Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity

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Boydell Press, Jan 1, 2007 - History - 226 pages
4 Reviews
Anglo-Saxon elves (Old English ślfe) are one of the best attested non-Christian beliefs in early medieval Europe, but current interpretations of the evidence derive directly from outdated nineteenth- and early twentieth-century scholarship. Integrating linguistic and textual approaches into an anthropologically-inspired framework, this book reassesses the full range of evidence. It traces continuities and changes in medieval non-Christian beliefs with a new degree of reliability, from pre-conversion times to the eleventh century and beyond, and uses comparative material from medieval Ireland and Scandinavia to argue for a dynamic relationship between beliefs and society. In particular, it interprets the cultural significance of elves as a cause of illness in medical texts, and provides new insights into the much-discussed Scandinavian magic of seidr. Elf-beliefs, moreover, were connected with Anglo-Saxon constructions of sex and gender; their changing nature provides a rare insight into a fascinating area of early medieval European culture. Shortlisted for the Katharine Briggs Folklore Award 2007 ALARIC HALL is a fellow of the Helsinki Collegium for Advanced Studies.

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Review: Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity

User Review  - Jonathan - Goodreads

This is the second time I've read through this book, and while the philological jargon can be pretty dense at times, Hall's thorough analysis of the conceptual place elves had in Anglo-Saxon lore is mostly spot on. Read full review

Review: Elves in Anglo-Saxon England: Matters of Belief, Health, Gender and Identity

User Review  - Larisa Hunter - Goodreads

Wow. This was one of the hardest books I have ever had to read, but was well worth it. I feel like I should have had a companion book to help with some of the language used in the book, as I am not a ... Read full review

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