I believe the sages over in the library (unless TAG forgot to post that section) say that there really aren’t elementals per se…it’s really weird, it’s more like there is an elemental impetus that somehow corresponds to the elementals. I.e. there aren’t “intelligent” elementals because that would require spirit or animus to create life, and thus would not be pure.
However, many philosophers and animages argue that while there is no elemental intelligence, there is a “force” or inherent nature in each of the elements. Fire is rage/destruction/cleansing rebirth for example. (See Astrology)
When you combine “spirit” the fifth element, with one of the other four, by some means, you would get an elemental.
This doesn’t happen in nature, normally.
However, the highest/greatest Animasters can transmute their physical/planes of men form into a single element as an “elemental body” Basically it’s a physical body on the Planes of Men composed of a single element and the consciousness of the Animage.
This is what Maelen refers to as a “Living Elemental” on the boat, when Tom flames up to attack the Oorstemothians.
Elementals, so to speak aren’t alive, they aren’t sentient. Only when combined with spirit do you get an elemental being. I.e. “A Living Elemental”