Thursday, 30 June 2016

Are Elves and Dwarves really-real?

Yes - of course - unless you adopt the usual modern metaphysical assumption that they cannot be real (because 'science has proven' that they don't exist, because they can't exist); and therefore that the vast quantity historical and multinational documentation must be wrong; and our only job is to make some suggestions as to why it is wrong.

But although they are real, but normal standards of proof - elves and dwarves* seem to be real in different ways - which have implications for the nature of that reality.

It is a trope of fantasy writing that dwarves are all the same, while 'our elves/ fairies are different' - every writer depicts elves differently.

But why should this be? Well, the simple answer is that dwarves are the same because that is just how dwarves actually are: small, broad, bearded, greedy and suspicious, superb craftsmen, live underground...

But elves? Well some are very good, some are very bad; some are beautiful while others are hideous; some are celibate and ethereal while others sexy or lustful; some tall while others diminutive - and so on. Why should this be - assuming that elves are real?

The clue is that elves always have supernatural/ magical powers; and the reason for that is that real life elves are angels, as humans have experienced them. But, of course, angels are of two types - angels and fallen-angels or demons, and both of these are able to shape-shift and assume various forms and appearances.

So dwarves are real and a separate race; elves are real and constitute a type of Human situated somewhere between fully-divine God and Men - this is consistent with the mythical fact that elves and men can interbreed and produce viable (half-elven) offspring - but not Men and dwarves.

*Note: I prefer to use Tolkien's spelling of the dwarf-plural 'dwarves' - rather than the commoner 'dwarfs'.  After all, Tolkien knew more about their linguistic history than anyone else.


Foster said...

That is a fascinating insight--the connexion between elves and angels--especially since Saint Thomas Aquinas writes that each angel is its own species (ST Part 1, Question 50, Article 4). His point would seem to parallel yours that they are each unique from every other.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

You'll be happy to see this trend then.

Bruce Charlton said...

@Foster - Yes, there are many different concepts of angels, and what they are - but most of them can be comfortably fitted to the idea of elves and fairies (assuming that many or most - but *not all* - reports of elves and fairies may be mistaken or dishonest).

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - So, the dwarves spelling is more common than dwarfs in the Google Trends sample - yes, it is pleasing, considering that back in the mid-1930s Tolkien had the spelling 'corrected' throughout, by the compositors typesetting The Hobbit.

Bruce Charlton said...

@WmJas - Thanks for spotting that - it was an imperfectly revised section. Elves and Men are both Human (and interbreed to give fertile offspring) - but elves are closer to the divine.

Wm Jas Tychonievich said...

One big difference between angels and elves/fairies is that angels are usually portrayed as being either all-good or all-bad -- either as "angels" in the more limited sense or as devils -- whereas elves are usually portrayed as morally ambiguous, "mischievous," or amoral the way young children are amoral. (I'm thinking here of European folklore, particularly in Britain and Ireland, not of Tolkien and his imitators.)

I think some of the most obvious modern manifestations of the fairy can be found in the "alien abduction" literature, particularly the works of Whitley Strieber.

Anonymous said...

It might be interesting to toss both Lewis's Discarded Image (for its angelological discussions as well as it 'longaevi' chapter) and Williams's unfinished Figure of Arthur (in Arthurian Torso) into this discussion - about such things as beings neither human nor angelic (whether fallen or unfallen), and also the idea of a third category of angels, as it were, neither unfallen nor fully fallen. Jewish and Islamic angelology and demonology (if those cover everyone non-human, and what-/whoever else there are, if not: e.g., djinn seem neither angels nor human, though I know little enough about them) could also be added to the discussion. (See, e.g., some of Gershom Scholem's revised contributions to the new Jewish Encyclopedia collected in Kabbalah (Meridian, 1974, and Plume Books, 1987 and other reissues.)

David Llewellyn Dodds