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The Elves are one of the many races created by the Old Ones. They are tall, slender humanoids who are inherently magical and live for millennia. There are three main factions of Elves: the High Elves, Dark Elves and Wood Elves.
Compared to humans, Elves are tall, fair-skinned, and slender. Most artworks portray them with high cheekbones, slightly angular faces and slanted eyes. Some depictions show them with black eyes, while others show them with normal pupils/irises. High Elves are often shown with blonde hair, Wood Elves with brown and Dark Elves with black but these changes are minor and the three groups are for the most part physically indistinguishable. Elves are slender in build but strong. Assuming they do not die a violent death, Elves are capable of living for thousands of years. It is not considered impossible for an Elf to live to the age of 6,000, although this would be extremely unusual. Most often an Elf will not die of old age in the human fashion, rather he or she will simply grow weary of the world's troubles and lose passion for life, eventually passing away. [2a]
Elves are inherently magical, and their long lives give magically gifted elves more than enough time to train their skill at controlling many of the winds of magic. This is in contrast to human wizards, who can usually only hope to use one form of magic. Elves are resistant to disease and to physical mutations caused by Chaos, although notably they are still vulnerable to Nurgle's Rot. There is also some evidence that Chaos can affect their minds in more subtle ways. Elves experience emotions and thoughts more intensely than most other races. At best, this can result in them spending centuries training or honing a skill to perfection. At worst, they can become "lost" in their experiences, over-indulging and losing track of reality.
The race of Elves are divided into three nations, distinct in culture and attitude.
- The noble and haughty Asur (High Elves) are ruled by a Phoenix King and Everqueen. They live on the island continent of Ulthuan, the ancestral home of the elves.
- The cruel and merciless Druchii (Dark Elves) are ruled by the iron grip of the Witch King Malekith. They live in the cold, bleak land of Naggaroth, to the west of Ulthuan.
- The reclusive and enigmatic Asrai (Wood Elves) are ruled by the demigods Orion and Ariel. They live in the enchanted forest of Athel Loren, in the Old World east of Ulthuan.
The ancestors of the Elves, along with those of the Dwarfs and Humans, were introduced to the Warhammer world by the Old Ones. The Elves were put under the care of the Slann, and learned much from their mentors, quickly achieving a high level of civilisation, as well as an understanding of the dangers of Chaos. The Old Ones eventually transferred the Elves from the Old World towards Ulthuan. They eventually adopted Ulthuan as their homeland and lived mostly in peace for a long time, recording this as their Golden Age.
The Coming of Chaos
During the Coming of Chaos the Elves fought valiantly against the onslaught of Daemons who invaded Ulthuan, but slowly they were being defeated and were threatened with annihilation. A hero called Aenarion arose, and walked through the flames at the Shrine of Asuryan. Emerging unburnt, he was crowned as the first Phoenix King and the united elves drove back the daemons temporarily. The Keeper of Secrets N'Kari killed Aenarion's wife, the Everqueen Astarielle. Aenarion's children Morelion and Yvraine had been saved, but he was unaware of this. In his grief Aenarion drew the Sword of Khaine and fought back the Daemons once more. Aenarion remarried to Morathi and she bore him a son called Malekith.
During this time, Caledor Dragontamer made contact with the Dwarfs and learned from Grimnir of the Portal at the North Pole which spewed Chaos energy and empowered the Daemons. Caledor devised a plan to create a Vortex to drain away the magical energy and banish most of the Daemons. Aenarion defended Caledor while the great spell was put in action, but was mortally wounded in the process. Before his death, he returned the Sword of Khaine to its place. Caledor succeeded in creating the Vortex, but was imprisoned within it for eternity.
When it came time for the elves to rebuild and elect a new Phoenix King, they chose Bel Shannar of Tiranoc rather than Malekith. Malekith instead became the leader of their military and ruler of Nagarythe. It was at this point that they explored the seas and shores and established several colonies, most of them in the Old World to Ulthuan's east. They fought battles against Orcs and Goblins and Beastmen, and also re-established contact with the Dwarfs. Trade flourished between the two peoples, for a time.
The Sundering and the Dark Elves
Malekith used an inquisition against the Elven Cult of Pleasure (secretly headed by Morathi) as a cover to murder his enemies. Eventually, he poisoned The Phoenix King, framing it as a suicide. He then massacred many of the princes and, as a final demonstration of his fitness for the throne, attempted to emulate his father by walking through the flames at the Shrine of Asuryan. However, unlike his father, he was horribly burned.
Malekith was nursed back to health by his mother, and placed inside a suit of magical armour. Bitter at his rejection by Asuryan, Malekith launched a massive civil war, attempting to claim the Phoenix throne by force. Eventually, facing defeat, he planned to undo the Vortex. However loyalist mages interfered with this plan and the resulting magical cataclysm sunk much of western Ulthuan, an event known as The Sundering. Malekith and his followers fled across the Ocean, founding the kingdom of Naggaroth on the western continent and becoming the Dark Elves. The loyalists remained in Ulthuan and became the High Elves.
The War of the Beard
After the Sundering, the Dark Elves attacked a Dwarf caravan, disguised as High Elves. Outraged, the Dwarfs sent an ambassador to Ulthuan to demand recompense from the Phoenix King. The High Elves responded by shaving the Dwarf's beard and sending him back. This angered the Dwarfs even more and they began to attack High Elf colonies in the Old World. The war raged on for many years and finally culminated at the 14th siege of Tor Allessi, where the Dwarf King Gotrek Starbreaker killed the Phoenix King Caledor II. The Dwarfs took the crown and retreated to their holds, while the High Elves abandoned their colonies. Relations between the two races never fully recovered.
The Wood Elves
Some High Elf colonists refused to leave, as they had grown attached to their new home. Without the protection of the High Elf military, these colonists were vulnerable to attacks from Greenskins and Beastmen as well as Dwarfs. Over time they retreated further and further into the mysterious enchanted forest of Athel Loren. The spirits of the forest were wary of the Elves at first, however they soon discovered that the Elves could protect the forest during the long winter months when the forest spirits were dormant. Eventually two Elves became the avatars of the Elf gods of the hunt (Kurnous) and life (Isha) and they rule the Wood Elves to this day. Over time the Wood Elves became inextricably linked with the fate of Athel Loren.
There are many gods and goddesses in the Elf pantheon, roughly organized into two groups: the Cadai who rule the heavens, and the Cytharai who rule the underworld. All Elves believe in the existence of all the elven deities, however different nations emphasize the worship of different ones. The High Elves place Asuryan the highest, while the Wood Elves venerate Kurnous and Isha, and Khaine is by far the most worshipped by the Dark Elves.
The Chaos God Slaanesh also thirsts for Elven souls more than any other, and the High Elves and Wood Elves take precautions to guard their souls against Slaanesh in the afterlife.
Language and names
The original language of the Elves is known as Eltharin, an ancient and flowing tongue. However, dialects differ between the kindreds of Elves. The High Elves speak the purest, most unchanged form which is known as Tar-Eltharin; the Dark Elves speak a language called Druhir, which has changed significantly from its Eltharin roots, while the Wood Elves speak a dialect known as Fan-Eltharin. Elven writing is notoriously hard to decipher for non-Elves, as the runes appear to flow across the page and blend with each other. Some scholars even attest that Elven runes have changed shape before their very eyes. Human translations of Elven languages in Reikspiel, Bretonni and other Human languages have historically been full of missing or undecipherable sections, inaccuracies, and paragraphs of garbled nonsense. However by the same token, Elven writing is aesthetically distinct and even the lowliest Human peasant is able to recognise a rune of Elven origin, even if they can't understand the meaning of Elven writing itself.
N.B.: Elven names are usually words in one form of Eltharin, though most of the literal translations are unknown and hence names of individuals should not be included in the dictionaries on this page. Also, many Elven names remain the same in any form of Eltharin, such as Aenarion, Tyrion, Teclis, Finubar, Malekith, Morathi, Rakarth and Eltharion. In addition, many Elven names invented by Games Workshop appear as a first name in Eltharin and a second name or title in English (the English title or name consists of two names). For instance "Caledor Dragontamer. An exception to this is Alith Anar, Anath Raema and Ereth Khial, whose names are comprised of two words and have separate titles such as Shadow King, Savage Huntress and Pale Queen.
- 1: Warhammer Fantasy Roleplay (1st Edition), pgs. 263, 266
- 2: Warhammer Armies: High Elves (4th Edition)
- 2a: The High Elves, pg. 4