Friday, October 20, 2006

Real Elves?

Remember pixies, elves, and the wee folk of legend? They were generally small, musical characters with playful natures, given to singing and dancing. In the Scandinavian folklore, elves were so musically inspired that they could dance a man to death. Were these diminutive characters originally inspired by real humans who carried a genetic variation, namely a deletion of the elastin gene that produces humans of short stature, elfin features, and intense emotional responses to music?
The Examining Room of Dr. Charles has an interesting discussion of the elf-like traits of people with Williams Syndrome. Dr. Charles concludes:
Whether this condition inspired the legends of Nordic, Scandinavian, and English culture that became the "elves" is unclear, but it is an interesting thought. Many other legendary figures have been rooted in human variation, exaggerated and aggrandized for the purpose of story. Or we might be retrofitting this syndrome to the mythical constructs we learned as children.
While magical elves are staples in fantasy, perhaps science fiction has a place for people who look and behave like creatures of myth for natural reasons.



  1. Anonymous8:38 PM

    A elf dose not have to be magical they could be people that have ears with a small natural point.

  2. Anonymous2:37 PM

    Why is it that folklore of elves is found chiefly in British folklore? Is it that the English peasants have noticed children with Williams syndrome and were enchanted with them? Richard Doyle could have used children with WS to draw his elves, exagerating certain features. And the English peasants brought their belief in elves over to the US were the English elves evolved into the American Christmas elves.

    Certainly, even though people with disabilities and medical conditions were cruelly rejected and ill-treated in the past, perhaps peasants in England and other northern European countries might have been so enchanted with WS children that they could not believe them to be ordinary humans but magical beings who are morally superior. This shows how enchanting people with WS are. They are beautiful, cute, happy and joyful people who lack all the bad traits that 'ordinary' people have such as hate, hostility, cold reserve, sarcasm, cynisim, snobbism, discrimination and racial prejudice. No wonder why people have always adored WS people.

    However, I ask myself why do mythological beings based on WS people exist in Northern Europe but not in southern european countreis such as Spain,Italy, France and Greece? People with WS were always present in every country of the world and were not concentrated in countries with a folklore of elves.

    Perhaps the Germanic pagan beliefs in small spirits survived through myths in England, Scandinavia, Germany and wasn't present in Spain, Italy, etc, due to Roman heritage and early Christianisation.

    I think that WS people are wonderful. If a person is well-loved by a society, they are remembered in history and then in legends. I think that the reason why peasants though children with SW to be the mythological beings, elves, is through lack of medical knowledge. They wanted to understand how a group of children with a wonderful loving hate-free, caring, happy personality with cute facial features could exist together with other children who are often malicious and cruel. And this is how is started.

    I think that elves (Doyle's not Tolkien's) are beautiful mythological beings that enchanted people in Britain and Scandinavia for centuries. I think that it is not a bad thing that a legendary character should be based on a group of people who are adored for their sheer goodness and kind-heartedness. People with WS, as we know form and have always formed a small proportion of the human population, perhaps that adds to fascination about them.

    I love people with WS and I think that they are better than 'ordinary people' who are cold, hostile and sarcastic in comparison.


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