I'm not sure anyone should ping on Tolkien here- I'm not sure elves would exist in most fantasy milieus without him setting the bar.
Who are actually gnomes who lied on their birth certificates.
I think we would've seen elves more in line with folklore/faerytale depictions, like Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter and the Eddas. They'd be more magical and strange, probably a whole lot shorter.
Not necessarily shorter - theres still the the Arthurian Romances as a source of figures Like the Lady of the Lake and Queen Mab (even Morgana in some tellings), Shakespeares Titania, Oberon, Puck and of course the Tuatha DeDanann
"The little people" and "the wee folk" are long standing Irish and Scottish descriptors for fae.Not necessarily shorter - theres still the the Arthurian Romances as a source of figures Like the Lady of the Lake and Queen Mab (even Morgana in some tellings), Shakespeares Titania, Oberon, Puck and of course the Tuatha DeDanann
"long standing" being a few hundred years. The ones we see in ancient Irish and Norse lore are almost all human size."The little people" and "the wee folk" are long standing Irish and Scottish descriptors for fae.
Shakespeare doesn't specify how big his fairies are, but they have often been portrayed by children, with the exception of the king and queen.
Of even of exceptional height and beauty, as with those Fae Folk who would lure you 'under the hill' for a century or two, before booting you out on your lonesome."long standing" being a few hundred years. The ones we see in ancient Irish and Norse lore are almost all human size.
There's a gradual shrinking in early modern to modern folklore (reaching its apex in the Victorian period carrying over to Disney in the 20th century with Tinkerbell, though Flora, Fauna and Merryweather from Sleeping Beauty can shrink and grow to human size, like Shakespeare's fairies)) to seemingly disempower them or give a folk etymological explanation for why the Fair Folk/Good Neighbors/Gentry/People of the Hills can live in fairy mounds.
Here's a bit of a modern take on the idea:Or just not returning you.
Cf. Hesiod’s Five Ages of Man and the biblical Nephilim.The Tiste of Malazan are basically elves.
And then we have Talislanta, which I love, but has always advertised itself as having "No Elves," but has some elf-like races (e.g. the Cymrilians, Ariane, etc). But Talislanta is the ultimate "racial zoo," so not sure that is avoidable.
I think the Irish Tuatha de Danaan are probably the original inspiration for Tolkienian elves. They are a quasi-godlike race of beings from a fairer time who were pushed out by the Milesians (later men). The myths generally speak of the Tuatha enting the "fairy mounds" (sidhe) and some believe they became the Sidhe, which are a more direct correlation to elves.
So I think there's an archetype at play: a race of beings from an elder age, that were fairer, more noble - perhaps less "fallen" from the Golden Age. Of couse the Tuatha are part of a lineage of humans, with many races arriving in Ireland over time: first the Nemedians, who fled the oncoming Great Flood, then the Partholons, who were descendents of Noah, etc. So we have a mixture of Christian and pagan myth. Some have also argued that the Tuatha--who supposedly came from the north--were from the lost land of Hyperborea, or possibly Atlantis.
Anyhow, my point being that there are the surface elements to compare to--like pointy ears (which there's some debate whether Tolkien's elves had pointy ears, sort of like the Balrog's wings), fair skin, etc--and then there's the archetype, of a supernatural race.
Yes, exactly. Most mythologies have some kind of "golden age" and previous races, beings and ages, as well as seeing history as cyclic (we can add in the Indian yugas, which may be the source of Hesiod's view).Cf. Hesiod’s Five Ages of Man and the biblical Nephilim.