Fun with Edmund Spenser and the O.E.D.
I am slowly working my way through The Faerie Queene. Spenser refers to the poem’s hero knight as an elf, e.g., from Book I Canto V, “Which when the wakeful Elfe perceiu’d…” In what sense, I wondered, could this knight be referred to as an elf?
One of the O.E.D.’s definitions of “elf” is:
By Spenser applied to the knights of his allegorical ‘faerie land’.
Ah. In that sense.
Similarly, one of the O.E.D.’s definitions of “faerie” is:
The realm or world of the fays or fairies; fairyland, fairydom (cf. FAIRY n. 1). Usually, the imaginary world depicted in Spenser’s Faery Queene, the personages of which have little or no resemblance to the ‘fairies’ of popular belief.