Elves have a prominent place in a number of closely related ballads which must have originated in the Middle Ages but are first attested in the early modern period. Beliefs about elves have their origins before the conversion to Christianity and associated Christianization of north-west Europe. Nicholas " widely known as "'Twas the Night before Christmas" characterized St Nicholas himself as "a right jolly old elf". From around the Late Middle Ages , the word elf began to be used in English as a term loosely synonymous with the French loan-word fairy ;  in elite art and literature, at least, it also became associated with diminutive supernatural beings like Puck , hobgoblins , Robin Goodfellow , the English and Scots brownie , and the Northumbrian English hob. Load All Images.
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Tolley, Clive The idea also occurs in later traditions in Scandinavia and beyond, so may be an early attestation of a prominent tradition. The Folktale as Response to History".