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Famously, C. S. Lewis's Narnia is populated by humans, talking animals, dwarves, gnomes, fauns, centaurs, dryads, naiads, dragons, giants, marsh-wiggles, stars in human form, unicorns, witches, minotaurs, ogres, werewolves, merfolk, salamanders, ghouls, and occasionally Father Christmas. Among this mashup of mythological elements, there are no elves.

Fairies are mentioned in The Magician's Nephew (1955), and sprites and "People of the Toadstool" in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (1950); these and the dryads are elf-adjacent, but as far as I know we do not get the word "elf" anywhere. Even so, they were popular in children's and fantasy literature (George MacDonald, Lord Dunsany, Andrew Lang, etc.) and their omission seems conspicuous.

Did Lewis perhaps feel that he would be trespassing on his friend J. R. R. Tolkien's territory by including elves in Narnia? (He didn't seem to mind including other elements which annoyed Tolkien, and he does have dwarves - and outside of Narnia, That Hideous Strength even made reference to Númenor/Numinor in 1945.) Or is there another reason why elves are not mentioned?

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    It may be because Lewis didn't include beings from Germanic/Nordic mythology. English(Celtic mythology has elfs (tiny sprites), but not elves. Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 11:00
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    Dwarves are pretty Germanic
    – alexg
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 13:33
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    So if I talk about mushrooms, is it suddenly a thing that I didn't mention toadstools? Fae have a lot of variants, and if choose to use pixies in a particular work then also throwing in ljosalfar is only going to be confusing.
    – DavidW
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 13:34
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    I haven't read them all, but I would think it is possible this was talked about in one of his other works or letters, so don't think this can be closed as opinion. If he didn't mention it, then the answer is "we don't know because he didn't say." Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 14:52
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    @DaveJohnson - Exactly so. Those that are closing this as "opinion-based" are merely stating their own ignorance of the answer, not that there is definitively no answer.
    – Valorum
    Commented Feb 22, 2023 at 17:40

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We can reconstruct a good deal of Lewis's thinking from his book The Discarded Image (CUP, 1964), which among other things presents a view of what he calls the "Longaevi" (Chapter 6). This category of long-lived beings in mythology and folklore covers elves, fairies, and the like. They are not angels, demons, or mortals. They are sources of mystery and enchantment. Lewis particularly cites the well-known passage from Reginald Scot's Discoverie of Witchcraft (1584) which is surely a precursor for his own listing of the Witch's allies in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe -

bull beggers, spirits, witches, urchens, elves, hags, fairies, satyrs, pans, faunes, syrens, kit with the can'sticke, tritons, centaurs, dwarfes, giants, imps, calcars, conjurors, nymphes, changlings, incubus, Robin good fellow, the spoorne, the mare, the man in the oke, the hell waine, the fierdrake, the puckle, Tom thombe, hobgobblin, Tom tumbler, boneless, and such other bugs (Scot)

Ogres with monstrous teeth, and wolves, and bull-headed men; spirits of evil trees and poisonous plants; and other creatures whom I won't describe because if I did the grown-ups would probably not let you read this book—Cruels and Hags and Incubuses, Wraiths, Horrors, Efreets, Sprites, Orknies, Wooses, and Ettins. In fact here were all those who were on the Witch's side and whom the Wolf had summoned at her command. (Lewis)

Lewis understands that there is no consistent use of words to refer to specific types of being, but particular terms have connotations that work better or worse for certain audiences. He particularly mentions "fairy" as provoking a different idea in the 20th century from what it would connote to Spenser in the 16th. The narrative function in a particular story - whether the creatures are mischievous, noble, numinous, or whatever - is important. But for this vein of literature, even within a single text a character could often be called "elf" or "dwarf" interchangeably.

Narnia is not an academic treatise, but it evidently reflects and is consistent with Lewis's interests as a mediaevalist. He is conscious in evoking a particular attitude for his younger readers that is within the tradition of the work of his scholarly interest: the supernatural elements are an invitation to marvel, and also suggestive of the broader world of literature. Readers will not necessarily come to the text knowing what a Faun is, but they are intended to leave it having been impressed, and ready to recognise future Fauns they might encounter in other reading.

Thus, Narnia is already well-populated with Longaevi of various kinds. They have their differentiated roles for various purposes: Ramandu, the dryads and centaurs are all of the "high" type, for example, representing unearthly wisdom. These are all elves, in essence, though we don't find the word "elf". We also don't find "fairy", except in one background reference outside of Narnia proper. As he writes in The Discarded Image, fairies (and elves) are perhaps too familiar to the modern reader. By using predominantly creatures from classical mythology on the "good" side, Lewis defamiliarises Narnia for readers who presumptively know all about elves and fairies from other stories, but who most likely haven't encountered dryads.

In terms of the timeline, the Tolkien connection is not too compelling. The Narnia books post-date The Hobbit (1937), and only slightly overlap with The Lord of the Rings (1954-1955), so general readers would only recall the Hobbit elves, who are rather more fairy-like than they'd eventually become. By 1950, Lewis and Tolkien's friendship had also dwindled. Rather, the image being avoided is the sprite- or pixie-like elf, which is something that Lewis specifically did not like.

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