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An Elf By Any Other Name . . .


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I think we would've seen elves more in line with folklore/faerytale depictions, like Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter and the Eddas. They'd be more magical and strange, probably a whole lot shorter.

I'm not sure anyone should ping on Tolkien here- I'm not sure elves would exist in most fantasy milieus without him setting the bar.

Early in their development, what would become the Noldor were referred to as gnomes by Tolkien, so it's not entirely outrageous...

Who are actually gnomes who lied on their birth certificates.
 

MoonSong

Rules-lawyering drama queen but not a munchkin
As someone guilty of this, let me explain myself. First of all, I wasn't out to replicate elves by another name. Don't get me wrong, I love elves. They are my favorite race in D&D, a close second/third in Magic and my favorite Yugioh card was an Elf, but I digress. I set out to make a setting that was human-centric with only variations of the idea of a human. I also set out to avoid using standard fantasy races -though angels/demons and living vampires made the cut-. One of these involved a fey-like trickster race that started as a mix of foxes as tricksters, cat people, and worldwide lycantropes and animal like shapeshifter myths and legends. The result was a gracile and lean race of people with pointy ears, magical inclination and a connection with the mystical and nature. At that point I had a very elf-like race so I admitted defeat and just went with "ok, they are elves by another name". but hey, at least I have some unique traits like them having a limited shapeshifting ability and a hand claw/talon attack they do with their fingernails...
 


Tonguez

A suffusion of yellow
I think we would've seen elves more in line with folklore/faerytale depictions, like Dunsany's The King of Elfland's Daughter and the Eddas. They'd be more magical and strange, probably a whole lot shorter.

Not necessarily shorter - theres still the the Arthurian Romances as a source of figures Like the Lady of the Lake and Queen Mab (even Morgana in some tellings), Shakespeares Titania, Oberon, Puck and of course the Tuatha DeDanann
 

That's true, the term "elf" was used very differently in ancient tales, sometimes interchangeably with "faery."

Not necessarily shorter - theres still the the Arthurian Romances as a source of figures Like the Lady of the Lake and Queen Mab (even Morgana in some tellings), Shakespeares Titania, Oberon, Puck and of course the Tuatha DeDanann
 


Not necessarily shorter - theres still the the Arthurian Romances as a source of figures Like the Lady of the Lake and Queen Mab (even Morgana in some tellings), Shakespeares Titania, Oberon, Puck and of course the Tuatha DeDanann
"The little people" and "the wee folk" are long standing Irish and Scottish descriptors for fae.

Shakespeare doesn't specify how big his fairies are, but they have often been portrayed by children, with the exception of the king and queen.

Then, lets not forget, size discrepancy is am major plot point in the movie Elf. :p
 

Thunderfoot

Adventurer
When I ran my 3/3.5 campaign everyone believed elves were just like they were in the book, the grand old race that had always been...
Until they found a hidden city state that had been separated by a magic protection spell to seal of an ancient dragon.. (oops) and some old religious text soon had an Elven civil war because...ta-da; They were transformed humans due to a gods boon. Yeah, I am a rat bastard DM.
 

"The little people" and "the wee folk" are long standing Irish and Scottish descriptors for fae.

Shakespeare doesn't specify how big his fairies are, but they have often been portrayed by children, with the exception of the king and queen.
"long standing" being a few hundred years. The ones we see in ancient Irish and Norse lore are almost all human size.

There's a gradual shrinking in early modern to modern folklore (reaching its apex in the Victorian period carrying over to Disney in the 20th century with Tinkerbell, though Flora, Fauna and Merryweather from Sleeping Beauty can shrink and grow to human size, like Shakespeare's fairies)) to seemingly disempower them or give a folk etymological explanation for why the Fair Folk/Good Neighbors/Gentry/People of the Hills can live in fairy mounds.
 

Ryujin

Legend
"long standing" being a few hundred years. The ones we see in ancient Irish and Norse lore are almost all human size.

There's a gradual shrinking in early modern to modern folklore (reaching its apex in the Victorian period carrying over to Disney in the 20th century with Tinkerbell, though Flora, Fauna and Merryweather from Sleeping Beauty can shrink and grow to human size, like Shakespeare's fairies)) to seemingly disempower them or give a folk etymological explanation for why the Fair Folk/Good Neighbors/Gentry/People of the Hills can live in fairy mounds.
Of even of exceptional height and beauty, as with those Fae Folk who would lure you 'under the hill' for a century or two, before booting you out on your lonesome.
 



Mercurius

Legend
The Tiste of Malazan are basically elves.

And then we have Talislanta, which I love, but has always advertised itself as having "No Elves," but has some elf-like races (e.g. the Cymrilians, Ariane, etc). But Talislanta is the ultimate "racial zoo," so not sure that is avoidable.

I think the Irish Tuatha de Danaan are probably the original inspiration for Tolkienian elves. They are a quasi-godlike race of beings from a fairer time who were pushed out by the Milesians (later men). The myths generally speak of the Tuatha entering the "fairy mounds" (sidhe) and some believe they became the Sidhe, which are a more direct correlation to elves.

So I think there's an archetype at play: a race of beings from an elder age, that were fairer, more noble - perhaps less "fallen" from the Golden Age. Of course the Tuatha are part of a lineage of humans, with many races arriving in Ireland over time: first the Nemedians, who fled the oncoming Great Flood, then the Partholons, who were descendants of Noah, etc. So we have a mixture of Christian and pagan myth. Some have also argued that the Tuatha--who supposedly came from the north--were from the lost land of Hyperborea, or possibly Atlantis.

Anyhow, my point being that there are the surface elements to compare to--like pointy ears (which there's some debate whether Tolkien's elves had pointy ears, sort of like the Balrog's wings), fair skin, etc--and then there's the archetype, of a supernatural race.
 
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Hriston

Dungeon Master of Middle-earth
The Tiste of Malazan are basically elves.

And then we have Talislanta, which I love, but has always advertised itself as having "No Elves," but has some elf-like races (e.g. the Cymrilians, Ariane, etc). But Talislanta is the ultimate "racial zoo," so not sure that is avoidable.

I think the Irish Tuatha de Danaan are probably the original inspiration for Tolkienian elves. They are a quasi-godlike race of beings from a fairer time who were pushed out by the Milesians (later men). The myths generally speak of the Tuatha enting the "fairy mounds" (sidhe) and some believe they became the Sidhe, which are a more direct correlation to elves.

So I think there's an archetype at play: a race of beings from an elder age, that were fairer, more noble - perhaps less "fallen" from the Golden Age. Of couse the Tuatha are part of a lineage of humans, with many races arriving in Ireland over time: first the Nemedians, who fled the oncoming Great Flood, then the Partholons, who were descendents of Noah, etc. So we have a mixture of Christian and pagan myth. Some have also argued that the Tuatha--who supposedly came from the north--were from the lost land of Hyperborea, or possibly Atlantis.

Anyhow, my point being that there are the surface elements to compare to--like pointy ears (which there's some debate whether Tolkien's elves had pointy ears, sort of like the Balrog's wings), fair skin, etc--and then there's the archetype, of a supernatural race.
Cf. Hesiod’s Five Ages of Man and the biblical Nephilim.
 

Mercurius

Legend
Cf. Hesiod’s Five Ages of Man and the biblical Nephilim.
Yes, exactly. Most mythologies have some kind of "golden age" and previous races, beings and ages, as well as seeing history as cyclic (we can add in the Indian yugas, which may be the source of Hesiod's view).
 

Thunderfoot

Adventurer
I've always wondered why Dwarves, being a mining race, would have axes? But then you realize that they were a Germanic myth and Germania was mostly forest. In 'reality' they would use picks amd hammers. So yeah, what you know.
 

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