How much should we accept Elf superiority in fiction?

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Re: How much should we accept Elf superiority in fiction?

Post by Sea Skimmer » 2018-10-17 03:36am

Elheru Aran wrote:
2018-10-09 05:39pm
Leaving aside the embarrassment of Tolkien's Dwarves basically being fantasy Jews... you try creating an archetypal fantasy race and not getting a bit attached :P that said, well yeah, they were pretty much where he started with Middle-Earth to begin with, and were almost the central species of his legendarium if it wasn't for LOTR and the few outstanding Human characters of Silmarillion. Oh, and the Hobbits, he obviously had a soft spot for those, mostly because he depicted them as Men with the bad parts cut out. That and the whole utopian pastoral ideal he had going on around them.
Showing up late but... I think the main issue is while creating new species of sentient bipedals with a lot of flaws and disadvantages and advantages is more realistic, it also means in storytelling terms they become less relevant and may become less interesting. Why have a fantasy Dwarf that acts like a human little person when you could just have more humans? That tends to feed a need and desire to emphasis certain 'reliable' traits... which is stereotyping 101. At which point you hit the problem that humans have lots and lots of stereotyping in real life.

I've been working on my own universe for about 15 years now, one way I explored trying to address this was basically making most factions a mix of species, and then attaching traits to that faction in the way of modern countries. I never thought this gave that great of results though, and it was always very easy to lapse back into the stock fantasy tropes. Those exist for pretty fair reasons.

Another way to go was put more focus on species have have genuine physical differences from the human baseline. Like Elfs are usually show as tall, smart and have keen eyesight. Better then a human. But still, basically a human. The kind of things racial theorists in ~1900 thought made the ideal human turned into a species plain and simple. But while that has some real merit in a hack and slash fantasy in terms of said Elf actually having a racial advantage, it's not so clear cut if you need your tall blondes to be tank drivers or helicopter pilots where they gotta cram into a physically small space. Dwarves being short sure is an advantage for digging a mine though.

Meanwhile if you have a species of blob creatures and a species of dragons and a species of arachnids you can bring a lot more differences into play. But you also make the world building far more complicated, the basic issue of speech becomes a problem and generally actual story creation takes a huge hit. Which isn't a deal breaker for an amateur but it's a huge problem for anyone trying to make a living as an author, unless they can insert themselves into an existing well developed universe like Warhammer. And of course Warhammer stuff is all got going by being heavily driven off real life and stock fantasy tropes anyway, it's just big enough that some of the secondary factions can actually be interesting when they want to be.

Honestly though what most fantasy versions of Elves miss is that the original version, Tolkien's vision of them, culminates in them leaving Middle-Earth for the West because they... screwed up. They weren't 'too good' for Middle-Earth... they simply weren't able to make it work, mostly thanks to their arrogance and, yeah, hubris.
Yes and this made perfect sense with a species that had incredibly long lifespans. How could they possibly not get stagnant and arrogant in governmental terms?
Zixinus wrote:
2018-10-12 01:55pm
In the Witcher novels, elves are a prosecuted minority who are often targets for racial hatred (they're thrown together with dwarves and others) and non-rarely tend to passionately hate humans. As humans have assumed the majority in this world. They have old history around but they're mostly gone. In it, the elves and others ruled this world along with lots of magical creatures and humans were invading newcomers that brutally established themselves as mayority.
Well the Dwarves are the first race on the continent the plot is on, and the Elves clearly assert a superiority over them as well, but nothing ever establishes if even the Dwarves were originally from that planet either. As of course humans literally are not, and had only been around IIRC 1,600 years. And literally magic on the planet is being destroyed by the changing spectrum of the sun so it's possible or even probably that magic itself might only be a transient property or that the world might not be of natural origin at all. But one of its more random ultra short side stories establishes that human civilization reaches the modern age.

The author has finally agreed to collaborate on making a series about the books, after 20 years of apparently sorta hating his own work because it made nobody care about his other books, it will be interesting to see how the racial stuff gets presented. Since the books were basically based on the premise that everyone hates everyone, but some people are hated more then others even among humans. Great to go with modern tensions.
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