elves: Indic counterpart?

John Huntington huntington.2 at OSU.EDU
Mon May 23 22:16:46 UTC 2005

Joanna and others,

I did not enter the elf discussion previously because I did not think
it had any place to go. I simply do not have much interest in
European faeries, elves, gnomes and the like. But I ran across a book
on elves, faeries and company, and, out of momentary idleness, looked
at it fairly carefully. Tolkinian elves seem a bit different than the
joyful wee folk of the book, but that is only an aside. I know of
nothing in the Indic sphere that even comes close to either version.

The usual lot in Buddhism is the eight classes of gods, animistic
beings, and demons: devas,
nagas,  yakshas,  gandharvas, asuras, garudas, kinnaras, and
mahoragas.  To which one must add: apsaras, ganas, kumbhandas,
rakshasas, and the nakshatras.  Then, of course, there are all the
classifications of beings in the Mount Meru system. None of these
beings, where I know of a description of their respective behaviors,
behave in a manner anything  like the elves. Now it may be that the
Hindu systems harbor an elf-like being (perhaps the ganas of 7th 8th
century south India with their joy and musical inclinations) but even
these have a very specific iconological position (separating the
mundane from the transcendent) that has nothing to do with elves.

I am inclined to think the issue of an elf in Sanskrit is a miss and
maybe the Thai have their own animistic being, the Nat, that might
come into  play but then I do not know much about the nats either.



>Thanks for clarifying this thread's history.....
>Yes Tolkien seems to have been most particular about his different
>----- Original Message -----
>From: "Valerie J Roebuck" <vjroebuck at MACUNLIMITED.NET>
>To: <INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk>
>Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 12:00 PM
>Subject: Re: elves: Indic counterpart?
>>  The thread began with this enquiry, but took off in various
>>  directions afterwards:
>>  At 7:43 pm -0500 7/2/05, Allen W Thrasher wrote:
>>  >A Thai friend is trying to translate the poem on the Ring in the Lord of
>>  >the Rings into Thai, for a multilingual page of such translations.  She
>>  >asked me for help on what would be a good translation for "elves," since
>>  >Thai lore of supernatural beings is largely based on Indian. ...
>>  Allen found out afterwards that there was already a Thai translation
>>  of the whole of The Lord of the Rings in existence, but I don't think
>>  he has actually seen a copy yet.  (I for one am very interested to
>>  know how these sorts of problems are handled.)
>>  Whatever may be the situation elsewhere, in Tolkien's works Elves and
>>  Dwarves are quite distinct beings.
>>  Valerie J Roebuck
>>  Manchester, UK
>>  At 5:21 pm -0600 22/5/05, jkirk wrote:
>>  >I'm revisiting this question--wasn't it prompted by a query on the
>>  >translation of elf into Hindi for exhibiting the Lord of the Rings movie
>>  >India?  Seems the translators could have used the word vaaman -- dwarf. A
>>  >dwarf in folklore is close to an elf, after all.
>>  >Joanna K.
>>  >============
>>  >>  aspects of yak.sa-lore seem relevant, too, particularly
>>  >>  associations with vegetation and wealth,
>>  >>  though they have a malevolent side which would
>>  >>  not do for Tolkein's elves (though perhaps accords
>>  >>  with the mythology more generally).
>>  >>  On this, of course, see Coomaraswamy.
>>  >>
>>  >>  And what of the vidyaadharas and siddhas, as known
>>  >>  in the epics? Elvish longevity and command of wonders
>>  >>  might incline one to favor the vidyaadharas here.
>>  >>
>>  >>  MK
>>  >>

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