A History of Elves
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Like fairies, elves were said to be magical, diminutive shape-shifters. (Shakespeare's elves were tiny, winged creatures that lived in, and playfully flitted around, flowers.) English male elves were described as looking like little old men, though elf maidens were invariably young and beautiful. Like men of the time, elves lived in kingdoms found in forests, meadows, or hollowed-out tree trunks.
As with fairies, elves eventually developed a reputation for pranks and mischief, and strange daily occurrences were often attributed to them. For example, when the hair on a person or horse became tangled and knotted, such "elf locks" were blamed on elves, and a baby born with a birthmark or deformity was called "elf marked."
Another type of elf emerged, one with a somewhat different nature and form than the mischievous and diminutive sprites of yore. Some elves, such as those depicted in J.R.R. Tolkien's "Lord of the Rings" trilogy, are slender, human-sized, and beautiful, with fine — almost angelic — features. Tolkien's characters were drawn largely from his research into Scandinavian folklore, and therefore it's not surprising that his elves might be tall and blond. Though not immortal, these elves were said to live hundreds of years. They have also become a staple of modern fantasy fiction.
In either form, elves are strongly associated with magic and nature. As with fairies, elves were said to secretly steal healthy human babies and replace them with their own kind. These changelings appeared at first glance to be human babies, but if they became seriously sick or temperamental, parents would sometimes suspect that their own child had been abducted by elves. There were even legends instructing parents on how to get their real child back from its elven abductors.
Each generation seems to have their own use for elves in their stories. Just as leprechauns have historically been associated with one type of work (shoemaking), it is perhaps not surprising that many common (and commercial) images of elves depict them as industrious workers — think, for example of Santa Claus' toymaking elves or even the Keebler cookie-baking elves. Folklore, like language and culture, is constantly evolving, and elves will likely always be with us, in one form or another.
You can also access the story of Chupacabra and The vampire beast in this blog.
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