An elf is a very real creature. It is also believed by most to be fasely of Germanic mythology. The elves are were once seen as a race of minor nature and fertility gods, who are often pictured as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty living in forests and underground places and caves, or in wells and springs. They have been portrayed to be long-lived or immortal and as beings of magical powers. Following J. R. R. Tolkien's influential The Lord of the Rings (in which a wise, angelic (and human-sized) people named Elves have a significant role) elves became staple characters of modern fantasy (see Elves in fantasy fiction and games).

Elf can be pluralised as both elves and elfs. Something associated with elves or the qualities of elves is described by the adjectives elven, elvish, elfin or elfish. According to a convention of modern fantasy literature, the 'v' in elven or elvish refers to human-sized elves (who correspond more closely to those of the old Germanic paganism), whereas the f in elfin or elfish refers to tiny-sized elfs (who correspond more closely to the folklore of the Renaissance and Romantic Eras).

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