Physically, Alfar are somewhat slimmer than humans, with angular, well-chiseled features and pointed ears that vary in length from race to race. Contrary to some tales, male elves can grow facial hair, but most only do so after reaching several centuries of age. Some elves grow facial hair at much younger ages, depending on family traits, but only the very eldest have beards comparable to a human's.
All Alfar are immortal, living to extreme ages with little physical change. They are not, however, invincible - they can still be killed by most things that would kill a mortal man. Long life may bring them great wisdom, but it can also change their outlook on the world. Time passes more quickly for them, days and weeks slipping rapidly by without a care. Some Alfar will spend months doing virtually nothing, where a human would become agitated and restless. This, coupled with their relatively low sexual drive and slow breeding, means that they have not spread outward over a large territory like humans.
As they grow older, the thoughts of the Alfar tend to grow inward, and they spend more and more time in deep meditation. Eventually, they have been known to "ascend" to the immortal realm of Alfheim, taking their spirits as well as their physical forms into the afterlife. The exact process of this ascension is known only to the elves who have accomplished it. Though it is the closest thing they have to "death from old age," this ascension is voluntary, and is considered a thing to be celebrated rather than mourned.
History and CultureEdit
The Alfar were among the first intelligent races to inhabit Midgard, with Life Elves being most likely the first, followed by the Ljosalfar created by the Vanir, and the Dvergar created by the Aesir. They tended to the gods' creation and helped to beautify it. When the Jötnar created the Chaos Races, the elves began doing battle with them, to protect their homeland. The rise of mankind took the Alfar by surprise, Alfar tend to avoid contact with humans, to an even greater degree than dwarves. Many men will pay a high price for exotic and finely-crafted elven jewelry, weapons, and other goods, but the Alfar are reluctant to engage in trade. This is partially because it makes them a target for human raiders, and partially because they consider men unworthy of owning such items. Luckily for the Alfar (and probably the raiders, who would find robbing an elf city far easier said than done), elven settlements are nearly impossible to find, some hidden by magic as well as by nature.
Some tales say that all elves - particularly Sea Elves and Life Elves - are all female. This has led some scholars to speculate that they are genderless, like trees. But the story may have simply arisen from the typically beardless and feminine appearance of male elves, causing them to be mistaken for women.
Light Elves - LjosalfarEdit
The Ljosalfar (Light Elves, also referred to as High Elves or Sun Elves) were the first beings created by the Vanir - perhaps the first civilized creatures ever created on Midgard - and are still nearly godlike in nature. Immortal, beautiful, and masters of all kinds of magic, they look down on men, dwarves, beastfolk, and even other races of elves. Most Ljosalfar are pale and golden-haired, almost glowing with an inner light, though darker hair colors are not entirely unknown. They are the tallest elves, standing about as tall as most men, though often a little shorter.
Wood Elves - VidralfarEdit
The wildest and least “civilized” of the elves, Vidralfar (Wood Elves, also referred to as Low Elves, Twilight Elves, or Grey Elves) do not create beautiful hidden cities like their "higher" cousins, instead living a nomadic life entirely one with nature. They find great joy the gods' creation - Midgard - and spend their time partaking of its pleasures and defending it, rather than looking ever toward the heavens. Their reputation is a mixed one: despite their love of revelry and song, they will also use any means necessary to defend their forest homes, including poison, traps, and dark magic. Most Vidralfar have darker hair than their Ljosalfar cousins, and green is their most common eye color. They also typically stand quite a bit shorter, and have longer ears and more acute senses.
Dark Elves - SvartalfarEdit
While most elves are viewed as beautiful and generally well-meaning, the Svartalfar (Dark Elves, also called Low Elves, Night Elves, or Black Elves) are quite the opposite. Millennia ago, they turned to the Demon Lords of the Underworld for greater power, becoming masters of the dark arts. Perhaps due to corruption from this practice, their skin color ranges from ash-grey to black, with horn-like protrusions and ridges on their bodies and parts of their faces, such as the brow, nose, and chin. Their hair may be black, red, or stark white, and their terrifying eyes range between bright red, yellow-green, or violet. They are the shortest elven race on average, and have the longest ears, perhaps due to their subterranean lifestyle. Most dwell deep in Nidavellir, far from the sight of MIdgard.
Sea Elves - SireneEdit
The sea elves or water elves (also called Sirene, Vatnalfar, or River or Water Nymphs) go by many names in many places. The Achaeans and Southrons call them Sirene, or Sirens, and fear their enchanting songs that can lure hypnotized sailors to their doom on sharp sea rocks. The males have been known to board and raid ships while the crew stand enchanted by the females' songs. They have also been known to dwell farther inland, in the beds of rivers, luring the unwary beneath the waves to be drowned. Although some sea elves are malevolent, most merely wish to defend their territory from intrusion by foreign invaders and meddlers. Despite their ability to remain beneath the waves for a seemingly indefinite amount of time, they do not have gills, and must occasionally surface for air, unlike merfolk.
Life Elves - DryadsEdit
The life elves or elder elves (ellrialfar) are known in Achaea as wood nymphs or dryads. Many believe them to be the ancestors of all other elves, but they do not worship any particular gods, sometimes interacting with both the Vanir and Olympian gods like Artemis. They are immortal creatures of the forest, living mostly solitary lives (rather than forming communities) among the oldest trees. They can speak to all the spirits of nature and transform into trees and sometimes animals. They can take on the shape of a tree, an elf, or any combination thereof, including bark-like skin. Otherwise their skin is greenish in color, with hair that changes with the seasons, like leaves. Drawing their energy from the earth, like plants, they harm no living creature, neither flora nor fauna.