Alfheim

Alfheim (“elf home”), in Norse mythology, is one of the nine worlds. It is located on the highest level of the Norse universe. Also found on this level are the worlds of Asgard and Vanaheim. Alfheim is the palace of the god Freyr and the homeland of the elves of light. Neither the elves of light nor the elves of darkness, who live in Svartalfheim, participate in any of the events described in the Norse myths. Elves do, however, have active roles in the literature of quite a few of the other branches of Indo-European mythology.

Alfheim is never described in the sources that form the basis of our current knowledge of heathen Germanic religion, but is rather merely mentioned in passing in a few places. However, the elves are described as being luminous and “more beautiful than the sun,” so we may suppose that their homeland was a gracious realm of light and beauty. Although the realms that comprise the Nine Worlds of the Norse cosmology are never listed, it seems highly probable that, given the prominence of the elves in Germanic religion, Alfheim was one of them.

The Vanir god Freyr is said to be the ruler of Alfheim. Scholars have long puzzled over what to make of this, and no wholly satisfactory conclusions have been put forth. The relationship between the elves and the Vanir is highly ambiguous and involves considerable overlap between the two groups. Freyr’s position as lord of Alfheim, therefore, while hard to interpret with much precision, shouldn’t be entirely surprising.

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