Being a House Elf

The Harry Potter stories include a race of creatures called House Elves, but they are in fact much older than this. Fairytales of benevolent creatures who help humans out by doing their work, crop up all over the place. The elves and the shoemaker are a fine case in point. Rumplestiltskin spinning straw into gold is a variant on the theme.

Real people can be House Elves too. They tend not to announce it, but move quietly in the background, sorting out the details so that other people’s lives run smoothly. Hot meals appear as though by magic. Dirty things are cleaned and returned. Wood chops itself while no one is looking, cupboards do not become bare, dishes walk to the sink all by themselves, clean themselves up and get refilled.

The House Elf Person does this because they love to serve. The comfort of those they care for matters to them. They do it to enable, to facilitate, and for the joy of making other people happy.

Anyone familiar with the Harry Potter stories will have noted that the lot of House Elves depends a lot on who they live with. Many are treated as no better than slaves, their industrious natures taken for granted and tested to the limits. They may become bitter, destructive creatures. Those who are valued and appreciated, are very happy indeed. Rowling’s House Elves like to work and serve, for them it is not slavery, drudgery or in any way degrading. They take pride in their own natures.

So it should be for House Elf People.

I’m not that sort of House Elf who keeps a place perfectly neat, we’re all of us different, but keeping those around me happy, warm, fed and comfortable is something that has always mattered to me. When no one is looking, I can work at somewhat uncanny speeds. I can do the hours of chopping it takes to make big batches of pickles and marmalades, biscuits, fudge and cake. The smell of line-dried washing makes me happy.

There’s nothing like being taken for granted, or being treated like your efforts have no value, for making a House Elf Person miserable. (I’ve met others along the way and we definitely have this is common.) The other thing that demoralises, is finding that nothing is done with the time your elfing creates. To do the House Elf thing so that others can study, create, or do something else inherently beautiful and worthwhile is a reward in itself for a House Elf Person. It’s all about facilitating others. But when you find you are facilitating laziness, selfishness, wasteful carelessness and indifference, being inherently a House Elf, becomes miserable.

There was a time when women were trained to be just this kind of creature. It was expected of us. This was the kind of great woman you’d find behind great men, making it easier for them to follow their calling. The world has changed, thankfully. Women are no longer expected to be House Elves. As a consequence, you’ll only tend to find folk in this role because it is something that comes from their soul. A House Elf Person is as likely to be male as female, and may well be expressing it somewhere other than in the home. They’re in positions that enable them to help other people achieve.

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