Racial Bias: Elves
Last time, we discussed to blunt but beautiful badassery of the dwarf, but what would you say if I told you there is another race, just as equally badass, and entirely more mysterious. Today we set off to sylvan glades and sweeping cities of unparalleled beauty to take a look at the subtle awesomeness of the elf.
Long has the elf had the unfortunate stereotype of being an androgynous weakling, too aloof and flakey to be of any real value outside of wine making, bow making, and prancing about like a woodland sprite, all nimbly-bimbly through the trees.
Clearly, the people who buy into this stereotype have been watching r reading entirely the wrong sort of elf. Allow me to educate you on why elves are one of the most badass races ever.
The Legolas Comparison
When a lot of people hear badass and elf in the same sentence, they first ask if someone has misspoken. When it is clear they haven't, images of Legolas immediately appear in the minds of many. And why not? Those steely blue eyes, those golden locks, the ability to kill orcs like it was his job, Legolas has a lot going for him. He is often considered to be Middle-Earths blond, pointy eared murder machine.
Legolas became the standard by which all other elves would be judged. This only intensified after the release of the Lord of the Rings movies. Suddenly everyone and their mother was an elven ranger, running about with a bow, performing all manner of trick shots and stunts.
"Yeah. Like that."
But in all honesty, Legolas is really just slightly better than your average elven archer. If you want the real standard by which all other elves should be judged you need to dig a little deeper into Tolkien. The Professor cooked up many characters in his time fleshing out the world of Middle-Earth. Two, in particular, stand out head and shoulders above the others with levels of badassery that tread into dwarf territory.
Glorfindel was an elven warrior. He fought in many battles against the forces of darkness. He was even the guy that rode Frodo to Rivendell, to the house of Elrond. Not Arwym like Hollywood would have you believe.His crowning achievement, however, was a little more exciting than hobbit delivery. How about defeating a friggin' Balrog in single combat?! In case you don't remember what a Balrog is, take a gander below...
Yeah. Glorfindel took one of those out. For a clear idea of how beastly this is, it is like murdering a Balor in D&D or Pathfinder... solo. Yes, Glorfindel took out this demon from the first age by himself. Without being Gandalf. In fact, he was assisting some refugees in an escape when they were beset upon by one of these, so the fight was not planned. Still, he won. But as you remember from Gandalf's little encounter, Balrog's are sore losers. As the creature fell into the abyss below, it grabbed a handful of Glorfindel's famous golden locks and pulled him down to his death. So badass was this Balrog-slaying elf, however, that the powers that be restored him to life some time later as an envoy.
Basically, Gods said, "You are so hardcore, we would like you to represent us."
"Do not call me 'Goldilocks."
Fingolfin was an elven king. He was a pretty swell guy. Tried to do right by his people, proved himself to be a brave and capable warrior, easily likable. So he went ahead and challenged Melkor to single combat. If you are not familiar with Melkor's work, let me give you the cliff notes. Melkor is Sauron's boss. You know, the guy with The One Ring, that tried to take over Middle-Earth twice. Yeah, he answers to Melkor, who is basically a God. So Fingolfin challenged him to a fight. And no, it was not a rofl-stomp. It was a knock-down drag out slobber knocker that ended with Melkor's face being so horribly damaged he was forever in agony (no joke), and his leg getting cut so bad he walked with a limp from that day on.
Just to recap, and elf... just an elf, eternally damaged a God. Sure, Melkor eventually defeated Fingolfin but don't let that diminish the accomplishment. Suddenly killing a couple hundred orcs doesn't seem like such a big deal.
"Balls of mithril."
Scholars And Nature Enthusiasts
Elves are often depicted in most role-playing games as graceful, frail creatures of unearthly beauty and prodigious wisdom. It is a bizarre sight to see an elf that doesn't have their crap together, one that is slovenly, or one that issued forth a stream of profanity. That is to say, there are certainly elves somewhere that indulge in this sort of behavior, but it is so far off the benchmark that just feels alien.
The fair folk are usually broken down into two predominate races; high elves, the scholars and producers of arcane knowledge, and wood elves, who have an almost symbiotic relationship with their natural surroundings.
The high elves are what many consider being the epitome of the elf. Their features are fine, their skin is fair, and they carry an air of aloofness about them, boarding on snobbishness. This general attitude, though annoying to many, is usually deserved, especially in those elves who have already lived for a long time. They have genius level intellect and ponder existential quandaries and how to better fold the fabrics of reality to their will. And that's the sort of crap they think about at the breakfast table. After that they get serious.
An elven archmage ain't nothin' to screw with, yo!
"Run along before I transform you into a tree with dutch elm disease."
High elves live alongside nature, as they can feel the bond with the world around them that their woodland brethren do. They fashion towns and cities from white stone with towers and spires that stretch towards the sky, like slender arrows. They typically incorporate a floral motif into their architecture, giving windows, doors, and even whole structures the look of leaves.
"As proof here, high elves do not believe in doing anything over the top."
The elves of the forest on the other hand
Elves: The Silent Killer
See that forest? How many elves do you think are lurking in there right now, ready to unleash enough arrows to make you look like the world's most unfortunate voodoo doll? If you answer is anything but "All the elves", you are probably already dead.
Elves aren't just naturally light in frame, but light in foot. Almost supernaturally so. They walk with such unnatural quiet that it is almost impossible for those without the keenest ears to hear them moving at all, and that is before they try to get sneaky.
"Can you honestly look at this picture and NOT want to roll an elf?"
Elves stalk through dense forests with perfect stealth and strike down enemies with surgical precision before vanishing back into brush like a shadow. Basically, those long eared, somewhat androgynous folks that everyone keeps making fun of are essentially ye olde commandos. They are the Navy Seals of the fantasy genre, ghosting in, murdering someone quietly, and disappearing only to do it again seconds later. A trained elven death squad of about five or six members could take out a small army on their own. Remember that next time you make fun of anyone playing an elf.
"Elven peekaboo is not a children's game."
A Peaceful People Bred For War
Elves tend to live harmoniously with those around them. They are widely considered to be one of the most peaceful races around. With their calm, cool demeanor it is hard to imagine elves as anything else. However. beneath that serene exterior is a race born and bred to wage war.
"Shhh. I was never here."
Remember that elves almost always have a racial proficiency with longswords, short sword, longbows, and shortbows. Everyone has this proficiency, even those whose areas of study involve no martial weapons training, like wizards, druids, and even monks. Since many of these areas of study require indoctrination at a young age, it is made frighteningly clear why the entire race is so well versed with these weapons.
From the time when they are children, and able to hold a sword, they are taught how to kill... effectively.
But why, you might ask. Elves are such a peaceful people. What enemies could they possibly have that would prompt them to want to transform children into death machines?
I'm glad you asked.
The foes that face the elves on a daily basis are not the types of enemies to be taken lightly by any race. Their propensity to live in verdant surroundings sometimes puts them at odds with creatures that share the same blood. The enigmatic and chaotic to the bone fae. Sure, some fae can be delightful, even cheeky, but most are as quick to slaughter everyone you know as they are to make you a sandwich. Most, of not all fae, are inherently magical in nature and command a startling amount of power, especially those who rule over fae courts, who in their home realms are practically Gods. And with gates into the realm of fae being practically anywhere in a forest, the chances of accidentally "intruding" in their lands is significant.
"So... you come to this woodland glade often?"
Most fae are simply tricky, though those simple tricks can often lead to death, like those lured into a placid pond by a water nymph suddenly meeting a soggy end. Fae are just about everywhere, they can strike at any time, and while many races consider them to be jolly pests, elves know the horrifying truth. No wonder they train their children to fight.
But it is not all sunshine and daisies when it comes to enemies. One of the elves most ancient foes is one they share with the dwarves; the brutal and savage Orcs. While dwarves have strength and a hardy constitution which stacks up pretty well against the orcs' natural tendencies to hit hard and not die, elves are at a handicap. Their bodies are frail and their limbs lack bulging corded muscles. Yet elves have stood against orcish hordes for thousands of years, laying waste to them with ruthless efficiency. While the orcs are content to fight with overwhelming force and numbers, elves play it smart. Their chaotic natures help them think like an orc might, and counter that thought process with a sound strategy.
But what happens when the enemy thinks the same way and wears the same face, albeit a bit darker? If the elves had a mortal enemy, it would be their subterranean brethren, the drow. The origins of the dark elves vary from setting to setting, but typically it breaks down like this. The creatures who became the drow found themselves at odds with the rest of elven kind and ended up in the Underdark/Shadow Lands. There they revered evil forces of chaos and created an oppressive matriarchy.
The drow has every advantage as the elves, with the added bonus of lacking the morality and general good nature of their surface-dwelling kin. Drow incursions on elven lands are brutal campaigns met with heavy losses on both sides, until either the drow retreat back down below to regroup or the elves flee their homes, surrendering them to the dark elves.
Drow can strike at any time, from any place. The only real advantage the surface dwelling elves have over their ebon-skinned kin is the dark elves' weakness in the sunlight. But that is only keeping them at bay for half the day, and nights can be long.
If It Can Be Done, Elves Will Do It Better
If elves have a singular talent that stands out above any other, it is that they can do whatever you can do better. This has garnered a lot of scorn for the fair folk. Nevertheless, they excel at excelling. If a human fighter is good with a sword, an elf is a master with it. If there is a spell worth learning, an elf has already learned it and can shape it to do just about everything short of tieing their boots (though they are probably working on that metamagic as we speak).
Names That Sound Like Cursive Looks
Elven names are as fun to say as they are to look at. Elven script is usually depicted as a sweeping series of delicate curves, and somehow they managed to get their names to sound the same way their writing appears.
"For a good time, summon Silliel."
With names like Anariel Illanonlethyrian, Molonym Dorsatra, Iyrandrar Erneiros and Kethryllia Yllasalor it is easy to get a little jealous. Sure, when translated the surnames end up being things like Moonglade, Oakshadow, and Rainmedow, which brings all kinds of criticisms, but when you can cast high magic, beat down drow like a boss, and can still peg someone from half a mile away with a longbow, you can afford to let folks laugh.
You're going to outlive them anyway.
Did I mention that they live forever? Well, practically forever. Depending on what source you got through they either live to be about 400 years old or are just outright immortal (barring illness, fatal injuries, or a bad night at Chipotle). What most folks don't realize though is that an elf reaches adulthood at 110. That means that your average elf must suffer an awkward adolescence of roughly 44 years! If you thought puberty sucked for you, imagine doing it for four friggin decades.
Whatsmore, they come out of it well adjusted and looking fabulous, if not a little flighty. But if you spend 44 years listening to The Cure, you would be too.
"No one understands me."
Elves are fun, badass creatures of mystery that get to conduct themselves with a well-deserved ego. If you want to play an agile bamf (Google it) that excels at being alive, then I highly suggest to you the enigmatic elf, in any incarnation.
Roll well, me friends,
+Ed The Bard
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