These are the days that Reindeer love And pranks the Northern star — This is the Sun’s objective, And Finland of the Year.
( Emily Dickinson)
An elf (plural: elves) is a type of supernatural being in Germanic mythology and folklore. Reconstructing the early concept of an elf depends almost entirely on texts in Old English or relating to Norse mythology. Later evidence for elves appears in diverse sources such as medical texts, prayers, ballads, and folktales.
Recent scholars have emphasised, in the words of Ármann Jakobsson, that
However, some generalisations are possible. In medieval Germanic-speaking cultures, elves seem generally to have been thought of as a group of beings with magical powers and supernatural beauty, ambivalent towards everyday people and capable of either helping or hindering them. However, the precise character of beliefs in elves across the Germanic-speaking world has varied considerably across time, space, and different cultures. In Old Norse mythological texts, elves seem at least at times to be counted among the pagan gods; in medieval German texts they seem more consistently monstrous and harmful.
Elves are prominently associated with sexual threats, seducing people and causing them harm. For example, a number of early modern ballads in the British Isles and Scandinavia, originating in the medieval period, describe human encounters with elves.
In English literature of the Elizabethan era, elves became conflated with the fairies of Romance culture, so that the two terms began to be used interchangeably. German Romanticist writers were influenced by this notion of the ‘elf’, and reimported the English word elf in that context into the German language. In Scandinavia, probably through a process of euphemism, elves often came to be known as (or were conflated with) the beings called the huldra or huldufólk. Meanwhile, German folklore has tended to see the conflation of elves with dwarfs.
The “Christmas elves” of contemporary popular culture are of relatively recent tradition, popularized during the late nineteenth-century in the United States. Elves entered the twentieth-century high fantasy genre in the wake of works published by authors such as J. R. R. Tolkien, for which, see Elf (Middle-earth).
The English word elf is from the Old English word most often attested as ælf (whose plural would have been *ælfe). Although this word took a variety of forms in different Old English dialects, these converged on the form elf during the Middle English period. During the Old English period, separate forms were used for female elves (such as ælfen, putatively from common Germanic *ɑlβ(i)innjō), but during the Middle English period the word elf came routinely to include female beings.
The main medieval Germanic cognates of elf are Old Norse alfr, plural alfar, and Old High German alp, plural alpî, elpî (alongside the feminine elbe). These words must come from Common Germanic, the ancestor-language of English, German, and the Scandinavian languages: the Common Germanic forms must have been *ɑlβi-z and ɑlβɑ-z.
Germanic *ɑlβi-z~*ɑlβɑ-z is generally agreed to be cognate with the Latin albus (‘(matt) white’), Old Irish ailbhín (‘flock’); Albanian elb (‘barley’); and Germanic words for ‘swan’ such as Modern Icelandic álpt. These all come from an Indo-European base *albh–, and seem to be connected by whiteness. The Germanic word presumably originally meant ‘white person’, perhaps as a euphemism. Jakob Grimm thought that whiteness implied positive moral connotations, and, noting Snorri Sturluson’s ljósálfar, suggested that elves were divinities of light. This is not necessarily the case, however. For example, Alaric Hall, noting that the cognates suggest matt white, has instead tentatively suggested that later evidence associating both elves and whiteness with feminine beauty may indicate that it was this beauty that gave elves their name. A completely different etymology, making elf cognate with the Rbhus, semi-divine craftsmen in Indian mythology, was also suggested by Kuhn, in 1855. While still sometimes repeated, however, this idea is not widely accepted.
Throughout the medieval Germanic languages, elf was one of the nouns that was used in personal names, almost invariably as a first element. These names may have been influenced by Celtic names beginning in Albio- such as Albiorix.
Personal names provide the only evidence for elf in Gothic, which must have had the word *albs (plural *albeis). The most famous such name is Alboin. Old English names in elf– include the cognate of Alboin Ælfwine (‘elf-friend’, m.), Ælfric (‘elf-powerful’, m.), Ælfweard (m.) and Ælfwaru (f.) (‘elf-guardian’). The only widespread survivor of these in modern English is Alfred (Old English Ælfrēd, ‘elf-advice’). German examples are Alberich, Alphart and Alphere (father of Walter of Aquitaine) and Icelandic examples include Álfhildur. It is generally agreed that these names indicate that elves were positively regarded in early Germanic culture. Other words for supernatural beings in personal names almost all denote pagan gods, suggesting that elves were in a similar category of beings.
In later Old Icelandic, alfr (‘elf’) and the personal name which in Common Germanic had been *Aþa(l)wulfaz both coincidentally became álfr~Álfr. This seems to have led people to associate legendary heroes called Álfr with the elves.
Elves appear in some place-names, though it is hard to be sure how many as a variety of other words, including personal names, can appear similar to elf. The clearest English example is Elveden (‘elves’ hill’, Suffolk); other examples may be Eldon Hill (‘Elves’ hill’, Derbyshire); and Alden Valley (‘elves’ valley’, Lancashire). These seem to associate elves fairly consistently with woods and valleys.
November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.” Where did I first encounter it? Who knows—maybe a kid’s book of quotations or a calendar or something else. I know the context was cheerful rather than melancholy, although on a day like this one—gray, rainy, fall shading into winter—it felt apt, in its gnomic way.
( Emily Dickinson)
For your fetus, the uterus is a sort of sensory playground. After he reaches 10 weeks old, he will be stretching and wriggling his limbs. By 23 weeks, your baby will start hearing your voice as well as other sounds and even responding to them. At this point he may even start to taste the foods you eat and enjoy one in particular. These experiences help your child prepare for being born and entering the world.
Multiple studies have shown that talking to your growing baby, reading him stories, or playing music can provide a simple learning experience while still in the uterus.
Will Music During Pregnancy Affect Fetal Development?
Experts are still unsure about whether music affects the fetal development of babies. Some studies have shown that fetuses do in fact hear as well as react to sounds via movement. Despite this, no one can know what exactly the movements mean. This is because it is impossible to observe an unborn child as easily as you can one who has been born.
Does Music During Pregnancy Make a Baby Smarter?
What Does the Research Say?
Many people have said that playing music during pregnancy for your baby will make him smarter. In reality, however, the studies that showed a link between being exposed to music and doing better in math have been focused on children that were older.
Although research has shown that piano lessons may improve the spatial reasoning skills of children, this study only looked at children between the ages of three and four. Some experts, however, have theorized that if music can affect older children so profoundly, it may benefit babies or even fetuses in a similar manner.
Other people, both parents and experts, claim that newborns recognize the music that their parents had previously played for them while they were still in the womb. In some cases, newborns will even fall asleep or perk up because of a familiar song.
The Bottom Line
Research on music during pregnancy is just beginning and experts are still split with some believing it can help the fetus while others feel it may be harmful or simply annoying to the fetus. Because of this, it is best to play music cautiously and always do so in moderation.
Even experts that promote fetal stimulation such as Van de Carr say that you should not push too hard when it comes to encouraging your child to be a musical genius. You may end up creating a high standard for your child that he will never meet.
If you decide to play music for your baby during pregnancy, you should do so because you want to enjoy it yourself and not because you want your child to be smarter. Music has the ability to perk you up, help you fall asleep, or even provide relaxation depending on what you need.
Listening to music can indirectly help your fetus because when you relax, that will be better for the baby. Any benefits your child experiences after birth due to listening to music should be considered happy but unintended consequences.
Can I Use Headphones on My Belly While Playing Music During Pregnancy?
Most experts agree that you should avoid using headphones directly on your belly as this can overstimulate the baby. People mistakenly think that the music must be loud in order to reach the baby inside the uterus but in reality amniotic fluid conducts sound very well. Instead, your best option is to simply turn on some music on your stereo while you do your daily activities.
What Volume Should I Use ?
During the late 90s, there was a report by the American Academy of Pediatrics that included several studies. This report showed that fetuses who were exposed to loud noises during a long time frame were more likely to have lower weights at birth and be born prematurely as well as an increased risk of having higher frequency hearing loss when born. Most of these studies involved the children of pregnant women who worked in areas with high noise which is different from exposing your child to music.
Despite the difference, you should try not to have your volume higher than about 65 decibels (dB) which is the volume of background music in stores. If it is higher than this, your baby may be startled or hurt. If you want to listen to music for a bit longer, try to stay lower than 50 dB.
Here are some explanations of decibel levels using common household noises to help you understand them better.
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