|It has been suggested that some portions of this article be split into a new article titled Dalish elves. (Discuss)|
A humanoid race, elves are typically shorter than humans and have a slender, lithe build and pointed ears. Long ago, the elves were the dominant race on Thedas, and they lived in a civilization based on nature and magic. After the fall of their great city of Arlathan to the Tevinter Imperium and the subsequent generations of slavery, the elves lost most of their cultural heritage and identity. They attempted to rebuild their society in the Dales, only to watch that fall to the Chantry. Since then, their few numbers have been scattered all over Thedas in either forests as primitive nomads or in cities as impoverished outcasts, with little hope of recovery for their culture or their race. They're now a people associated with poverty, crime, barbarism, and are often used as scapegoats for humanity's difficulties. Humans use the term "knife ears" as a racial slur. Though most of the elven language has been lost, they once referred to themselves as "elvhen" or "the people".
Racial benefits of elves: +2 Willpower, +2 magic
Elves of Thedas live no longer than humans, but elven legends state that this was not always the case. Once, they say, they were an immortal and magically talented race that lived in harmony with the natural world and followed the elven pantheon. The first shemlen (a term meaning "quick children" that was used by the ancient elves to describe the humans and denote their shorter lives) they encountered were tribals who came south from Par Vollen. The ancient elves grew friendly with humans, but soon discovered that breeding with humans produced only human babies, while exposure to the "quick children" caused the elves to quicken themselves. For the first time, elves began to age and die.
In fear, the elves withdrew from human contact. Unfortunately, the human tribals gave way to the Tevinter Imperium, who viewed the elves' isolation as hostility and declared war in 981 Ancient. Elvhenan, the elven homeland, was besieged for six years, but was invaded when the magisters used blood magic to sink the elves capital city of Arlathan into the ground, never to be seen again. As a result, elven survivors were enslaved and evidence of their culture was lost. The elven calendar, established with the formation of Arlathan, was then banned by the Imperium. Although its existence is recognized by modern scholars outside of Tevinter, knowledge of how elves marked the passage of time beyond a few events is now forgotten. The elven people lost their immortality and their gods forsook them. The exact details of the war are lost to history, though artifacts found in Imperium ruins within the Brecilian Forest suggest Elvhenan was looted, or that some elves joined the Imperium bringing artifacts with them.
Elven slaves, under Shartan's leadership, were among the most fervent supporters of the prophetess Andraste's uprising against the Tevinter Imperium. The elves joined Andraste in her quest to depose the Tevinter magisters in 1020 TE, and they were rewarded for their loyalty by being granted land in the Dales upon Andraste's victory. They called their journey to their new homeland the Long Walk. Many perished on the way, some even turned back to the Tevinter, but most continued the walk.
In the Dales, the elves created a second elven homeland and began to restore the lost lore and culture of Elvhenan, including the worship of their former gods. They build their first city, Halamshiral ("end of the journey"), and became isolated from other races. The borders were guarded by an order named the Emerald Knights who were watching for trouble from humans. For some years, humans loyal to Andraste's memory respected their elven allies. But over the generations and as the Chant of Light and the religion of the Maker spread throughout human nations, the diplomatic relationships between the Dales and surrounding human nations turned cold, as the elves refused to be converted while historians speculate this hostility began when the Dalish refused to aid the humans in the Second Blight. Humans claim the war with the elves began when a small elven raiding party attacked the nearby human town of Red Crossing in 2:9 Glory, leading to the Chantry eventually calling an Exalted March against the elves when they had captured Montsimmard and besieged Val Royeaux, claiming they had been attacked by the Dales. The Dalish claim templars invaded the Dales after the elves kicked out Chantry missionaries from their sovereign territory. 
As the Dales fell, the elves were forced to abandon their second homeland, and their culture was torn even further from them. Many elves accepted the terms of their human aggressors, going to live in alienages inside human cities and worshipping the Maker. Those elves who resisted became the nomadic Dalish, maintaining the worship of the elven gods and continuing their efforts to recover the lost culture of Elvhenan.
Alienage elves Edit
Alienages are closed communities of elves living in human cities, often walled off and found in the poorest, more crime-ridden parts of the city, while elves in villages make home in barns or sheds. Their inhabitants are typically impoverished and survive by begging or taking on the most menial and unrewarding of tasks and in most desperate cases, leave the alienage to steal or murder.
Though overall treatment varies kingdom to kingdom, city elves are universally held as second-class citizens. Elves are unable to join most legal organizations like the Chantry, and the law often shows a blind eye to their woes. Slavery of elves is still legal in the Tevinter Imperium and there's a lucrative demand for elven slaves along with servants for nobles. They are often seen as beautiful by humans despite their low status.
Having been heavily discriminated by humans for so long, most city elves try to hold onto their remaining heritage. Artifacts from Arlathan like the vhenadahl (literally, "tree of the People") and an abiding deep pride in their close-knit communities bolster city elves trying to make ends meet in an otherwise hostile world. As such, elves that leave the alienage and try to enter human society are heavily looked down upon much as "flat ears" are derided by Dalish elves.
Marriage is highly important for city elves; it is the rite of adulthood in elven communities and will often be prearranged in order for new blood to join an otherwise diluted gene pool. The absolute worst thing an elf could do is marry or breed outside their race since only humans are born between elven and human unions; which is adverse for such limited communities that depends on each other and tradition for day-to-day survival.
City elves, due to their constant contact with humans, do not have the exceptional lifespans once touted by the elves of Arlathan and can expect to live no longer than the average human. Furthermore, their closer relationship can sometimes result in what are known as Elf-blooded children, of both human and elven parentage.
Known alienages Edit
- Denerim alienage, home of the City Elf Warden
- Highever alienage, home of the City Elf Warden's fiancé/ fiancée Nelaros or Nesiara
- Val Royeaux alienage, birthplace of Fiona; a cramped and overcrowded alienage with walls so high sunlight does not reach the vhenadahl until midday.
- Minrathous alienage, in the Tevinter Imperium
- Kirkwall alienage, Merrill's home
Dalish elves Edit
Dalish elves lead nomadic lives, wandering throughout Thedas. The clans date back to the ruling clans of the Dales and the Dalish themselves are their descendants. As such, they consider themselves to have the "purest" blood from the time of Arlathan. Dalish elves seek to recover, inherit and preserve the knowledge and sacred treasures of the two fallen kingdoms and for that purpose they'll often seek out old elven ruins for such things in the face of danger. They still revere the elven pantheon and each member of a tribe will tattoo the symbol of their chosen god on their face.
They travel around the more remote reaches of Thedas in covered wagons called aravels, special wagons with large triangular sails atop them and rudder-like devices on the back. The Dalish elves are also known for being the only race adept at forging ironbark, a unique substance stronger and lighter than steel, used to make their weapons and certain other items of clothing, such as amulets. These, along with carved halla horns, are highly valued and are often used to trade with humans for things they cannot make on their own like metals for their weapons.
Dalish elves tend to keep to their own and avoid humans whenever they can, but will occasionally encounter human travelers, or venture near human settlements to trade. At the threat of these encounters becoming violent, a Dalish clan will likely withdraw before any real force of humans gets involved, but they will often still be willing to stand their ground. In the long run, hostilities with humans will likely end badly for the elves, especially if a kingdom decides that a certain clan has become more trouble than it is worth.
The Dalish clans themselves can also be quite different from each other. Some clans will get along fairly well with humans, and might even camp outside of settlements for long periods of time. Other clans are more infamous, living by banditry and hiding like guerrillas in the mountain passes. The Dalish of Ferelden are on a more-or-less neutral basis with its human citizens.
Dalish clans rarely encounter each other in order to protect themselves; their diaspora is as much of a blessing as is a curse. Since Dalish don't—if ever—keep in contact between other clans, should one be exterminated by a human lord—a difficult task in and of itself—them being able to find the others will be nearly impossible. Only once a decade or so do the Dalish clans all meet together, and their keepers, the elders and leaders of the Dalish who are responsible in keeping elven lore and magic alive, will meet together and exchange knowledge in a meeting called the Arlathvhen.
During such a time, the clans will recall and record any lore they have relearned since the past meeting, along with reiterating what lore they know already to keep their traditions as accurate and alive as possible. During such time, the clans will exchange relics dating from the two elven nations for safekeeping. The Dalish believe that all the relics they've preserved from the Dales and Arlathan belong to all the Dalish; such trades are seen as much of an act of sharing as is a matter of trade, and the same is true even for talented elves. Merrill for example was born in the Alerion clan, but due to her magical talents she was given to the Sabrae clan to be the First of Keeper Marethari as clan Alerion already had a number of gifted elves.
Many Dalish live by Andruil's code known as Vir Tanadhal, meaning "Way of Three Trees." It is made of three parts, which are:
- Vir Assan ("Way of the Arrow") - fly straight and do not waver
- Vir Bor'Assan ("Way of the Bow") - bend but never break
- Vir Adahlen ("Way of the Forest") - together we are stronger than the one
The three parts of the philosophy are often strung together as a sort of mantra, which the Dalish will often end with the phrase, "We are the last of the elvhenan, and never again shall we submit."
Few follow a different path, Sylaise's code known as Vir Atish'an, "The Way of Peace": Dalish learn the arts of the healer and the mender.
Dalish elves tend to live a bit longer than city elves, due to generations of greater isolation from human settlements. When Dalish elves die, their clan will bury them and plant a tree over their remains.
Known dalish clans Edit
- Alerion, where Merrill was born
- Ralaferin clan, whose Keeper is Gisharel
- Sabrae, the Dalish Warden's clan.
- Unnamed Velanna's clan
- Unnamed Yevven's clan
- Unnamed Zathrian's clan
- Unnamed Ariane's clan
- Unnamed clan that found young Loghain and Maric in Korcari Wilds
Interaction between city and dalish elves Edit
The Dalish elves and city elves in particular have a strange and bitter relationship, dating from the splitting of the People after the fall of the Dales. Dalish tend to view their city brethren suspiciously and with pity as "flat-ears," virtually humans in elven skin who are "little better than their shemlen masters." They are seen as having given up on and forgotten their culture, and will need to be reminded of their past when a new homeland is founded.
On the other hand, city elves see the Dalish as near-myths: strange and savage "wood elves" living far from humans and preying upon the unwary; and yet somehow noble, as well. The Dalish are seen to be primitive elves who refuse to see the promise of the alienage, and live off the land in ways the average city elf could not. Indeed, city elves who choose to leave or live beyond the Alienage are labeled "flat-ears" as well by their city kin, ironically similar to the Dalish view, and subject to violence or resentment from other city elves.
And yet, for all this uncertainty, city and Dalish elves still interact positively now and then. For Alienage elves who seek to leave their home due to desperation, poverty or abuse, wandering Dalish clans are often seen as a sort of "last resort" haven. They are normally willing to take in a refugee from the cities and to largely refrain from attacking a city elf on the road, despite their uncertainty, and train them in the ways of their Creators and culture. Similarly, Alienages may take in a Dalish elf who has broken with their clan voluntarily or involuntarily.
Elven Mages tend to be grouped to the Dalish mindset along with city elves. This is particularly the case as they have turned not only their lives but their magic over to the human Chantry and Maker, and the Circle of Magi.
Elven language Edit
- Main article: Elven language
The elven language, or Elvish, was largely lost when Elvhenan fell and its people were enslaved. When the elves settled their second homeland, the Dales, they aimed to restore their lost language and lore, but the Dales fell to an Exalted March. The Elvish of the Dragon Age is thus a fragmented remnant, a few words that are thrown into conversation rather than a working language used to conduct everyday life. The Dalish Elves, self-appointed custodians of the elven language and lore, use more Elvish than their City Elf brethren. Living among humans, the City Elves now retain only a few old Elvish words whose origin is almost forgotten, such as "shem"—derived from "shemlen", or "quickling", the old elven term for humans—and "Hahren"—the leader of an alienage, meaning "elder" in Elvish.
The Dalish have more of the language. They are more capable of forming whole phrases and sentences, but the language is still fragmented and very incomplete, even to them. It includes the word da'len, which means "little child", and andaran atish'an, which is a greeting to friends and fellow Dalish. Serannas is thanks, while ma serannas is "my thanks" or "many thanks". Aneth ara is an informal greeting often used among friends. Dareth shiral is a way of saying good-bye.
Notable elves Edit
Alienage elves Edit
- Cyrion Tabris
- The Warden, if playing the City Elf Origin or Magi Origin
- Potter, from Dragon Age: The Stolen Throne
- Willem Trialmont, the Admirable Topsider who joined the Legion of the Dead
- Groundskeeper Samuel
- Shayda, an elven costermonger in the Denerim Alienage
- Brand, an elven pirate working for Isabela during the events of Those Who Speak and Until We Sleep.
- Nella, resident of Amaranthine
- Garos, resident of Amaranthine
Dalish elves Edit
- Pol, a city elf who joined the Dalish elves
- Rajmael, a Dalish general during exalted march against the Dales
- According to David Gaider, the alienages were originally inspired by medieval Jewish ghettos, and as Thedas is a fictionalized version of Europe, that inspiration eventually encompassed other historical aspects that were added to alienage culture.
- Elves see better in the dark than humans, and their eyes glint like those of a cat in the dark.
- Common foods among city elves include "salt chews," a fishy-smelling item found in shops in the alienage.
- Developer statements on the longevity and life expectancy of elves are ambiguous. Dragon Age: Origins established the Dalish as potentially living longer than city elves, or even other races. Similarly, during an interview in January 2012, David Gaider stated that Dalish elves normally live longer than city elves, though not "Tolkienesque numbers of years", and that greater lifespans are indeed possible with isolation. However, in May 2013 Mary Kirby stated that city and Dalish elves have the same life expectancy, and that blood magic was the only way elves like Zathrian had "reclaimed" immortality.
- Unlike the elves of many other fantasy settings, the elves of the Dragon Age setting are not antagonistic towards the dwarves, though Zevran and Oghren's dialogue contains a joking reference to this fantasy trope.
- When female elves become broodmothers, they produce shrieks.
- The elves in Dragon Age II, as with other races, have been redesigned to create more space between the individual races. The Dalish now feature Welsh and Irish accents (city elves retain the accent of whatever region they live in) and have been given tall, willowy frames and thin faces with large eyes and small features, as opposed to being the "short, pointy-eared humans" in Dragon Age Origins. These changes have been apparently lessened in Inquisition.
- In the old BioWare forums, David Gaider stated that Dalish in Rivain have a semi-permanent settlement in the city of Llomerryn. However, a party banter during Act 2 in Dragon Age II between Isabela and Merrill reveals that the Dalish have not yet reached Llomerryn.
- At the end of Dragon Age: Origins, it is possible to ask the new monarch to grant the Dalish their own lands. Alternatively, if the Warden is of Dalish origin and sacrifices themself to end the Blight, the Dalish will be given these lands as well. The epilogue will then reveal that they settle these lands, though new political tensions arise.
- The "City Elf" boon at the end of Dragon Age: Origins involves asking for the elven people to be treated fairly. The appointment of the first elven Bann of the Alienage ultimately is problematic no matter what, however. This is particularly the case if Anora is chosen as sole ruler; in that case the Denerim Alienage faces a food riot following the Fifth Blight, in addition to this.
- According to Zevran there are Dalish elves in Antiva City, but they are much more violent than those in Ferelden.
- Elves tend to be more susceptible in following the Qun than other races, which is considered a particular danger in the Tevinter Imperium. As spies for the Qunari they may go so far as to sell themselves back into slavery in order to move undetected through non-Qunari lands.
- The children of elves and humans are "human" by all appearances and are generally referred to as "Elf-blooded". They may be referred to as "half-elf" in a slanderous fashion. Children of Dwarves and elves are dwarven to all appearances, and such children are more rare than those of dwarves and humans.
- The reason for the "adaptive" genetics of elves is likely supernatural in origin and related to the elven people. The elves themselves do not know the reason for it.
- City elves participated in the Fereldan Rebellion under the leadership of Loghain Mac Tir, in his Night Elves unit.
- "On Dwarves, Elves and Qunari", from the BioWare official blog
- Elf Page, from Bioware Dragon Age Wiki.