Elves - Tom Shippey
Comments by squire, May 18,
This article inhabits a weird parallel
universe right next to Eden's article on
"Elves". Shippey focuses on the traditional
Anglo-Saxon or Norse folk-traditions about
Elves; Eden focuses on Tolkien's fictional
response to those traditions. Neither trespasses
too far onto the other's territory; in fact,
transcending courtesy, neither includes the
other in its 'Further Reading' list!
According to Shippey, Tolkien's fictional
creation of his Elf-tribes, their relation to
the light of the West, and their superhuman
attributes were all semi-scholarly "solutions"
to explain how the various Northern folk
traditions began. Eden takes most of this
material for granted, moving quickly on to a far
more detailed account of Tolkien's fictional
Elves' history and cultural and linguistic
characteristics within the legendarium.
Shippey's account is, as usual, clear and
concise, though perhaps a bit too short for its
scope. He never fails to reconnect the reader to
Tolkien's fiction to illustrate his points about
Tolkien's scholarly confrontation with the
paradox of the good/evil "Ylfe".
So as the Encyclopedia finally finishes up
with one last single "Y" entry, the eternal
question recurs one last time: why on earth
could these two articles not have been combined?
At the very least, this one might have been
re-titled "Elves: Ylfe, Álfar" to make it
clearer what it is about.