Dern Pointy-Earred Tree-huggers
I find my self regularly browsing the search terms that bring people to my Blog. I find no surprise in the fact that “WoW” and “World of Warcraft” are at the top. It is the next in line that amuse me most: “R.A. Salvatore” and “Drizzt Do’Urden.”
A while back I wrote a post comparing Salvatore’s Orcs and Warcraft’s Orcs. I wrote it because at that time I was reading the The Hunter’s Blades trilogy, and the differences were stark enough to strike me deeply while I was reading, to the point I felt like sharing. Despite the popularity of this post as far as search terms go, I have no real feedback on whether the post was poignant or interesting.
But the topic interests me, and I have found myself thinking along a similar line in regards to elves.
Dwarves and Elves are the quintessential fantasy races. Humans are a given, but humans are always based in some way on real life humans. So they always display the same flaws and redeeming qualities as we do, and so prove less interesting to compare. Salvatore’s Dwarves resemble Warcraft’s Dwarves in most everything except their origins. Salvatore’s Dwarves are rugged mountain men. Warcraft’s Dwarves are the same in their present form, but they were originally beings of iron and steel and rock, “infected” with the Curse of the Flesh to give them their current forms.
This leaves the Elves, a comparison that seems simple at first.
I was originally inspired to compare the Night Elves of Warcraft to the Drow of Salvatore’s Forgotten Realms (I do not really read much D&D outside of Salvatore’s work, except the Dark Sun world whenever I can get my hands on one). In doing a little extra research, I was reminded that the Dungeons & Dragons world has a vast array of Elves…
In a similar fashion, Warcraft has three races of Elves…
While leveling my wee Blood Elf Priest, Caerise, I noticed that there is another type of Elf in the Ghostlands. They look like a fascinating hybrid between Night Elves and High Elves, and I assume they are there as a illustration of the gradual change that took place when the High Elves separated themselves from the Night Elves – the Quel’dorei Ghosts and the Quel’dorei Wraiths.
Being a long time fantasy fan, I was quite confused in regards to Elves when I started playing WoW. At that time, knowing no lore, I knew only of the two player races – the Night Elves and the Blood Elves. Even though “Blood Elf” sounds ominous and they struck me fairly evil from the BC trailers, they more resembled what I had come to know as “good” Elves. At that time, I had no connection between the green glow of their eyes and fel magic. Adversely, the Night Elves reminded me more of Drizzt and the Drow or “evil” Elves than anything else I had come across in my previous fantasy experience – dark skin, glowing and pupil-less eyes, an affinity to night and darkness.
But leaving Drizzt (a non-typical Drow to say the least) out of the comparison, this was where most of the similarity stopped.
My first character on WoW (other than the Undead Warlock I created in a free trial WAY back when on some long forgotten account and server) was a Night Elf Druid, because I am at heart a healer and I liked the idea of changing into cute, fuzzy animals!
First of all, a Druid does not strike me a a Drow-type character at all. Drow live underground, and have no connection to nature. Instead, the Drow worship their Spider Queen, Lloth, in a matriarchal society run by Lloth’s Drow Priestesses. Similarly, though the Night Elves are historically patriarchal, the Priestesses of Elune (their Moon Goddess) tend to have a high influence, especially now that High Priestess Tyrande Whisperwind is their main racial leader. Yes, Malfurion Stormrage, Arch-Druid and leader of the second most powerful group in Night Elven society, has finally returned to her side, but it is fairly obvious he leaves a lot to her…
Though both races have an affinity to the darkness, Night Elves live above ground in cities made of trees and buildings melded together through their magic. Example: the Howling Oak comprising the background of the above screenshot. The Night Elven capital is Darnassus, illustrated in the first picture of this post. Drow on the other hand, live in the Underdark, a series of underground caverns and tunnels that cover nearly as much space as the surface world above them. The Drow’s main city is Menzoberranzan (and yes, I had to Google that to make sure I spelled it correctly).
Night Elves, as their name suggests, are nocturnal beings and prefer the cool light of the moon to the searing light of the sun. Though they prefer nighttime, Night Elves function almost as easily during the day, darkness is a preference. Drow, on the other hand, detest sunlight and find it physically painful. They can move around fairly well on the surface at night, but without a good reason otherwise (such as causing trouble to the surface races), they usually stay below ground. Many Drow never see the surface. It seems that even the Drow’s magic is dependent on the darkness and energy that radiates from their cities, as spending time on the surface quickly degrades Drow-crafted items to nothing. Night Elves have no such worry when being active during the day.
Another stark difference between the two races is their use of magic. Night Elves rely on nature and their Moon Goddess, Elune, for their magic, and generally detest Arcane magic for the suffering it has brought upon them as a race. They fault the misuse of Arcane magic and the Well of Eternity as the source of the Burning Legion’s interest in destroying Azeroth and the reasoning behind their lost immortality. It was Arcane magic that created the divide between the Night Elves and the High Elves, causing them to banish their Arcane-wielding and addicted brethren from Kalimdor all together.
The Drow, though all their magical power comes from their Spider Queen, also use magic of an Arcane nature. There is magic threaded into every piece of their society, all at the whim of their evil and fickle Queen. Lloth’s Priestesses are the highest caste of Drow society, and these Priestesses lead their respective Houses (kind of like mob families). The loss of one House to another immediately points to that House or Priestess having lost the favor of the Spider Queen, usually because the House or Priestess has done something to displease Lloth, but sometimes merely based on the direction of the Spider Queen’s chaotic mood at any given time.
As I played WoW, and learned more of the lore behind the Elven races, I realized, despite their outward appearances, the Blood Elves are more akin to the Drow then the Night Elves are.
The Night Elves started out as a primitive race, brought to the height of their power by the glorious Well of Eternity. Azeroth was all one continent at that time, and the Well of Eternity and the Night Elven city of Zin-Azshari was at the center of everything. Eventually, the Night Elves began to become vain in their power, and the highest caste of Night Elven society and those closest to Queen Azshara, the Highborne, began to abuse the Well’s power. This incredible source of magical energy caught the attention of the demon Sargeras, leader of the Burning Legion. Sargeras began to twist the minds of Azshara and the Highborne to his own will, convincing them that creating a portal and ushering Sargeras and his demons onto Azeroth would lead them to even greater power.
As demons poured onto Azeroth, the city of Zin-Azshari fell right before the very eyes of Queen Azshara – her people died as she preened herself for Sargeras’ arrival. It was a young Tyrande, Malfurion, and Illidan that noticed this, but by the time they gathered the other Night Elves behind them, the fight seemed hopeless.
It was only through the rousing of the Dragon Aspects and their kin, alongside the demigods of nature gathered by Cenarius, that the limitless army of demons was driven back. But only the destruction of the portal being opened for Sargeras would truly save their world from destruction.
In the end, it was only the destruction of the Well of Eternity that would seal the portal. The Well’s demise caused a great Cataclysm that torn the world. The Well imploded and now sits between the two great landmasses of Kalimdor and Eastern Kingdoms as the Maelstrom. The once-great city of Zin-Azshari fell into the ocean.
The Night Elves blamed the Highborne for the fall of their race. Even though they attempted to forgive those who had turned against Azshara and helped the remaining Night Elves, suspicions and distrust still ran high.
The surviving Night Elves converted to Druidism, and any practice of Arcane magic was forbidden. But the Highborne were still addicted to magic far deeper than those Night Elves who had lived further from the influence of the Well, and they spent much of their time seeking out new sources. Eventually, the leader of the Highborne confronted Malfurion and the Druids, declaring them cowards for their shunning of Arcane magic.
Malfurion could not condemn so many of his brethren to death, as was the punishment for using Arcane magic. So instead, the Highborne were outcast and sent away from Kalimdor.
When the the Highborne were exiled, they eventually settled in the Eastern Kingdoms, in an area now known as Tirisfal Glades in the then-Human kingdom of Lordaeron. They settled there because they could sense the magic of the place, something the Highborne needed to feed their magical addiction since the destruction of their former source, the Well of Eternity. Soon after settling in Tirisfal, some of the Highborne slowly began to go mad, and those who yet retained their sanity realized the source of the Glade’s magical power was something truly evil. It is thought this evil magic is due to the presence of an Old God, imprisoned deep beneath Tirisfal.
Whatever its source, the Highborne fled and continued further north into the continent. Many succumbed to illness and cold in the mountainous trek, since their source of immortality and power was gone. Despite the terrotorial and savage Trolls of Zul’Aman, the self-proclaimed High Elves (or Quel’dorei) founded Quel’Thalas and created a new source of magical power – the Sunwell – from a secreted vial taken from the Well of Eternity before its destruction.
The High Elves of Quel’Thalas prospered for four thousand years, despite the encroaching Trolls, until the fall of Lordaeron and the rise of the Scourge. The High Elves witnessed the fall of their society and the corruption of their sole source of magical power at the hands of the Death Knight, Arthas (eventually to become the Lich King).
The destruction of the High Elves’ home had devastating affects on the race. Many died to the Scourge invasion, but many more wasted away to mere shadows of themselves, wretched creatures barely identifiable as the Elves they formerly were. Some survived both of these horrible fates to the pain and hunger of withdrawal from the source of magic. Kael’thas, the leader of his race, began to play with fel magicks, and convinced my of his follows into the same. Those who disagreed fled, outcast to the edges of their former home. Some you can even still find in northern Eastern Plaguelands, though, I regret I have found little to do with them…
Those High Elves who stayed with Kael’thas partook in the same fel magicks their leader tampered with, and the they began to identify themselves as Blood Elves, in honor of their fallen brethren. But with fel magic and consorting with demons, there is always a price.
This fel dabbling did indeed arouse the interest of the Burning Legion once more, and the Blood Elves served these evil masters much like the Drow serve Lloth. The problem with masters of a chaotic nature is these beings tend to revel in conflict and destruction more than the prosperity of their followers. Sargeras is not as interested in followers as he is in destroying every world and living thing created by the Titans. The Blood Elves were too lost in their addiction to realize the evil they unleashed upon the world and willingly served.
Kael’thas was too far gone to be redeemed, but eventually the Blood Elves discovered the destruction caused by their addictions and poor choices.
The Blood Elves sought the help of the Na’aru and the other races of Azeroth. The forces of the Burning Legion were driven back once more, and the Sunwell was restored.
They still do not strike me as a very “good” race, but at least they are “good” enough to seek to right their race’s wrongs.
<insert evil-sounding Blood Elf female laugh here>
Parting Note: I spent way too long putting together this post, as I was constantly sidetracking myself while verifying the spelling of one thing or another and finding pictures. As you may notice, I found several pictures that struck my fancy. I mean, how can you not love Elves? Anything that is not a personal WoW screenshot of mine is noted.