Grace Hidden Within: The Elven Hooded Cloak
When it comes to cloaks and capes, you’re often looking for something that is functional and will protect you and your clothes from the elements, but also something stylish. A good cloak can make a character come across as heroic, sneaky, evil, or anything in between. Also, let’s be honest, they do look cool.
This elven cloak for sale is an example of a good cloak. As you might have guessed, it comes with a deep and expansive hood to both keep the rain off you and to shroud your face from unwanted eyes. The cloak is long enough to be protective, reaching the mid-calf, although this obviously depends on how tall you are. Unlike some floor-length cloaks, you’re able to move about without worrying about the cloak dragging in the mud or getting tangled up with your feet.
Like many cloaks, the elven cloak has two layers. The outer layer is made with cotton twill, which is both lightweight and warm. The inner lining is also cotton and provides extra warmth and durability. These are both different colours. If your elf is more of the wood-elf variety, maybe you’d prefer the brown elven cloak, with a light brown lining. Or maybe the black cloak with a dark blue lining might work better for you.
As you’ve probably guessed, the design of these cloaks is based on the clothing of high fantasy elves, particularly the Lord of the Rings (or LOTR) elven cloak that we see many of the characters wearing. To further highlight this point, the cloak also features some stylised Elven gold embroidery trailing down the front.
This elven cloak is intended to be worn fastened at the neck with tie strings, then to hang down the body and over the arms. There’s enough material to pull it closer around yourself if it’s particularly cold or windy, but generally the front of your body is exposed to show off the clothes underneath.
Obviously, this type of cloak works best with more fantasy inspired characters, particularly those with an elfish inclination. It’s great for cosplay purposes, whether you’re dressing as an Elf or as one of the Fellowship of the ring wearing a LOTR elven cloak. But you could also create your own character for any fantasy LARP or event.
Cloaks make incredibly versatile clothes, being suitable for warriors, thieves, rangers, wizards, or whatever other character you can think of. While this is an elven cloak by design, it could suit any character with a slightly royal or mystical background that is hinted at by the golden embroidery. As always, have fun with your characters.
High Fantasy Elves: Their Inspiration and Effect on Fiction
Any fantasy fan knows what elves are, right? They’re practically a staple of the genre, especially if we’re talking about High Fantasy.
As a quick aside to make sure we’re all on the right page, High Fantasy (or epic fantasy) refers to a fantasy setting where the author has created the world from scratch. Common traits of High Fantasy are a highly magical setting, including supernatural creatures and races, epic stories with high stakes, and usually equally epic and morally distinct characters.
Now that we’ve got that settled, let’s get onto elves in fantasy. Specifically, we’ll look at three things. First, what the elves used to be like in fiction and folk tales. Then, the LOTR elves and their influence on the character type. Finally, we’ll look at other examples of modern fantasy elves.
Elven Myths in Medieval Times
Elves are by no means a modern invention. The ideas around fantasy elves hail back to the early Middle Ages, having mostly been attributed to Old Norse beliefs and Celtic legends. However, many cultures in Europe and around the world have tales of otherworldly beings who bear some similarities to modern fantasy elves.
The word “elf” comes from an old English word “ælf”, which itself has roots in Germanic languages. These include Old Norse (alfr, meaning nightmare or elf), Old High German (alp, meaning evil spirit), and other similar languages. Then, if we go back even further, we see commonalities with the Latin (albus, meaning white), Old Irish (ailbhin, meaning flock), Greek (alphous, meaning white) and other Germanic words meaning swan. Have you spotted a thread, yet?
If you saw that they all begin with ‘a’, you’re right. But you’ve also missed the point. Rather, the Germanic languages describe something evil or just straight up mean ‘elf’. But when we look at words with common roots, most of them describe something white. So, what’s up with that?
Well, whiteness could have moral connotations, but it could also mean something else. In medieval times, whiteness was associated with beauty. It has been suggested that elves were called such because they were very beautiful. There is more credence in this reading when we consider that elves and their ilk in medieval settings weren’t necessarily good or moral (remember all those words describing them as evil spirits), but they were usually inhumanly beautiful.
Alright, now that we’ve got the language stuff out of the way, let’s look at the folk tales and beliefs surrounding elves. In Britain, elves were often blamed for causing illnesses in humans and animals. The rural Scottish in particular held onto this belief for centuries, believing elves to be magical beings who hid amongst normal people. People believed that they gifted healing powers to some and made others sick.
Elves were occasionally known to seduce people with either their magic or their beauty. They were usually feminine and could be viewed as both dangerous and divine. However, at some point in medieval England, the elves gave way to fairies. These fairies, or fae folk (fair folk) were pretty similar to the old elves in that they were beautiful, powerful, and would either help or harm people according to the story and their whims.
Another major version of elves comes from Norse mythology. The elves were usually mentioned in Old Norse Poetry in conjunction with the Aesir, who were a group of Gods. The reading can either be that the elves had a lot to do with these Gods, or even that they were one and the same. Like the British elves, these were humanlike and had… questionable morals. Yes, they were allied with the Gods, but they were occasionally associated with sexual dangers.
What we see here are beings that are mysterious and powerful, that take the form of supernaturally beautiful human-like people. Elves weren’t just stories in medieval times, people genuinely believed that they were real and represented genuine threats. They were often conflated with the Fae, including sharing their propensity to trick humans and use their powers for good and evil, ignoring human morality.
The LOTR Elves: Tolkien’s Influence on Modern Fantasy
Moving on from these strange Fae elves, let’s look at the work of J.R.R Tolkien. Originally, Tolkien preferred the term ‘fairy’, but eventually settled on calling his magical beings ‘elves’. Since then, the two terms have gone on to describe fairly different creatures.
Tolkien borrowed a lot from the Old English and Old Norse poems when he was imagining up his elves. This resulted in his elves being tall, beautiful, and deadly with a bow. They were also generally better than humans in pretty much every way you can think of. Oh, and let’s not forget the pointy ears. Every elf needs pointy ears.
They were an ancient race, with each individual being essentially immortal, only dying to violent causes or to grief rather than old age or illness. Tolkien elves were wise, both spiritually and mentally, and had incredibly keen senses and a kinship with nature. While the elves rarely displayed active magical abilities, they were unmistakably magical in nature with their superhuman abilities and otherwise unexplainable feats.
They were also incredible smiths, creating works unmatched in quality and artifacts with powerful magical abilities, such as the Rings of Power. Not only this, but they were skilful and fierce warriors. These elves were also firmly on the side of good, not at all like the amoral elves and fairies of Northern European legends.
We could stop the description there and we’d describe the Tolkien elves quite well. We would also describe a good portion of other elves in modern fantasy, and other species clearly inspired by these elves. But this is Tolkien we’re talking about, so his elves go much, much deeper.
For starters, saying that they are an ‘ancient race’ doesn’t really go into it. The elves actually originated in Middle Earth, being awoken before even the Sun and Moon were created. They wandered about, inventing music and poetry, forming languages and meeting up with each other.
Then, they were summoned to Valinor by the Valar (Godlike beings), which became their home. Valinor was otherwise known as the ‘Undying Lands’, because only immortals were generally permitted to live there (with the exception of the Ringbearers). Still, some elves chose to remain in Middle Earth. Different groups of elves were formed, called the Eldar and the Avari.
The history of the elves proved to be a tumultuous one. One of the Valar, called Melkor, had turned kind of evil and started to poison the elves against the rest of the Valar. Finally, he murdered one of the greater elves and stole some magical jewels known as silmarils. This resulted in millennia of bloody war for the elves.
By the end of the Third Age, which is when the Lord of the Rings story was set, the elves who had moved back to Middle Earth to fight Melkor (or Morgoth) were in decline. The Age of Men was beginning, and the time for Elves in Middle Earth was over. They mostly chose to return to Valinor, lest they fade away completely.
Quite a lot of fantasy stories do keep this tragic, fading aspect of the elves. Others focus on the cooler aspects of them, their magic and incredible abilities, characterising elves as being superior and scholarly, rather than just tired. Still others focus on the woodsy aspect of the elves, while some prefer to go back to the fae-like roots of the elves, making them less human and more mysterious.
To say that Tolkien had an effect on fantasy would be understating it. He has been attributed with codifying epic fantasy, resulting in hundreds of imitators. While Middle Earth was a wonderful creation, some people say that the overreliance of Tolkien’s guidance actually stifled fantasy for years. In recent years, more and more of fantasy has moved away from this style of epic fantasy, as it’s kind of gone out of fashion.
Although Middle Earth had a few varieties of Elves, these weren’t fundamentally different species in the same way that future fantasy works would introduce. The Elder Scrolls games have three different types of elves, the high elves (gold-skinned arrogant magic users), the dark elves (grey-skinned elves with a history of slavery and a propensity for fire magic), and the wood elves (short elves who occasionally eat people). But don’t worry. They all have pointy ears.
The elves from Terry Pratchett’s Discworld series are more like the Fae-folk than your typical Tolkienesque elf, bewitching humans with their glamour and are more terrifying and amoral than anything else. They also are very alien, with copper-based blood and a fairy-like vulnerability to iron.
Amusingly, the Vulcans from Star Trek bear quite a few similarities to Fantasy elves. Think about it, they are long lived and wise, as well as being physically superior to humans. They have strange psychic powers and are often characterised as looking down on humans while supporting them. They even have the violent past of Tolkien elves and the copper blood of Discworld elves. If all that doesn’t prove it, Vulcans have pointy ears.
The technical specifications for the elven cloak for sale here at Medieval Ware are as follows:
- Materials: Cotton twill fabric outer with light cotton lining
- Colours: Black with dark blue lining, or brown with light brown lining. Both versions have gold patterns.
The elven cloak comes in sizes ranging from Small to X-Large. The measurements for these sizes are:
- Small: 43 inches long from shoulder to bottom hem, 19 inches neck circumference
- Medium: 46 inches long from shoulder to bottom hem, 20 inches neck circumference
- Large/X-Large: 48 inches long from shoulder to bottom hem, 21 inches neck circumference