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"Sylph dancing in the evening sky" by Jenny Dolfen
General Information
Other namesair-spirits
PeopleMánir, Súruli
Physical Description

sylphine maidens of the Air
whose wings in Varda's heavenly hall
in rythmic movement beat and fall

Sylphs were creatures only mentioned fleetingly in the earliest versions of the legendarium and nomenclature by the Eldar.[1][2]

Characteristics and divisions

The sylphs were part of what apparently was a three-fold division of the lesser Ainu spirits: sylphs (spirits of the air), sprites (spirits of the earth), and water spirits.[1]

Manwë had "two clans of air-spirits",[3] a basic division of two groups of sylphs which, with their Elvish names, are given as follow:

An individual Súru mentioned by name was Ilinsor, steersman of the Moon. Ilinsor "loved the snows and the starlight and aided Varda in many of her works".[6]


It has been suggested that the concept "air spirits" is used "metaphorically [...] for the winds that these spirits govern".[7]

Other versions of the legendarium

Sylphs are not mentioned in the later versions of the legendarium. Many of the classes of beings references in The Book of Lost Tales were superseded by the concept of the Maiar, which were not introduced until the reworking of the Annals of Valinor into the Annals of Aman.[8]


Patrick H. Wynne and Christopher Gilson have noted that Tolkien's use of sylphs (and related spirits) is likely influenced by Paracelsus's chart of four elementals: sylphs (air), pygmies or gnomes (earth), nymphs (water), and salamanders (fire).[9]

See also

External links