In Thor - the Dark World Malekith is the leader of the Dark Elves. The film obviously derives from the Marvel universe.

I also play a lot of tabletop wargames and I know Malekith is also a character there (also leading armies of Dark Elves in a fantasy setting). I'm curious as to the history of the name, character and the dark elf race.

It seems highly unlikely to me that two different companies would create such a similar character and race with the same names independently. However both Marvel and Games Workshop proactively protect their trademarks and copyrights.

How was the race of Dark Elves originally created and how was Malekith devised? Are there any references in other works of fiction such as Tolkien?

  • 1
    More likely that it both derives from Norse mythology (from which most of nowadays' classic high fantasy races derive anyway). Though, the dark elves from Norse mythology are rather dwarves than the evil elves from the movie/comic.
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 14:09
  • 1
    There were actually dark elves and light elves in Norse mythology - although it is interesting to note that it was the light elves that had the white skin, opposed to the dark elves' 'pitch black' skin. It seems the Marvel creative team (going back to Lee et al in 1984) reversed this. There is no mention of Malekith in Norse mythology that I have found as of yet.
    – Nobby
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 14:18
  • BTW - Christian is also correct when he states that they might actually have been dwarves, due to their subterranean dwellings.
    – Nobby
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 14:20
  • @Nobby I can see why they didn't want all the black skinned characters to be evil... could be frowned upon!
    – Liath
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 15:02
  • @Nobby It seems it isn't completely clear and there are differing theories among experts if the Svartálfar from Norse mythology referred to dwarfs or dark elves (or both).
    – Napoleon Wilson
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 17:47

7 Answers 7


According to Norse Mythology, the Elves were inhabitants of Aelfar, which was ruled by Freyr. They were given to Freyr in payment for losing a tooth, as referenced by one of the Eddas. Other than a couple of names of leaders, there isn't much actual Norse mythology built around the elves, much of that came later.

The dwarves were said to be formed from maggots that ate from the giant Ymir, and the first two were Durin and Modsognir. One early descendant is named Lofar, and part of his lineage is Dvalin, who is a leader of the dwarves.

One race of dwarves is known as svaltarfar, or "black elves". Additionally, one character in the folklore is named Volund (From the eddaic Volundarkvida), or Wayland in English, and is known as Lord of the Elves, but he was a master smith/craftsman, which is more attributed to the dwarven races.


I would postulate that Malekith is a made up name, as the "th" sound and combination of letters is actually very rare in Old Norse naming conventions. Even "Thor" is more an Anglicization pronunciation than the actual original spelling. Frith is more accurately Fnor in Old Norse, etc.

As far as the etiology, Male = male, kith = familiar, friends. It may also be an adaptation of Malachi, or Mal'akhi (Old Hebrew) who was one of the twelve minor prophets of the Old Testament.

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    Solid answer, John. I know that Malekith first appeared in '84 in the comics - was the name around before that in D&D?
    – Nobby
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 16:19
  • 1
    @Nobby - Not that I remember, and I was a pretty avid D&D player in high school. I did find the noted Warhammer reference as the Witch King of Naggaroth, and I found one reference to an appearance in Might and Magic III (1991) as a minotaur sorcerer: mightandmagic.wikia.com/wiki/Malekith but those are the only references I can find.
    – JohnP
    Commented Nov 20, 2013 at 16:35
  • It's unlikely that they all made up the exact same name. There must be an origin to identify, possibly one of them, or something else.
    – OrangeDog
    Commented Sep 16, 2020 at 7:49
  • Or an adaptation of Moluch. Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 23:24

Malekith is not from Male but Maleficum = Crime, something bad and Kith means friendship, relation also knowledge. Malekith is a man related to crime. A bad friend. And this is what he does, he sacrifices his friend and his whole race.

  • 6
    I'd actually go with "mal = bad, evil", e.g. malign, malevolent, malice, malfunction... and of course the famous Disney character Maleficent, the "Mistress of all Evil".
    – Oliver_C
    Commented Jan 2, 2014 at 18:40
  • @Oliver_C What about Malfurion? Commented Sep 14, 2023 at 23:25

Just to sum it up:

The Marvel Malekith has first appeared in 1984 in Thor #344. The Warhammer Malekith was first mentioned in the High Elves Army book in 1992, but he wasn't fully fleshed until 1995, when the Dark Elves Army book came out.

As previously mentioned, his name is composed from the latin/spanish "Mal" - bad, evil; and old English/Germanic "kith" - friends, relations.

But anecdotal evidence suggests that Walt Simmons - the author of the Marvel's Malekith - knew only about the first part of the word (Mal) and just wanted to add something "cool in celtic".

Source: Metafilter


In my language (Italian, which is probably the closest to Latin) Malekith sounds like evil, and there is no other possible meaning.

Another example: in the old TV series Ghostbusters, the villain Prime Evil has been translated as Malefix, which sounds very similar to Malekith.


As an aside, even though the name is fictional "th" is actually common in Old Norse, despite the claims of a previous poster who is probably thinking of modern Nordic languages in Scandinavia (though not for instance Iceland which still features the sound). Thor was in fact pronounced much like the Modern Standard English form albeit with a pronounced "r" unlike most forms of English outside North America. Odin was likewise Óðinn and a better anglicisation would probably be Othinn rather than Odin, the "ð" being a "th" sound and not a "d".

If Malekith was a Norse name I'd guess it would have to mean something like "young goat who grinds" or "grinding-kid" with the elements "mala" ("grinds, purrs") and "kið" ("kid", in the sense of "juvenile goat").

As has been said I think the Marvel comic Malekith is the older of the two but it is unknown how intentional it was for Games Workshop to copy Marvel. Did they think it was a Norse Mythological name? Was it subconcious? Who knows?


I’ve been investigating and found two options.

  1. The dark elves, in norse mythology are called Svartálfar or Myrkálfar (the pronunciation in icelandic being something like “Mishkalath”, that means “dark calf”).
  2. Moloch, the biblical name of a deity asociated with child sacrifices. The interesting thing here is that “Moloch” in hebrew is pronounced “malaj”, that means “king”. Related to the word “malaj” is “malejt” in hebrew, which means “you ruled”.

I believe it is a deformation of this words or the pronunciation of them in english.


I think that also in some languages maleika or malaika ( I'm not sure about the spelling) means angel. Maybe Malekith means dark angel. The -ith sounds like Sith to me, there must be a relationship of some kind given that both the Sith and the dark elves are dark beings, so it might mean Friend of evil or something.

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