Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity (Anglo-Saxon Studies) (Anglo-Saxon Studies)

Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity (Anglo-Saxon Studies) (Anglo-Saxon Studies)Helps Illuminate Anglo Saxon Social Attitudes Towards The Supernatural, Health And Gender, And Shows How Texts Can Be As Important In The Shaping Of Social Realities As They Are In Recording Them HISTORICAL JOURNAL Anglo Saxon Elves Old English Aelfe Are The Best Attested Non Christian Beliefs In Early Medieval Europe, But Current Interpretations Of The Evidence Derive Directly From Outdated Nineteenth And Early Twentieth Century Scholarship Integrating Linguistic And Textual Approaches Into An Anthropologically Inspired Framework, This Book Reassesses The Full Range Of Evidence It Traces Continuities And Changes In Medieval Non Christian Beliefs With A New Degree Of Reliability, From Pre Conversion Times To The Eleventh Century And Beyond, And Uses Comparative Material From Medieval Ireland And Scandinavia To Argue For A Dynamic Relationship Between Beliefs And Society In Particular, It Interprets The Cultural Significance Of Elves As A Cause Of Illness In Medical Texts, And Provides New Insights Into The Much Discussed Scandinavian Magic Of Seidr Elf Beliefs, Over, Were Connected With Anglo Saxon Constructions Of Sex And Gender Their Changing Nature Provides A Rare Insight Into A Fascinating Area Of Early Medieval European Culture Shortlisted For The Katharine Briggs Folklore Award ALARIC HALL Is Lecturer In Medieval English Literature At The University Of Leeds

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  • Paperback
  • 238 pages
  • Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity (Anglo-Saxon Studies) (Anglo-Saxon Studies)
  • Alaric Hall
  • English
  • 09 October 2019
  • 9781843835097

10 thoughts on “Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity (Anglo-Saxon Studies) (Anglo-Saxon Studies)

  1. says:

    Review by Michael D.C Drout for The Medieval Review Despite its seemingly hyper specialized title, Alaric Hall s Elves in Anglo Saxon England is a book that should be read by all medievalists Hall s conclusions about his subject are significant, but far important is his methodological approach, which is a new model for early medieval scholarship His demonstration of the ways that rock solid philology can be combined with cross cultural historical scholarship, folkloristic analysis of later material and some contemporary literary theory is far deserving of the title New Philology than any turn to manuscript studies and variants inthe 1980s ever was Hall s exceedingly careful reconstruction of thecultural categories in which lf existed shows how comparative philology can be extended to become comparative cultural studies Byputting linguistic history into an anthropological framework and usingas comparanda folklore dating from as late as the seventeenth century, Hall is able to recover information about medieval cultures that would otherwise be lost forever The genuine excitement of such recovery and the technical precision with which it is done are both inspiring.Elves in Anglo Saxon England is a linguistic and cultural history of the word lf and its shifting denotations and connotations from the pre conversion period through the eleventh century Hall demonstrates that there was both a fundamental continuity of beliefs about elves and significant change in the specifics of those beliefs Early Anglo Saxon elves were human like in opposition to other types of monsters and supernatural creatures They were members of the in group of humans in contrast to the out group of monsters Elves were dangerous only to those members of society who violated certain norms unlike monsters, they did not threaten society as whole However, as the Anglo Saxon period went on, elves became closely associated with demons and the devil lf is used as a synonym for Satanas in the circa 800 Royal Prayerbook.Likewise, as the Anglo Saxon period went on, elves moved from beinggendered masculine to being gendered feminine By examining Anglo Saxon glosses for Latin words for nymphs, Hall shows that female elveswere not originally significant components of the Anglo Saxon beliefsystem, but that elves became gendered female over time He argues that the early Anglo Saxon mythological system had male elves, who were effeminate, and female h gtessan, who were violent and martial The word lfscyne , applied to Abraham s wife Sarah in Genesis and to Judith in the poem of that name, is associated with dangerous feminine beauty, showing the carryover of some of those cultural categories into later, Christian culture lfscyne is not inappropriate or a failure of tone in Christian contexts it indicates dangerous, otherworldly feminine beauty, exactly what both Sarah and Judith had The semantic evolution, then, moved from elves as otherworldly, to elves as otherworldly and effeminate, to elves as otherworldly and female.Among his other contributions, Hall clears away significant criticaldetritus, demonstrating conclusively that the idea of elf shot asbeing magical arrows shot by elves and causing illness is a completeconstruction of scholars with no basis in medieval texts When elvesinflicted illness, it was not through invisible arrows, but by lfside and sidsa Both words are cognate with Scandinavian dirty magic to use Sarah Higley s phrase Hall shows that the medical texts, at least in relation to lf, evince a consistent rational system in their own terms not in relation to contemporary, science based medicine.For all its significance, Elves in Anglo Saxon England is not an easy book to read Boydell s decision to print the book in very small, dense type is to be regretted, as are the stylistic infelicities caused by the work s genesis as a dissertation, which distract from the very valuable main argument It has become fashionable among reviewers to complain about long, discursive footnotes Would that the footnotes here were discursive Instead, they are too often a kind of dense packed, unreadable list of sources necessary, perhaps, to demonstrate to a dissertation committee that all the i s have been dotted and the t s crossed, but not helpful to the argument Notes in a narrative style would be rhetorically effective.More significantly, the book could perhaps have been reorganized Thefirst few chapters, on the Scandinavian context of elves and on early Anglo Saxon material mostly Beowulf , very frequently refer to arguments that will be made later in the book It may have been rhetorically effective to put these arguments earlier so that the reader could judge them in context, particularly because they are on much solid ground than arguments made about Beowulf, many of which are, by necessity, speculative or indeterminate For example, Hall refers to the argument that the wyrm in Beowulf was once the last survivor who speaks in lines 2208 93 claiming that it has regained a degree of favor 60, n 44 This is not at all a mainstream view in contemporary Beowulf criticism and, although not essential for Hall sargument, its invocation is likely to be a distraction without much argument Also problematic are some arguments about the assumedearly date of the poem though I personally am in general agreement ,not necessarily in themselves, but because, rhetorically, they mayserve to push readers away from the argument before its effectivenessis fully established.I also must mention that the book has the distinction of including themost baffling footnote I have ever encountered page 54 55, note 1.Hall concludes a long, detailed and linguistically rigorous note onthe etymology of lf by noting that Lise Menn has suggested that the root albh is itself a loan from Sindarin alph swan This raises some intriguing possibilities Because Sindarin is one of J.R.R Tolkien s invented languages, Hall cannot mean that an Indo European word has been borrowed from it I wonder if something has gone missing here in the editing or production process It is worth noting that Tolkien, who had thought very deeply about the linguistic and mythological roots of Anglo Saxon elves, came to some of the same conclusions as Hall, though he did not publish them in scholarly form but instead integrated them into his fiction See Tom Shippey s Light elves, Dark elves, and Others Tolkien s Elvish Problem, Tolkien Studies 1 2004 1 15.But these are minor criticisms, about effective rhetoric thanabout scholarly accomplishment On the latter grounds, Elves inAnglo Saxon England is an important achievement Hall s demonstration of the continuing value of philology and his means of enriching his philological analysis are innovative and very welcome, and the book s specific conclusions about elves in Anglo Saxon England are well founded Most significantly, the book s methodology deserves both admiration and wide emulation.

  2. says:

    Here comes a scholarly look at the concept of elves in England as believed by the Anglo Saxons who conquered the islands In my reading of the book I found it to be very scholarly, dry and textbook like Bit hard to enjoy and focus on but none the less informative.The concept of Alf, Alp or alb comes up a lot in English lore Usually it is thought to mean Elf but what is an elf , especially in Anglo Saxon lore The author here uses old lore from the norse and scandinavia to help give the reader a picture of what elves were The author also relies strongly on linguistics and word variation to give us a definition While that in itself can be enlightening it can also make for very difficult reading especially if you are not a linguist.For starters going into old Scandinavian folklore we learn from bardic writing left behind that Elves were usually though of as males who were warriors at that They were described in very human terms The author nexts evaluates Icelandic Lore about elves It is here we learn that Snorri Stulson had his view of elves influenced very strongly by Christianity Especially with him dividing them into light elves and dark elves Dark Elves lived below the earth and light elves lived above in the sky with the Aesir THe elves in Snorri Stulson s view had their own world.In Germanic lore there were no female elves, yet there were supernatural being that were supernatural THe three that were spoken of were the Nornir, Disir and Valkyries In original mythos the terms seem to bespeak supernaturalness and not a specific definition It was only later that there would be female elves and these seem to have been based on the Greek concept of Nymph Nymph were water maidens who could sing and seduce men In fact look at Grenedel from Beowulf His mom was a water nymph Female supernatural being were thought to be able to easily seduce men.In Pagan times the Elves especially the light elves were thought to be on the good side with the gods of Aesir and menfolk On the bad side of things were the Jotun Giants Dwarves and Darl Elves In CHristian times the Elves became demonized quite literally THey were sided with Demons, Satan and monsters It should be of interest to note that in original mythos predating Snorri Stulson there is no concept of Vanir or the Earth Gods There is just Alfar, the world of elves Freyr was the the king of Alfar.As time went on female elves were introduced and the roles of male and female were changed up in the elven world Men were effeminate and attractive, while the females carried swords and fought about Let us not forget that elves would merge into what is called the faerie kingdom andd that English lore would borrow bits from Celtic lore as well.Elves were best known for shooting livestock and people with what is called Elf shot The arrow would shoot into a human or cattle fin the elf was offended This could manifest as fever sickness or shape pains.THe healer or witch would remove the arrows This very similar to Shamic practices of removing spirit arrows.remember avoid wild abandoned places for that is where elves tend to dwell If you are as scholar who is researching this stuff and are going for a degree then this book might be for you As for general info I would say go ahead and by it but it would be better if it was written at a lay mans level.

  3. says:

    Tough read, quite technical here and there, but interesting overall.

  4. says:

    Wow This was one of the hardest books I have ever had to read, but was well worth it I feel like I should have had a companion book to help with some of the language used in the book, as I am not a scholar of Anglo Saxon language But, despite my lack of in depth knowledge of that subject matter, Hall clearly states his case for elves with countless references, in depth research and a full linguistic analysis of the word I am actually surprised this is not a recommended book for serious heathen study as it really went all out in showing the flaws in associating the word elf with one particular class of beings the light alfs I found Hall s work compelling, interesting and very convincing It truly gives a small window in what our ancient people s thought, believed and carried through to modern times.I would highly recommend Hall s work, even if like me you are a bit daunted by Anglo Saxon language, it is still worth the time, effort and patience to read I would like to seriously sit and analyse a bunch of things he mentioned in the book, as well as scope out some of his sources I have a feeling IF I read this again, even carefully, there is a wealth of information that could be applied to the gods as well.I give this book a 5 5 and would highly recommend it for people who are looking for elf research, or to understand the way the world was viewed by the ancient people of Europe.The book can be purchased on , Boydell Press and Chapters Indigo

  5. says:

    Alaric Hall, a lecturer in Medieval English Literature at the University of Leeds, delves into the sources that mention or reference elves, or lfe, looking not just at texts and writings from Britain, but also Scandinavia and mainland Europe to find similarities and linkages in these references Hall breaks it down to the language level, exploring spellings, uses, as well as inferring meanings for elves, which at times can get dense, but for those looking for proof in the original language, Hall certainly does this, using the original Old English and providing translations He is quick to point out that while comparing British texts with sources from other countries, one cannot make assumptions through this as they are from different cultures References are made between elves on the subject of belief, health, gender, and identity, each with their own chapter, and while it is relatively short book, Hall has begun an important foundation here as is learned and discovered about the use of lfe in the Anglo Saxon world.For book reviews and exclusive author interviews, go to BookBanter.

  6. says:

    Alaric Hall s Elves in Anglo Saxon England is a scholarly work and like most academic texts is a bit dry and makes for slow reading However, despite that there are things to learn for the serious student of faerie lore, Anglo Saxon culture or linguistics For our own part we had to stop frequently to look up technical terms associated with the study of linguistics but that, in itself, was rather enlightening One of the many things we learned from this book was that Elvis was an old Scottish word for Elves Now we know where that legendary songster got his talent This is not a book for the casual explorer of faerie lore but for the serious student it is worth the effort The Silver Elves authors of The Magical Realms of Elfin Answers to Questions About Being an Elf and Following the Elven Path

  7. says:

    I really enjoyed the information provided in this book, but it is very dense and very scholarly I can t really fault it for being so it is what it was meant to be and it was successful in being so It was just kind of a difficult read for someone who s not used to reading something like it But Really great info, broken down really well, and the author draws some really, really interesting conclusions from the evidence provided.

  8. says:

    This is the second time I ve read through this book, and while the philological jargon can be pretty dense at times, Hall s thorough analysis of the conceptual place elves had in Anglo Saxon lore is mostly spot on.

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