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Author Topic: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?  (Read 10441 times)

Offline Johnmc

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Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #15 on: February 08, 2012, 02:09:53 PM »
Certainly I feel that after you reach a certain point, a new name is needed. (Oh, I wish the vampires in Twilight were called something else: the sparkling went past that point for me.)

And I can like stories with made-up races. If you have to introduce all-new everything, that places a burden on your reader, but I have read them and liked them, so I'm not knocking them.

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Offline FrnchDp

Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #16 on: February 08, 2012, 02:22:37 PM »
...
It's like having good Demons or tall Dwarves. It doesn't make sense.

So what about dark elves such as the ones created by RA Salvatore?  Underground, evil... 

Offline AnneLyle

Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #17 on: February 08, 2012, 03:20:23 PM »
So what about dark elves such as the ones created by RA Salvatore?  Underground, evil...  

Norse mythology had its svartalfar and dokkalfar - actually nearer to what we would call dwarves or hobgoblins, but they were "elves" in the etymological sense. Anyway Salvatore didn't create the drow, they were lifted straight from D&D (and drow is another form of the name "troll". Gygax played pretty fast and loose with mythology sometimes).
« Last Edit: February 08, 2012, 03:21:55 PM by AnneLyle »
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Offline ChristinaJL

Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #18 on: February 08, 2012, 06:13:13 PM »
I've started reading the 3rd Iron Elves book by Chris Evans and I have to say, I like his take on elves.

Offline AshKB

Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #19 on: February 09, 2012, 09:51:16 AM »
I love, love, love new twists on the familiar - and I don't see enough of it with elves and dwarves. I suppose this is partly the result of spending my formative years with Warhammer (I still have some of the key pieces of my Wood Elf army over in storage) as opposed to Tolkien; when one reads about Wood Elves, High Elves, and Dark Elves, and what armies they may form, the idea of them being aloof, ethereal and wise beings makes one double-take a bit. I also tend to feel that as a genre, fantasy as done elves (and dwarves) as the same, as the same, as the same, and it's become....tired. What I'd really love is to see how far they can be stretched and twisted, and yet still able to retain that 'dwarveness' or 'elfness'.

(I don't see a problem with tall dwarves, either - and certainly have no problem with demons being 'good', or at the very least, shades of grey).

I guess I'm curious, though, about everyone who is saying 'don't ignore tradition' - do you guys have any examples of elves that have been twisted and pulled until you wouldn't call them 'elves' any more? Or an actual line in the sand where you can see 'this is not an elf?' Or is it more of a 'I know an elf when I see it' thing?

(I should admit to being biased on the subject of playing around elves, as I've spent the past month forming my own take on them, which involved going back to the Norse mythos and starting over from there again. So, yes, I'm very curious as to what people would say is 'too much fiddling'.)
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Offline JoshuaPSimon

Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #20 on: February 09, 2012, 01:51:53 PM »
Larry Correia handles elves in the best possible way, IMO. ;D

Offline Funky Scarecrow

Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #21 on: February 09, 2012, 04:43:29 PM »
Late to the party, as usual. I should post more than once or twice week, in order to better join in discussions when they're still hot. Anyway, my two penn'orth...

It depends what someone is trying to do, whether or not 'Elves', or 'Dwarves', 'Orcs', 'Trolls' or any other archetypal species for that matter, are something to be included. There's certainly no reason whatsoever not to. I don't hear anyone calling for cowboy-free westerns, gumshoe-free noir or middle class WASP-free contemporary comedies of manners.

Are you writing high or epic fantasy that's heavy on the world building? For goodness' sake leave well alone; no one will take your work seriously.

What about if you're writing pure, exuberant pulp adventure, though? Or character driven low fantasy? In those cases, world building may not be your top priority and having a short hand for secondary characters which comes pre-loaded with a set of expectations - just as 'Amoral Gun For Hire', 'Pseudo-Intellectual Mob Boss' or 'Social Climbing Spouse' do - can be extremely useful in painting a particular picture in broad strokes and allowing the writer, and reader, to focus on the minutiae of choice.

Then of course, there's the self conscious realms of metafiction, where the inclusion of archetypes is deliberately chosen in order to challenge the reader about what that archetype truly represents, within the fiction and without. Species as symbolism, iconography and iconoclasm about the body of fantasy as a whole, or as representations of the classical Freudian structure of id, ego and superego.

There's no reason at all to give a studied sigh and drawl 'So passée' about any given archetype or trope, only about its application in the story at hand.
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Offline AshKB

Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #22 on: February 09, 2012, 08:22:45 PM »
Are you writing high or epic fantasy that's heavy on the world building? For goodness' sake leave well alone; no one will take your work seriously.

Can I ask you to clarify what you mean by that? What I'm getting is "don't change things, otherwise no one will take you seriously", which I have to say is an attitude I really disagree with. But I admit that I'm also running on not much sleep, so I'm not sure if you meant that or not.


Then of course, there's the self conscious realms of metafiction, where the inclusion of archetypes is deliberately chosen in order to challenge the reader about what that archetype truly represents,

Aw, nothing wrong with some subversion - it makes things interesting.
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #23 on: February 09, 2012, 10:20:52 PM »
Gaie Sebold had an interesting and slightly different take on the some of the more traditional fantasy races in debut Babylon Steel.
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Offline EatthePen

Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #24 on: February 14, 2012, 01:53:38 PM »
I really like the 'old' concept of fey/sidhe elves (though I pretend absolutely no expertise at all in the use of either term, my sources being primarily roleplaying games), as resurrected by Pratchett. With his aelfinn and eelfinn, I think Robert Jordan has done some brilliant stuff with these guys (I'm still 3 books behind, but I get the impression they're becoming more important, and I love it), and the fey in Rothfuss' books are also pretty cool. It's the sense of wildness and unpredictability that I really like, because it opens up a huge amount of room for imagination. I play with the same ideas in my 'The Second Realm' stories, though I call my fey Children of the Wild or Wildren.

Tolkein's elves on the other hand... well, I hate 'em. Particularly since they've stolen the name I want to use to refer to the fey (though I recognise I'm being reactionary here). I wouldn't mind seeing a story where the elves are a sort of 'forest people' equivalent to the farming people of village-based society (sticking with the classic quasi-medieval fantasy paradigm), so that they're fairly savage hunter-gatherers but well-adapted for tree-climbing, communing with dryads etc., but the 'tall, elegant, snobby, condescending, long-lived ancient wizardly gits' can just all go die. Particularly if the story is going to be 'the elves could stop this easily, but they're not listening to us dirty humans'.

Sorry, rant over.

I don't have a problem, generally speaking, with reimagining archetypes (particularly, obviously, if Tolkein's elves get reimagined out of existence). Equally, some terms do have clear connotations; 'dwarves' are going to have to be small/short, because every use we make of words derived from 'dwarf' in everyday language is to do with smallness (the use where it means stubbornness, which I acknowledge is semi-common in fantasy, doesn't count because it doesn't feature in everyday language outside of the genre). Likewise, I think trolls have to be unpleasant (though the association between internet trolls and fantasy trolls may be an insult to the latter...)
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Offline Louise

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Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #25 on: February 14, 2012, 07:48:34 PM »
I have to say, while the tropes may arguably have to stay connected to some degree, (for example, the word dwarf is so ascribed to mean short or small that it has become an adjective in itself) sticking rigidly to this formula will inevitably result in stale, unoriginal ideas.

Perhaps then, it's not necessarily the characterizations that need to change, but rather their usage. One example that springs to mind is the game Dragon Age, which featured elves not as superior to humans - but rather the underdogs, driven out by mankind and made to work as their servants or slaves. Sure, they were still pointy eared (and, yeah, those that were free used bows and arrows) but there was enough of a difference for it to still be fresh.

It'd be interesting to see how someone would tackle modern day elves. They could live alongside humans and commute to work.  :D


Offline AshKB

Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #26 on: February 14, 2012, 09:50:55 PM »
I wouldn't mind seeing a story where the elves are a sort of 'forest people' equivalent to the farming people of village-based society (sticking with the classic quasi-medieval fantasy paradigm), so that they're fairly savage hunter-gatherers but well-adapted for tree-climbing, communing with dryads etc.

...I'm already writing a short story about elves with rifles and empires and whatnot (think more 1700s-1800s, instead of modern; and yes, some of them are elegant and snobbish, but this is NOT a good thing). I don't need to go and try and write something in that 'verse before they got the hang of technology.

And I entirely agree with you on the 'elves refuse to help dirty humans' trope - that needs to go away, unless the elves are portrayed as wrong for having this attitude.
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Offline Elfy

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Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #27 on: February 14, 2012, 10:23:59 PM »


Perhaps then, it's not necessarily the characterizations that need to change, but rather their usage. One example that springs to mind is the game Dragon Age, which featured elves not as superior to humans - but rather the underdogs, driven out by mankind and made to work as their servants or slaves. Sure, they were still pointy eared (and, yeah, those that were free used bows and arrows) but there was enough of a difference for it to still be fresh.

It'd be interesting to see how someone would tackle modern day elves. They could live alongside humans and commute to work.  :D


Michael Sullivan does something similar to your first point in The Crown Conspiracy. The one elf that readers do see is considered a half breed and he's a downtrodden little creature who begs to for food to feed his family.

If a modern day elf lives alongside us and does everything that we do, what makes it indistinguishable from a person, and why does it therefore need to be an elf?
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Offline AshKB

Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #28 on: February 14, 2012, 10:37:00 PM »
If a modern day elf lives alongside us and does everything that we do, what makes it indistinguishable from a person, and why does it therefore need to be an elf?

Same reason that a Neanderthal living among us would still be a Neanderthal, not a Homo Sapiens - different species/sub-species. Culture should never make a species, I don't think, because it's so changeable. Just look at all the human cultures, after all. I feel that a modern elf, living in Sydney or London or what have you, would still be an elf, even if they were a cop or a lawyer or an accountant.
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Offline Nestat

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Re: Elf Preservation - Can we twist elves and other races?
« Reply #29 on: February 21, 2012, 06:17:10 PM »
Also on the panel, it was mentioned that Games Workshop redefined the Tolkien orc, which I also think is true.
I'm sure that was Stan Nicholls, not Games Workshop? I know he did because there was a quote about it on one of his covers.

Terry Pratchett brings back old style elves in Lords and Ladies
Arguably twice. Crivens!

And he's moved on to orcs and goblins too now.
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