Monday, December 23, 2013

Christmas Elves

To Karl from Oline (mother)
As we approach Christmas Eve and the celebration of the birth of
Christ, I look forward to a quiet candle light service at my church . . . But tales of mischievous elves, Santa Claus, lively snowmen, cute reindeer and other animals, and inspiring stories of love and forgiveness continue to entertain us at every turn, and for the most part, I don't mind at all. 

As half-Norwegian, I am fascinated with the elves of Scandinavian origin, which upon research, is really where the elf myths originated, in the ancient lore of Norse mythology. "Norse" refers to medieval Scandinavians, the people of that region and their language and culture. Scandinavia usually refers to the countries (and regions) of Norway, Denmark, and Sweden, and as some argue, Finland and Iceland.  

Generally speaking, elves were viewed as magical beings, who were either helpful or a hindrance to humans, but their importance in Scandinavian culture runs deep--even today. In Reykjavik, Finland, for instance, people are urging the government to stop a highway project because of the cultural impact on a wilderness area the road would enter. The area, according to Scandinavian folklore, is home to elves and an elf church. It is now up to the Court of Iceland to decide the highway's fate (Associated Press, Dec. 23, 2013). An elf church? How interesting. Has anyone traveled to Finland and seen this before?

Elves were not necessarily viewed as impish or small either, which was my view until seeing Tolkien's take on elves in the Lord of the Ring and The Hobbit movies. The view of elves as "wee people" was actually an influence of William Shakespeare. Elves were related to fairies in his view. There are volumes of information and literary debate on elf folklore available for those interested. I am hardly the expert, but having inherited a collection of Norwegian postcards from my ancestors, I wanted to share four in the collection of elves. 

The postcards were mailed in the early 1920s to my grandfather (Karl) living in North Dakota and later Washington state, from family in Norway. Karl was the only son of five boys to immigrate to America. The elves are rather funny, with their pudgy middles and contented grins, do you agree? All are up to mischief it seems. 

To Karl and Marie (grandparents) from K?? and Ragnar (a brother)

To Karl from Dene (?)

To Karl from Ragnar (a brother)





Copyright 2013 © Sharon Himsl
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elf; author's Graveth family archive collection



2 comments:

"Stay" is a charming word in a friend's vocabulary
(A.B. Alcott). Stay and visit awhile. Your comments mean a lot to me.