About elves

I am tak­ing part in a study group about Lauda­to Si, the encycli­cal of pope Fran­cis. We use a study guide from CAFOD, a catholic aid agency. I find the meet­ings very inspir­ing. Here is a short video clip:

The movie is a call for action, but  this has a spir­i­tu­al basis. The big theme of Lauda­to Si is our rela­tion­ship with the Earth, our com­mon home. This starts with love and care for the Earth.

In the evenings, I am once again trav­el­ling with Fro­do and his com­pan­ions in The Lord of the Rings. Read­ing the sto­ry about their vis­it to the elven queen Gal­adriel, I noticed how nat­ur­al it is for the elves to be one with nature. The trav­el­ers get cloaks, and when Pip­pin asks if they are mag­ic cloaks, the elf says he doesn’t know about that, but:

They are elvish robes cer­tain­ly, if that is what you mean. Leaf and branch, water and stone: they have the hue and beau­ty of all these things under the twi­light of Lórien that we love; for we put the thought of all that we love into all that we make.

In The Lord of the Rings, the elves are embod­ied melan­choly. Every­thing about them emanates that their days in Mid­dle Earth are num­bered. The for­est is dis­ap­pear­ing rapid­ly into the fur­naces of Saru­man, where machines are made for war: “He has a mind of met­al and wheels; and he does not care for grow­ing things, except as far as they serve him for the moment.” The sound of steel on steel con­trasts with the sweet tones of the song of Gal­adriel.

The MoorchildIt reminds me of The Moorchild, one of my favorite books. Saas­ki, the pro­tag­o­nist, is a elven child who is changed for for a human child. In this book, elves are the crea­tures that peo­ple imag­ined in the Mid­dle Ages: They caused dis­eases, abduct­ed chil­dren and seduced humans with their haunt­ing music. These wild and mis­chie­vous crea­tures with a hint of mal­ice were strong­ly linked with nature. Saas­ki is afraid of iron for instance.

Whether they are spir­its of nature or demigods, elves are “less inter­est­ed in them­selves than men are, and bet­ter at get­ting inside oth­er things.” The elves talked so much to the trees that the trees start­ed to talk back. That prob­a­bly nev­er hap­pened to St Fran­cis of Assisi, but his name­sake does advise us to live elf-like:

If we approach nature and the envi­ron­ment with­out this open­ness to awe and won­der, if we no longer speak the lan­guage of fra­ter­ni­ty and beau­ty in our rela­tion­ship with the world, our atti­tude will be that of mas­ters, con­sumers, ruth­less exploiters, unable to set lim­its on their imme­di­ate needs. By con­trast, if we feel inti­mate­ly unit­ed with all that exists, then sobri­ety and care will well up spon­ta­neous­ly.

And, not to for­get:

Let us sing as we go. May our strug­gles and our con­cern for this plan­et nev­er take away the joy of our hope.

On that note, I want to end with an elven song:

Source pic­ture: simaell.deviantart.com