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Basic Information

Alfheim (also Alfheimr, or Ljosalfheimr) is the land of the light elves in Norse mythology. It is usually thought to be one of the Nine Worlds, but is barely given passing mention in any of the old sagas, and the details are pretty vague.

Alfheim a homeland of the elves, and it's said they own many mansions there. There are passages that suggest svartalfheim (the land of the dark elves) may be physically beneath it, under the ground and part of Alfheim, but sometimes svartalfheim is itself listed as one of the Nine Worlds, separate and distinct from Alfheim. The old authentic sources, sagas and eddas and the like, mention frequently that there are nine worlds in the World Tree Yggdrasil, but tend to not actually list off with certainty what those worlds are.

The power-level and details of the Elves themselves are also really vague, so you can cast them as demigod-level divinities, or just your typical Tolkien-esque fantasy species. Our elves are different, go right ahead and knock yourself out. The light elves are sometimes called Ljosalf, and are associated with light, beauty and swans. Elves of all sorts are called Alfar, and listed as allies of the Aesir. Svartalfar are sometimes depicted as dwarves instead. Sometimes the term dokkalfar then gets used for the Dark Elves. Some interpret them as being Christian-inserts into Norse myth, stand-in's for angels and demons added by Snorri Sturlusson after the fact. There are even some little changeling or house-elf creatures in wider scandinavian folklore, such as the nisse or tomte or vættir, so if you wanted to go all Keebler elves… well, who am I to say that's an elf too far?

Locations within Alfheim

  • The Vanir god Freyr (god of agriculture, [fair weather, fertility, peace, sunshine and virility ) is sometimes listed as the lord, ruler, or king of Alfheim. Supposedly alfheim was given to the infant Freyr by the other gods as a present in honor of his growing his first tooth. Which is all the weirder because at the time of Freyr's presumed childhood, the Vanir and Aesir were not yet allies (that wouldn't happen until after they fought a war), so why would "all the gods" be giving real estate to a child god of the opposing side?
  • Ydalir, the lodge of Ullr (god of archery) is said to be located in Alfheim.
  • Alfheim is also a possible location of Folkvangr, Freya's great hall, which takes about half of the warriors who die in battle (with the other half going to Valhalla, Odin's great hall).
  • It's also possible that the fire-shelter Gimle, where those few who survive the great conflagration at the end of Ragnarok, is located in Alfheim. In the Prose Edda it's said that Gimlé is the third heaven of the Norse, but (before the end of the world) it is only occupied by elves.
  • Norse elves are often associated with barrows, burial mounds, and cairns.



Game and Story Use

  • While it's a canonical place of Norse mythology, the details are few, vague and contradictory: which makes it great for gaming and story-telling, as you can fill in the blank spaces as you see fit, but still have this sort of air of mythological authenticity.
  • You could probably draw inspiration from / purposefully conflate with fairyland, or with the fey wilds of Dungeons and Dragons, or the grey havens of middle earth.
  • Elves and dwarves peacefully coexisting? Heck, by some interpretations of the norse myths, they're the same thing. Blurring the line could be fun, and simplify your campaign world by eliminating / merging a character type.
  • Alfheim might muster armies or otherwise contribute to the final conflicts of ragnarok, and could be the place where the few survivors retreat to to escape destruction.
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