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Don't Eat With Your Mouth Full

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Eerie Ears and Pointless Points
When young I associated pointy ears primarily with Mr Spock - although I see that Bram Stoker describes Dracula's too as being "extremely pointed", and that's reflected in most portrayals (it must admitted that Dracula's ears have been overshadowed by his teeth). The spitefully spiky pine elves who were the most frightening denizens of my youthful Rupert annuals had pointy ears, I suppose, but then everything about them was pointy.

That elves have pointy ears is one of those things everyone knows, and Peter Jackson has probably helped spread the meme further (there's an interesting discussion here about how and whether Tolkien himself intended his elves' ears to be pointed); but where does the idea originate? Certainly you can see examples in the work of Arthur Rackham and Cicely Mary Barker - but what about earlier artists? And is it purely an artistic convention, or does it have literary corroboration?

Would the players have been gluing points to their ears for the first performance of A Midsummer Night's Dream?

And it's a useful reminder that - as someone else mentioned to me - the Devil's also in the pointy-eared mix (which may indeed be where Dracula got his from).

Yes! All those cloven hooves had to go somewhere.

I wonder whether there's a distinction to be made though between having animal ears (which tend after all to be pointier than human ones) and having ears that lack fur but are pointy nonetheless?

I think so; the former are now much less common in representations of elves or fairies, although they're doing fine in manga, anime, and generalized geek culture. I wonder if that was one of the conventions that changed over during the nineteenth century.

(I suspect Dracula's ears are also pointed because they're animalistic, wolfish. His eyes reflect red, inhumanly.)

I'd love to know whether the Chamberlain's Men took the goat-footed road for Puck.

How much information do we have on the costuming? This is pretty heavily out of my field.

I'd simply not taken in that Kipling's was snub-nosed, by the way. That gives him quite a different vibe.

Much more Panlike, to me.

How much information do we have on the costuming?

I don't think we have much. Henslowe's diary may give us a clue as to props. However, we do have Inigo Jones's sketches for Jonson's masque, Oberon (you'll need to scroll down a bit). No points to such ears as are on display - though I have to add that there are a few wings, apparently more for show than use.

Edited at 2015-02-14 09:55 pm (UTC)

However, we do have Inigo Jones's sketches for Jonson's masque, Oberon (you'll need to scroll down a bit).

Those are incredibly cool.

though I have to add that there are a few wings, apparently more for show than use.

Fair enough. I was blaming the Victorians for the butterfly-winged convention, but maybe they were just lifting it from Cupid and Psyche.