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Scholars of Old Norse mythology now focus on references to elves in Old Norse poetry, particularly the Elder Edda. The only character explicitly identified as an elf in classical Eddaic poetry, if any, is Völundr, the protagonist of Völundarkviða. However, elves are frequently mentioned in the alliterating phrase Æsir ok Álfar ('Æsir and elves') and its variants. This was clearly a well established poetic formula, indicating a strong tradition of associating elves with the group of gods known as the Æsir, or even suggesting that the elves and Æsir were one and the same. The pairing is paralleled in the Old English poem Wið færstice and in the Germanic personal name system; moreover, in Skaldic verse the word elf is used in the same way as words for gods. Sigvatr Þórðarson’s skaldic travelogue Austrfaravísur, composed around 1020, mentions an álfablót (‘elves' sacrifice’) in Edskogen in what is now southern Sweden. There does not seem to have been any clear-cut distinction between humans and gods; like the Æsir, then, elves were presumably thought of as being human(-like) and existing in opposition to the giants. Many commentators have also (or instead) argued for conceptual overlap between elves and dwarves in Old Norse mythology, which may fit with trends in the medieval German evidence.

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