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How Santa's Elves Work

        Culture | Christmas

Elf Lifestyle
The concept of elves can be traced back to Scandinavian folklore.
The concept of elves can be traced back to Scandinavian folklore.
Kai Tirkkonen/Getty Images

It may be that Santa's elves don't have too much in common with the elves in J.R.R. Tolkien's "The Lord of the Rings." While Legolas, the main elf from the series of books, is tall and skilled in archery, the elves from the North Pole could be closer in appearance to hobbits. In this section, we'll look at everything from elf appearance to elf psychology.

Elf Appearance

Elves are widely regarded as being small in stature -- no taller than 3 feet, and some might even fit in the palm of your hand. One of an elf's defining characteristics is his pointy ears, which we think could help in anticipating repairs on Santa's sleigh. Because elves' ear size in relation to their heads could be quite large, like bats, some think elves could use echolocation. But, in fact, it's the pinna, or tissue on the outer ear that might best help elves localize sounds like a screw that became loose on a sleigh's runner.

Aside from their small stature and tall ears, an elf might look very much like you and me. There would be both male and female elves. They would wear clothing similar in style to Santa's wardrobe -- since it's cold in the North Pole, they'd sport pointed caps, warm suits with white, fluffy trim and pointed boots. The only difference would be in color, as the elves might wear green to compliment Santa's red suit -- and there's the matter that Santa is, after all, the maestro and would probably want to stand out.

Elf Personality

Because they're so tiny, elves may not seem too intimidating. But elves would have to be powerful, energy-packed beings in order to fill Santa's quota of gift-making. Could they be feisty, fidgety and nervous -- hard-wired for constant activity, always fiddling and tinkering with objects, taking them apart and putting them back together?

Santa's elves would also have amazing spatial reasoning, giving them the ability to understand LEGO structures and doll houses in an instant and greatly increasing productivity. Due to all this movement and excitement, elves would burn a lot of calories -- they'd be naturally slender, unlike Santa.

Elf Diet

The 2004 movie "Elf" would have you believe an elf's diet is "mostly candy, candy canes, candy corn and syrup." Although it's easy to imagine elves loving candy, they would need to stick to a healthy diet in order to maintain their high level of activity.

In the next section, we'll look at elf duties.

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