Sep 21, 2010

Speculations ...

I have been disturbed by all of the stereotypical fantasy races that all of the popular literature of that genre seems to employ these days. Even Eragon fell into that trap. So I have made my races more original in hopes of evading cliche. Raechal. Sivanis. Tulirans ... but still, something nagged at the back of my mind.



Those of you who know me know that I use Elves extensively. Two of my three MCs are Elves. I'm not saying that they cannot be used in an original and productive way, but mine were just like all the others ... which really troubled me, especially since I had come up with something unique for all the other races.

Last week, Friday about 3 PM to be precise, I had an idea of sorts, but discarded it because of all the problems it caused. The idea was to have the Elves made more reptilian, with a flexible crest from the top of their head following their spine down to their lower back. Their culture was shaped around this; their emotions were displayed by what position the crest stood in (flat, frightened, straight up, angry and so on), they wore low-backed tunics to compensate, etc. Problem was, I have written over two thirds and more like four fifths of my story and some of the things my Elves did would be restricted by this trait. I discarded it.

Then Friday about 8 PM I had another thought. This one ties into a bit of my world's history. Around a thousand years before when my novel is set, there was a war between the Elves and the Humans over the heir to the throne. Things progressed rather rapidly to a very ugly level. It came to the point where each race was killing the other on sight without cause or provocation. Desperate, each of the sides scrambled to create an advantage. The Humans had strength and greater numbers, the Elves had precision in arms and heightened senses. So here's where the magic gets involved.

A highly powerful group of Human magicians constructed transportation devices called Portals, fed by Elven blood and energy. As in, you would spill Elven blood on the activating area, go through, and have your passage paid by the energy of the Elf involved. No one cared about the brutality of this invention; they simply cared about getting where they wanted to go and about killing more Elves. My idea was that at this point, the Elves were in their original reptilian form (with the crest) and were not called Elves, but [insert cool name here].

In retaliation, the Elves devised a magical disguise that hid their crest and almost everything that betrayed them as not being Human. Three things remained; pointed ears, their tall slender build, and their lower pain tolerance. There was possibly some other physical trait that is yet to be decided, like patches of scales/scaly skin in certain places. The disguise was successful for a while, but when caught, the Humans, bewildered at this strange Human-like creature who was decidedly not Human, dubbed them Elves. When they were found out, the Elves were weakened and forsook the war, fleeing behind a magical barrier. For over a millennium they stayed there, so used to their magic-induced form that they relied on their older, more animal form less and less. Eventually, all Elves except certain small groups forgot how to break the magic restraining their old form and accepted the name and shape the Humans gave them.

Thoughts? Comments? Questions? Would it be too weird?

Lady E.


Jenni said...

I think it sounds pretty good. :) I can imagine some good scenes in which the magic breaks, and the 'elves' are revealed in their true form.

On the subject of racial stereotypes - I agree that it's really hard to break them. Especially without making your readers think that you're just trying to be different and yet the same. And especially because elves are just plain cool anyhow... and Tolkien didn't make them up... :D

Eragon's elves are just a little strange. I didn't quite understand them; I thought I caught a reference to them having come from 'over the sea' but I never heard anything more of it... so their history is a little blank to me. :)

Meaghan Ward said...

Weird? No. Interesting? Yes, definitely!

I'm a little confused though. Would the elves in your story appear humanlike (with except to the pointy ears and stuff) or would the reptilian qualities also be seen?

ElizabethLiberty said...

Ooo Jenni! I hadn't even thought of that yet! It's still so early in the dream stages. This idea will have some complicated implications, especially since I thought of it so late in the story. I totally agree with the "plain cool" comment. (isn't that a bit oxymoronic? "plain cool"? ;) )

Eragon's elves are way too perfect. They weren't human, and they weren't good characters. Good props, maybe. Good to identify with, no.

Meaghan, thanks! They would be fairly humanlike, with the pointed ears and perhaps a couple of patches of scales, like, on the insides of their elbows, but their true (magically suppressed) form would have more reptilian characteristics, i.e. the crest.

Jordan said...

Very interesting. I'm impressed!

Tim Ward said...

Yeah, I like it. Without knowing more about the story it sounds like a good bit of creativity I'd be interested in reading about.

You're 80% through the story already? Boy, I'm sorry I lost contact with this story, but I'm glad you are that far already. How many words is it?

ElizabethLiberty said...

Hi, Tim! Sorry I haven't been keeping everybody up-to-date on HW. It's kind of been racing along at breakneck speed. It's over 100,000 right now. (Very rough estimate, but still impressive -- I never dreamed I'd be doing anything like this! :D )

Anonymous said...

I really like new ideas with races.

Your idea sounds VERY interesting.
I hope you are not offended that I used interesting since some people are.(like: *what?? is that is all you can come up with!*) To me there are several different levels of interesting! :)

Anyway, I had a question for you.
I noticed you said Eragon's elves were too perfect.
What I am wondering is in what way: Physically? mentally? OR both, something else all together?
I know he always made them so superior like in: Strength, Speed , ect...

Just wondering :)


ElizabethLiberty said...

Hello! Thanks for commenting!
I totally know what you mean about the different levels of interesting. ;)
Eragon's elves annoyed me because there seemed to be advantages to being an elf that no one else had. I don't like books that have one superior race, so I've tried to make it balance between the strengths and weaknesses of my six races.
I thought they were far too superior in magic, for one thing. Mentally, too. As in, you aren't an elf, you aren't worth bothering with. Or at least that's what I got out of it, which sounds very unfair. And their superior strength and speed and skills in weapons etc only made it worse. :P

Anonymous said...

First, I want to thank you for answering someone that was anonymous. Then thank you for explaining what you meant about the elves from Eragon. I think I understand where you are coming from, nothing should be so “perfect” and almost everything has flaws.
I hope your story goes well for you. Thanks again.