About this post
One of the best things about reading and writing Fantasy is the ability to create or learn about different beings that exist in a particular world and how they interact with that world, each other and the main storyline. Traditionally there are species that have existed from folklore and myths all over the world and travelled through fairy tales and into popular fiction and film. Although I don’t always write about fantasy species, I am fascinated by different fantasy beings and wanted to bring them into discussion on my blog.
The most popular fantasy species?
Elves are one of the most popular and well known species in Fantasy literature, which is probably because they are well established in folklore and mythology. Naturally, in Fantasy literature, their looks and abilities are depicted differently by different authors. While it is important to remember that authors adapt fantasy species according their story and/or beliefs, elves do stem from a range of mythologies and folklore that characterise them differently also.
According to Teutonic, Norse and Scandinavian mythology, elves were tall, exceptionally beautiful and powerful beings, with expert skills in the arts, healing and archery.
Another line of belief was that elves came from a race of god-like creatures that lived in Ireland but retreated to live under mountains when they were invaded. Over time, they shrunk in size and were known as a smaller race similar to faeries.
In terms of their behaviour towards humans, they were either generally benevolent and helpful, or hostile and prone to shooting humans with poison arrows. The Anglo-Saxon tradition also mentions two types of elves: Dark Elves, who were generally malevolent beings, and Light Elves who were kind (although this falls into the traditional racial stereotypes of the genre).
Staple of the fantasy genre
I don’t remember when I first read about elves but my initial reaction to them was one of awe. In my mind they were like a better version of humans – they have powers, an elegant and commanding presence, a deep respect for the Earth and their own unique cultural beliefs. Elves are present in many epic fantasy works and are considered a staple of the genre. Most people who don’t read fantasy tend to think its all about elves and dragons! Part of their appeal, to me at least, is that they’re mysterious and so you never know what’s going to happen when a character interacts with them.
But are they overused now? I’m not sure. Its been great to see what authors and filmmakers have done with them over time. I loved the representation of elves in Magician by Raymond E Feist and in the Lord of the Rings movies. I don’t recall coming across a novel where elves haven’t added something to the story or been presented in a way I didn’t like. So I’ve always thought there’s potential to do more with the species, but is epic fantasy over saturated with elves? Possibly. Does that take anything away from their presence in the genre? Not for me.
What do you think? Are elves in fantasy too obvious or is there still more to be explored with the species?
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