elves: Indic counterpart?

Christophe Vielle vielle at ORI.UCL.AC.BE
Thu Feb 10 04:55:44 EST 2005

It should be noted here that a Indo-European lexico-mythological
correspondance between the Germanic *alf (? cf. also Gandálfr, name of a
king in the Völuspá - I found that in Simek's Lexikon der germanischen
Mythologie, with bibliography  - so even the Tolkienian wizards could be
seen as "cousins" with the elves and dwarves), on the one hand,
and the Vedic  .rbhu, on the other hand,  was established by Adalbert Kuhn
already in 1855 (KZ 4, 103-20, p.113, cf. Wackernagel, KZ 24, p. 297,
Brugmann, Gundriss vol. 2, p. 298), followed by H. Oldenberg (Die Religion
des Veda, Berlin, 1894, pp. 64, 238, 452, 454), A.A. Macdonell (Vedic
Mythology, Strassburg, 1897, p. 133-34) and, more recently, J. Haudry, but
rejected by A. Bergaigne (La religion védique, Paris, 1897, vol. 2, pp.
407-8), Alfred Hillebrandt (Vedische Mythologie, second revised edition
Breslau 1927-29, English translation Motilal, vol. 2, p. 87-88),
and on linguistic ground not accepted by M. Mayrhofer.
Some other references on the .Rbhus:
- Félix Nève, Essai sur le mythe des Ribhavas, premier vestige de
l'apothéose dans le Véda, avec le texte sanscrit et la traduction française
des hymnes adressés à ces divinités, Paris: B. Duprat, 1847 (sometimes
still available in India).
- A.W. Ryder, Die .Rbhus im .Rgveda, Gütersloh, 1901 (ref. found in
- G. von Simpson, "Die .Rbhus im .Rgveda: Jahreszeitengötter oder
vergöttlichte Handwerker?", ZDMG Supplement 3, 1977, pp. 955-63.

>From my German friend:
>Well, according to this, the elves actually come from the germanic tradition
>(old norse Alfar, anglo-saxon Aelf, Danish elve) in German first Alb (still
>found in the word Albtraum, Alptraum, when you sleep and dream badly because
>an elf is sitting on your chest and having his/her fun with you.
>Elves are related to dwarfs (indeed, the English word for dwarf comes from
>dwartalf (black elf), though both cousins do not like each other much.
>The idea of 3 inch mini-humans living in flowers is not Germanic--elves and
>dwarfs are significantly smaller than average humans, but not toy-like.
>Now I will be quiet :)
>Joanna k.

Dr. Christophe Vielle
Centre d'Etudes de l'Inde et de l'Asie du Sud
Institut orientaliste
Place Blaise Pascal 1
B - 1348 Louvain-la-Neuve
Tel. +32-(0)10-47 49 54 (office)/ -(0)2-640 62 66 (home)
E-mail: vielle at ori.ucl.ac.be

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