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Elves (plural: elves) are a kind of human supernatural creature in Germanic mythology and folklore. In medieval Germanic cultures, elves often seem to be regarded as creatures with magical and supernatural beauty, ambiguous about people in daily life, and able to help or hinder them. However, the details of these beliefs have changed a lot with time and space, and they have flourished in pre Christian culture and Christian culture.

The word elf has been found throughout the Germanic language family, initially referring to "white.". The early concept of the reconstruction of elves depended on the writings of Christians in Medieval English, medieval German, and old northern European. These elves have all kinds of connections with the gods in the Nordic mythology, leading to diseases, magic, beauty and temptation.

Since the middle ages, the word "spirit" has become more and more rare in the whole Germanic language, losing to alternative native language terms such as German zwerc (dwarves) and Scandinavian huldra (hiding place), as well as loanwords such as fairy tales (all Germanic borrowed from French). Nevertheless, people's belief in elves still existed in the early modern times, especially in Scotland and Scandinavia, where elves are regarded as people with powerful magic, usually living in the invisible together with daily human beings. They continue to be associated with causing disease and sexual threats. For example, many early modern ballads in the British Isles and Scandinavia originated in the middle ages, describing elves who tried to seduce or kidnap human characters. With the urbanization and industrialization of the 19th and 20th centuries, people's belief in elves declined rapidly (although some claims in Iceland still continue to be popular). However, from the early modern times, elves began to dominate the literature and art of the educated elite. These literary elves are regarded as small and tenacious creatures. William Shakespeare's a midsummer night's dream is the key development of this concept. In the 18th century, German Romantic writers were influenced by the concept of elves and reintroduced the English word elf into German.

From this romantic elite culture, pop culture Elves were born. These elves appeared in the 19th and 20th century. The "Christmas spirit" of contemporary popular culture is a relatively new tradition, popular in the United States in the late 19th century. After J. R. R. Tolkien and other writers published their works, the elves entered the high fantasy type of the 20th century. These have revived the idea of elves, which are human size and humanoid. Elves are still an important feature of fantasy books and games today.