Meet Gelf

Giggling gelf

When I first decided to invite Gelf the Elf to be my ‘research assistant’, I had no idea of the phenomenon she would become. I had initially envisaged that she might function as a kind of mascot for my research, thinking that she might come in especially handy when explaining and generating my research with children. However, what I had not anticipated was the magic she would herself create…

Like many Christmas elves, when Gelf first arrived with me, it was her very first time away from the North Pole. She was little bit nervous, but very excited to meet lots of children and grown-ups and to find out more about what Christmas meant to them. Like me, she had lots of questions and was really curious to know what it feels like to celebrate Christmas in Britain. 

This is the story of how Gelf came to be my research assistant for this project:

Once upon a time, there was a little elf, named Gelf.

She dreamed and dreamed that one day she’d arrive on a little girl’s shelf.

A happier little Christmas elf the North Pole had never seen.

She loved to play with snowflakes, and paint toys with extra sheen.

Christmas after Christmas, she displayed bounteous Christmas mirth,Gelf on Globe

But sadly Father Christmas somehow failed to see her worth.

Last Christmas though was different.

Gelf decided then and there;

If Christmas magic was to spread,

She’d have to visit anthropologists instead.

 So a shelf she did arrive on,

But not a little girl’s.

As by now you may have guessed,

She decided mine would be the best.

So true to the story, Gelf made her long journey from the North Pole to the North East. Soon after arriving here, she joined me at Durham University as my research assistant and has travelled around with me ever since, helping me to document all our adventures, reminding me of the true spirit of things, and ever injecting a bit of magic in the process. She has in this sense become something of an embodied reflexive metaphor for the performance of our research, breaking down the boundaries between subject and object, insider and outsider, and indeed between the field and my desk! 

When she’s not studying Christmas….

Gelf enjoys giggling, painting new toys, chasing magic dust, playing with snowflakes, wrapping presents, dancing with her friends, reading stories, snowball fights, making occasional mischief and generally spreading Christmas cheer.

Real Magic GelfLike many elves, Gelf loves receiving letters. If you would like to write Gelf a message, you can:

Leave a message in the comment box below

Tweet her @MyElfGelf

Email us at 

Meanwhile, some of Gelf’s friends and family can be found at or followed on @elfforchristmas 

1 thought on “Meet Gelf

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