Q:

What does an elf look like?

A:

Quick Answer

Originally, elves were creatures of ancient Norse myth, and they looked like slender, small versions of fair-skinned blond Scandinavian people. As tales of elves spread throughout cultures and then literature, their appearances became increasingly varied.

Continue Reading
What does an elf look like?
Credit: Kim Gunkel E+ Getty Images

Full Answer

Elves are most commonly depicted as beautiful beings who can nearly pass as human, but with pointed ears, long slender features and bodies and long straight hair (generally light-colored but sometimes darker). Irish elves were quite different, with an enormous range of appearances from the small green-clad leprechaun or the hideous goblin to the Queen of Elfland, whose beauty is beyond that any mortal can withstand.

In modern literature, most elves are based on J.R.R. Tolkien's fictional elves. Tolkien, a scholar of ancient languages, based his elves on the supernatural beings described in the Norse Edda. These elves were described as luminous human-like beings more beautiful than the sun. Tolkien's elves, however, depart from the traditional view in that they are often dark haired and may not have had pointed ears. Literature, games and movies created after Tolkien's foundational fantasy works often ignored more ancient elvish origins in favor of a more human elf, cementing this template in literary tradition. When modern fictional elves depart from this pattern, they are often described as brownies, fairies and other related mythical creatures.

Learn more about Folklore

Related Questions

  • Q:

    What are some popular urban legends?

    A:

    One popular urban legend is the legend of Bloody Mary, which is a myth claiming that a person looking in a mirror and yelling "Bloody Mary" three times summons a spirit named Mary. The Hookman is an urban legend that tells of a young couple killed by a hook-handed killer.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What is magical fairy dust?

    A:

    Magical fairy dust is an imaginary substance often referred to in stories featuring fairies or other mythical creatures such as pixies. Often described as a sparkling powder-like substance, magical fairy dust is used to create a magical occurrence.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    How are fairies and pixies different?

    A:

    Pixies and fairies are both types of mythical creatures in human folklore and literature, but fairies derive from locations around the world, while pixies are considered beings native to Northern Europe, particularly England and the Scandinavian countries. Pixies and fairies appear in many books, works of art and even television shows and movies. Pixies and fairies are typically shown as minuscule creatures, but have different physical characteristics that set them apart.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:
  • Q:

    What are leprechauns and what do they look like?

    A:

    Leprechaun are fairly-like creatures of Irish folklore, said to grant wishes to those who catch them. They are typically depicted as very small, bearded men that wear green suits and buckled shoes and hats.

    Full Answer >
    Filed Under:

Explore