Rather than being magical high elves they are portrayed as being the remnants of the Neolithic peoples that inhabited Briton, before the arrival of the Bronze Age, and later Iron Age cultures and peoples that pushed them out. There’s also a nod to this in Bernard Cornwell’s superb Warlord Trilogy where he has the superstitious Romano-Briton warriors collecting stone arrowheads, which they call Elf shot, for good luck.
It's a portrayal of the Elfs I like. In Redwald the Elfs, rather than being blue eyed, blond haired, tall willowy (and superior to your character), are savage Stone Age peoples. Neolithic hunter-gathers with black hair, brown eyes, nut-brown skin, armed with primitive stone weapons, and dressed in deer Hyde. They are masters of the woodland not out of choice, but because they have had to retreat into the forests to survive.Names come in and out of fashion every other generation. Alf or Alfred has been out of fashion in the UK for a while now. For most Brits it’s a name that conjures up images of old men with flat caps, whippets, and tobacco tins. A world away from the Hollywood pretty-boy Orlando Bloom’s Legolas, but Alf means Elf, and Alfred, the name of one the great(ha!)Saxon kings meant Elf wisdom.
One of the things I’ve enjoyed most about writing Redwald is learning about Old English. How could this strange foreign sounding language be the root of modern English? I didn’t know. All I knew was I loved the sound of it. I can’t say I understand it yet, I doubt I’m using it correctly most of the time, but I enjoying spending hours trying to track down (ie Google) meanings, nuances, and usage for OE words when I probably should be doing something more productive.
The Elves of Redwald are Ælfcynn; meaning Elf kind, or the Elf kin. In Old English you pronounce all the letters in a word. So the Saxons would have called the little garden pond fishers Guh-nomes. Actually they called them Swearðælfe, but you see what I mean. When two words are squished together like Æ (which I spend an inordinate amount of time cutting and pasting because I can’t remember what the ASCII code is), they’re pronounced in a squished together way. So as far as I can tell the OE pronunciation of Elf or Ælf is something like ‘aye-lf’ or Alf. So A is for Elf!