Guest Post: To Elf or Not to Elf

This is a guest post by Sabine A. Reed, the author of the The Demon Mages (Book 1 in The Power of Three series). Thanks, Sabine! Sabine also interviewed me on her blog.

Hi, My name is Sabine A. Reed. I am a fantasy author, and I have been in love with mythological creatures and fantasy writing since I began to read. Today, I want to talk about one of my favorite, most mysterious and often used creatures in writing – elves.

To Elf or not to elf; their role in fantasy

The origin of elves is not known. They were present in old English folklore, in Irish stories, Norse mythology, Scandinavian ballads, and in German poetry. Fantasy authors often use them synonymously with fairies but by far the most popular story that made elves a household name was The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien.

Tolkien’s elves

Although the elves played a central role in The Hobbit, they really came into their own in The Lord of the Rings (by J.R.R. Tolkien). Tolkien made them out to be this beautiful, divine race that was noble, elegant, brave and wise. They were a class above the humans, and helped and guided the heroes of that story, while at the same time, fought by their side with courage. The elves had their own language, and yet could understand and communicate with the humans.

After Tolkien, hundreds of fantasy authors, used elves in their stories. Terry Brooks (a fantasy author, Terry Brooks’ Books on Amazon) also had elves in many of his books, and although they were merely an extension of the race Tolkien had created, he made them central to his plot and gave them interesting skills. A lot of the fantasy authors gave elves magical powers and showed them to be connoisseur of beauty and art. They had pointy ears, and were often accomplished archers. Christopher Paolini is another fantasy author who uses elves in the same traditional ways, and they are shown to have magic powers. Many fantasy author and creators of games show elves as tiny, insect like creatures or child-sized beings that have elemental powers of earth, air, fire and water.

Dark Elves

In folklore, dark elves have existed always but it was only much later that fantasy authors and gamers began to cast them in the role of villains. In the popular Dungeons and Dragons fantasy game, dark elves appear as a dark-skinned race of elves.  Many authors create them as a race that can either help or harm humans, and although seldom is an elf cast as a main protagonist or antagonist, they are often strong and powerful characters who shape the plot of the story.

Overuse of Elves in Stories

Elves have been used so often in stories that most editors and agents dislike books, especially by debut fantasy authors, who have used elves in their stories. Pretty much the same with dwarves. Unless an author can give a really original twist, elves in stories are frowned upon. And yet, they remain one of the most popular races of supernatural creatures ever to dominate fantasy games and stories.

Do you have a favorite story or game that uses elves? What are your thoughts on the use of elves by authors and game-makers?

Guest Author:

Sabine A. Reed is the fantasy author of The Demon Mages (Book 1 of The Power of Three Series), and yes, she has earth and wood elves in her stories. You can find her on twitter, goodreads, linkedin and facebook.

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