Tag Archives: mythologie

The Elves, who are they?

The Elves are in our minds majestic beings, imbued with magic, mystery and immortality (or at least of an astonishing longevity). But what is really happening? Where does their myth begin? Especially: are they really what we believe?

Hello my Marmosets!

I know, I know, I was sooooooooo long absent … but I reassure you: “Here I am!” So you have the choice: either I tell you what I did during my half-holidays (I have a lot to tell you!), Or I speak to you about something else … then? Okay, OK… I’ll tell you about fantastic creatures … (pfff you’re really not friendly with me!).

Creature of the day, hello!

The Elves: Guardians of Nature

In fact, I realize that the word “Elf” is often used in the plural. Would it be a distortion of our imagination to perceive them thus? I think so. Try. Close your eyes and try to project an Elf into your mind. They are always imagined as a great family: “to many, we are better! “Great? Pointy ears ? With arcs perhaps? Fine? Almost immortal? Links with magic? Nature too? Do you see it ? A beautiful “Legolas” stands before you. (Do not babe too much, girls!) Is that it? Are you there? Good. If I told you that all these facts about them are not quite true? That our “literary” imagination has distorted the real image of these beings?

First of all, we must know that the origin of the Elvish myth is northern, even if they are also found in Celtic mythology.

This myth is still deeply rooted in Scandinavian folklore. Initially, they were minor divinities, linked to nature, but also to fertility.

That is, I think (this is still my personal opinion), which undoubtedly gave birth to their legendary longevity, but of course I can be wrong.

A human appearance

An elf is an anthropomorphic creature (whose appearance is human) that originally lived close to nature, was small in size and had pointed ears. The Norwegian term “Huldrefolk” refers to the “hidden people” or “vetter” a kind of earth-related “goblins”, approaching the dwarfs of northern mythology more than elves.
Their figure will be taken up again in fantasy, especially in the mythical writings of Tolkien, who then made them great characters, incredibly beautiful, imprinted with nobility and wisdom.

(Légolaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaas !)

Their attachment to nature persists, since they often live in forests. They are also given amazing magic powers and incredible longevity. In fact, humans perceive them as immortal. They will also keep their ears long and pointed. They would be incredibly agile, fast, gifted in the handling of bows and would have a piercing view. This makes them formidable hunters and warriors.
J. R. R. Tolkien, in parallel to the writing of the accounts of Middle-earth, invented a series of elvish languages ​​whose existence is not reduced to their mention in narrative; with other non elven languages ​​placed in the same imaginary world, they form the set of languages ​​of Middle-earth.
Once adults, the Elves no longer age, they never get sick. Only a serious wound (or deep grief) can cause them to die. Their astonishing longevity gives them a totally different view of the world (and life) from that of humans. In fact, they tend to view short-term adventures with disdain and indifference, as they necessarily project themselves on the “longer term”. Nevertheless, when they have a well-defined purpose, they are tenacious, with a determined determination. If they bind little friendship, it is always perennial.

It would seem that the Elves themselves would choose their first name in adulthood (about 100 years).

The Elves are generally more intelligent than humans (no, no, I will not comment), or at least endowed with greater wisdom. They possess ancestral knowledge, especially in the field of trees, plants … They live indeed very close to nature. This concept is probably derived from the Nordic and Germanic mythologies. I do not want to pass for a rambler, nevertheless, it seems to me to have said above that the Elves were minor divinities of nature. Their senses, mainly sight and hearing, are particularly refined and far superior to those of men.

The voice of the Elves is sometimes compared to the murmur of the water. In some stories, their song has a relationship to magic.

At the beginning…

In ancient texts in Norse (ancient Icelandic) the Elves are named “álfar” in the singular “álfr”. And in modern Scandinavian languages:

  • Icelandic: “álfur” – plural “álfar”, “álfafólk”;
  • Danish: “elver”, “elverfolk”, sometimes “ellefolk”, or “alf” – plural “alfer”;
  • Norwegian: “alv” – plural “alver”, “alvefolk”;
  • Swedish: ‘alv’ – plural ‘alver’, in the female ‘älva’ – plural ‘älvor’;
  • Scots: “elfen”.

Moreover, this first word “álfar” would have a proto-Indo-European origin, a prehistoric language that gave rise to the Indo-European languages. (What? I’m cheating it to death? No, not even true!). In fact, the word “alb” meaning “white” is found, for example, in Latin: “albus” which means the same thing. This linguistic “root” is found in ancient Germanic languages, but also modern: English (and Old English), Dutch (and Dutch), German (as well as Old High German and Middle High (without the letter “H” is a dead language spoken by the Goths in the Middle Ages).

Northern Mythology

Freyr, god of fertility in Nordic mythology, would be the lord of the “Alfes (Elves)”.

This leaves us immediately to think that if the myth relates “elves of light” and therefore “benevolent” there must also exist “black elves”, therefore “dark”. Be that as it may, Elves appear in various ways in northern mythology (but also in Germanic mythology). They are generally described as semi-divine beings associated with fertility (thank God Freyr) and ancestor worship.
The concept of “Elf” thus seems similar to the animist beliefs: everything is provided with soul, with spirit, even objects like a stone, or an element like the wind. The belief of the “fylgjur”: “the spirit totem” and the “vörðar”: “the protective spirit” is identical in Nordic mythology. The Elves are frequently compared to the nymphs of Greek and Roman mythology, to Vili (the northern god, brother of Odin) and to the Roussalki (close beings of the naiads, sirens, fairies or Greco-Roman wonders) of Slav mythology .
Many Germanic first names are taken from the name of the elf: Ælfric, Ælfwine, Ælfréd (modern Alfred), Alberich. It is also the case of some ancient French names of Germanic origin, such as Auberon and Aubry.
The mythologist and mythographer (Mythographer, not to be confused with mythomaniacs!) Seriously, mythography is studying … myths, not even funny, I know) Icelandic. Snorri Sturluson sometimes refers to the Nordic Dwarves as “Dark Elves”: “dökkálfar” or “black elves”: “svartálfar”. They would be blacksmiths and guardians of treasures. But this is a mistake. For Dwarves and Elves are two types of different creatures, not remaining, and moreover, in the same place. The “Dark Elves” would live in Svartalfheim while the Dwarfs would be in Nidavellir. It would therefore be a belated belief. The distinction between light Alfes (from the sky) and black Alfes (subterranean) influences the vision of these creatures. Since then, Men have been suspicious of the Black Alves, while the Clear Alves remain beneficial.
The Elves would be as closely linked to the “Æsir” (or Ases), the main gods of northern mythology, as to the “Vanir” fertility gods, but each “group” would have its own translations of words which would mark the difference of their status.

European Folklore

From the beginning of Christianization of the Germano-Scandinavians, belief in the Elves is assimilated to paganism (those who are not considered Christian or Jewish). In fact, this belief is severely opposed. The Elf then becomes a kind of demonic creature. An important amalgam is set up between Dwarves and Elves.
The British “pixies”, little winged fairies, are assimilated to “älvor” in modern Swedish or “alfer” in Danish.
The original myth of the Elves was perpetuated in European folklore as predominantly female beings who established their dwellings in hills, mounds (mounds only consisting of earth, covering a burial) or tumuli (mounds of earth and stones ). However, belief in the common people is rare in France, unlike the Scandinavian countries.

Folklore of the Germanic regions

The “dark side” is what remains most of the Elves in German folklore. Their nature would have “evolved”. They would be mischievous, mischievous. They would be the cause of diseases of cattle and people, bad dreams.

The German word for nightmare, “Albtraum or Alptraum” literally means “dream of Elf” and its archaic form “Albdruck” means “Elf pressure”.

This aspect of the Germanic Elvish belief comes from the Scandinavian belief of the “mara“: this evil spirit that provokes nightmares.

It could also come from legends about incubus (demons that take male form to abuse women in their sleep) and succubus (demons that take feminine form to seduce men during their sleep and their dream).
We find a posterity for the Elves of Germanic folklore in the tetralogy of the “Ring of the Nibelung” by the German composer Richard Wagner.Il serait rapporté que les Elfes danseraient dans les prés, surtout les nuits et les matins où la brume est dense. Ils laisseraient alors derrière eux des sortes de cercles, à l’emplacement même de leur danse ; on les appelle « älvdanser » : « danses d’elfes » ou « älvringar » : « cercle d’elfes ».

This is how many legends in the Middle Ages would have been born: nymphs, dryads, elves and gnomes would be responsible. Urinating in one of these circles is believed to cause venereal disease. Typically, these circles are traced by a multitude of small mushrooms, but they can also be traced by drawing grass stripped against the ground.
There would be several Elf peoples, such as the High Elves (Elves of Light), Elves of the Woods (Elves of the Woods), Gray Eves (or Moon Elves), Elves of Water (or Undines) … The Dark Elves, or drows, are most often the obscure counterpart of the Elves.

Some literary works …

(Incomplete list)

  • The Hobbit, The Lord of the Rings, The Silmarillion, J. R. R. Tolkien;
  • The Forgotten Realms, R-A Salvatore;
  • The Annals of World Records, Terry Pratchett;
  • The Legacy, Christopher Paolini;
  • Tara Duncan, Sophie Audouin-Mamikonian;
  • The Chronicles of the Lodoss War, Ry? Mizuno (MANGA);
  • The Knights of Emerald, The Heirs of Enkidiev, Anne Robillard;
  • Aïnako, Ariane Charland;
  • Amos Daragon, Bryan Perro (comic);
  • Merry Gentry, L.K. Hamilton;
  • The legendary Patrick Sobral (comic)

Video Games

  • Warcraft;
  • The Elder Scrolls;
  • The Legend of Zelda (called Hyliens);
  • Final Fantasy;
  • Dragon Age;
  • Magic, the assembly;
  • Naheulbeuk Dungeon;
  • Dungeons and Dragons;
  • Warhammer;
  • Warhammer 40,000;
  • The world of Palladium;
  • Shadowrun;
  • Heroes of Might and Magic;
  • The Witcher.

Whether they provoke us nightmares or make us dream, the Elves will always be assimilated, for me, to allies or representations of Nature, those beings who remind men that Mother Nature also has a say and that it will not let anyone deteriorate without flinching or replying. The Elves are the spirits of this Nature that we love so much and that makes us well … provided we take care of her so that she continues to protect us and bring us her blessings.

Article written by S-P Decroix, author of The Princess of the deepest Times, from Lysons editions.

In the footsteps of the Sirens: from myth to reality!

Hello my Marmosets,

Between the legendary animals, the nocturnal creatures and the various characters that populate our imagination, there is another kind of “mystical entities”: these are the hybrid beings. Half-human, half-animal, these “creatures” often allow us (in our mind and therefore our subconscious) to exteriorize our own fears, our own “bestiality” by giving the human being a semi-animal appearance. These beings resemble us, but are different. Above all my marmosets, know that, concerning the sirens, there are two “myths” (why make it simple when one can make complicated?):

The siren most ingrained in our minds and the one we know best comes from medieval and Scandinavian folklore (contemporary myth): the siren half-woman half-fish.

The second comes from Greek mythology (ancient mythology) where the siren is depicted as a chimera half-woman half-bird.

For these two myths, the origin of the word would come from the Greek: “seirến“, and from the Latin “siren“.

From siren to siren

Their real meaning

“In general, demons of the souls, demons of the dead, tutelary geniuses of tombs, beings in turn or at the same time beneficial and malicious, as many characters of ancient demonology are, the Sirens are all this, and this aspect Is no longer disputed since Weicker’s important work on this subject. “

[Source: Odette Touchefeu-Meynier, “De quand date la Sirène-poisson” (“When did the Mermaid-fish appear?”)]

Their evolution through time

For the Scandinavians, the mermaid is a formidable monster called Margygr (the “giant sea”). This monster looked tall, with a terrible face, a pointed forehead, wide eyes, a large mouth and wrinkled cheeks. Yes, we are far from Ariel the little mermi super siren of Disney… sorry girls if I just break the image you made of her? … what? I’m a bit sadistic? Think about it, maybe a little!

According to Édouard Brasey, a French novelist, these oceanic creatures look in a mirror, symbol of the planet Venus in astronomy. Aphrodite, goddess of Love born of sea foam, is often represented with a mirror of gold. Even if she has no fish tail,

Aphrodite would be “the ancestor of sirens and protector of sailors”.

As with all the creatures of our imagination, the physical appearance we are giving them today is a succession of more or less important transformations over time. The Nordic siren, therefore, does not escape the rule!

In the medieval bestiaries, sirens are described as women “from head to pelvis” and fish from “basin to bottom with claws and wings”, thus merging the fabulous traditions of the Greek and German mythologies. Their image is engraved on the steles, tombs or Romanesque churches where they personify the soul of the dead as in ancient Egypt.

The Norwegian work “Konungs skuggsjá” describes her as a lovable creature, resembling a woman up to the waist, for “this monster had big nipples on her chest, like a woman.” She would also have long arms and long hair, and her face seemed human.

In the seventh century, the English monk Aldhelm of Sherborne describes them as fish-tailed virgins covered with scales. (So good!)

These two representations will coexist until the fifteenth century when the flying sirens (of the Greek myth) leave definitely the place, at least in our minds, a pretty woman with long hair and fish tail.

I would point out that at the time when all these myths permeate our imagination, women, or feminine beings, have mostly long hair. I think, and it is only my opinion (That’s it, I think I’m starting to play it smart to death again?), That the hair, like the nipples, are not only a feminine attribute, but also a “sexual” attribute having To attract, from a purely physical point of view, the “male” in its… nets… (yeah, I know, I’m too strong to take you where I want!). And then I can understand that it is more pleasant for the male sex to look at a pretty girl even if she has a fish tail (each her tastes) rather than a humanoid that squalls for a long time and goes away “at the wing” to the slightest annoyance (Alexia said, I remind you, that I was armored with humor: woman bird, at the wing, it’s rather funny, is not it?). Fine. I close the parenthesis.

Johannes of Cuba, a German naturalist, makes them live in gulfs at the bottom of the seas. As for Jacob Van Maerlant, a Flemish writer, says that one can find them as well in the seas as in the rivers. I suppose the latter has relied on the folklore of many European legends which mention sirens, living not only in the sea, but also in rivers and small streams. [] They are then called sirens, but are also sometimes called “naudia” (nymphs) in Germanic beliefs, “dragas” or “donas d’aiga” (water ladies) ) In Occitania, etc.

Note that anglophones call them siren, the sirens antique (half-women, half-birds), and mermaid, the sirens scandinavian (with a tail of fish).

The origins and first traces…

From woman-bird to woman-fish

The bird-woman appeared in the first half of the 8th century BC, gradually giving way to the woman-fish.

The origin of the sirens, as we know them, probably comes from the narratives of navigators; The sailors might have mistaken the sirens with manatees (large aquatic mammals [their head reminds me of a dolphin]) and / or dugongs also called “sea cows“.

Well, I do not know what you think my marmosets, but to confuse a marine mammal whatever it is with a female creature (fish tail, we understood, thank you) must still be drunk a few liters of mead, or… have drunk a few liters of mead! Because physically, it’s still not the same thing!

In 1403, near Edam in Holland, two young girls captured a “specimen”. It was in fact a woman, found naked in the water and speaking no known language, and who was nicknamed the “siren of Edam”.

Christopher Columbus himself reports that he would have crossed three sirens near the coast of Santo Domingo. Disappointed, he would have said that they were not as beautiful as in the writings!

(Sorry my guy, but you can not have everything in life: “discover America” ​​and fish the beautiful fish). On the other hand, American sailors would have seen it near the Sandwich Islands [Hawaii], (sandwich like tuna sandwich … ok … there, it’s not funny) “of great beauty that yielded nothing to the most beautiful women “. It is my opinion that it was not the same sirens. Especially that between the two “locations” almost 400 years ago. Unless in the meantime the sirens have embellished.

The influence of Ulysses on their transformation into women-fishes

A Megarian bowl discovered in Athens in 1947 during the excavations of the Agora, and a Roman lamp (belonging to the Canterbury Museum) illustrate a passage of the song where Ulysses is seduced by the daughters of Achéloos and both make their sirens Of women with tails of marine animals. And hang on well: the lamp dates from the 1st-2nd century AD, and the bowl of the second century BC!

The siren depicted on the Roman lamp is a woman of long, curly hair, with a prolonged torso, not a real caudal fin, but by the volute tail, smooth and without scales, of a marine reptile.

[Source: Odette Touchefeu-Meynier, “De quand date la Sirène-poisson ?” (“When did the Mermaid-fish appear?”)]


The legend of the siren-fish has spread to Haiti where it is known as “Mami Wata” (now, after several changes over time), where it would be assimilated to a sort of divinity of fertilization. But she would also be the “Mother of the Waters“, fear of the fishermen, symbol of the foster mother and destructive ocean. The cult of Mami Wata has spread to the Atlantic coast of Togo through Nigeria, Cameroon and Congo.

Today we owe our modern siren to Hans Christian Andersen, Danish writer, thanks to his story where the siren is no longer the terrible temptress but becomes a romantic heroine in search of love.


[To know: In Greek mythology, the descendants of Triton, son of Poseidon, called “tritons“, are considered the masculine equivalent of sirens. But, unlike them, this class of marine creatures could be male or female!]


Between myth and reality

A fascinating figure

The siren inflames the spirits, sometimes the hearts. She enchants us so much by her bewitching voice, as by all the myths that accompany her. (Girls in power!) However, the mysteries were such that scientists tried to find a rational answer.

From the 16th century, “dried” reproductions were exhibited in fairs and museums! (Berk!) In the seventeenth century, in the Netherlands, a certain Pavio would have dissected a siren in the presence of Johannes de Laet, a renowned doctor, which would have brought credit to their real existence. The head and chest were human, however, from the navel to the foot the creature was shapeless… but without tail.

The human being being what it is, it’s reported that in the nineteenth, Japan, India or China, hideous monsters were made with a monkey bust and a fish tail. It is obvious that this kind of “mutation” does not, in general, allow the survival of the child.

When science is involved!

In 1758, the sirens were briefly noted in the Systema naturae of Carl von Linné [] (a work which founded the scientific classification of living organisms), but this taxon was soon abandoned by scientific classifications for lack of specimens or Credible descriptions [].

Although the existence of sirens has not been considered by scientists since the 19th century, some have continued to take an interest in it, with more or less seriousness, such as ocean scientist Karl Banse.

According to him, sirens would be marine mammals and therefore would not have scales, and their corpulence would limit their distribution to the warmest waters of the tropics, they would have an agricultural way of life (algae, molluscs). They would eventually supplement their diet with human flesh, which would explain their habit of charming the sailors and taking them to the depths.

Conversely, some studies have addressed biological problems that prevent the existence of beings such as sirens. Several physiological parameters make it impossible for an animal of such an appearance to be viable, such as without going into details, temperature, etc. Other scientific possibilities suggest marine primates, but this is another story…

We can, as in the case of many fantastic creatures, ask us whether or not the siren (Nordic or not) really existed (or really exists). However, if it seems that eating fish helps us to have a good memory, some Asian writings report that eating siren flesh would make immortal!

I’ll stop you right now! Do not rush on pieces of breaded fish or various fish-based burgers, there is little chance that they contain siren flesh! Rather, precipitate yourself on the books and various media that relate more or less their legends: you will see: reading does good as much for the mind as for the memory!

Where to find them?

Literature:

  • The Little Mermaid, Hans Christian Andersen, 1876.
  • Peter Pan, written by J. M. Barrie, 1911 (including sirens, among others)
  • Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000, characters of sirens are approached. (The book and the film)
  • Mermaid, written by Carolyn Turgeon, 2011 (new literary).
  • The Kingdom of Lenacia, written by Priska Poirier, 2011 (series of popular literary works)
  • The siren, Kiera Cass and Madeleine Nasalik, 2016.

Movies – TV Series:

  • The Little Mermaid / Rusalochka, Ivan Aksenchuk, 1968.
  • The Little Mermaid / Malá mořská víla, CSR; Miroslava
  • Safránková – Mermaid and Libuse Safránková, 1976
  • The Little Mermaid / The Little Mermaid / Russalotschka / Rusalka, Bulgaria / RSS, Vika Novikova – Mermaid, 1976.
  • The Little Mermaid, Tomoharu Katsumata, 1979.
  • Splash, 1984.
  • The Prince and the Mermaid, television series, 1995,
  • Sirens, 2003 (telefilm).
  • H2O, 2006 (Australian television series)
  • Aquamarine, 2006.
  • Pirates of the Caribbean: The Fountain of Youth, 2011.
  • Mako Mermaids, 2013 (Australian TV series)

Mangas – cartoon – Animated features:

  • The Little Mermaid, from Disney Studios, 1989.
  • Mermaid Melody, 2003.
  • Mermaidia, 2006 (Barbie’s animated feature)
  • Ponyo on the cliff, Hayao Miyazaki, 2009.

By immersing ourselves in all these fabulous archives and manuscripts (whatever they may be), we appropriate, during the time of their reading, a little of that immortality which, through all these fabulous creatures, passes through the centuries and Will survive tomorrow…

The writings remain, the words fly away … but the mystery still reigns …

See you soon my Marmosets!

Article written by S-P Decroix (author of The Princess Of The Deepest Times) and Leandro De Carvalho (author of Little Red Riding Hood: A New World).