Monday, September 27, 2010

Brief Thoughts on Elfses

I recently got my hands on a copy of Margaret St. Clair's The Shadow People, and it is pretty clear that it played a role in inspiring Gary Gygax' drow. Actually, the drow are closer to the traditional depiction of elves than the noble, post-Tolkien elves that have taken over fantasy literature and gaming. The aos sí of legend are a perilous group, liable to kidnap surface dwellers, or bewilder them. They are a capricious group, an ominous background presence which should be placated by wary crofters, not the wise, benevolent elder-kindred of J.R.R.T.'s Middle Earth. I would posit that the greatest lasting legacy of Tolkien's writing is this elfin make-over.

Poul Anderson (writing contemporaneously with Tolkien) portrays his elves (in
The Broken Sword and
Three Hearts and Three Lions) as amoral, soulless creatures who have no qualms about using humans as pawns, and have developed an intricate culture simply to alleviate the ennui of immortality. In >Three Hearts and Three Lions, Holger Carlsen is told that the elfish duke may help him not for altruistic reasons, but out of a desire for novelty. Anderson's elves are sophisticated, while St. Clair's are primitive cannibals with some supernatural characteristics. I'll post a more detailed review of The Shadow People when I get a better handle on the book (it's a pretty odd read, and seems "dated"). I did, however, want to post briefly about how the "dark elves" of the modern fantasy industrial complex are actually more in line with traditional elfses or faeries than the modern "high elf" or "light elf" of Tolkien-pastiche modern fantasy.

Actually, I wanted to post briefly because I have been woefully remiss about writing.

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