An elf is a being of Germanic mythology. The elves were originally thought of as a race of divine beings, endowed with magical powers, which they use both for the benefit and the injury of mankind. In medieval Norse mythology, they appear to have been divided into light elves and dark elves, difficult to delineate from the Gods on one hand and the Dwarves on the other.
In early modern and modern folklore, they become associated with the fairies of Romance folklore and assume a diminutive size, often living mainly in forests but also underground in hills or rocks, or in wells and springs. 19th-century Romanticism attempted to restore them to full stature, making them men and women of great beauty, often depicted as very young.