Elves (German "elf" - from "alb" - White) - magic people in Norse and Celtic folklore. Also known as Alva (álfr - scand.) sidhe (sidhe - Irish.).
Descriptions of elves in various mythologies vary, but usually it's beautiful, light beings, spirits of the forest, friendly person. They are permanent characters of fantastic fiction, particularly fantasy, along with dwarves, goblins and trolls. In many books there is not actual differences between the elves and fairies.
In the "Elder Edda" elves are opposit to the supreme gods - aces. In Germanic mythology the origin of the elves are closely linked with the history of the universe. There are two main "kinds" of elves: alpha - white, light, good elves, and dverg - dark and sullen, cunning dwarfs (most likely it's just another name for the dwarves). However, perhaps it is Alva divided into light and dark, and dark are called tsverg.
According to the "Prose Edda" Alva and dvergs were born in the flesh of Ymir, like worms, but by the will of the gods embraced a part of the human mind and the external appearance of people. However, the "Elder Edda" tells about the appearance of tsverg differently. It says that the gods created two dwarfs "from Brimir 's blood, Blaina's bone, and others were mold out of clay. Although this is not surprising when we remember that Brimir and Blain - just different names of Ymir. Alva - spirits of nature. They live in their country Alvheyme. They shape is as beautiful as sun. God-smith Volund is governor of Alva. They are "light elves".
The British, in contrast to the inhabitants of Scandinavia and Germany, do not divide the elves in the "light"and "dark. In the British way Elves are seen like fairies - not bad but not good creatures, with their strange behavior, addictions and vices. In some counties of England people believe in a more or less good, though mischievous elves. In others - a brutal, evil and ugly creatures, also called elves. In the most counties thay called - pixie. Elves have a particularly nasty flaw: it is their passion for stealing. And usually they dont steal some small things - they do much bigger harm. They are constantly trying to take away the brides in the hills immediately after the wedding and stole babies before baptism.
In Ireland people believe in "large" human-like elves, which they call the Tuatha De Danann (according to other sources its one of the upper classes of the fairies).
The legends of the elves are not too common in Sweden, butr their folklore includes many stories and legends about the fairies and all sorts of mystical creatures that live in the woods. It is believed that the forest spirits, referred to the old Swedish tradition, it's wood elves or otherwise - forest people. In pagan times people believed that in powerful and sprawling trees lived the forest elves. Aura of sanctity around the pagan groves of trees originates from the ancient custom to make sacrifices near the trees. Perhaps the idea of inhabited trees had been borrowed from the Greco-Roman culture. In Norse mythology there are two types of Alvo: upper (light) and lower (dark or svartalvy), and in "Eddah" much more attention payed to dark ones. This creatures live underground and have dark skin. They have repeatedly created magic things for the gods. In later folklore, this image is merged with the gnomes.
In fantasy literature, the dark elves have a "second birth". Tolkien in The "Silmarillion" described orcs as the evil opposite of elves and their evil, twisted version, with black leather and a fear of the sun. The concept of "dark elves" (morikvendi), from Tolkien, however, does not apply to orcs, but to a tribe of elves who had not seen the light of the Trees have never been to Valinor. A number of writers and developers of role-playing systems, in their works derive the dark elves as a distinct kind of elves race, often referring to the "division" of the two peoples, united in antiquity.