Dark elves in fiction

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Elves, a word from Germanic mythology, are frequently featured in Fantasy fiction. In modern fiction, particularly because of the influence from J. R. R. Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, elves are modeled mostly after his original description: tall, human-like creatures of otherworldly beauty, with Kings and Queens. Along with this development, Dark elves are often modeled as a more sinister counterpart to the High elves, like the Drow or the Trow, which are the fairy-like dark creatures of Orcadian and Shetlandic folklore. The dark elves (Dökkálfar) or black elves (Svartálfar) are presented in Germanic mythology as dwarves and gray ones.

General dark elf lore[edit]

Dark elves are known for their aggression, deceit, and stealth. They are very brutal and cruel by nature, having little mercy when it comes to cheating, battling, or anything dealing with the life of another being. They have little respect for even their own kind, at times waging war against each other. However, clans are known to band together, to combat invasions and attacks by other races. They usually do not mix blood with other races; if they do, it is often with a demon or related creature. They lurk in dark places and love the shadows. Rarely will they come into the light for needless purposes, but it is not usually believed light will harm or weaken them. Their weakness varies upon legend, and may include excessive heat, rain, nettles, or the blossoms of some plants and trees. Dark elves generally travel in pairs or groups, as their tendencies towards cheating and theft make them targets for retaliation and violence at the hands of other races.

References to drow in games & literature[edit]

Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

The drow, as they appear in Dungeons & Dragons, were created by Gary Gygax, who stated that "Drow are mentioned in Keightley's The Fairy Mythology, as I recall (it might have been The Secret Commonwealth—neither book is before me, and it is not all that important anyway), and as Dark Elves of evil nature, they served as an ideal basis for the creation of a unique new mythos designed especially for the AD&D game." ("Books Are Books, Games Are Games" in Dragon Magazine, Nov. 1979, #31.) They were first mentioned in the Dungeons & Dragons game in the 1st Edition 1977 Advanced Dungeons & Dragons Monster Manual under "Elf", where it is stated that "The 'Black Elves,' or drow, are only legend."

Video games[edit]

The Baldur's Gate series of video games feature drow as enemies and NPCs, as well as part of the game being set in the drow city of Ust Natha. The drow cleric of Shar, Viconia, features in Baldur's Gate and Baldur's Gate II: Shadows of Amn as a party member and, in the second game, a possible romantic interest. In the Throne of Bhaal expansion, her alignment can be changed from neutral evil to true neutral if she is in a romance with a PC. The Eilistraee-worshipping drow male Solaufein plays a minor role in the second game, but his role can be expanded into a romance with a mod.

In Icewind Dale, a drow named Nym steals dwarven weapons and artifacts and sells them to the goblin and orc armies attacking the elven fortress, the Severed Hand. Since the armies are armed with dwarven weapons, the elf leader Larrel assumes the dwarves betrayed them, and ends the alliance between the two. Thus, Nym is single-handedly responsible for the fall of both the dwarves and the elves in the Dale. Nym can be found in the Svirfneblin village in the tunnels of Lower Dorn's Deep, where he will sell a number of magical artifacts and weapons to the player. Nym also appears in Icewind Dale II, where he appears to be in league with the Legion of the Chimera.

The original campaign and first expansion of Neverwinter Nights do not deal much with the drow but the second expansion, Hordes of the Underdark, does so extensively. Neverwinter Nights 2 continues to expand upon them in their story, as well as allowing drow and other Underdark races as playable characters.

The Dark Elves found in the Age of Wonders series are a species of Elf, but qualify as their own race because they are evil aligned. In the game it states that all Dark Elves were once regular elves, but since elves are immortal they suffer not death of life, but death of spirit. It is never stated why their spirit dies and the only Main Character who has that 'death' is Prince Meandor. Drow also appear in Atari's Demon Stone.

Video games[edit]

Trow in popular culture[edit]

Dark elves in popular culture[edit]

The Deed of Paksenarrion[edit]

In Elizabeth Moon's trilogy The Deed of Paksenarrion, the dark elves are a sect of elves that have wandered from the path and now follow the gods of evil, rather than the "High Lord".


In J. R. R. Tolkien's Middle-earth writings, the Moriquendi or "Elves of Darkness" were a group of the Elves that did not complete the Great Journey across the continent of Middle-earth and the Sundering Seas, and thus did not behold the light of the Two Trees in Valinor. The Dark Elves were in no way more "evil" than the Light Elves; the latter just had a surpassing knowledge and skill, and were more "noble" and potent.

In one theory as to their origins, Orcs are thought to be corrupted versions of the Avari.


In EverQuest (EQ) the dark elves were a very key role in the game. Players played as these elves in RP Online format. Each player could customize their way of playing through the world. In the sequel, EverQuest II, dark elves (properly known as the Teir'Dal) once again play a prominent role. They are governed by Queen Cristianos Thex from her throne in the ancient subterranean city of Neriak. The city is located at the east end of the Darklight Wood northwest of Freeport on the continent of D'Lere. A number of factions vie for favor and control within Neriak. While many Teir'Dal are native to Neriak, they can be found in most corners of the world of EverQuest II, a planet called Norrath.

Mega Man Zero[edit]

The Dark Elf is a key character to the plot of Mega Man Zero 2 and Mega Man Zero 3. She was initially created as the Mother Elf, the good being which had the power to exterminate the Mavericks. However, Dr. Weil cursed the Mother Elf, and it transformed into the ominous Dark Elf, creating two evil "children" dark elves: Créer and Prier. The Dark Elf was so destructive that X sacrificed himself to seal her inside his body. However, years later, in Mega Man Zero 2 she was eventually released by Elpizo, who used her power to fight Zero. With Elpizo's defeat, the Dark Elf flew away. In the third installment, the Resistance and Neo Arcadia started to look for the Dark Elf, causing a clash between Zero and Weil. The Elf and her "children", however, were caught by Weil and merged to Omega (or the "Original Zero"). After Créer, Prier and Omega's demise, Weil's curse was finally broken and the Dark Elf became the Mother Elf once again.

Final Fantasy[edit]

The Dark Elf king Astos puts the prince of the Elven Castle to sleep for 5 years. In the game the player must find Matoya and have her make a cure to wake him.

Final Fantasy IV[edit]

A boss called the Dark Elf resides in the Lodestone Cavern. Being weak against metallic weapons, he created a strong, magnetic field within his lair. The bard, Edward, could play music which disrupted his concentration and with it the field. As a last resort he transforms into the Dark Dragon. His sentences contained odd capitalization.

Dungeons & Dragons[edit]

In the Dungeons & Dragons multiverse, especially in the worlds of Greyhawk, the Forgotten Realms and Eberron, dark elves are commonly called drow. They are dark-skinned and white-haired and are generally, but not exclusively, evil. Many other games and works of mainstream fantasy fiction derive their "dark elves" or "night elves" from the drow of Dungeons & Dragons. The drow in most Dungeons & Dragons settings are depicted as worshipers of the spider goddess Lolth and live in matriarchal societies.

In the Mystara/"Known World" setting, shadow elves are a race of subterranean elves who have been mutated via magic. In the Dragonlance setting, dark elves are not a separate subrace of elves (in fact, the drow of other worlds do not exist on this one). In this setting, "dark elf" is a label given to any elf that is outcast from elven society, typically (although not always) for evil practices.

Fighting Fantasy[edit]

In the Fighting Fantasy gamebook role-playing series, dark elves are much like their Dungeons & Dragons counterparts. However, some details of their culture have been adapted to fit the Fighting Fantasy background.

Record of Lodoss War[edit]

Some dark elves from the fictional world of Record of Lodoss War are brown-skinned and not necessarily evil, but primarily aligned with the forces of Marmo, the enemies of the story's heroes. These dark elves are capable of deep loyalty and love, as personified by the only dark elf main character, Pirotess.


As with most metahuman races in the Shadowrun world, many elves are born from the same ethnic groups that normal humans come from, meaning that there are African elves, Indian elves, and Arabic elves, for example. However, the closest thing to the "dark elf" in Shadowrun is the elf metahuman variant subgroup called the Night Ones, most of which come from Europe. The Night Ones have an aversion to sunlight and are different from other elves by possessing a fine fur coat that covers their bodies, indistinguishable from their skin at a distance and usually colored black, violet, or dark blue. Popular media has dubbed them dark elves, and the group is sometimes stereotyped against as being members of a cult or an "evil" metahuman race.


In the fictional universes of Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000, the generally evil Dark Elves (running parallel to the Dark Eldar in the Warhammer 40,000 universe) do not dwell underground, living instead in cities similar to those of High Elves, are not dark-skinned. Dark Elves are masters of torture and they worship the god Khaine, Lord of Murder.

The Dark Elves of Warhammer call themselves the Druchii and are ruled with an iron fist by the Witch-King Malekith and his sorcerous mother Morathi. The Druchii live in the land of Naggaroth and are cruel raiders with much disdain for all other races, especially their lighter kindred, the High Elves. The Dark Elves were actually the ones responsible for sparking "the War of the Beard", the great war that caused the rift in Dwarf and High Elf relations, though only the High Elves know this and the Dwarfs would disbelieve it if they found out.

In the Warhammer 40,000 universe, the Dark Eldar live in the extra-dimensional city of Commorragh from which they launch raids upon the rest of the galaxy to capture slaves to be brought back to Commorragh as playthings or torture victims. They are afflicted with a condition known among themselves as the Thirst, which forces them to consume the souls of other sentient creatures lest the Chaos God Slaanesh consume theirs.

The Elder Scrolls[edit]

In The Elder Scrolls series of role-playing video games, Dark Elves (often referred to as Dunmer) generally live peacefully with other races and by and large their entire race is not considered evil like many other fantasy series. They are the native and predominant race of Morrowind. They are considered generally conservative by nature and are distrustful of "outlanders" (non-natives). Dunmer culture is split between the settled people of the cities and the nomadic Ashlander tribes. Dark can easily be applied to them as "gloomy" or "morbid", for such is their temperament. Dunmer are said to have been punished with their red eyes and dark-bluish skin colour by Azura, one of the most prominent Daedra, either for disobeying her in one of the most crucial moments of their history or for turning to worship the Tribunal, along with the Tribunal killing Nerevar, the savior of the Dunmer. Many Imperial scholars prefer the theory that the bluish-grey skin is an adaptive response to the frequent volcanic eruptions on Vvardenfell.

In truth, the term Dunmer more properly means Cursed Elves than Dark Elves. However, the term Dark Elves is far more complimentary. Although conventionally civilized, the Dunmer are known to possess somewhat savage and barbaric traits, especially amongst the royal House Wars of the ruling classes. While the Tribunal were once their religious pantheon, they have since fallen out of favor to be replaced by Daedric worship. As a result of the Armistice allowing Morrowind to maintain many of its own laws, it was the only province under the Empire which continued to practice chattel slavery of the "lesser" races, including High Elves and Wood Elves; by the events of The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion however this practice has been abandoned. In an event known as "The Red Year" the volcano Red Mountain erupted, causing a wide array of destruction and chaos in its wake, forcing many Dunmer to flee the province for a time to nearby Skyrim and many others. A long lifespan is common among members of the race, most living up to 200-300 years, with the exception of wizards and necromancers who may live anywhere up to the thousands.


Midkemian dark elves - called moredhel (incidentally, a 'literal' word from Dark and Elf from Tolkien Elvish) - resemble the elves (eledhel) and the glamredhel, the "mad ones", but have dark hair. They're quite warlike because of the 'path' they follow is towards power, 'might makes right', and 'the end justifies the means'. They mostly inhabit the Northlands, and also the continent of Triagia, and are usually only seen in the more populated parts of the world robbing and raiding. Some of the moredhel return to reside with the eledhel in a process of change inwardly and outwardly, called the Returning, but they are often killed by their kin before they reach the home of the elves, Elvandar. The truth, known only to the elves themselves and few elf-friends, is that the moredhel and eledhel are the one race both of whom were slaves under the Valheru. When the latter disappeared the field slaves turned their back on their former masters' ways and became the eledhel, while the house slaves who had been in closer proximity to their masters sought their power and methods and became the moredhel. The eldar, keepers of lore and of the Valheru's sacred objects, left Midkemia and made their home on the world of Kelewan unbeknownst to anyone, as they kill anyone who tries to enter their forest.

They play a significant role in the novel A Darkness at Sethanon (Riftwar series) and the video game Betrayal at Krondor. The Novel 'Krondor the Betrayal' goes quite in depth to show the 'moredhel' are not evil per se, but have a very xenophobic, stubborn, and harsh culture, going so far as to commit genocide against the glamredhel, whose descendants are later discovered in a different forest on Midkemia, in a slightly barbaric state.

GURPS Banestorm[edit]

On the world of Yrth as presented in GURPS Banestorm[1], , the dark elves are not a separate race, but are a xenophobic offshoot of the main elven culture. They think all non-elves in general, and orcs in particular, are an aberration against nature and a threat to the future of the world and the elven race, and thus conspire to either enslave or destroy those other races. They began as nothing more than a group of elves united against orcs, but over the centuries their beliefs diverged from the elven mainstream. They believe in using magic to improve on nature, guiding it actively toward union with the Eternal, the elven (and dwarven) conception of the divine. Most elves consider their belief perverted and dangerous. The dark elves are responsible for the Banestorm effect that brought humans, goblins, lizardfolk and other non-Yrth native races to Yrth.

Might and Magic[edit]

Dark elves were part of Might and Magic VIII as one of the dominant species on the continent Jadame of the planet Enroth, available as playable characters. Portrayed as red and brown-skinned counterparts to the wood and snow elves, these dark elves are peaceful and inhabit the country of Alvar, which includes Jadame's major port city Ravenshore in the south. The lands of Alvar north of Ravenshore are troubled by aggressive ogres. There is a dark elven prophecy concerning the end of the world.

In Ashan, the world of Heroes of Might and Magic V, Dark Elves are a faction that lives in tunnels under the surface. They are descendants of the followers of Tuidhanna, originally a renegade Wood Elf Queen, whose people were blamed for burning down the Giant Tree, Brythigga, sacred to the Wood Elves.

Fading Suns[edit]

In the setting of the Fading Suns science fiction role-playing game, the fictional extraterrestrial races of the Ur-Obun and the Ur-Ukar are essentially science fiction renditions of high elves and dark elves respectively, somewhat akin to the Eldar and the Dark Eldar in the Warhammer 40000 miniature wargame. However, in contrast to the usual portrayal of dark elves, the Ur-Ukar are not inherently evil, but simply possess a predisposition for direct, sometimes violent behaviour and display a certain moral ambiguity.

Famous dark elves in fiction[edit]


Shadowblade is a warrior and is the most elite assassin in the world of Warhammer Fantasy world. He is an assassin in the society of the Dark Elves, who themselves are the masters of assassination. Even though he's still young by Dark Elf standards (a mere 150 years old) he is a legend amongst the Druchii, his exploits told as fireside tales to eager Dark Elf children. Most celebrated of all is his single-handed massacre of the entire crew of a High Elf Hawkship, whom he murdered one by one over several days, each killed in a different fashion. The mere thought of Shadowblade's murderous attempts is enough to keep all but the stupidest or brave Dark Elf from plotting against the Witch King for he is loyal only to the Hag Queen and the Witch King, although it is the Hag Queen alone that knows the true identity of Shadowblade.

Drizzt Do'Urden[edit]

Drizzt Do'Urden is a Drow in the Forgotten Realms fantasy world. Drow are dark elves that live in caverns deep beneath the surface known as the "Underdark" of the Forgotten Realms. In R. A. Salvatore's novels Drizzt renounces the Drow's Spider-Queen Lolth, goddess of treachery and deception (and later embraces Mielikki, goddess of the forests and rangers). In doing so, Drizzt angers Lolth who, in turn, demands his family sacrifice him. Drizzt leaves behind the city of his birth, Menzoberranzan escaping the wrath of his family, and consequently his former house (the house of Do'Urden) is left to bear the wrath of the evil Spider-Queen. Finding himself a renegade, Drizzt seeks sanctuary from his past on the surface world. Whereas most Drow are evil and power hungry, Drizzt is benevolent and humble. On the surface he is often wrongly persecuted for the reputation of his race, yet through the years he slowly gains a reputation for himself, allowing him acceptance without prejudice. His preferred weapons are twin scimitars, although he is perfectly capable of using a variety of other weapons should the need arise. His primary companion is Guenhwyvar, a magical panther who is summoned to Drizzt's plane of existence by means of a small onyx figurine. Along the way Drizzt has also made many important friends, such as the dwarf king Bruenor, the dwarf's adopted daughter Catti-brie and the human Barbarian Wulfgar, as well as Montolio "Mooshie" Debrouchee who revealed to the dark elf which deity his heart followed and the svirfneblin Belwar Dissengulp from Blingdenstone, the first member of a lawful race to accept Drizzt.

Gorath, Chieftain of the Ardanien[edit]

Gorath is a renegade Dark Elf (Moredhel) from Raymond E. Feist's fantasy world Midkemia. He betrayed his people to travel south across the Teeth of the World (a mountain range which separates the Moredhel from the rest of the world) in order to warn Prince Arutha ConDoin of the coming war in an effort to stop the Moredhel leader, Delekhan, and save his people from utter destruction. His story is portrayed in the video game Betrayal at Krondor and again in the novel based on the video game, Krondor: The Betrayal. This book is the first novel in The Riftwar Legacy, followed by Krondor: The Assassins, Krondor: The Tear of the Gods, Krondor: The Crawler (Not yet released), and Krondor: The Dark Mage (Not yet released).

Lord Indorill Nerevar[edit]

Nerevar was the legendary Hortator (war-leader) and King of the Chimer from the fantasy world of The Elder Scrolls, whose reincarnation is the player character in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind. His reincarnation, the Nerevarine, is not necessarily a Dark Elf, as the player may choose their race, but Nerevar himself was a Chimer. Long before the events of The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind, with the aid of the Daedric Prince Azura, he rose to power over the Chimer by ousting the Nords. He ruled as the king of Morrowind for many years, until he fought in the final battle of Red Mountain, which ended in the complete annihilation of the Dwemer and himself left mortally wounded. His three advisors Vivec, Sotha Sil and Almalexia (whom the later was also his wife) betrayed their oaths to him and used a forbidden divine artifact discovered in the ruins there, which turned out to be the heart of the fallen god Lorkhan, to become gods themselves, now known as the "Tribunal". As an act of punishment, Azura cursed the Chimer, giving them blue-grey skin and red eyes, thus transforming them into the Dunmer, the Dark Elves. In the ages since, an old friend of Nerevar's Voryn also came across the heart and used it to become a god himself, but being unprepared and lacking the proper tools was corrupted and driven to madness, transforming him into Dagoth Ur - the dark lord of Red Mountain. Azura prophesied that Nerevar would one day return and cast down Dagoth Ur and the Tribunal, foreshadowing the player character's actions in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind.


  1. ^ Masters, Phil; Jonathan Woodward (2006). GURPS Banestorm. Austin, Texas: Steve Jackson Games. ISBN 1-55634-744-8.

See also[edit]