elves: Indic counterpart?

jkirk jkirk at SPRO.NET
Tue May 24 04:34:28 UTC 2005

It would be most interesting to know what words the Thai translation of
Tolkien uses to describe his various mini-beings (I assume they are
mini-beings, as I've not read Tolkien). But as I understood it the Nats are
Burman, not Thai--or are Nats also part of Thai culture?
If you look at the sculptural representations of Burman Nats, they are
certainly not depicted as elves, at least the ones I saw on Mt Popa.
Yes, I find John's argument here persuasive--the elf is just not a viable
Indic concept.
----- Original Message -----
From: "John Huntington" <huntington.2 at OSU.EDU>
To: <INDOLOGY at liverpool.ac.uk>
Sent: Monday, May 23, 2005 4:16 PM
Subject: Re: elves: Indic counterpart?

> 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.
> Cheers
> John
> >Thanks for clarifying this thread's history.....
> >Yes Tolkien seems to have been most particular about his different
> >characters.
> >JK
> >================
> >----- 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
> >>  >the Rings into Thai, for a multilingual page of such translations.
> >>  >asked me for help on what would be a good translation for "elves,"
> >>  >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
> >in
> >>  >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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