Cardiff University | Prifysgol Caerdydd ORCA
Online Research @ Cardiff 
WelshClear Cookie - decide language by browser settings

The significant other: a literary history of elves

Bergman, Jenni 2011. The significant other: a literary history of elves. PhD Thesis, Cardiff University.

[thumbnail of U516593 (1).pdf]
PDF - Accepted Post-Print Version
Download (11MB) | Preview


This thesis is an analysis and literary history of the human-sized elf as a Significant Other. It argues that this character is in direct relation to humans while also situated beyond the boundaries of what is human, familiar, and same, and acts as a supernatural double that defines these boundaries. The first chapter relates the origin of the word elf and the creature's characteristics in the Germanic regions of Europe. Chapter 2 discusses similar beings in Celtic sources and the establishment of a realm in which they dwell. The development of Faerie, primarily in French sources, is further examined in Chapter 3. Chapter 4 scrutinises the application of the words elf and fairy to a diminutive being, here referred to as the Insignificant Other. Chapter 5 assesses the demise of the diminutive being and re-establishment of the human-sized elf. Because of his paramount influence, the central section of the thesis (chapters 6-9) is devoted to the Elves of J. R. R. Tolkien. This section begins by analysing the descriptions of Tolkien's Elves in order to evaluate his debt to earlier traditions. Chapter 7 assesses the status of Elves in Middle-Earth, while chapter 8 scrutinises the presentation of gender. Chapter 9 discusses the Dark-Elves and their place in Tolkien's developing ideas about Elves. The final section examines Tolkien's influence and the current status of the elf. Chapter 10 focuses on four recent narratives that identify human-sized fairies in comics and film. Chapter 12 investigates the popularity of the Tolkienian elf in modern Fantasy fiction, while the final chapter locates the elf as Significant Other in contemporary popular culture and media

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Status: Unpublished
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PN Literature (General) > PN0441 Literary History
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 30 March 2016
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2024 14:34

Actions (repository staff only)

Edit Item Edit Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics