My first introduction to the Tolkien-like elves was when i was in High School. I was a new kid, but got invited to play Dungeons and Dragons. The first time i played i had never even heard of an Elf or a Dwarf, let alone Lord of the Rings. As a matter a fact, i was just a social oddity and not the proud geek writing before you today.
My first impression was one of mystery. Dwarves came across as gruff, grumpy, and loved Beer - no, nope. Gnomes, please. Halflings, well, they seemed small, timid. Orcs (well, players could play a half-breed version), were uncouth, rude, and barbaric. Elves on the other hand came across as elegant, sleek, stealthy. My new friends tolerated the tons of questions i threw at them. Eventually the 'threw' Tolkien back at me and encouraged me to read it. Being my slothful self, i didn't (not yet anyway). I continued to ask questions about them, etc. Then as my interests drifted to other games, etc. i tried other slants, other races, but with only a few exceptions, i found myself always coming back to play elves.
Since then, i have continued to read about various 'incarnations' of Elves - almost exclusively of the Tolkien-like variety. Fairies and sprites type 'elves' interest me very little. I am thankful for elves because of their longevity, their apparent immortality, their love of music and desire to study whatever catches their fancy with complete focus, and when they have learned all they desire on that subject they look for something else. And i like their desire to be a peaceful race (in general), but if it comes to it, they are capable of defending themselves and their friends admirably.
All of this is fantasy of course, but just like most of the heroes of old, they are but legend, flights of fancy. I am thankful that Elves lift my thoughts above the drudgery of the mundane and give me something to aspire to, if nothing more than an in a general sort of way because, obviously, i will ever yet be human.