The Elven Subraces
Ivy Divider

There are many different worlds on which Elves exist. Consequently, there are many different and varied races of Elves, each with their own philosophies, appearance, and societies. There are six "standard" subgroups of elves: Aquatic, Dark or Drow, Grey, High, Sylvan, and Half-elves. First we will discuss the standard subgroups, and then give a world by world view of Elves as we know them.

Aquatic Elves:
Also called sea elves, these ocean-dwellers patrol the deeps, holding court beneath the waves. Aquatic elves have gill slits much like fish, and can survive out of the water for a short time by breathing. Their skin is typically silver-green, and their hair is also green or bluish green. These elves play an important part in the underwater ecology, keeping the waters safe for inhabitants. They hate sharks intensely and organize hunts against this menace. Sea elves commonly travel with elven ships, defending those on board from attacks beneath the waves. Aquatic elves are feared by pirates and those who would prey on elven craft.

Aquatic elf society consists mainly of those sea elves who dwell within a five-mile area. There is a titular king or queen to whom they pay homage, but has no real power over daily life. Sea elves live as they please, coming together under a ruler only in times of underwater emergency or great trouble for the world in general. The lords and ladies of the ocean cities escort visitors and conduct trade, while the rest of the population are artists, hunters and farmers. These elves have cities of living coral, supplemented with glittering crystal domes.

Dark Elves (Drow):
The Underdark is the home of these evil cousins of the surface elves. The drow are reputedly as wide-spread as the other subraces of elves, perhaps even more so. No one knows exactly how far the underground holdings of the dark elves extend. They are also well known for having a certain grasp on interdimensional magic, for they use it to travel long distances. They hate the light, and have researched ways to travel while avoiding the sun, which is an anathema to them. Drow are typically shorter than other elves. They all have white hair, glowing red eyes and black skin. In all other respects, save their height and coloring, they resemble their above-ground cousins.

Drow craftsmenship is truly a marvel to behold, wrought with strange and intricate designs. Their works are unstable however, and will disintegrate over time when away from the radiation of the Underdark.

Drow society is matriarchal, with the female drow holding power. Male drow are intrusted with the relatively unimportant jobs of swordplay and some sorcery. The females on the other hand, command the important positions in drow society. They are priestesses of the dark goddess Lolth, Demon Queen of Spiders.

The drow are rigidly class-structured and divided. A drow can advance in her caste, but cannot advance beyond it. When one seeks advancement, it is usually done through death.

Grey Elves:
The most noble and reclusive of the gentle race are the grey elves. They see themselves as the protectors of good in the world, but will stir from their mountains and meadows only when faced with a great evil. Grey elves act much like human knights, supercilious and condscending, full of their own importance. They think nothing about speaking their own minds, and are often haughty, disdaining contact with most others, including all other elves save grey elves.

When arming for battle, they don shimmering suits of elven-made plate or chainmail, and protect their heads with distinctive winged helms. Mounted warriors ride gryphons or hippogriffs into battle, swooping down on the enemy with dreadful perfection.

Taller and more slender than other elves, grey elves typically have silver hair and amber eyes, some rarer elves have golden hair and violet eyes and are often known as 'faerie', and are probably those who made first-contact with humans.

Grey elves disguise the entrances to their mountains and meadows with powerful magic, ensuring that only elves, or those familiar with the elven dweomer, are allowed access to their retreats.

High Elves:
The most commonly seen of all elves, the high elves are also the most open and friendly. They are also the most adventurous of elves, and have no conpunction about exploring the world outside their homelands.

At first, high elves may seem aloof and arrogant, but with little effort, a glimmer of true self can be learned. High elves know the value of friendship and alliance with other good races of the world. Trust is hard-earned however, thus, although they serve the cause of good, one can never be sure what the reception from them will be.

High elves are very pale. Their skin does not tan and is the color of new cream. Their hair and eyes fall into two main categories. Those with blond hair and blue eyes, and another equally numerous variation with dark hair, ranging from brown to sheerest black, and intense green eyes.

High elves do not place a great deal of value on society, preferring instead to live as they wish, not as someone tells them to. They live in a constant relationship with nature, never taking more than they need, and giving back ever more.

Sylvan Elves:
Although wood elves are descended from the same stock as the other elves, they are far more primitive than their kin. Sylvan elves, by their very nature, seem more prone to violence than their civilized cousins. Their muscles are larger, their complexions more florid. They have yellow to coppery-red hair, which contrasts with their lightly tanned skin. Their eyes are generally light brown, although bright green is not uncommon.

Wood Elves do not care about the proceedings in the outer world; only when such acts imapact their realm do the wood elves take interest. Even then, that interest is only in removing the nuisance and in returning to the wildlands as quickly as possible. Only other elves can break their solitude without suffering potential death.

Half Elves:
Although not properly elves, half-elves are included here because they do possess elven ancestry. There are rare exceptions, but most half-elves are also predominantly half human. Elven genes cannot typically cross with anything other that human genes. Most half-elves are of high elf descent, though again, there are always exceptions.

Half-elves are not readily accepted into either elf or human communities. They often become introverted, sullen, and embittered. Largely, it is a matter of the half-elf in question and the society with which he or she deals. They are never accepted into grey elf society, for half elves are a reminder of all that the grey elves wish to eliminate.

Since they are human and elven both in demeanor, they are easily recognizable as such. They are taller and heavier than the average elf, though their hair and eyes often reflect those of the human parent. In all cases they will still have the pointed ears and angular features of the elven parent.

Peruse the listing of the main Elven Subgroups,
or take a look at Elves of Oerth (Greyhawk),
Toril (Forgotten Realms),
Krynn (Dragonlance),
or Middle Earth (JRR Tolkien).

Back Do not be afraid to join the Circle Next