Medieval Radio Blog

Elves – can we really trust them?

Nowadays everyone has a positive association with elves…  That sounds weird, but what I mean to say is that people like elves.

They think of them as handsome Orlando Bloom types with pointy ears, long flowing hair, and of course they are pretty good with a bow and arrow.

Or, more significantly at this time of year, we think of elves as the nice slave helpers of Santa Claus who happily and without complaint manufacture toys around the clock all year in his dark frozen wasteland lair.

But the above-linked article points out that the old medieval ideas of elves were much more nuanced.  Elves could do nice things like make shoes for old cobblers while they were sleeping.

They could also kidnap babies and replace them with changelings – basically defective elf babies that kind of looked like your own kid but were mute and incapable of doing any useful farm work.  On the other hand, if you dropped a box of matches in front of one of these elf kids, they were remarkably good at telling exactly how many matches had fallen to the floor.  They were also good at memorizing train time tables and such, so there were a lot of perks to getting one of these changelings.

Elves did other horrible things though, like causing your children to go crazy.  They caused livestock diseases too.  So basically, elves were toxoplasma gondii or trichnosis, found in cat poop and uncooked pork, which nobody today would say are good things!

So when you are opening your toys made by Legolas and other elves this Christmas, just remember – those guys weren’t always perceived as being so nice.  They were naughty as H-E-DOUBLE HOCKEY STICKS in the past.devil-stealing



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