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My Elves

Discussion in 'World Building' started by mc.joeyy, Apr 1, 2021.

  1. mc.joeyy

    mc.joeyy Dreamer

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    In planning and drafting my fantasy novel, I've come to learn that the elves found in my world aren't too much like elves traditionally found in fantasy. I wanted to know if this was a problem, and if they stray too far from their origins.

    Characteristics of my elves:
    -Have demonic ancestry (in my world this explains their affinity for magic; demon souls once were occupied elves and attract magic)
    -Have longer lives than humans, but not Immortal, and are not necessarily always objectively beautiful
    -Oppressed in world (after the theft of their magic by angry human agrarian revolutionaries, via a fusion of demon and man soul to steal magic)
    -Extra long ears, solid-colored eyes (diluted post-magic loss), and tails
    -Diversity in skin color
    -Typically live in tribes, until most were assimilated to human cultures
    -Blood has an addictive quality and also grants any consumers of it temporary magical abilities
    -Enchanting singers prior to magic loss; humans typically regard their voices as atrocious after
    -Live in a variety of habitats, including forest, water, mountains, tunnels/holes, and towns
    -Main character is an elf

    So that is them, sort of breaking away from the normal elves of fantasy but I thought this was a good idea, please anyone let me know what you think.
     
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  3. Lynea

    Lynea Sage

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    Ooh, they sound like demonic vampire elves. Just so you know, elf is like an umbrella term for many faerie based creatures- the 'traditional' elves you're probably picturing come from Tolkien, who borrowed from standard faerie lore. Many people borrow from lore and make their own twist on it, which is okay.

    I understand your concern though: when a reader sees the word 'elf' it's natural for them to expect a Tolkien-like elf, with long hair and fair skin. Perhaps you could come up with a name to put in front of your elf race. For example: high elf, wood elf, dark elf. Something to give your readers a better idea of your creatures and their abilities.
     
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  4. mc.joeyy

    mc.joeyy Dreamer

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    Individual elves have specific prefixes to their subrace, like merelves for the sea. But maybe I'll adjust some of the naming, or just keep them as they are and readers will have to deal with how not all elves have to be the same XD.
     
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  5. mc.joeyy

    mc.joeyy Dreamer

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    LOL actually yes a few varieties do have a lot of hair and skin-tone variations including unnatural tones like blue. Come to think of it, my mountain elves do look a little bit like the Nightcrawler, which honestly is kind of fitting...
     
  6. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Auror

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    Sound a bit like the elves from Dragon Age. At least the oppression and being overrun by humanity. Kind of with the ears, not so much with the tails. Blood magic too. Dipping back to beyond the fantasy origin is always good too. Horrifying trickster sorts. The longer ears can help with expressions a lot too.
     
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  7. Malise

    Malise Scribe

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    As a heads up, I'm a bit of a hardcore worldbuilding-realist, so an apology ahead of time if any of my suggestions would break the vibe of the genre of fantasy that you're writing in.

    - The longevity of elves should theoretically make them more technologically advanced than humans because longer lives mean that adults spend more of their life being productive, and that means that genius/talented elves would be more valuable than genius/talented humans. And it's acknowledged that those who have tech will always almost always oppress those who don't have tech. There's no reason why a race that has the potential to be more "wise" than their human competitors, would not use their wisdom to create objects to kill the humans that want to steal their magic. However, if the humans were recent immigrants to their land then that means that they never had to develop to survive, but that the same time you would pigeonhole yourself into a "New World Colonization" scenario which can be problematic if Elves = Indigenous people.

    I would've used the explanation that the elves never had access to metallurgy to justify their lack of human development, but that also means that they never developed neolithic farming which if the humans have but the elves don't, means that logically humans should have the longer lifespan because they have a more constant supply of food compared to the elves. Genetic disposition to longevity means nothing if the person can't feed themselves. I guess you can handwave that away by stating the elves don't have to eat as much to be as healthy as a human or that the surviving asslimated elves discovered that they lived longer than humans once they had a human-made supply of food. But then again, the humans can artificially starve them to the point that the elves don't know that they have the potential to live longer than humans.

    - Assimilation to human culture assumes that a genocide has happened if the majority are assimilated. It means that there are not enough elves to have a functioning society based on their cultural values, so they would have to live with humans to survive. It also means that most would be speaking the language of humans, that under 25% of the population is bilingual, and that no one exclusively speaks Elvish. This would also lead to Elves being sidelined to the sucky lands that humans don't want, creating a lack of opportunity, and the belief that being 'human' is superior to being 'elfish'. Also, it means that the Elves would have to marry and mate with humans, and have children that look and sound less elfish because assimilators will only tolerate minorities if they think that the minorities' differences could be diluted to the point it becomes a non-factor in their dominant society. If the elves can't breed with humans, then the humans would be only incentivized to kill elves, because elves don't contribute anything to the human race's own survival.

    - If Elf Blood is addictive, it opens a can of worms with their relationship with humans. For one, there's nothing stopping humans from farming them for their blood and justifying it by stating that they're just cattle due to their tails, "horrible voices" and lack of magic. And there's nothing stopping a society of humans from capturing survivors after a very likely genocide, to gain a total monopoly in the drug trade. The only humans that would be desperate enough to save Elves that they deemed as "ugly and worthless", would be a society that needs a form of money-making, because most people value dignity over money. However, if you want to know what a society primarily fueled by the drug trade looks like, it would be Afganistan. Also magic giving blood, would most definitely fuel a military-industrial complex, a concept that can get dark really fast.
     
    Last edited: Apr 1, 2021
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  8. mc.joeyy

    mc.joeyy Dreamer

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    I'll address your concerns here. I did consider some of these potential problems in planning, and I've come to some conclusions which may or may not deal with them.

    1. Yes the elves were generally more advanced technologically; the tribal lifestyle is more cultural than anything and not related to advancement. These humans were able to topple the previous elven-human unity government by use of ancient dark magic with a half-elf on their side (demon possession essentially) that stole the elves abilities. Plus they garnered enough support among humans to obliterate the weakened government, which was failing already due to a handful of political struggles. Another thing I'll address is that both humans and elves existed in the land for a roughly equal amount of time, and there's more on that.
    2. A purge of elves did happen after the revolution so there are still many elves left, and not all have assimilated, but there is a large number that have. Elves do not necessarily have to make with humans,and I guess what I meant by assimilation was actually not really living amongst humans just not living in their original habitats. Mostly they're still segregated with the exception of some areas. Elves can mate with humans, but there are still plenty that keep their families solely with elves.
    3. I should have specified more on this blood thing. Im still working it out, but a major element here is that there's some other stuff at work here. The elves did not naturally have addictive blood that granted powers this came about as a result of a poisoning and corruption of their being essentially. As I said, still working that out. But also, once this is observed in a few remaining "powered" elves, there pretty much is like a farming that happens. It's technically illegal because the new regime condemns use of magic as they praise it as sacred and not to be "corrupted" by mortals. The King is seen as the only one viable to possess magic. There is a character that pretty much has this idea that you're talking about with control over elf blood extraction and distribution.

    I'm not sure if that clears this up, and I certainly get your points, realism is truly something important to consider...I thank you for pointing out some of what you did cause a few things you mentioned I didn't think of in that way before.
     
  9. I would argue the otherL
    1. Long lives does not mean advanced technology-> In fact, one could argue exactly the opposite: Human technology (and society) advances only because the old people die and younger people come up to change and evolve what came before. Innovation is very much a younger generations game, and if elves re living for 1000 years and only having kids every 500 years, then development will be slow.

    There was a fun bit in one world I had, where the "deep elf" (aquatic but not those shallow water flighty types) and their tribe that had been in a dark trench plotting their revenge on the "surface world" for 400 years... so just 1 generation basically. meanwhile 400 years for the humans- the population had grown 10 fold and they had giant cities, ships, cannons, etc etc.... while the elves had basically done nothing and population had been stable.

    Which brings up the other thing: Having a huge and diverse population also makes advancement more probable- more people thinking, and experiencing different things= more chance for breakthroughs and developments. etc. if you have a million people then you have thousands that will be doing new things. if you have a thousand.. then you only have a handful. so...
     
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  10. mc.joeyy

    mc.joeyy Dreamer

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    I agree with this, actually. My elves don't even live as long when you think of it, like they probably have just like 20-50 years on the average human lifespan when they still had an affinity for magic...
    You're right, though. Long lives doesn't correlate to more advancement directly, and certainly not all of elven society would advance especially in my world where some elf societies are pretty isolated.
    Thats actually cool, I like that idea and aquatic elves are really fun to work with, my main character is part aquatic actually.
     
  11. yeah it was funny as he broke the surface, as the 'chosen one' to prepare for the deep ones return to glory.. and was like 'oh crap' .
     
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  12. mc.joeyy

    mc.joeyy Dreamer

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    XD that is funny, I feel bad for that one lol.
    Also is it reasonable to have a character with aquatic elf ancestry but also terrestrial and so has gills but can also survive out of water? Like a sort of dual-nature thing.
     
  13. Orc Knight

    Orc Knight Auror

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    Don't see why not. If real world nature can do it, an elf should be able to.
     
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  14. Prince of Spires

    Prince of Spires Archmage

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    This always makes me wonder, do you also have mer-humans and forest-humans? And if not, how are merelves different from forestelves? Often the distinction feels silly and only rarely are the elves actually different enough to warrant a different title (for instance, in the elder scroll series they are distinct enough).

    As for long-levity and technology, there is no one definitive answer you can give to this. In the end, most innovation comes from an outside force which pushes a group of people to innovate. It's why wars often give rapid technological advances compared to peaceful times. Or why we managed to get humans to the moon in 10 years but after that only progressed slowly. You can justify what your story and your world needs. If you want the elves more advanced, give them a longer peak-performance age (in humans we're at our peak between 25-40 or so because then we have the right mix of learning abilities, congnitive abilities and experience). If you want them less advanced, make them more traditional, or maybe they're just a newer race or come from a region with limited resources or they have a slaved based culture which means they have no need for certain types of labor saving inventions. Maybe they need a long time before they're mature enough to invent anything or maybe they only worry about magic and using your hands is looked down on or they keep their technology secret which means knowledge has a tendency to disappear when the inventor dies or maybe they just had a societal collapse (like the bronze age collapse) and are still recovering or maybe there's only a few of them (compared to humans).

    Of course, if you want them on equal footing, you could just have them trade a lot with the humans. Similar to how in our current world everyone is roughly on the same footing technology wise.
     
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  15. mc.joeyy

    mc.joeyy Dreamer

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    They're sort of equal with humans, but more traditional for sure. They trade with them but many elvish societies are quite protectionist or just oblivious to the affairs of humans or other elves.

    As for the distinction, I think I've decided there are marked differences between elf subtypes. Merelves have even a quite different appearance to wood elves and different languages, cultural traditions, uses of magic, survival requirements, etc.. Elf subtypes are adapted according to their environment, much like you'd find divergence among species of our world. Also, I do not have these specific classifications for humans, but there are some humans which are very different, such as the group which settled in a part of the land and actually had developed some other form of magic like the elves, and they begin to see divergence in terms of adaptability to habitats. The divergence is seen much faster in those with affinity for magic, given adaptability comes easier and augmentation may even be possible. So not really merhumans no XD.
     
  16. Chasejxyz

    Chasejxyz Inkling

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    Correct me if I'm wrong, but it seems like the elves weren't always demonic-y. in The Before Times, did they look very much like what we would normally consider elves? If so, then it would make sense to call them "elves" of some sort....but also they probably wouldn't just be called elves, maybe fel elves (felves?) or some other prefix/adjective to show what happened/seperate them from vanilla elves (ESPECIALLY so if the conversion was gradual and there were both kinds of elves running around at the same time). In WoW, there was one kind of elf (night elves, the purple ones), but a group broke off, did different magic, and changed physically, too (they look like more traditional elves). These high elves were almost entirely wiped out by the undead and they then changed their name to blood elves to remember that. No one really uses "elf" in the general to refer to both ofthem since they're so distinctly different now.

    For what it's worth, I wondered the same thing with my elves, since they wouldn't look physically similar in a lot of ways to what people would expect. But as the high elves are Really Pretentious and really into magic I felt that that was the most important aspect of what makes a high elf. It's like asking "what makes a bird? What level of birdiness is required? Is a penguin a bird? An ostrich?" My story mostly focuses on phoenixes, which take from various "firebird" mythologies from around the world along with Real Bird Stuff. The Greek/Egyptian phoenix reincarnates after death, the vermillion bird is the south/fire/summer, the fenghuang/ho-oh is fire/justice/fidelity/royalty/the marriage of yin/yang or male/female, or just the feminine in general (if paired with a dragon) etc etc. Mine are magic long-living birds that have strong connections to fire/the south/royalty/the sun. They immolate when they die but don't literally reincarnate (instead its a circle of life type situation), and I'm sure there's going to be someone who's going to be buttmad and say they're not REAL phoenixes because of that fact....but that's only a Greek/Egyptian thing. There's so many kinds of phoenixes throughout the world, like how there's so many kinds of vampires or zombies or elves. The Keebler Elves are elves but they're not super tall and hot. Your elves can very much still be elves even with all those differences.
     
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  17. mc.joeyy

    mc.joeyy Dreamer

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    That' cool, I like the sound of your elves. But to answer your question, my elves were actually MORE demonic in the past as they originated from demons; essentially the demons created shells to occupy and those eventually became elves once the demon souls deserted them, leaving them with magic, which the demons absorbed from the environment. So actually elves start resembling something closer to how we think of elves, but with features that are quite different. They can have regular skin tones you'd find in humans but with different undertones, and they have elongated features and larger solid-coured eyes that makes them appear almost as how we depict aliens, except their still closer to humans. They vary in their hair since some types have no body hair we'll others do. Pretty much over time they appeared less like demons and more like an elf-demon mix.
     
  18. ThinkerX

    ThinkerX Myth Weaver

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    There are groups on my worlds that consider elves 'demonic' - and they base this in part on the elves own origin story.

    Put simply, the elves on my worlds see themselves as spirits from another plane of existence bound to mortal bodies in a cycle of reincarnation. This situation came about as a result of biological/arcane meddling by the now mostly gone 'ancient aliens' (who also swiped a wide variety of lifeforms from other worlds and created the first wizards as assistants in their endeavors).

    The original elf bodies were humans - but the souls occupying those bodies didn't really 'fit.' Mind affected body, changing the bodies shape and abilities. Currently...well...elves can pass as humans if slightly disguised or in a dim space. They are about human height, maybe a tad shorter than the norm. Cat eyes, excellent night vision - and big pointed ears (excellent hearing). As a race, they are 'semi-telepathic' or 'empathic' - their language revolves around such. They can also empathically influence animals, read auras, and other mental tricks. This connectedness makes them intensely social; kin groups mean are paramount, though intrigue and even violence between these groups is not unknown. A solitary elf is considered 'damaged,' possibly even insane. Elves do not possess a written language of their own, though there are...artistic symbols that can serve a similar role (think traffic signs and emoji's). Instead, they use 'memory globes' (derived from the ancient aliens technology) that literally stores memories.

    Politically arrangements vary from hunter gatherer tribes to empires, with the default being 'tree-house city-states' ruled by 'royal' families that come from select groups of other families.

    The continual psychic activity in elven communities can be disorienting to humans and other races - they lose track of time, and do and say things they normally otherwise would not (fueling the charges of elves being demons). That elves often hold other races in disdain only amplifies this perception.

    Occasionally, groups of elves will attempt to 'break the cycle of reincarnation' that binds them to the mortal world though massive complicated rituals that have catastrophic effects (loss of life and property damage). (one of the books in my 'Empire' series revolves around such a ritual).

    Half elves are usually the offspring of one or another of the 'Fairy Queens' and their human paramour of the moment (or directly descended from such). They tend to be viewed with suspicion by both races, are more independent psychologically than elves, and much closer in appearance to humans. Most have a knack for magic.
     
  19. mc.joeyy

    mc.joeyy Dreamer

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    That is a really cool premise for elves, I like the origin story, similar to how mine did come from demons. My elves are pretty communal also and highly value interpersonal relationships, but in their decline become less connected to their social roots and develop into less-intimate creatures that have temporary mates and have a lower capacity for romantic/sexual love. Half elves in my story too are not well liked by either race (humans or elves) and sometimes they have magic but not always. Half elves appear like something closer to the classic Tolkien elves but there's definitely variation. Cool stuff :)
     
  20. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

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    As far as I'm concerned there are no rules for creatures that don't really exist.

    If in doubt, don't call them elves - call them something else. There was no such thing as hobbits before Tolkien (even though they sound suspiciously like gnomes to me).
     
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