Atlas Rules Resources Adventures Stories FAQ Search Links
Elven Ethnicities: canon sourcesby Simone Neri
Time ago, in an attempt to define elven ethnicities, I gathered a great number of canon sources about the different appearances of elven characters, and the description of some elven "races" featured in the books. I think these reference could be useful to define some elven "branches" with common ancestry. However, note that I'm not aiming to define different elven races in rule (or AD&D) terms; my aim is to clarify elven history's issues, most of which already appeared in Chimpman' other threads about elven migrations and history.
First, I'll list canon reference, then my conclusions. I've omitted any reference to the Aquarendi, because we already know them to be a very different race of elves.
I'll divide the references between the various clans, or "races", or locations, known by canon:
* An elf is slender and graceful, with delicate features and pointed ears. An elf is 5 to 5½ feet [1,52-1,68 m] tall, and weighs about 120 pounds [54 kg]. [D&D Basic Set, Players Manual, p. 46]
* Elves live naturally to between 600 and 800 years old. A very few have reached 1000 years old; and more have died of disease or violent deaths before their 600th birthday. Elves take about 20 years to grow to full size, then have a free-spirited “adolescence” of about 80 years. [GAZ5, p. 11]
* Aithne stands 5’2’’ [1,58 m], weighs 101 lbs. [46 kg], and wears her dark red hair free down to her waist. [AC1, p. 20]
* He is of uncertain age and has pale blond hair and a small beard. [AC1, p. 20]
* Blaise is golden-blond and clean-shaven. [AC1, p. 20]
* Cathal stands 5’4’’ [1,63 m] and weighs 123 lbs. [56 kg]. He has light brown hair and wears a small moustache and beard. [AC1, p. 21]
* Dathi’s hair is blond streaked with silver, and his moustache hangs below his mouth. [AC1, p. 20]
* Elspeth stands 5’0’’ [1,52 m] and weighs 103 lbs. [47 kg]. Her hair is light brown… [AC1, p. 21]
* Juno stands 5’9’’ [1,75 m] (very tall for an elf) and weighs 120 lbs. [54 kg]. She wears her blond hair long… [AC1, p. 21]
* Lachlan stands 5’5’’ [1,65 m] and weighs 135 lbs. [61 kg]. He is so fair that his hair is almost white-blond, and his grey eyes almost colourless. [AC1, p. 22]
* She is a slender, attractive brunette… [AC1, p. 22]
* Rorie stands 5’8’’ [1,73 m] and weighs 152 lbs. [69 kg]. His red hair and beard are neatly trimmed… [AC1, p. 22]
* Torquil stands 5’6’’ [1,68 m] and weighs 133 lbs. [60 kg]. [AC1, p. 22]
* A silver-haired maiden named Fairleaf… [AC10, p. 21]
* Medriev stands 5’6’’ [1,68 m] tall and weighs 125 lbs. [57 kg]. His hair is blond, streaked with silver. [B8, p. 18]
* The Alfheim refugees [Chossum, Erendyl, Red Arrow] tend to have fair skin and blond, light brunette, or white hair. [K:KoA]
* Unlike most Chossum elves, Carlisan is fair, with light coloured hair and no facial hair. [GAZ5, p. 42]
* Lynnwyll is black-bearded and relatively short for an elf, about 5’2’’ [1,58 m]. He is obviously strong and a bit portly for an elf – about 145 lbs. [66 kg].
* Despite his age of over 400 years old, Sharlikran looks like a young man. Like most Chossum elves, he has dark hair, which he wears long. He usually has a moustache… [GAZ5, p. 60]
* Shalander is 5’4’’ [1,63 m] and strongly built for an elf, with light brown hair and eyes and handsome features. [GAZ1, p. 48]
* Galladin appears as a middle-aged elf, with a slight tan complexion, silver white hair and a neatly trimmed beard. [GAZ3, p. 31]
* Brendian is an old elf, approaching 800 years old. Her face has a few wrinkles and her hair is a lovely silver grey. [GAZ5, p. 41]
* Doriath is and average-sized elf, about 5’5’’ [1,65 m] and 125 pounds [57 kg]. He is fair-skinned and light haired… [GAZ5, p. 44]
* Draugin is a slim, fair elf with no facial hairs. [GAZ5, p. 53]
* Born AC 911; apparent age adult elf… Hair: Pale blond. Eyes: Blue. Height: 5’5’’ [1,65 m]. [PWAI, pp. 137-138]
* Dyradyl is bent and shrunken, a bare 5 feet [1,52 m] tall. His skin is wrinkled and browned. [GAZ5, p. 53]
* His eyes burn with a fanatic’s gleam from his pale face and he is slim even for an elf. [GAZ5, p. 57]
* Arloen is tall (for an elf), muscular, and golden-haired. He has no facial hair. [GAZ5, p. 39]
* Durifern is tall for an elf, about 5’8’’ [1,73 m]. His skin is tanned-brown and his hair sun-bleached and moving toward white. [GAZ5, p. 53]
* Taragin is fair-skinned and not as sun-browned as other Grunalf elves because his duties keep him inside. He is tall and slim and his hair is a light brown colour. He still looks quite youthful, though the problems of his position have given his face more care wrinkles than are commonly seen on an elf of his age (about 650). [GAZ5, p. 61]
* Beasthunter is remarkably brawny for an elf, standing the usual 5’6’’ [1,68 m] but weighing almost 150 pounds [68 kg]. He is blond and light-eyed […] Part of his long, shaggy, hair is tied into a topknot. [GAZ5, p. 40]
* Starwatcher is short, about 5’1’’ [1,55 m] and square-built for an elf. His hair is prematurely white (he’s only 700 years old). [GAZ5, p. 61]
* Mealidan is remarkable among the neatly-trimmed elves for a long, often uncombed, white beard. … than it does on a 5’3’’ [1,6 m] elf. [GAZ5, p. 59]
* … despite his relative youth, a mere 450 years… [GAZ5, p. 41]
* … he is dark-skinned and red-haired. [GAZ5, p. 42]
* He is swarthy complexioned and red haired (as are many of his people). His built is tall and stocky. [GAZ5, p. 59]
* Daisy is a thin, pale elf, with rare grey coloured hair. [GAZ5, p. 43]
* He is a tall, heavy-built elf (though he looks more like a slim human) with black hair. [GAZ5, p. 55]
* In general she is a slight-built elf woman with long, usually blonde, hair. [GAZ5, p. 60]
* Milaster is young, slim and agile. He wears his dark hair long and flowing. He is clean-shaven… [GAZ8, p. 24]
* His silver hair, tied in a pony tail, bobs behind. [O2, p. 11]
* Crowning her golden curls… [DA3, p. 47]
* The Blacklore look like other elves, though they tend to be a littler shorter, a little lighter, a little more frail. [HW, Player’s Guide, p. 30]
* Her hair is golden, her eyes green… [HW, Dungeon Master’s Guide, p. 40]
* Callarii elves are robust and healthy, with very pale hair (blonde to white) and blue eyes. [GAZ1, p. 5]
* Callarii elves are robust and healthy, with very pale hair (blond to white) and blue eyes. [K:KoA]
* Prestelle is young (for an elf), slender, short […] She has curly blonde hair and deep green eyes. [K:KoA]
* They are similar to the elves of Alfheim, although their skin is darker and their hair is black and wavy. [GAZ3, p. 20]
* In general, the males of the House of Alhambra are rather small, even by elven standards. [GAZ3, p. 21]
* She is a small but proud young elven lady of 180 springs. Her long, black, curly hair cascades down to her waist. [GAZ3, p. 23]
* … a small fat fellow of dark complexion and drooping mustachios. [GAZ3, p. 23]
* After two centuries of life in this cruel world, Don Fernando has white hair, and many wrinkles on his face. [GAZ3, p. 24]
* Coolhands is a dark-haired beauty with bronze skin – a typical Belcadiz elf. [GAZ5, p. 43]
* This Glantrian Grandee is about 5’6’’ [1,68 m] tall and weighs about 120 lbs. [54 kg]. His light skin is offset by black mustachios and a long goatee. [GAZ5, p. 58]
* Born AC 820; apparent age young-adult elf… Hair: Black, worn long and curly. Eyes: Black. Height: 5’ [1,52 m]. [PWAI, p. 135]
* … with his silver hair framing exquisitely sculpted features, the almost seven-foot tall [2,13 m] Menander is truly an imposing figure. [DA1, p. 54]
* This tall, keen-eyed, platinum-haired elf is of the blood of the ancient high elves of Genander’s house… [DA3, p. 47]
* The Gentle Folk, also known as Truedyl-Clan, elves look much like any other elves. [HW, Player’s Guide, p. 33]
* Drianna is 18, not yet biologically mature by elvish standards; she looks about the same age as a 12-years-old human girl. Her hair is black, her eyes large, brown and soulful. [HW, Dungeon Master’s Guide, p. 44]
* Icevale Elves are tall, healthy-looking elves, usually blond with green or blue eyes and very pale, fair complexion; they sometimes look as if they themselves were made of ice. [HW, Player’s Guide, p. 34]
* Thiordanna, like most of her kind, is slender and blonde; … Her eyes are a very icy blue. [HW, Dungeon Master’s Guide, p. 46]
* Born AC 672; apparent age elderly elf… Hair: White. Eyes: Pale grey. Height: 5’9’’ [1,75 m]. [PWAI, p. 133]
* Born AC 687; apparent age elderly elf… Hair: White, very fine, wears long beard and moustache. Eyes: Blue. Height: 6’3’’ [1,91 m]. So lean he looks ghostly… [PWA1, p. 153]
* The water elves have formed a more distinctive sub-culture than their wood elf brethren, and are recognised as a group separate from the mainstream elvish race. In this regard, they are similar to the shadowelves of the Broken Lands to whom they bear a physical resemblance that many elves find unsettling. [GAZ9, Dungeon Master’s Booklet, p. 16]
* Water elves are towed-headed or have light blond hair that bleaches almost white in the sun. Their eyes are blue-grey and their complexions are pale in spite of constant exposure to weather and sun. They have a faint resemblance to the Alfheim elves, but look even more like shadowelves because of their coloration. [GAZ9, Dungeon Master’s Booklet, p. 16]
* Born AC 839; apparent age adult elf… Hair: Very light blond. Eyes: Blue-grey. Height: 5’7’’ [1,7 m]. Lean, pale… [PWAI, p. 148]
* The Schattenalfen are elves, but somewhat different from the ordinary forest elves people are used to seeing. They average about 5’ [1,52 m] tall and weigh anywhere from 90-110 lbs. [41-50 kg]. They are very, very pale: White-skinned, white- or grey-haired, blue- or grey-eyed. [HW, Player’s Guide, p. 56]
* Carlyldian is a little large for a Schattenalf, standing 5’4’’ [1,63 m] and weighing about 120 lbs. [54 kg]. He has pale green eyes… [HW, Adventure Book, p. 12]
* Trylthin is big for a Schattenalf, nearly 5’4’’ [1,63 m] and 130 lbs. [54 kg]. His hair is an iron-grey, his eyes a nearly identical hue. [HW, Dungeon Master’s Guide, p. 85]
* Born AC 772; apparent age elderly elf… Hair: White, worn long and unbound. Eyes: Ice-grey. Height: 5’2’’ [1,58 m]. Reed-thin… [PWAI, p. 134]
* Unlike most Chossum elves, Carlisan is fair, with light coloured hair and no facial hair. He is about average elf height and weight. [GAZ5, p. 42]
* Gilfronden is tall, about 5’6’’ [1,68 m], and lean, about 115 pounds [52 kg]. He sports long mustachios in the Belcadiz manner and his hair is white with age. [GAZ5, p. 55]
* Born AC 446; apparent age middle-aged shadow elf… Hair: White. Eyes: Grey. Height: 5’7’’ [1,70 m]. Pale-skinned. [PWAI, p. 140]
* Born AC 214; apparent age elderly shadow elf… Hair: White, receding at temples. Eyes: Grey, slightly watery. Height: 4’8’’ [1,42 m]. [PWA1, p. 143]
* Born AC 273; apparent age young-adult shadow elf… Hair: White, worn long. Eyes: Blue, slightly slanted. Height: 5’3’’ [1,6 m] (tall for a Shadow Elf woman). Porphyriel is ageless… [PWA1, p. 150]
* Born AC 679; apparent age young-adult shadow elf… Hair: White. Eyes: Grey. Height: 5’2’’ [1,58 m]. Wiry and strong; pale-skinned like all Shadow Elves. [PWAI, p. 154]
* Born AC 568; apparent age middle-aged shadow elf… Hair: White. Eyes: Blue. Height: 5’8’’ [1,73 m]. Telemon is tall and powerful-looking for a shadow elf… [PWAI, p. 155]
* Appearance (Drushiye): 5’7’’ [1,7 m], 135 lbs. [61 kg]; black hair and eyes, slight golden tint to skin; … [DotE, Dungeon Master’s Sourcebook, p. 46]
* Born AC 642; apparent age adult elf… Hair: White. Eyes: Pale blue, rather inhuman. Height: 5’10’’ [1,78 m]. Rather overweight… [PWAI, p. 131]
* Born AC 670; apparent age young adult elf… Hair: Black, very fine, worn long. Eyes: Black. Height: 5’7’’ [1,7 m]. Rather husky for an elf. Slight golden tint to skin. [PWAI, p. 137]
* Born AC 899; apparent age adult elf… Hair: Golden-blond. Eyes: Golden. Height: 6’ [1,82 m]. [PWAI, 143]
* Xerdon is a rather tall and athletic elf, bearing a golden tan from his many years of active duty in the Imperial Navy. Xerdon has long, silver hair held back with a leather headband. [Dragon Magazine #171, pag. 44]
* The elves appeared to be of a different breed than the frail, delicate elves of Alfheim. They were small, but heartier of build, almost stocky by elven standards, brown-skinned and black-haired. [Dragonlord of Mystara]
* Wood elves have hair ranging in colour from blond to brown, with green or hazel eyes. Their features bear a distant resemblance to the elves of Alfheim. [GAZ9, Dungeon Master’s Booklet, p. 16]
* Appearance: 5’7’’ [1,7 m], 130 lbs. [59 kg]; pale skin, black hair and eyes… age 500 years (mature elf). [DotE, Dungeon Master’s Sourcebook, p. 13]
* Vyalia have pale skin, reddish hair, and deep green eyes. [K:KoA]
* … a willowy, golden-haired elf maiden. [B7, p. 23; I'm assuming the elves of Rahasia to be Vyalia]
* Very small, even for a female elf… Her long, straight black hair… [M5, p. 28; this pregenerated PC, name Kavva Lindenelm, could be also a Callarii, but as no Callarii with black hair are known, I had her as a Vyalia]
* Born AC 679; apparent age adult elf. Hair: Golden-blond. Eyes: Black. Height: 5’9’’ [1,75 m]. Gylharen is willowy, like most elves… [PWAI, p. 141]
Possible elven ethnic groupings:
Trying to gather similar appearances from the references above, I came up with the following elven ethnicities (I'm not listing the Aquarendi, again):
* Wood Elves: The "classic" elves: they're 5 to 5½ tall, have fair skin who tends to tan under the sun, hair of blonde, brown, silver or white colour.
* Silver Elves: Elves of higher stature, from 5'7'' to 6' tall (more or less as humans), with fair or pale skin and hair of black, white, silver, or golden colour, with cases of reds.
* Platinum or High Elves: Elves of impressive stature, higher than humans (6' tall or more), with blonde, silver or white hair.
* Bronze Elves: Tall like wood elves, with darker complexion, and dark hair (usually black).
* Deep Elves: Between 4'8'' and 5'8'' tall, with white or very pale skin, and grey or white hair.
* Water Elves: Slightly taller than wood elves, pale skin, and pale blond hair.
Obviously it's difficult to fit all characters precisely into these categories, as often for each assumed "ethnicity" there's only one representative (and guessing a whole ethnicity out of a single character isn't a careful way of handling things - nevertheless, this is what we have by canon).
Elven Clans by Ethnicity:
Now I'm dividing known elven clans or population according to the ethnicities defined above (I'm keeping out uncertain ones for now, like the Sheyallia and the Geffronell elves):
Belcadiz, Chossum, Red Arrow (red hair on members of this clan could be considered the result of Mealiden's blessings), Sylvan Realm elves (a part - those of DT).
Schattenalfen, Shadow Elves.
Ee'aar, Icevale elves, Red Woods or Genander elves (from DA modules).
Savage Coast elves (Eusdria only), Shiye, Truedyl (Gentle Folk), Vyalia, Wendar elves.
Antarctic elves, Blacklore elves, Callarii, Erendyl, Erewan, Feadiel, Grunalf (these could be silver elves instead), Long Runner, Mealidil, Savage Coast elves (except Eusdria), Sylvan Realm elves (a part - those of CM7), Verdier.
The ethnic placement of a lot of other clans (Norwold Foresthomes' clans, Graakhalia's clans, Hinterland's and Pearl Islands' clans, Isle of Dawn's clans, Hule's clans, Hatwa, Lothenar's and Geffron's clans) mostly depends on how one decides to handle the issues concerning elven migrations.
I add a few more quotes I've found in GAZ5, GAZ13 and CM5, see if they can be useful for you:
Tarlyon Elfhome elves: Christov Yetta, 125 years old. Fair-skinned and auburn-haired, Christov is a sprite 5'3'' and 119 pounds. His steel grey eyes and firm jaw line present a deadly menace to enemies.
From GAZ5, about the elves of Wendar (?)
History: Gilfronden is an old friend of King Doriath whom he met while adventuring. Gilfronden is actually from another land entirely, the northern elven realm beyond Wendar (see X11, Saga of the Shadowlord).
Appearance: Gilfronden is tall, about 5'6", and lean, about 115 pounds. He sports long mustachios in the Belcadiz manner and his hair is white with age.
From GAZ13, about a distant connection between Gilfronden and the shadow elf Garafaele Galeifel:
Garafaele is nearly as tall as his king at 5 feet 7 inches, and he is muscular and lithe for his 554 years of age. Garafaele is distantly related to Gilfronden of Alfheim.
Could this last sentence be useful in defining the Wendarian elves' traits? They should not be so different from shadow elves' ones, I suppose...
From GAZ13, about an albino refugee from Chossum clan:
Maflarel is fairly tall (5 feet 9 inches) and so walks with a stoop. He has pale skin, white hair, slightly pink pale eyes.
Another canon source I found in Dungeon Magazine #21 "The Bane of Elfswood" adventure.
The adventure is set in Norwold, in a small foresthome of the region, so the description below could be used as a reference for both Shiye elves (accordingly to PWAs the elves of Norwold are Shiye) or Wendarian elves (accordingly to the Dragonlord Trilogy the elves in Norwold come also from Wendar).
Druida Glanadyl: the elf (a female) brushes back her golden brown hair and her green eyes fix upon each of you for an instant... My name is Druida Glanadyl and I come from my family's small settlement of Elfswood (actually she was born in another Norwold elvish settlement called Whispering Grove and moved with her family to form the small village of Elfswood).
You could also take a look to the portrait of the pregenerated elven PC Melissa Moonstar at the end of Karameikos: Kingdom of Adventure module. She is a Callarii elf.