Elves and changelings
Tam Lin (or Thomas Rhymer), one of the Child Ballads, is the story of a fellow who meets the Queen of Elfland on the road and spends a night dancing with her -- a night that lasts 40 years.
Yes, exactly, Mark. But wasn't Tam Lin exceptional? Those who are picked by the fey are not the everyday, common people. In Norway the equivalent would be to be taken into the mountain: Bergtatt. A human would wander off into the forest, and be lost. And if they managed to escape, they were marked. Often they were marked in advance: poets, dreamers, dancers, musicians, marked by talent or beauty to be different. Peer Gynt is a Norwegian version of Thomas Rhymer, the wild soul, the adventurer and dreamer who goes on an adventure that takes him beyond the safety of routines and off into the mountain where he dances with the daughter of King of the mountain.
And the Queen of Elfland amuses herself with her chosen poet for a brief while - one single night. But for him everything is changed afterwards, while she moves on to her next amusement...
Now the changeling concept is different, and quite cruel. That is a myth which is as much a convenient explanation of genetic randomness: the retarded, misformed child or the one who does not look like its parents. The blonde child to the dark, brown-eyed parents, or the dark child to the unfaithful wife. And so the child grows up, punished for the ignorance of adults... or perhaps punished for the convenience of adults: rather than divorce a wife and lose a partner in the daily struggle, punish the changeling child for being born...
It's also a wonderful dream for a child who does not want to really belong to his or her own parents. To imagine that the real parents are the King and Queen of Elfland, and some day they will take you away must have entertained endless hours. How many of us haven't dreamed of being adopted? I know I did. I know my kids occasionally think about it - that is until they look in the mirror and the sad truth stares out at them.
Elves as the alien - now that is interesting, and that is the point the players of the MUDs discussed. Elves were not just culturally alien, but physically and most likely alien in the hard-wiring of their brains. They would perceive different things from humans, so their thoughts and ideas would be different. I find the elves to be a fascinating concept of "the other", the strangers among us who we cannot see but in glimpses, because the worlds we move in are so different, so alien, and only touch in spots which seem to be charged with magic.
Mark, I just love this, sorry if it appears intrusive and as if I am overly critical and difficult.