Elves and their natures

So to speak.

I mean, so I ran across this essay about elves and Tolkien and sex and stuff.  While I know that Gary was not terribly keen about Tolkien elves, ever since the Lord of the Rings hit it big, it’s far too easy to fall into the assumption that elves in D&D are, well, what Tolkien thought they were.  Which is unfortunate, since we’ve got very different elves out there as potential models for our games, including those from The Broken Sword by Poul Anderson.

What do YOU do with elves?  Assume they’re all Tolkienesque?  (Let’s not get started on differences between the books and the movies…).

10 thoughts on “Elves and their natures

  1. Well, in my home campaign Elves are scary flesh eating militarists related to goblins and in my Google + game they don't exist but their class role is taken up by debauched elitists whose bloodlines are mixed with all variety of extra-planar nastiness.

    Elves qua elves I don't really have a use for these days – I mean would a Tolkien elf really join your average gang of murder hobos? I can see using Elfquest or Fairytale Elves in a game though.

  2. I'm influenced by a picture in the old 2ed AD&D books of an Elf king, decadently slouching on his throne. His attitude seems very like "Deslock" from the old cartoon "Star Blazers". That, and the almost gnarled looking elves in the Rankin-Bass Hobbit cartoon.

    Though my modern view of elves has them as being attractive by human standards, I've adopted pathfinder's "eyes without whites" convention and see them as being a bit more wild than the refined, serene nobility we see in Tolkien.

    I see their intelligence as being a little bit alien, and those large, vibrant eyes as like being stared at by a large cat. You *know* that elf is civilized and good aligned, but she still unnerves you, seeming to be either too attentive or not paying any attention at all. (Recent research indicates that we use the whites of eyes quite a lot when we're "reading faces", so if that's the case, Elves should see strangely inscrutable to humans.)

  3. Thanks for the link, Eric.

    I find myself running elves a bit like the Mystara elves. Smaller, interested in woods. I also use some Tolkien-Planescape-Spelljammer inspiration, thus they are travelers, sailors, interplanetary and interplanar explorers, first settlers, name givers, language teachers, immortals, strangers, first ones.

  4. All these responses, but especially the weird space traveler bit, are all the ways my elf depiction has trended. They also are beautiful at first glance, but get weirder and more unsettling to humans the longer the human regards them (Tilda Swinton is my base model here).

  5. See and I have a hard time with them when you read the descriptions in the handbooks each variety had/has it's own style and personality. Then if you are playing in a non DnD campaign you have to account for that game's rendition. Elves can be like 'Elves and the Shoemaker' kind of kin, or like Santa's Elves, then there are the decidedly darker elves, or the secretive and less known about varieties of like say Shannara. I guess I have just always taken them for what they were in the scenario and context in which I was presented them. The size has varied from less than an inch tall to over 10ft, and the other styles and personalities have varied just as much. An Elf in Everway could be anything you could imagine, but Bloodelves of Earthdawn are very much not the same realm of imagination as the elves of a similar name found in World of Warcraft. I like the idea of much more simple minded and meager meaned elves of European fairy tales. 🙂

  6. Interesting account, though I must admit the elves – while different in various details – do not seem all that different in overall "feel" from Tolkien's elves. I suspect I've just been over-exposed to a melange of various ideas about elves for so long I'm having a hard time distinguishing between various elvish tropes.

  7. I expected to find Tekumel discussion, not elves 🙂 My elves are inspired by The Broken Sword (which you mentioned) and Moorcock's Vadagh from the chronicles of Corum: godless, rational, distant from humanity and servants of Law. The other inspiration: fey, inhuman, amoral, xenophobic, engaged in an endless war (in my case with Leiber's Quarmallians) whose effects are only partly perceived by humans. My elves view humans as mere apes, and only the most enlightened would deign to interact with them. This makes multi-racial adventuring parties difficult and rare in my campaign. Cross-racial hybrids are possible (an artifact of my D&D days) but despised or at let distrusted by both races.

Comments are closed.