|mark211||Why do Elves have pointy ears? Thoughts?||2014-10-12 21:07:50|
|mark211||Do a Google image search using the word 'Elves', and – hey presto – there are thousands of images of white, slender, long-haired size '0' models with pointy ears – but why? And why in the movies do they always seem to have English public school accents? (Even when played by Australian or New Zealand actors?) ||2014-10-12 21:16:45|
|mark211||How come we never seem to see an African-American Elf or a 350 lbs balding Australian elf with an undershirt covered in unidentifiable food stains, pounding back a can of Carlsberg Special Brew and puffing away on a Marlboro? ||2014-10-12 21:17:20|
|mark211||How much does all this matter to you as a reader and a writer? How important are these popular conceptions that we all have in Science and Fantasy Fiction?||2014-10-12 21:17:42|
|jessbaum||See when I think of elves I think of the Victorian era style. Little keebler elf looking types with cute chubby bellies that are for some reason always dressed like robin hood. The modern approach to fantasy astounds me because it seems like some fashion designer came up with the "newer" model of elves along with witches, werewolves, and vampires. I prefer more imaginative images myself. ||2014-10-13 14:52:26|
|r.tornello||In the long ago past, when they're hung out on the laundry line to dry, gravity pulled them down. Eventually a genetic predisposition took hold and now there are none but elves with long pointy ears.
It's a well known fact.
The truth, really.
Trust me.||2014-10-13 16:17:45|
|jessbaum||I wish I could've seen that process. :)||2014-10-13 18:33:07|
|John David Rose||It's all Leonard Nimoy's fault: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AGF5ROpjRAU||2014-10-13 19:46:39|
|John David Rose||In all seriousness, I'm guessing that the illustrations of Arthur Rackham (1867-1939) may have been an influence on the whole pointed elf-ear standard.||2014-10-13 22:04:06|
|cuchulain||Not an Elf, but the 2012-2013 Metropolitan Opera had an African-American Dwarf in Richard Wagner’s “Ring des Niblelungen”. Baritone Eric Owens portrayed the Nibelung Alberich, who forged the Ring from the Rhinemaiden’s gold, in the productions of: “Das Rheingold”, “Siegfried” and “Götterdämmerung”. I saw it on PBS last year and was entralled each week. In 2006 Owens originated the eponymous role of “Grendel”, an opera inspired by John Gardner’s reconstruction of “Beowulf” and its ‘monster'. He will be performing the role of Wotan in The Lyric Opera’s production of the Ring cycle beginning in 2016. So it is rare, but there is some non-stereotypical casting in live fantasy story-telling.||2014-10-14 02:41:52|
|cuchulain||Oops – spelling correction:
"I saw it on PBS last year and was *enthralled* each week.
" Sorry.||2014-10-14 02:46:55|
|esullivan240||Black elves are dwarves in the old tales. svartálfar||2014-10-14 11:13:28|
|jbaumgartner13||The elf from the D&D movie in 2000 is definitely not white. As for why they are typically portrayed how they are goes back to Norse mythology. Alf's are pale skinned light haired beings while svatalfs are dark skinned dark haired beings. This is where Tolkien got it from and why Gary Gygax created the dichotomy of elves and drow.||2014-10-14 13:11:45|
|jbaumgartner13||The British accents are because all elves come from Rome. And the pointy ears denote fey heritage from pagan cultures of Northern Europe. Now we are just trapped in a loop repeating these now iconic characteristics. To change any one is to make the creature not elfish anymore.||2014-10-14 13:14:39|
|mark211||Richard ... that is genius, truly!||2014-10-15 02:33:19|
|mark211||John David Rose: The Arthur Rackham illos are great (I just Googled them) but the image dates back much further I think (as Jess also points out) - that pointy-eared thing can be seen in Richard Dadd, in Titian and then back to antiquity too - although it seems to be that the pointy ear feature migrated from Satyrs to the more Nordic looking elves - which I guess again is what Jess (jbaumgartner13) is saying there.||2014-10-15 02:37:44|
|mark211||Jess: I haven't seen that D&D movie, but thanks for the information on Tolkein and Alfs / Svartalfs which was new to me. Also I Googled 'Little Keeber' - he looks more like a Fairy or a Leprechaun to me, but I guess they are all part of the same family.||2014-10-15 02:39:08|
|mark211||cuchulain: I keep trying to get into Opera, but apart from Janacek's Cunning Little Vixen it just doesn't seem to do it for me for some reason ... BTW thanks for your two recommendations for alternative history stories from last week (Harry Turtledove’s “A Different Flesh” and Orson Scott Card’s “Tales of Alvin Maker”) - they both sound interesting, especially the first of those two for me and I'll try and give them a go.||2014-10-15 02:43:16|
|mark211||Jess has said: "To change any one is to make the creature not elfish anymore." OK, so here's a question - does that mean that as writers (and possibly as readers too) there are constraints on us as to what the reader may expect when we write certain words? So for example, if you want to include an Elf in your story, would you feel constrained about how you could describe him/her/it? What if I were to write something like: "Afanax, high priest of the elves, extended his suckers to the flat stone wall, applied them, and slowly ascended, dragging his red-green bulbous body behind him." Is that still an elf?||2014-10-15 02:50:23|
|John David Rose||Because elves are really a stock type of fantasy character, I think you could use them in your story without having to give a detailed description of their culture or a physical description and you could just assume that most readers will imagine your elves as Tolkien-type elves or D&D elves or maybe more childlike fairytale-type elves just because those images are so prevalent.
Or you could play against that idea by making your elves completely different and surprising your readers (i.e. suckers and a red-green bulbous body). However, if you do that then I think many readers will expect an explanation. What is the point of your elves being different from what is typical?
I think this really applies to using any stock character, a dwarf, a pirate, a wizard, a femme fatale, a hardboiled detective, a mad scientist, a super villain. They can be useful in a story because you don't have to take time to explain who they are and what they are about, but at the same time you can also use your reader's expectations about a stock character to surprise them and make your story original and interesting.
|mark211||John David Rose: I think you make a good point there. I don't remember where this was now, but I once came across one of those 'Tips for Writers' books and one of the exercises in there was to take a stock figure - the example they gave was a ghost - and then cross that figure with the most unlikely thing you could thing. The suggestion it made for ghosts was that, because generally they are seen as transparent / ephemeral, then imagine a velvet ghost, a stone ghost, a wooden ghost and so on. I thought it was quite a nice idea actually.||2014-10-15 14:29:31|
|esullivan240||It is a stupendous idea! Love it!||2014-10-15 15:45:07|
|mark211||I forgot to add that the bit that comes next is you then work through the senses e.g. How does a ghost made out of velvet move? How does it sound when it moves? How does it smell? etc.||2014-10-16 01:55:55|
|Ironspider||I'd always assumed that ælf were a conflation of animal and human-like spirits - similar to faun and the like - and the pointed ears were a nod toward the part-animal heritage. I'd need to dig out the book, but I do remember one very old origin story for the elf that suggested they were the spirits of the dead. Can't remember what country or region that was from, though I think it was Scandinavian. In my own fantasy setting the aelf have small ram-horns as well as the pointed ears, and eyes with goat-style square/oblong pupils.||2014-10-16 23:35:27|
|mark211||Ironspider: There could be something in that; certainly most elves and fairies (or faeries) and the like around the world quite often seem to be portrayed as a kind of "missing link" so to speak between the animal and the human. And as I mentioned above, Satyrs shorn of their goat legs and horns are basically very Elvish in their appearance.||2014-10-17 01:55:45|
|jessbaum||If you describe a duck and call it an elf it can be an elf in whatever world you are writing, but I'll still see a duck. Ironspider has the idea that has been ingrained in me, like Aisling in Secret of the Kells, she appears somewhat of a girl but has hoofs and moves like an animal. Spirits of the forest are not people nor are they wild animals. The history behind the myths is what intrigues me. You can describe a monster with suckers but calling it an elf demeans the historical mythology linked to the fantasy creatures. Knowing the background of said beings is important to the integrity of the work. I'd much rather see more new creations with new names and titles that boggle the mind as opposed to contortions of old spirits. ||2014-10-17 14:18:39|
|mark211||"The leopard watched me. A leopard's eyes are round and flat and big as the palm of your hand, and they don't move in the leopard's head like our eyes do. They don't turn from side to side. But when you're up as close as I was, you can see that inside the eye there *are* things moving, little glints that shift and glitter [...] The leopard began to sing. Looking straight at my eyes with those blank glittery discs, it opened its mouth and out came that sweet sad slow song that leopards sing, in that sweet sad voice that they have, that voice that sounded just like a woman's." from 'Dark Eden' by Chris Beckett (Loc 360-361)||2014-10-17 15:52:52|
|mark211||jessbaum: While I totally get your point, I do think there can also at times be a value in making the familiar strange. Usually I guess that means taking everyday things like clocks and making them strike '13' as a way of letting the reader know that they're not in Kansas any more - but I like that passage from Chris Beckett because he's calling it a leopard and yet it so obviously isn't; at least not in the Earth sense of it and there's something about that I find really intriguing as a reader.
|mark211||Actually, now I think of it, you kind of did the same thing yourself quite recently with scarecrows ...||2014-10-17 15:56:27|
|jessbaum||Haha touche mark211. The difference is that I elaborated on preexisting myths. Yeah I think we can delve into new ideas here and there but there needs to be reason and believably. Where do you draw the line? So does adding a penis to a woman allow her to still be a woman? In the world of biology, no. I like all of the points made in this discussion, I just don't agree that changing the definition of something keeps it the same. ||2014-10-18 10:56:00|
|jbaumgartner13||By using the term elf you accept a certain amount of historical baggage. That's the point of using the term. If you don't want the archetypal elf start fresh with something new. Strip away the ears, the love of nature, the magic and the longevity and what do you got? A standard human. The same applies for dwarf, gnome, orc, and halfling. We use these as short hand to apply a trait template that most people will recognize. You want duck people with tentacles go for it. If you call them elves though you are going to confuse all of your readers.||2014-10-18 12:56:16|
|jbaumgartner13||@jessbaum: Now revealing a female character has a penis later in the story is a fun twist that can change the alter the status quo of the tale. ||2014-10-18 12:59:43|
|jbaumgartner13||Here is a relevant article that I stumbled across about a year ago; http://elfwriter.com/2013/11/17/when-is-an-elf-not-an-elf/||2014-10-18 13:03:37|
|jbaumgartner13||As writers, all of us should have a passing understanding of Jung's theory of archetypes and the collective unconscious. ||2014-10-18 13:12:54|
|jbaumgartner13||@mark211: The clock striking 13 in 1984 is used to shatter our preconceived notions about the world not the time piece. Saying the toaster struck 13 is more inline with what your thinking.||2014-10-18 13:18:03|
|esullivan240||I thought all elves had penises kind of like all dwarves had beards. Or is that just Bangkok elves?||2014-10-18 17:55:34|