elves: Indic counterpart?

Dean Anderson dean_anderson at SACARI.ORG
Tue Feb 8 19:09:50 EST 2005

I can't think of a decent parallel from Indic languages that wouldn't be
misleading. I think I would use one of Tolkien's own words for the elves
like Sindari which sounds Indic but has no associations.

Tolkien's elves were based mostly on the Irish Sidhe or Shee, I believe.
Irish tradition holds that these were originally semi-divine beings who
had physical bodies of a sort but also magical powers and are most
commonly identified with the Tuatha De Danaan (but also the Fir Bolg and
Fomorians.) When the humans became dominant, the Sidhe were banished to
the otherworld/underground as they themselves had done to their
previously conquered enemies. Folklore holds that while they originally
appeared as powerful, tall, golden beings they gradually lost their
power and most of them became the small folk we think of as elves,
fairies and leprechauns who can now only create mere mischief with their
diminished powers.

I have always assumed, without doing too much research into it, that
Irish Sidhe is cognate with Siddha since they originally embodied
similar concepts of awesome, wise, but not always benign, magical or
spiritual beings. Any thoughts on this?

Dean Anderson

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