Once upon a time long ago some children asked me to tell them stories about the Elves. As a young man I had the rare privilege – for a human – of becoming friends with a family of Elves and learning a great deal about their history, the way they lived, and best of all, their family stories. Now that children know about these stories, I have decided that I better write them down or I will not get a minute’s rest. But, you need to know a little bit about elves or the stories will make no sense at all.
A great deal has been written about elves in recent years. For a much more complete version of their early history, I will refer you to Mr. J.R. Tolkien. We can be thankful we did not live in those early days. No one knows exactly how or when elves, or men for that matter, came to be, other than that we were (and are) all created by The One God. It may be that we are distant cousins, or perhaps Elves are an entirely different branch on God’s tree of life. The Elves will tell you that they are our elder brothers and sisters – older, wiser, quieter, and closer to the end of all things. Who knows?
Certainly, we are too alike in appearance for it to be an accident. This is particularly so with Elf children. At first glance, Elf children would appear to be just particularly alert and interested human children, with bright eyes and quick, sure movements. You would be impressed that they looked very healthy and fit, and also very attractive in a wild sort of way. They would be beautifully dressed in fine leather, homespun wool and linens, and their shoes would be light and comfortable. They would smile and converse in soft voices, without the constant silly giggling and bantering that engage human children. But, if you looked very closely, you would notice that their ears are more pointed than they should be, their faces thinner, their eyes wider, their legs a little longer, and you would begin to realize that these children are very strange, and just at the time you decided to get a closer look, they would be gone – seemingly having melted into the surroundings, as indeed they have.
If you thought that the Elf children looked somehow older and wiser than human children of the same size, you would be entirely correct. Elves live much, much longer than humans do (now, at any rate) and age very slowly. Elf babies learn to walk and talk about as quickly as humans do, but then start slowing down, so that an elf child of 20 appears to be about the same age as a human child of 8. By the time an elf child is 60 they are considered a “young adult”, and if they marry at all (many do not) it will probably not be until they are nearly 100. The Elves will tell you that people at one time lived as long as elves, but if so it was long, long ago. Perhaps if we lived more like the elves do we might live longer even now.
Now that you know about elves, you are probably wondering where you would go to see one. I am sorry that I cannot tell you that. Elves could be almost anywhere. Of course, they prefer to live in places like forests and mountains where they will not attract attention. They have simple needs and do not like machinery, noise, cities, and commerce in general. It is increasingly difficult for them to find places where they are not too crowded, but not so difficult as you might think. A well-tended forest or meadow can easily support a typical elf family and there are thousands of remote coves, glens, hollows, levels, and runs where an elf family can live without unwanted visitors. Even if you did happen to find such a place, you would probably walk right by their house and through their garden without noticing. The house would be built into a hill, or in flatter, warmer regions, right into the ground itself for coolness in the summer. No telephone or power lines would tell you someone lived here – elves are uninterested in television (HD or otherwise), cell-phones, the Internet, or vacuum cleaners. Have you ever been walking in the woods and noticed a faint, smoky fragrance and thought it was from a far-away campfire? It might have been some Elf-mother cooking dinner. They are very good cooks, knowing all the best-tasting grains, fruits, roots, berries, herbs, spices, and mushrooms to eat and flavor other dishes, but they cook slowly in stone ovens and wood fires. Elf houses are clean and snug, lit by candle and firelight, and in the evening they sing and tell old and new stories because they don't have television or radios. By now you may be feeling a little sorry for Elf children who have to live in these primitive conditions, but elves have been living this way for tens of thousands of years and see little reason to change.
There are a few, a very few places where many elves still live together for the purposes of learning and government. Withenvale is one such place, the most beautiful of the remaining elf havens, far to the north in Andaca. It is there that the finest elf craftsmen live and pass on their arts and crafts, and where Galandrathral, the First of the HIgh Council, lives and teaches. All elf lads and maidens try to spend some number of years at Gesethelia learning Elf crafts, lore, and wisdom, and thus are each known and loved by all the elf elders wherever they may end up. If they have decided to marry, many meet their heart's partner there, and it is there that they learn their Great Commission.
Throughout their ancient and long history elves have recognized that they are stewards of this world, appointed by The One, and uniquely equipped to preserve the woods, waters, fields, and even the air itself. I can safely say that were it not for the elves carefully husbanding those parts of the earth they inhabit, there would be many more wasted and ruined areas. Alas, despite their best efforts, too often man’s greed and folly have destroyed many beautiful and irreplaceable places and life, and elves sorrow at what is lost. Were it not for the years spent in Gesethelia with the elders of elfdom, many more elves might become bitter and angry at humans, and follow the path of Charn the destroyer, the enemy of all humans and the adversary of Galandrathral. Charn rejects the Great Commission, and in his hate has become not only the enemy of humans, but the enemy of all who embrace the Great Commission. It is sad that among every generation of elves Charn finds those for whom men, with their wars, destruction, and foolishness prove too difficult to accept, and they become his accomplices, themselves agents of the very evils they decry in men.
Whenever I talk about Elves, the subject of Magic comes up. It’s a confusing subject, because what we humans think of as Magic has nothing to do with real magic as the Elves understand it, or even anything to do with the arts practiced by ancient human magicians. You see, everything that happens, whether ordinary or strange and wonderful, happens according to the laws of The One God who created everything there is – whether visible or invisible. Elves have been studying the ways of The One far longer than humans, and have kept much ancient wisdom that we have lost or forgotten. Nothing Elves do is any more “magical” than the rose blooming in your garden - that’s the real magic. But from time to time I will be talking about elf-magic, and you must promise to remember that what I am really talking about is “wisdom and knowledge about the world and all the forces that govern it”. There is nothing really secret about this, but most humans are too busy to pay attention most of the time.
Well, I think you know enough now for me to start these stories. I will tell them to you as I heard them. You will, no doubt, have lots of questions as I tell them. If you do, you may interrupt me politely and ask, “Grandpa, how could Elf’s rope understand him?” or whatever your question is and I will try to answer it on the spot if I know.