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Álfheimr

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Alfheim (Old Norse: Ālfheimr, "elf home") is one of the Nine Worlds and home of the Light Elves in Norse mythology and appears also in Scottish ballads under the form Elfhame (Elphame, Elfame) as a fairyland, sometimes modernized as Elfland (Elfinland, Elvenland).

In Old Norse texts

Álfheim as an abode of the Elves is mentioned only twice in Old Norse texts.

The eddic poem Grímnismál describes twelve divine dwellings beginning in stanza 5 with:

Ýdalir call they     the place where Ull
A hall for himself hath set;
And Álfheim the gods     to Frey once gave
As a tooth-gift in ancient times.

A tooth-gift was a gift given to an infant on the cutting of the first tooth.

In the 12th century eddic prose Gylfaginning Snorri Sturluson relates it as the first of a series of abodes in heaven:

That which is called Álfheim is one, where dwell the peoples called Light elves [Ljósálfar]; but the Dark-elves [dökkálfar] dwell down in the earth, and they are unlike in appearance, but by far more unlike in nature. The Light-elves are fairer to look upon than the sun, but the Dark-elves are blacker than pitch.
The account later, in speaking of a hall called Gimlé and the southernmost end of heaven that shall survive when heaven and earth have died, explains:

It is said that another heaven is to the southward and upward of this one, and it is called Andlang [Andlangr 'Endlong'] but the third heaven is yet above that, and it is called Vídbláin [Vídbláinn 'Wide-blue'] and in that heaven we think this abode is. But we believe that none but Light-Elves inhabit these mansions now.
It is not indicated whether these heavens are identical to Álfheim or distinct. Some texts read Vindbláin (Vindbláinn 'Wind-blue') instead of Vídbláin.

Modern commentators speculate (or sometimes state as fact) that Álfheim was one of the nine worlds (heima) mentioned in stanza 2 of the eddic poem Völuspá.

In English and Scots texts

In several Scots and in Northern Middle English folkoric ballads, Álfheim was known in as Elphame or Elfhame. In later English publications it has been called Alfheim, Elfland or 'Elfenland. The fairy queen is often called the "Queen of Elphame" in ballads such as that of Thomas the Rhymer:

'I'm not the Queen of Heaven, Thomas,
That name does not belong to me;
I am but the Queen of fair Elphame
Come out to hunt in my follie.'

Allison Peirson was burned as a witch in 1588 for conversing with the 'Queen of Elfame' and for prescribing magic charms and potions. (Byre Hills, Fife, Scotland)

On 8 November 1576, midwife Bessie Dunlop, resident in Dalry, Scotland, was accused of sorcery and witchcraft. She answered her accusers that she received tuition from Thomas Reid, a former barony officer who had died at the Battle of Pinkie some thirty years before and also from the Queen of the Elfhame which lay nearby.[1] It resulted in a conviction and she was burnt at the stake[2] in 1576.

Elfhame or Elfland, is portrayed in a variety of ways in these ballads and stories, most commonly as mystical and benevolent, but also at times as sinister and wicked. The mysteriousness of the land, and its otherworldly powers are a source of scepticism and distrust in many tales. Examples of journeys to the realm include "Thomas the Rhymer" and the fairy tale "Childe Rowland", the latter being a particularly negative view of the land.

Use by J. R. R. Tolkien

The 20th-century fantasy writer J. R. R. Tolkien anglicized Álfheim as Elvenhome, or Eldamar in the speech of the Elves. In his stories, Eldamar lies in a coastal region of the Undying Lands in the Uttermost West. The High King of the Elves in the West was Ingwë, an echo of the name Yngvi often found as a name for Frey, whose abode was in Álfheim according to the Grímnismál.

References

  • Wikisource:Prose Edda/Gylfaginning (The Fooling Of Gylfe) by Sturluson, Snorri, 13th century Edda, in English. Accessed Apr. 16, 2007
  • Gylfaginning in Old Norse[3]
  • Robbins, Rossell Hope (1959). The Encyclopedia of Witchcraft and Demonology. New York: Crown Publishers, Inc.
  • Bulfinch, Thomas (1834). Bulfinch's Mythology. New York: Harper & Row, 1970, p. 348. ISBN 0-690-57260-3.
  • Marshall Jones Company (1930). Mythology of All Races Series, Volume 2 Eddic, Great Britain: Marshall Jones Company, 1930, pp. 220–221.

Sources

  1. Chalmers, Alexander (1885). Domestic Annals of Scotland. Edinburgh : W & R Chambers. p. 70.
  2. Chalmers, Alexander (1885). Domestic Annals of Scotland. Edinburgh : W & R Chambers. p. 72.
  3. "Gylfaginning XI-XX". cybersamurai.net. http://www.cybersamurai.net/Mythology/nordic_gods/LegendsSagas/Edda/ProseEdda/Icelandic/GylfaginningXI-XX.htm. Retrieved 18 November 2010. 
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This page uses content from the English Wikipedia. The original article was at Álfheimr. The list of authors can be seen in the page history.

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