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An elf is a mythical creature which originated in northern European folklore. Originally a race of minor gods of nature and fertility, elves are often pictured as youthful-seeming men and women of great beauty living in forests and other natural places, underground, or in wells and springs. They have been portrayed to be long-lived or immortal and magical powers have been attributed to them. Following the success of J.R.R. Tolkien's epic The Lord of the Rings—wherein a wise, angelic people named elves play a significant role—they have become staple characters of modern fantasy.
In the Harry Potter series, "House Elves" are small magical creatures that are used as little more than slaves by the wizarding world. It is currently unclear if there are other "branches" of the elf family in the Potterverse, other than the unfortunate House Elves.
Elf can be pluralized both as elves and elfs. Something associated with elves or the qualities of elves is described by the adjectives elfin, elven, elfish, or elvish.