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Seven Hundred Elves

[DgF 52D; Roud - ; Mudcat 25288 ; trad.]

Seven Hundred Elves is an almost exact translation of the first eight verses of a traditional Danish ballad, Eline af Villenskov, as printed in Svend Grundtvig: Danmarks gamle Folkeviser (DgF) no. 52D, 1853; except that the original refers to seven hundred trolls instead of elves. The chorus is a translation of the ballad’s tenth verse. Grundtvig also mentioned that an English translation of the D version was printed “in the notes to Walter Scott’s poem Lady of the Lake”.

Steeleye Span recorded this in Seven Hundred Elves 1974 for their sixth album, their first one with drummer Nigel Pegrum, Now We Are Six.

A slightly different translation of a verse of this ballad can be found in Thomas Keightley: The Fairy Mythology, London, 1860, p. 76. From the same book is the ballad Sir Olof which was translated by Steeleye Span as Dance With Me on their LP All Around My Hat.


Steeleye Span sing Seven Hundred Elves

Seven hundred elves from out the wood
Foul and grim they were
Down to the farmer’s house they went
His meat and drink to share

There was a farmer in the west and there he chose his ground
He thought to spend the winter there and brought his hawk and hound
He brought with him both hound and cock alone he begged to stay
And all the deer that roamed the wood had cause to rue the day

He felled the oak, he felled the birch, the beech nor poplar spared
And much was grieved the sullen elves at what the stranger dared
He hewed him baulks and he hewed him beams with eager toil and haste
Then up and spake the woodland elves: “Who’s come our wood to waste?”


Up and spake the biggest elf and grimly rolled his eyes:
“We’ll march upon the farmer’s house and hold on him assize
He’s knocking down both wood and bower, he shows us great disdain
We’ll make him rue the day he was born and taste of shame and pain.”


All the elves from out the wood began to dance and spring
And marched towards the farmer’s house their lengthy tails to swing
The farmer from his window looked and quickly crossed his breast
“Oh woe is me,” the farmer cried, “The elves will be my guests.”

In every nook he made a cross and all about the room
And off flew many a frightened elf back to his forest gloom
Some flew to the east, some flew to the west, some flew to the north away
And some flew down the deep ravine and there forever stay