elves: Indic counterpart?

jkirk jkirk at SPRO.NET
Tue Feb 8 13:43:58 EST 2005

Since when are or were elves not also dwarves, i.e. small or short?  In
European folklore they are small, some cannot easily be seen, they are so
tiny. (I guess that trait would not suit a gana.) And since when were they
"beautiful" as opposed to, well, grotesque? Thus, besides gana, vaamana
could apply here. I didn't read Tolkien so don't know if his elves were
beautiful or not--if they were, they belonged to his own universe different
from that of elfdom of yore.
Thai folkore by the way has its fairies and they are female and beautiful.
They are often in art pursued by grotesque demons with fangs and horns.
Testosterone at work.
Many of those terms MW supplies as glosses for elf, in Indian folklore
referred to dangerous and/or deadly beings:  vetala, bhuta, rakshasa,
pishacha---demons and ghosts. Was that what Tolkien had in mind, O Tolkien
Vanadevata seems to make literal sense, but is it sufficiently Tolkieny?
What a fun project.
Best wishes
Joanna K.

> Others have noted longevity, ugliness, short and roly-poly.  Only the
first applies--the latter three are for dwarves, clearly vamana--unless one
wanted to reserve that for hobbits, who are also short. Elves also needn't
be only female.
> I think to include longevity, exclude eroticism to some degree, and bring
in some connection with forests and supernatural powers, perhaps vanadevatas
would be the best bet.
> Monier-Williams has vidhyAdharaH, apadevatA, vetAlaH, bhUtaH, rAkshamaH,
and pizAcah for elf--please forgive my lack of familiarity with the
transliteration.  See his English-Sanskrit dictionary page 221.   I still
think vandadevata has something to say for itself.
> Chris Haskett
> University of Wisconsin-Madison
> ---------------------------------
> Do you Yahoo!?
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