elvsteut.htm looks good….

    Please Register or Log in to view the hidden image!

     
  23. Kunax Sciforums:Reality not required Registered Senior Member

    Messages:
    2,385
    what guthrie says in his first post sound very similar to the scandinavian mythologi. There has probely been a fair amount of trade in beliefs as scandinavians traveled back and forth.

    Giant and trolls also fit in neatly as "Jætterne*", the bad boys in the old nordic beliefs, faery, elfs and dwarfs are weaved in to nordic beliefs to.

    *in english its just translated in to giants
     
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2004

Share This Page