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Who Are the High Elves?

When I first conceptualized SANYARE nearly two years ago, I made a fundamental choice about the universe my characters would live in: it would be based as much as possible on human mythology, but with a modern fantasy twist. I wanted to use familiar creatures and settings in a new way, combining legends and mythos from around the world to create a unique interpretation of the history of man, and bringing it forward into a contemporary epic.

As the rulers of the Upper Realm, the high elves are based on a combination of the norse Álfar and the celtic aes sídhe. They are a noble and long-lived race whose recorded history predates humanity.

Real-World Mythological Background

Elves first appeared in recorded history in ancient norse mythology, particularly in The Elder Edda and Prose Edda. In these myths, the elves (Álfar) are one of seven distinct races that each live on one of nine worlds attached to Yggdrasil, the world tree. According to the legend, the homeworld of the ljósálfar (light-elves) is Álfheim, and is commonly mapped above the human realm of Midgard.

In the middle ages, and with the influence of Christianity, elves became associated with illness and affliction. They took the blame for everything from hiccups to livestock deaths, and the term “elf-shot” was used for unexplained pain or illness.  The affliction (of course) could be cured with the sign of the cross.

It should also be noted that elves are fully capable of interbreeding with humans, and both sexes are known for taking human lovers. The offspring of these liaisons are fairer than regular humans, and sometimes inherit magical powers.

The aes sídhe (pronounced ee shee), meanwhile, are celtic constructs, probably based on the people inhabiting the British Isles prior to the invasion of the Gaels. Sometimes the aes sídhe are conflated with the Tuatha Dé Danann, the deities of Irish mythology. Some legends hold that the Gaels defeated the Tuatha Dé Danann, forcing them to retreat into the earthen mounds, called sídhe (note: more recent English texts use the name sídhe for both the mounds and the people), or into a parallel universe.

In folklore, the aes sídhe are also commonly called “The Fair Folk” or “The Gentry”, and care should be taken to avoid angering or insulting them. There are also distinct tribes of sidhe, each with its own king or queen and area of influence. The aes sídhe are said to be tall and noble in appearance, beautiful by any standard.

By the Elizabethan era, elves had been combined with the aes sídhe and other mythological creatures to become the fairies (aka: fae, fay, or faeries) of the British Isles.

Appearance

The high elves are an exceptionally tall race, well over six feet for both men and women. They are thin boned and slender, making them appear fragile, although they are far from it. They have very pale white skin that can sometimes shimmer or glisten in the right light, like pristine saltwater pearls or pale opals. Their eyes are similarly pale, ranging in color from soft gold to blue and rarely violet, and their hair color is usually blonde, ranging from bright white to sunny yellow. As with all of the sidhe races in SANYARE, the high elves have pointed ears, but they are not as pronounced as in the dark elves.

The high court prefers formal clothing — long silk gowns for women and traditional layered robes for men — except when hunting or fighting, when more practical attire is required. Even then, their outfits tend to be ornately embellished. They also prefer pale or metallic colors that accentuate their skin tone, eyes, or hair.

Magic

The High Court is the home of spirit magic; the ability to affect an individual’s energy and mood. As with all magical abilities, there are varying power levels and skill sets within the overall discipline of spirit magic. Generally speaking, the elves with the strongest magic are highest nobles in the hierarchy, usually sitting on the king’s counsel. Elves with weak magic tend to focus on other skill sets, often taking roles as skilled craftsmen or warriors.

  • Weak: Feel emotion in others, sense the energy level of a creature
  • Average: Influence emotion or energy level by heightening or dampening current state, heal minor wounds by increasing cellular energy & repair
  • Strong: Bend another’s will, control emotion by forcing another to be happy or sad or feel defeated, drain energy and absorb it into self, heal major wounds, even restart a heart within minutes of death

Politics

The high elves are the ruling class of the Upper Realm, led by King Othin from his palace in Silevren, the capital city. Following strict rules of etiquette, the court is severely formal, and social class and political hierarchy are paramount. The highest nobles serve on the King’s council, acting as advisors and toadies. Mid-level nobles may be large landowners or merchants. Lower nobles, like Rie’s wardens, serve the higher-class elves as skilled craftsmen or warriors. There is some movement amongst the classes of elves, however, as warriors who prove themselves in battle move up, or council members lose their favor with the king.

High Elf Characters in SANYARE

  • King Othin – the ruler of the high elves and the Upper Realm. He has a fierce temper and a long-standing feud with the Shadow Realm.
  • Curuthannor – Rie’s adoptive father and the chief guard and military general for King Othin. He secretly trained Rie to fight, even though educating changelings is frowned upon.
  • Lhéwen – Rie’s adoptive mother and a famous court seamstress. Unable to have children of her own (at least so far), she loves and treats Rie like a daughter.
  • Rolimdornoron – Nuriel’s boss in the High Court messenger service. Power hungry and self-righteous, he is nonetheless a mentor to Rie and has accepted her into the messengers, treating her the same as he does any of the lesser fae (which is to say, not particularly well, but better than most of the rest of the high court).
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One comment on “Who Are the High Elves?

  1. […] are the hidden backbone of High Elf society in the Upper Realm, serving the elves as house laborers and tending to the horses in the […]

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