The only named elf in Old Norse is Volund. In the few other stories, where he is mentioned, he is not called an elf but he is clearly and Otherworldy being even in the other stories. His extra-ordinary skill as a smith sets him apart and his ability to fly. The Wayland/Volund story is so old but scholars can't agree if he had a wife before he was taken captive by Nidud. I think he did. I think the swan maidens were valkyries because the daughters of elves could be valkyries and she was so very white as were all the other valkyries in Norse myth. You don't get that sense reading them in translation because hvitr is often translated as fair or radiant. It fires the imagination to think of what people made of swans so that they are related etymologically to elves.
Monday, January 2, 2012
Swans and Valkyries
I just finished a paper. It is a huge, huge subject. To do it justice , one could probably write a book. Valkyries are a Northern concept; they belong to the Viking Age. No other culture has the armoured, beautiful battle maidens in their mythology. At least no conclusive evidence for them has been found. The three valkyries in Volundarkvida are also swan maidens. There is a lot of philological evidence that Latin for white 'albus', elf 'alp', and swan 'alpt' have a common Indo-European root.