Of all the creatures that brave the harsh environments of the arctic circle, one of them stands apart as a truly mystical and intriguing being. I’m not talking of the majestic polar bear, or of the wily artic fox or even the athletic artic hare; no, these guys are much, much more secretive types. I am, of course, referring to the illusive and fabled elf.
Now elves have covertly existed for many a year; they come from the greater family known as the Little People and their cousins include fairies, gnomes, leprechauns, pixies, brownies, goblins and trolls (although we don’t like to mention them too much as they are regarded as the black sheep of the family!)
Elves are believed to have originated from the Scandinavian regions, where they evolved into the creatures we know (or think we know) today. They were first observed by the Viking peoples, and quickly made their way into Norse mythology. Today, the highest concentration of elf colonies are believed to be in Iceland.
In more modern times, elves have maintained a relatively low profile, until the early 1900s when they were spotted at the North Pole! Investigations eventually revealed that the elves appeared to be gathered together in a large group and seemed to be particularly active during Autumn and early Winter; they then appeared to go into some kind of hibernation after Christmas time, rarely being seen again until late Summer.
To date we have yet to be able to truly discover exactly what the elves are up to, but anecdotal evidence has suggested that they are connected with Santa Claus and it is widely believed that they gather to assist him in his work to distribute gifts around the world at Christmas time.
Quite why the elves would exhibit this behaviour remains a mystery; is it simply that kindly Santa Claus offers them food and shelter at a time when the weather is extreme? Or could there be more to it than that?
It has been found that elves are extremely industrious and intelligent creatures and that they display altruistic behaviour patterns – i.e. they often do things for others not expecting a reward – that said, we think that elves will only do this for those who are well deserving.
So, if we assume that elves are indeed involved with Santa Claus, how did this come about?
One theory is that Santa Claus was once himself an elf and that over the years, he grew bigger and bigger to become the character we know today. If that were true, then obviously Santa would naturally be surrounded by others of his kind (as it is known that elves live in groups and dislike being alone).
Another train of thought suggests that Santa originally undertook all his labours by himself, before realising that he needed help. He took to his sleigh in search of some willing volunteers and the first creatures he came across were the elves, who happily offered their services in exchange for board and lodging.
However it was that Santa came to have elves working with him, it is now accepted that they have a closely bonded working relationship, which is cloaked in secrecy and possibly a little magic.
So, what duties to the elves carry out? The first answer that comes to mind is making toys and presents; although these days quite a lot of presents are ordered in to help keep on top of the growing demand.
In addition to producing gifts, elves are also known to travel around the world, furtively observing us and if they like what they see and we’re one of the lucky ones, we get to make into onto “The List”. To get added to “The List” you have to exhibit not only good behaviour, but also a firm belief in Santa Claus. Failure to meet both these criteria will see you struck off “The List”. This explains why 97.54% of “The List” is made up of younger children; it seems as humans grow up, they begin to lose belief, which sees them unceremoniously struck off (don’t say I didn’t warn you!)
In modern times, the elves have risen to fame, starring in several Christmas movies and appearing in popular video games. Naturally, these are just images of how we think they look and behave – the real truth remains unknown for now; as observations of elves have yet to be backed by hard evidence; but one thing is for sure, Christmas for both Santa Claus and us definitely would not be the same without them!