Christmas Elves - the Origin
For a mythology that began in dark Scandinavian concepts, the Christmas Elf has become a ubiquitous part of the holiday tradition. How did this occur, and what brought elves to the Christmas limelight? Like so many other traditions, a mix of cultures brought it about.
Elves began in the traditions of multiple cultures such as old English and Scandinavian mythology. One of the dark races of the Norse mythology, the Elves are mysterious creatures apart from humanity. The English and Germans saw elves as pranksters, causers of nightmares and disease. However, other views of them would include beings of great beauty, mystery, and power.
Because of this mix, there was room for a new image to appear. The elves of Santa’s workshop are somewhat closer to Dwarves of old myth, industrious creators of toys and wonders .The first author known to create the concept was Louisa May Alcott, creator of Little Women, in 1850. However, the book she wrote, called Christmas Elves, was refused for publication. Despite that, the concept began to spread. By the 1870s there were multiple sources spreading them, such as the magazine that had previously popularized the Christmas tree, Godey’s Lady’s Book.
Although Santa himself had been described as an elf, most famously in The Night Before Christmas (a right jolly old elf), it was another few decades, as noted, before the whole bevvy of elves was added to the story. But now, in every tale, every story, every movie and show that has Santa appearing, you can bet that at the North Pole is a whole company's worth of industrious workers, from toy makers to sled maintainers to reindeer wranglers.
Elves exist in several forms around the world. There are the darker and scarier sorts such as the German creature Krampus who punished the wicked children, and the fun and whimsical, like the Icelandic Yule Lads or Zwarte Piet of the Netherlands. Some of these are considered elves, and others different types of assistants, but Santa’s helpers exist in every form and land, helping make the Christmas season fun.