“Elves in Anglo-Saxon England” by Alaric Hall (Boydell & Brewer, 2009)

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Alaric Hall, a lecturer in Medieval English Literature at the University of Leeds, delves into the sources that mention or reference elves, or ælfe, 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 more is learned and discovered about the use of ælfe in the Anglo-Saxon world.

If you liked this review and are interested in purchasing this book, click here.

Originally written on March 3rd 2010 ©Alex C. Telander.

01/28 On the Bookshelf . . .

Elves

Today I received a copy of Elves in Anglo-Saxon England by Alaric Hall.  I know, I know.  This is not your usual book to exist, let alone want a copy of.  But it does not assume by any means that elves were alive and well in Anglo-Saxon times, but explores the meaning and reason for the concept of elves existing, more as a pre-Christian concept, as well as comparing it medieval Irish and Scandinavian sources .  Plus, the author’s name — Alaric — is wonderfully medieval in its own right.

So, thank you to Boydell & Brewer for sending a copy and I look forward to reviewing it.

Medieval history is one of my passions (I’m even writing a book within this period!) and so every once in a while I’ll review a very unusual book on this period.  The last one that I can bring to memory is The Age of Sutton Hoo (from the same publisher), though I have reviewed a number of medieval history and nonfiction books in the past, including: Vikings, Saxons, and Celts, God’s Crucible, Mysteries of the Middle Ages, Barbarians to Angels, and The Inheritance of Rome.