I got a kick out of Terry Pratchett's Discworld novel, Lords & Ladies. But -- I don't regard this as an untraditional view of elves, I regard it as a lot closer to the original image of the Fair Folk than Tolkien or twee coffeetable books about Gnomes and Fairies. The original Fair Ones were dangerous, unpredictable, selfish and dead mean. The reason you called them the Fair Folk was because they'd be bound to be offended if you called them what you really felt like calling them! The Morrigan was not a lady you wanted to meet up with on the road. Even the beings that did you favors had complicated and obscure rules that you could easily violate, leading to the extreme reversal of anything nice they'd done for you.
As Susan Court says, "Anyone can tell you that you'll find demons galore in a fairy tale."
Another novel with a less stereotyped view of the fairies/gnomes/unicorns/elves/etc. is The Goblin Mirror by C.J. Cherryh. (Link leads to reviews at Amazon.com)
Anybody else want to recommend a novel that contain an older and less charming view of elves/fairies/Other Folk?
Fantasies based on Non-European cultures
The medieval-like English-like country with magic that works like The Golden Bough describes it and magical creatures from Western European myth and folklore is so standard in fantasy that for some folks that is the definition of Fantasy and anything different has to be called by another label.
I like to actively seek out fantasies that are different. If you have some to recommend, please do.
Some of what I've found:
For sources: Mythology on the Web http://www.angelfire.com/mi/myth/
- Tomoe Gozen by Jessica Amanda Salmondsen
- The adventures of a female samurai in an alternate medieval Japan. I've known people who can't get past the premise ("There *were* no female samurai! This is *ridiculous*!") but if you can work with it, there's a lot of authentic Japanese myth and culture worked into the fantasy. And the account of Tomoe Gozen battling her way up out of Hell is permanently lodged in my mental file of Classic Scenes.
- There was a sequel, something like The Golden Naginata, which I tend to think of as "Tomoe Goes Out". I didn't like it as much.
- Vampire Junction (and sequels) by S.P. Somtow
- There may be people in the room who don't like vampire fiction. You may not like this series. Or you may -- the vampires aren't stereotyped, Somtow is a very strong writer, and he writes the kind of horror novel that confronts the human Shadow side and transcends it. (As distinct from the kind of horror novel that says, "There's something creeping up on you -- made you look!" or "Slash! Gore! Made you flinch!" or "We are at the mercy of unknown forces; Evil can come out of nowhere and overwhelm us at any random moment, and It will always come back.") And Somtow weaves in myths from Thailand.
- Roger Zelazny
- Please stop throwing the fruit until I have finished speaking.
- Thank you.
- Some of what Roger Zelazny has written is stereotyped and sometimes he has written on one idea long past where it ran out. Some other things he's written I love passionately and will remember forever. And he sure does have a heaping lot in the middle: I wish I was so prolific.
- Zelazny has often mined the myths of other cultures for his sf & fantasy: Egyptian (Creatures of Light and Darkness), Navajo (Eye of Cat), Norse (The Mask of Loki), original (Donnerjack),.. My favorite novel by Roger Zelazny is Lord of Light. It technically qualifies as sf, because there is a scientific explanation given for the fantasy elements. Stranded colonists on an alien planet create a culture based on the Hindu/Buddhist pantheon and worldview.
- (BTW: My favorite Zelazny short story is "A Rose for Ecclesiastes". This isn't really cross-cultural, except for the title.)
- You may resume throwing the fruit if you wish.
-  The Golden Bough, by Sir James Frazer, attempted to present an integrated picture of human cultures with all their myth, religion and folklore, and to lay out the axioms of Magic.
Thalia's Fantasy Directory