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Elves are mythical creatures of Norse and Celtic folklore. Elves are described as small people with pointed ears and mischievous personalities. They are sometimes said to be invisible. They live in forests and other natural places. They are long-lived and have magical powers, which they use to protect nature. The elvish race is almost universally said to predate humanity by a large number of millennia.

Elves are usually considered not to be hostile to humans but are not to be trifled with, often looking down at the human race as inferior, as we look at pets and other animals. In some mythologies there are also dark elves (svartalfer in Nordic mythology, and popularized by TSR as drow), which are wicked and evil. Elves are enemies of the goblins and are generally said to have a longstanding quarrel with the dwarves.

Elves appear frequently in fantasy literature, for example Lord Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter, and J.R.R. Tolkien's The Silmarillion and Lord of the Rings, as well as being a staple non-human character within almost all other high fantasy settings. They tend to be skilled warriors, particuarly in archery. These elves are typically human-sized, as were those in mythology. As the myths dwindled in memory the elves dwindled in size to become little more than sprites.

Wendy and Richard Pini's long-running comic book Elfquest was an attempt to avoid the usual elfin clichés by placing elves in a setting inspired by Native American mythology.

In Norse mythology, the home of the elves of light is Alfheim, which is also inhabited by the god Freyr. The elves of darkness lived in Svartalfheim.

In Irish mythology, elves are known as sídhe (pr. shee). Strictly a sídhe is a mound or hill, the dwelling place of the Dé Danaan, the ancient Celtic gods, after their defeat by the Milesians. Thus driven underground these gods were relegated in folk memory to fairies, aes sídhe, the people of the hills.

See also: mythology, faerie, gnome, dwarf, role-playing game, Elves (Middle-earth), elvish language.

Elf was also the name of a French oil company, which is now part of TotalFinaElf[?].

See also: ELF

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